Category Archives: Semester Abroad

It’s a Small World: The Impact of an Unexpected Connection

Ian Manahan traveled abroad for his first time as an MBA student to study in Düsseldorf, Germany and reflects back on an amazing experience he had while in Brussels, Belgium, due to an unexpected connection he had with a resident there.

WUH Otto Beisheim School of Management

WUH Otto Beisheim School of Management

Finally! I was a thirty-year-old MBA student that had been blessed to study abroad for the first time in my life, as so many of my friends had done before. I was in the capital of North Rhine-Westphalia, Düsseldorf in Germany, taking three classes at the recently minted WHU Otto Beisheim School of Management. It was January, so I was enjoying the cozy feel of winter whilst exploring the German landscape and culture. When I consolidated my plans to study abroad, I wasn’t sure what doors could open for me, since it would be my first time in Europe as well as outside of North America. I didn’t have much context for what was going to be the best use of my free time away from my studies. Little did I know how formative my time abroad, and for that matter, a side trip, could be. 

I believe I’ve underestimated the network that my family has connected me to, up to this point in my life. I was homeschooled and never really saw my stay-at-home mom as someone who would be connecting me with future business partners or friends. However, she emailed me during my stay in Germany about a friend of hers she knew in Brussels, Belgium who would like to visit with her son. Brussels turned out to only be a €14 and 3-hour bus ride from where I was living, so I jumped at the opportunity to visit another city in order to meet a friendly host. I was excited to cultivate a more meaningful relationship with my mother’s friend.

View of Mini-Europe from the Atomium in Brussels

View of Mini-Europe from the Atomium in Brussels

Damilare, my mom’s friend who turned out to be only a year older than me, luckily had a similar schedule to my own, so we made plans for me to travel to Brussels over Super Bowl weekend. I was ecstatic to see as much of the city as I could and also to engage in some of the nightlife. I arrived on a Friday and during my first afternoon there, we visited the Atomium, which was built in anticipation of the 1958 World’s Fair. The structure gives one of the best views of Brussels, as seen in a few of the pictures included within this post. We then made our way to the world record holder for most beers available for order – Delirium Café. On the way, however, we stopped by Gran Place at the city center where I had my first Belgian waffle with Nutella and wondered why I ever gave up baking. Having two more full days on the agenda, we decided to retire early.

Saturday started with some Italian style coffee, (which is now my favorite), and we were off to walk as much of the de facto capital of the European Union, Brussels, as we could. We took a free tour of the city from a couple of entrepreneurs, who were working to create an online platform where people could host themed house parties and attract like minded strangers to come mingle. Their personal experiences and stories ended up being more informative than the tour itself. The tour seamlessly worked with our mid-afternoon meal and timely arrival to a tiny cheese and baguette sandwich spot right before closing. We made it in time to be served, but the caveat was that the shop had run out of bread. Damilare ran out to buy bread from a local baker, while his wife and I held our place in line. Our sandwiches were well worth the effort of the bread run, as my mind was opened to my cranberry, wild honey, goat cheese and meat sandwich. Simple, fresh, and profoundly good meals were a theme throughout my time abroad, especially in Brussels.

Gran Place, Brussles where we started our city tour

Gran Palace, Brussels

On Saturday night, Damilare showed me the incredible dance scene in Brussels. We went to ‘Groovalicious’ and hip-hop danced our butts off into the middle of the night. Leaving sometime after 2AM, there were still hundreds of people dancing to the beats. On Sunday, we slept in and took mass transit to Brussels’ giant Sunday market. Observing the military presence/patrol in the market, we ruminated over the folklore of being able to ‘buy anything’ at the market. We parted so I could go to mass and attend a speed dating function, since it was a week away from Feb 14th after all. The plan was to join back up for more dancing that night. This time, we decided to go salsa dancing at La Tentation, with a free lesson.

