Student Exchange Program: An Enlightening Experience

February 11, 2015

For a company, strategic commitment is a decision that has an everlasting long-term effect on the company. My decision to come to Yale was a strategic commitment. To my surprise, I realized that my exchange program in Barcelona was also a strategic commitment. My life has changed a lot since the trip to Barcelona as an exchange student at IESE.

New Friends: You are going to make new friends. Tons of them and from many different parts of the world. More than 80% of the IESE students are not from Spain, which means that you will be immersed in a multicultural environment. Additionally, there were many exchange students like me there, and we formed a family. One of the most incredible trips of my life was a road trip to the south of France with another exchange student. We had the opportunity to have three days together full of deep business, philosophical discussions that created a strong connection after that. Finally, I really wanted to go to IESE to meet more Brazilians. We Brazilians are the second biggest group at IESE and I made friends for a life there.

Learning Spanish: People usually think that in Barcelona you will not speak Spanish and it is difficult to learn the language as they speak Catalan there. However, it is not true. First, it is possible to have daily classes in Spanish at IESE and the professors are amazing. Second, there are many Spaniards in the program as well as people from South America that only speak Spanish. I lived with people from Peru, Brazil and Poland. We were the compañeros, and spoke Spanish while at home.

Cultural aspects: Barcelona is full of culture. There are weekly events for different interest groups organized by the students. Some people go to museums, others to concerts or to a Barça football game. I discovered the salsa club and enjoyed their fun weekly classes.

Travel: One of my objectives in going to Spain was not only to live in a different country, but also to live on a different continent. Therefore, traveling is a natural consequence to wanting to understand in more detail a country and its surroundings. I had been to Europe before on vacation, but only for very short periods of time. In addition to the south of France, I went to Germany (for interviews), England (for a career fair) and Russia (out of curiosity). As an exchange student you can enjoy the little things, such as lingering in a nice café and watching how people interact. In this way, I got more from this experience than when I was on vacation and always in a hurry.

In conclusion, I am surprised how my life has changed during my exchange experience. I have new friends all over the world, I improved my Spanish skills considerably, and I know more about the cultural aspects of Spain and the other countries that I visited. I am sure, it will have an everlasting long-term effect on my life.

About the author

Igor de Noronha Barros

MBA Candidate, Class of 2015