Exactly a year ago, I struggled to find a free moment to sit down and reflect on my first semester at London Business School. Often, after a long day of classes and commitments, I found I wasn’t able to put pen to paper until the wee hours of the morning. I now find myself staring at a blank computer screen, trying to figure out how best to describe the stark contrast between then and now.
Nearly finished with the first term of my second year, I’m watching my time as an MBA student slip through my fingers. Gone are the endless days of back-to-back lectures, practical sessions, group meetings, speaker events, and presentations. Gone are the studying-induced sleep deprivation, the endless pages of reading, and the constant struggle to stay on top of it all.
That’s not to say that the second year is completely carefree; it’s just a different experience. I once said that the first year of business school was a lesson in opportunity costs—that there simply weren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. The second year then, seems to be a lesson in choices. With only a few remaining credits, which classes should I choose? How involved should I continue to be in the clubs? And, perhaps most importantly, what should I do with my life after graduation?
ROAD NOT TAKEN
I have chosen to ruminate over these decisions from the beautiful Catalan city of Barcelona. No, I haven’t gone AWOL; I’ve gone IESE. Like nearly one-third of my classmates, I’ve chosen to take advantage of LBS’s international exchange program to spend a semester at a top-tier business school in another country. With 33 partner schools, ranging from Columbia and Wharton in the U.S., to CEIBS in China, to ISB in India, the international exchange program offers the opportunity to try the competition’s shoes on for size.
Applying to IESE for the exchange semester was an easy choice. With 80 percent international students, the school is known for its diversity, a quality I value immensely at LBS and one I wanted my education to maintain during my exchange. Furthermore, for a change of pace from LBS, I wanted to experience IESE’s teaching model, based entirely on the case method. I also applied and considered attending IESE as a full-time student; although I chose to matriculate at LBS full time, the exchange program was a perfect opportunity to get the best of both worlds. Furthermore, who can really complain about spending 100 days enjoying the beach, tapas, and the sun (something you don’t see much in London at this time of year)?
During my term here at IESE, I’ve been fortunate enough to get my choice of electives. A refreshingly new and interesting mix of courses (Marketing of Experiences, Innovation & the Media, Cross-Cultural Management, and Management in the Service Sector) have replaced the staid and stuffy core requirements of yesteryear (Corporate Finance, Financial Accounting, etc.). My schedule also allows me plenty of time to enjoy the city and culture of Barcelona and to think more deeply about my future. On Mondays, I have an eight-hour gap between classes. When I’m not catching up on reading, I can use that time to stroll through the city’s amazing neighborhoods or to jog along a trail up on the Tibidabo ridge, which offers 180-degree views of the city below. Gaudi and his architectural legacy have proven perfect conspirators for extended periods of rumination. It’s easy to get lost in the shapes and curves of the dozen or so “Easter eggs” he has hidden around this city.
Maybe the program is designed for this express purpose: Inundate students with a barrage of requirements, standards, and obligations in the first year. Then slowly remove pieces of the time-crunch puzzle, one by one, until you are left with a window of pensive reflection in the second year. What will I be doing this time next year?