By Jennifer Silvestre, MBA 2023
Whenever I talk to people about going to LBS, a few questions often come up about my decision to attend, especially as an American where the US created the blueprint for the MBA. To help those considering an MBA outside of the US or just giving it a cursory thought, I thought I’d write down my answers FAQ style. Applying to business school is already a hard and introspective journey, where sometimes you may not get all the answers you need. Although I hope my answers can provide you with more clarity, I hope they encourage you to dig even deeper and think through what you really want from your business school experience.
Why did I choose and apply to business schools outside of the United States?
I was looking for a different experience altogether. When I was looking at US schools, it was basically a copy of my 4 years in undergrad, with the main difference being that it would be 2 years and with more debt. Additionally, while I was meeting US business school applicants and/or admitted students during the process, I often found that we had mutual friends in common, so I wasn’t expanding my network there. I really wanted to push myself and see what it would be like to live in a different country.
- While US schools say they prize international experience, the schools don’t have many international students. I also found that everyone generally stayed within their groups, with very few mixing with the international students. I wanted to learn more about life outside of the US and see what that is like, which is difficult to do in the US.
- I also wanted international job opportunities, which while not impossible from the States, is much easier when I already have a student visa that allows me to work in the UK.
- Of course, the travel opportunities – much easier (and cheaper) from the UK than the States.
Why LBS specifically, especially over a top 3 US business school?
- The Environment
Everyone is very collaborative. You often don’t feel the competitive aspect that you do in the States. For example, I went head-to-head with several friends on a number of roles during recruitment. Throughout the process, we were all openly sharing prep materials, interview styles, and even questions that were asked during the interview. It didn’t cross our minds that helping out a classmate would negatively impact me. We’re all here to see everyone do well.
Moreover, my admitted class was the warmest and welcoming I had come across. They were the most accepting of me being on the fence in terms of my final school selection and did not judge or make negative comments like I experienced at US schools. Instead, they told me I was already part of the community and that I belonged there.
- My Future Classmates
I knew the classmates that LBS attracted were not ones I was going to be able to have met in the States. Now, I have friends from all over the world who have opened my eyes to different ways of living and working. One stand-out is my friend who is from China, lived and worked in Japan for 11 years, has written poetry in both Chinese and Japanese, and is now working on finding her flow/audience in English. Although she was a consultant in her former life, our conversations rarely visit her profession and I’m honored to call her a close friend.
- Flexibility within the programme
The flexibility in the programme gave me time to think and curate my experience. This has been immensely helpful when I’ve had to rearrange my scheduling to accommodate new opportunities, while still getting the MBA experience I wanted. With the flexible scheduling, I’ve been able to:
– Take on 2 summer internships by extending my vacation time
– Select a short exchange (~3 months)
– Shift my track from being more strategy / data analytics focused to entrepreneurship, especially after having participated in Launchpad, the Entrepreneurship Club’s pre-accelerator
- Novel Experiences
Being in a completely different country with easy access to other geographies ensured that I would be able to create a whole host of different experiences that I knew would not be so easy to achieve from the States.
Did I have any hesitations in applying to LBS?
Absolutely! This was a big life decision, a 2-year commitment, so I did not make this decision lightly. The three main concerns I had were:
- LBS’ reputation not being as well-known in the US
- Leaving my family/ the comforts of my country
Even though I would’ve been moving to a new city within the States, it’s easier to get access to my family and the things that make it home, especially just being 2 hours away.
- Job opportunities that would be available to me due to needing a visa and Brexit
Initially, I thought that my reasons for pursuing an MBA in Europe were strong enough that these considerations would not have had much weight in my final decision. However, as the offers came in, I really had to consider what it meant to do an MBA in Europe in practicality. These concerns really made my final decision tough but as I spoke to LBS students and alums during my final decision, they really eased a lot of these fears and showed me all the possibilities that I would leave behind if I walked away from LBS.
What they mentioned:
- “LBS’ reputation not being as well-known in the US”
LBS alums are everywhere, the right people will recognize your degree
- “Leaving my family and the comforts of my country”
The MBA is about growing as a person and the change is only temporary if you ever want to head back home after the MBA
- “Job opportunities that would be available to me due to needing a visa and Brexit”
You won’t be limited based on this, there will be opportunities in not only London but in other regions e.g. Dubai, Germany, Netherlands
Do I wish I had gone to the top 3 US school?
Not at all. I’ve had experiences that I didn’t expect to and I know I had the opportunity to because I was at LBS.
One that comes to mind is my trip to the arctic circle in Sweden. If you know me, you know there are a few things I dislike, being cold and submerging my head underwater. Not only did I do fun activities such as dog sledding, snowmobiling, and hanging out at the Ice Hotel but I also pushed myself to dunk myself into the waters of a frozen lake as the recommended activity while saunaing. While there are polar bear swims, I never thought I would be one to willingly get in cold water MULTIPLE times.
LBS truly has opened the world up to me, I’m not confined to learning just in the UK and on topics that are academic or career related. I’m also learning about myself and how the boundaries that I’ve previously placed on myself have been limiting as well as how far I can truly go.
Any last minute advice for those considering the move?
Really think through what life experiences you want to gain, not just professionally or academically. The MBA is one of the last chances where you can experiment risk-free and can take that time to explore all that is out there at a moment’s notice.
If you’re worried about recruiting for the States as an American, have no fear. The US will always be open, and they still recognize LBS as a leading school for the MBA programme. Moreover, having the guts to move to another country and immerse yourself in another culture says more about your character and the type of person you are that goes beyond what a resume / CV can tell you. Business is global, we no longer live in completely isolated markets.
Just do it! You get to graduate from a top global programme, meet some of the most interesting people from such different places, and seize opportunities all over the world.
If any of this resonated with you, apply! If I haven’t answered the questions you were hoping to learn more about, feel free to reach out. Good luck and I hope to welcome you as part of the LBS community!