I arrived early for the lesson, met some people in line, and paid my €2 to get unlimited access to the bathroom for the night. I had the chance to dance with two wonderful girls during the lesson and have kept up with both of them through the recent horrific attacks on March 22nd. One is a business student nearing the end of her degree and the other had recently completed her Masters, which focuses on user responses to online advertisements in order to predict future behavior. Damilare and his wife joined me at La Tentation later in the night. We all danced until we decided to watch Peyton Manning win his last NFL football game in Super Bowl 50 till about 4:35 in the morning. All told, it was a jam-packed weekend that I look back at having gained four new friends and an appreciation for the diversity offered on one of the world stages in Brussels.

Parc du Cinquantenaire, Brussels with Damilare

Parc du Cinquantenaire, Brussels with Damilare

Damilare is originally from Nigeria. I really benefitted from hearing his views on life and learning about the unique challenges a Nigerian faces versus an American in obtaining a visa. While we may have equal amounts of fun on the dance floor, our world-views and perspectives are still strongly linked to our geographical and familial connections. Brussels food and beer are right up my alley, and I’m looking to bring some of that inspiration back to San Diego in the form of healthy eating business ventures. Even though salsa dancing is prevalent in San Diego, I didn’t find a love for it until I travelled to Brussels.

While in Germany, I learned how to adapt to a generous and efficient culture for roughly two months and gained pertinent knowledge through my course work at WHU. I’m also very grateful for the few side trips I took and the friends I made that ended up being some of the most encouraging and inspiring experiences. One of my two favorite trips was visiting Brussels and I was inspired to make this my post to honor the victims of the recent tragedy. If we all took a chance to meet a stranger we were somehow connected to, how much closer could individuals in the world become? My studies abroad have certainly brought me closer to meeting like-minded people thus far.

To check out more student experiences, visit our Study Abroad blog page.

Information on international opportunities can also be found on our website.

MBA International Experience in Spain: Swastik Mukherjee

Swastik Mukherjee (USD MBA student) studied for one semester at IE Business School in Madrid, Spain as part of an international exchange program…these are his reflections as his time abroad came to an end:

20151114_163713 “I am still in a sense of shock. My feeble attempt at collecting my thoughts at the Barajas airport in Madrid is leaving me with a sense of void. It is a strange feeling to have, really. I just spent four months in this country and when am leaving, I am realizing that I barely scratched the surface. That I probably explored an iota of what was on offer. My own sense of adventure came up short against the grandiosity of this majestic country of Spain. I had finally met my match and the country’s victory loomed large over me. It was a challenge that Spain had thrown at me 20151127_024240when I first arrived because it’s sense of history had taken me inand I had told myself to explore as much as I could. Looking back, I realize that to know this culture inside out is a mammoth task, one that I was too small to accomplish. Nevertheless, it wasn’t a time to reflect on failure. It was a time to celebrate the opportunity of a lifetime—to study in Spain.

For an international student like me, one could say that studying abroad may not be have been as beneficial as compared to someone who is a native of the United States. I have been 20151114_163614fortunate to have studied in three different countries and have experienced different cultures throughout my life. But as Henry Miller famously quoted, “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” Gaining international experience is a never-ending sojourn, one that only adds another level to your existing knowledge. It takes you out of your element and places you in a place where you are less comfortable. Out of this lack of comfort arises the need to be flexible and adaptable, enabling you to learn in a new and more practical way. Experiencing other cultures around the world broadens your knowledge base and teaches you to think and live differently. It is extremely important, today, to have a solid understanding of different cultures, and getting an international MBA experience at a world-renowned university such as IE is definitely a glorious prospect to emphasize the international nature of my MBA as well as personal experiences.

20151010_212538Mere plaudits will not even come close to Spain’s intoxicating effect on global tourists. Wine and tapas in full and cheap flow, the inherent friendliness of the Spanish natives, the romanticism of Madrid with its fresco dining options, worldclass museums, vast open spaces, makes Spain an amazing experience, waiting to be experienced. The chances to visit mountains one day and a beautiful beach the next, the ability to walk around and admire the architecture, both in the day as well as the night, gives Spain an identity aped by none. Spain is one of my favorite countries and my experience in Madrid has made me fall more in love with this country.

