I spent the first 3 months of this year at IE Business School in Madrid, Spain, and this was definitely one of the best parts of my Kellogg experience. Without counting the fact that I escaped the Chicago winter (which turned out to be much better than expected), I can think of three main reasons why studying abroad rocked:
1. I Missed My Friends: I’ve made some really good friends at Kellogg; friends that I can depend on for counsel, and when I’m in trouble. Over the winter quarter, it was really difficult to make out time to connect with my Kellogg buddies as most of us were in different time zones in different parts of the world. To make things more interesting, we were also engaged in preparing first years for internship recruiting, which takes a lot of time. In the end, I didn’t speak much with my friends over a period of 3 months, and this was a good thing because unlike graduation (which is really close by!), studying abroad gives you the opportunity to miss your friends, and then reconnect with them when you return to school for your final quarter.
2. I Gorged Myself on the “Candy” of Europe: Any self respecting history buff knows that he/she needs to visit Europe at least once during his/her lifetime right? Before this year, I had only been to the UK a few times, but that was really it. My study abroad was my first real trip to Europe and it was aMAzIng! It’s really difficult to put into words what it felt like to experience historic sites like the Colosseum, St. Peter’s Basillica in Rome, or Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin. I really soaked in all the history and got challenged to learn even more about this complex and wonderful world that we live in.
3. I Did some Personal Development: My two years in business school have been a period of tremendous personal and professional growth. However, something I’ve always struggled with is the issue of volume. There’s so much good material and information coming at you all the time that it’s really difficult to digest anything. You just have to take the little you can quickly assimilate and move on to what’s next. The good thing about studying abroad was that I didn’t have this problem. I took very few classes, and I wasn’t involved in as many extracurricular activities as I usually am at Kellogg. This meant that I had the free time I needed to travel and to work on finance related topics that I felt I hadn’t fully digested at Kellogg. I’m really grateful that I got the chance to do this, and I’m already reaping the benefits in the finance classes that I’m taking this quarter.
I’d like to end this post with some thoughts around cost. When I told some friends (within and outside business school) that I was studying abroad, I usually got a lot of questions around how I could afford it. The truth of the matter is that I couldn’t. I will be graduating from Kellogg in a few weeks’ time with a decent amount of student loans, which will take me some time to fully pay off. Notwithstanding, I still think that it makes a lot of sense to incur certain expenses like traveling before one can actually afford them. My reasoning is this: if you graduate from a decent business school, it is certain that you’ll someday be able to afford these expenses. The challenge is that when you do get the funds you need, you may no longer have the time to embark on that trip or experience that you desire. Work commitments, family obligations, something usually ends up getting in the way. It took me a while to accept this, but this is how I managed to convince myself that it makes sense for broke old me to take time out and see the world. 🙂