The Exchange Student Experience: Barcelona to Chicago

I wanted to talk a little about my Booth experience as an international exchange student. I’m originally from El Salvador, coming to Chicago Booth from IESE Business School in Barcelona, Spain. I’ve worked in several Latin American countries and I spent my summer internship in Barcelona, so I’m writing about both academic and cultural perspectives. As opposed to Booth, IESE is a case method school (much like Harvard) and each method has its pros and cons, but this blog is not about comparing. It’s about my experience at Booth as an outsider.

In less than half the quarter, I’ve learnt about amazing stuff. Just to list a few things:

  • The science of making decisions, and why people get it so wrong on a repetitive basis (without them knowing), especially CEOs!
  • How consumers really choose products—we even had a vodka taste-testing session in class
  • When do we really need to pay for insurance, and why sometimes paying for it is not rational behavior (but we still do it)
  • How formal and informal networks in an organization work, and how to play the networks to your advantage
  • Most of all, understanding WHY people behave the way they do
  • And many others…

And although all this is very fun and extremely interesting, it’s not the most important thing of note in my blog.

The most important thing I’ve seen from my experience is the Booth essence: the people. It’s quite unique how people here are very different from each other but have two things that are ever present in all of them: intellectual curiosity and sociability.

The first is easy to describe but hard to encompass. The intellectual curiosity of people here at Booth astounds me. People are exceptionally analytical on every aspect of life at all levels and just have that hunger for knowledge. Whether you are in a class, on the train ride home, or just on the elevator at MPP (a popular residential building among Booth students), you can always find students asking “Why do things happen the way they do?”

You also find it with the faculty. Not only do they question everything around them, but they even question themselves and the professors that came before them—something I did not expect from a school whose reputation of being a Nobel Prize Factory would allow, but it just works that way. People are intellectually curious and knowledge hungry.

The second is about the interaction. While it is true that by second year the bonds that have been formed between the students are very strong, it does not exclude new people from coming in. When I arrived, I was very quickly invited to parties, pre-games, and TNDC (Thursday Night Drinking Club). Actually, I was invited to several social gatherings even before I came into campus! Students are friendly, smart, quick, and overall collaborative.

Over the summer, I heard this amazing quote during my internship, “Diversity is inviting people to the party. Inclusion is asking them to dance.” Booth students understand this.

Enrique is a 2nd year MBA student on exchange from IESE Business School. After completing his summer internship at HP, investigating the price elasticity of ink in the US market, Enrique plans to continue his career into marketing and pricing.

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