Studying at IE, a top global business school, renowned for its quality in teaching and learning, taught me so much. My classes were full of interesting fellow students and the professors all came from tremendous backgrounds.


IE has always had an extremely strong base in finance and investments which was my area of interest. With its innovative vision and focus on academic rigor, IE is committed to educating professionals and experts who will make a difference in society. I am confident that with the education at both IE as well as USD, I will come out of the MBA program with a far more rounded approach to corporate life as well have inculcated skill sets that would make me an asset in any organization.

To check out more student experiences, visit our Study Abroad blog page.

Information on international opportunities can also be found on our website.


Aventuras en Madrid Pt. 1: Adapting to Spanish Life

Swastik Mukherjee, USD MBA student, is studying at IE Business School in Madrid, Spain as part of a semester exchange program.  In his own words, he describes his personal experiences adjusting to this new city and opening himself to exploring all that Spain has to offer:

“Getting the opportunity to do a study abroad program during an MBA is something that one cannot miss. Getting that opportunity in a top ten-business school in one of the most vibrant cities in the world is definitely the icing on the cake and a definite no-brainer. As a content for my first blog post, I wanted to talk about Madrid the city. Or about the gastronomic experience. Or about the language barriers. In fact, I wrote three different versions of this blog post earlier and discarded all of them. Somehow, I was not able to hit the nail on the head. What is it about this experience that has been the standout feature? The answer hit me last night. It is the people.

Dinner at San Sebastian copy

Now before coming to Madrid, I was scared. Very scared because I was told by numerous people that Madrid is not a very tourist friendly city. That only 22% of the population speak English. That my absolute lack of Spanish knowledge would get me into problems. Even forums on tripadvisor said that Madridistas are rude. Well, 2 months in and I have the ammunition to vehemently refute those claims. Madrid has been a revelation and how!

Exchange Students Social

I will not really touch upon the service industry as much as talking about my classmates. One never really understands the importance of finding common ground until you meet students from different walks of life. I would agree that I warmed up to my fellow IE students quicker because of the lack of language barrier, but I have had the chance to study with people from Peru, Chile, Iran, Azerbaijan, Russia, United Kingdom and Japan. It truly made sense why USD had collaborated with IE in the first place. IE shares similar traits with USD in terms of being internationally focused, and it has truly given me great networks and a great education. The acceptance that I have felt at IE has been truly amazing given the fact that I am only there for 3 months and they are extremely busy preparing for graduation and their quest to land that dream job.Getting Some Study On

My group meetings have been extremely fruitful; they have welcomed me warmly. My group members have been very flexible and accommodating with scheduling, so that I am able to experience Madrid and Spain as much as I can. Different people have greeted me during lunches, introduced themselves and had conversations with me. I was slightly overwhelmed by the new city and the language barrier loomed large in my mind, which probably made me go in to a shell for the first few days or so. Nevertheless, the fellows at IE and my fellow exchange students have made this experience of mine a brilliant one.

The camaraderie that I have shared with everyone has lifted my spirits and has made me more adventurous. I have tried more food here in Madrid than I would have dared to anywhere else. More than being adventurous, I think a sense of trust has developed with the city and with my fellow classmates. I think trust is the keyword here for me after two months. You visit a new city, a new environment and you try to do it all Wine & Tapas Dinneron your own. It does not quite work that way. One needs to feel the place and trust the place. Developing this trust can be challenging at first. Though, when you have fellows that open up to you from day one and encourage everything there is to experience about Madrid, you come to realize that the people are actually what make your experience in Madrid. Otherwise, your time here just remains a stamp on your passport.”


Stay tuned for more on Swastik’s semester abroad!  To read more exchange program experiences, visit our Semester Abroad blog page.

Information regarding our exchange partners and programs can be found on our website.

Student Semester Exchange Experience in Madrid


Written by MBA student Michael Foster.

In the fall of 2014, I had the opportunity to study at IE Business School in Madrid. I recommend to anyone doing an MBA at USD to consider going abroad for a semester as the experience is invaluable to your studies and networking opportunities. The Ahler´s Center makes the transition almost seamless.

IE is ranked as one of the top business programs in Europe, so it attracts extremely diverse and talented students. The professors are a mix of academics and business professionals. Classes often have guest speakers that offer great insights into the European markets. Most recently we had speakers from Realza Capital and MasterCard.

Viewed from Mike Foster's balcony in Madrid

View from Mike Foster’s balcony in Madrid

Living in Madrid has also been a great experience. It’s very pedestrian friendly with a great public transportation system. Gone are the days of sitting on the 5 to go a few miles. Madrid is a world-class city with a rich history. The architecture is amazing and the museum options are incredible. If you attend IE, I highly recommend living in either Malasaña or Chueca. Both these neighborhoods are centrally located and only a few metro stops from the school.

A big advantage of living in Madrid is that flights abroad are cheap. I had the opportunity to spend a week in Morocco. The culture in North Africa is almost the complete opposite of Spain’s, so it was a real eye opener. I spent a few days in Marrakech, Casablanca, and Rabat.

USD´s IE students in Morocco

USD´s IE students in Morocco

If you are considering going abroad for a semester, I definitely recommend IE Business school. The courses I took while in Madrid were: Applied Corporate Finance, Private Equity and Financial Statements, Trillion Dollar Challenges, Bootstrapping for Startups, Corporate Governance, Bottom of the Pyramid, and War, Sales, and Marketing.

MBA Student Michael Foster

MBA Student Michael Foster

“Chassez le sommeil!”

The University of San Diego’s School of Business Administration offers graduate business students the opportunity to attend courses at universities in several countries and earn graduate credits toward USD’s MBA program. One of our current MBA students, Andrea Ruiz, writes about her experience in Bordeaux, France as an exchange student at KEDGE Business School.

KEDGE Business School in Bordeaux

KEDGE Business School in Bordeaux

“Chassez le sommeil!” As Advent begins, Frère Sebastian—a Dominican brother at Saint Paul Monastery in Bordeaux—reminds us to “chase away our sleep!” It’s a powerful phrase that defines my experience here in Bordeaux. For me, Bordeaux has been my time of preparation.

Away from my family, friends and the comforts of Southern California, Bordeaux has offered me a moment to refocus, especially on my career and on how—come next summer—I will make noise in the market with the experience that I have gained at USD. I’ve discovered new insights far beyond the classroom. The most memorable insights have come from two special people I’ve met here in France: Roland and Sofia.

  • Roland is from Hungary. He’s one of the rare Hungarians that learned a foreign language. He speaks fluent English, and he was quick to approach me when he knew I was from California. To him, the U.S. is a dream, a place where his hard, honest work would be valued. Roland helped me look back at my home with brand new awe, and I’m excited to be a part of an American company that creates the value that puts a twinkle in peoples’ eyes—just like Roland.
  • Sofia, a Colombian transfer student in Bordeaux, lives day by day. She came to France on a scholarship that she received miraculously, and she’s here with limited financial resources. Regardless, Sofia invited me to her small room for dinner when she knew we shared our Latin American culture. She took an internship at UNESCO in Paris recently, and although she didn’t know how she was going to pay for rent or any of her expenses while in Paris, her drive to make a difference in the world motivated her to go. Sofia reminded me that if we are motivated to do good in the market or in the world, everything else will fall into place.
MBA student Andrea Ruiz with other exchange students in Bordeaux, France

MBA student Andrea Ruiz with other exchange students in Bordeaux, France

One of my professors at KEDGE, Dr. Gerald Lang, put it beautifully on the last day of class: “It was very nice to have the whole world here.” Indeed, it was a pleasure to interact with students from around the world and to represent both the U.S. and Mexico myself. I’ve gained new confidence in leading teams of people with absolutely no cultural connections, and I’m learning to create bridges where I once would have thought impossible. Learning French has been an exercise in learning a new corporate culture—a company’s own language—the key is in finding details that will make the pieces of the puzzle fall into place.

Bordeaux will always be the place where I woke up. I’m excited to see what the new day will bring!