HEC Paris MBA participants in international exchanges with 40 business schools throughout the world. In Fall 2016, we welcomed Tahira Taylor, an exchange student from Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. We asked Tahira to share an insider’s view of her three months on campus, and the differences she found between European and American programs.
My experience so far has only been with the core 1 and 2 that are taken during the first year at Georgetown, and with the specialization at HEC. It has been an intense year and a half. Neither school presented itself as “easy” during either of these stages, and on most days I found myself either working on a group project, studying for a quiz or exam, finishing a paper, reading a case, preparing a model or, in general, just trying to stay ahead of all the work. In some cases, I found myself doing several of those things at the same time!
The courses from the marketing specialization at HEC were very specific, which I appreciated because Georgetown doesn’t offer specializations. The core classes at Georgetown were extremely helpful during my internship at Delta Air Lines, and the things I’ve learned in the HEC specialization have definitely been helpful as far as recruiting. Now I am able to speak about marketing at a very in-depth level. The courses and the cases go into such detail, I have come away feeling like an expert.
I wanted a global curriculum. I have lived and worked in the US, Morocco and Lesotho, so I knew that wherever I did my MBA, I needed an international student body and a curriculum that understood how dynamic business in a global world can be. As far as the international student body, HEC wins hands down. In any one of my project-study groups, I worked with people from at least four countries (in groups of five people or less). The number of languages spoken among the student body and faculty is so impressive.
As for the curriculum, both schools do an excellent job of taking into account global affairs and business. I believe this is the direction that all business schools are going. Georgetown has the Global Business Experience, which is a semester-long consulting project that students must do for a company somewhere in the world. I will be consulting on a go-to-market strategy for a South African company. Both schools teach material that is relevant and timely to what is going on in the world. What is nice about HEC is that you learn about global cases and discuss them with people who can speak to the opinions of about 15 or so countries in one classroom.
The main event of an MBA is how it shapes your career. The United States has a mature MBA market, and so the recruiting process is very well choreographed. In the first year, you recruit during the fall for your summer internship. 100% of the students at Georgetown do an internship (though it isn’t mandatory, schools in the US kind of imply that it is). The US also has giant career fairs in the fall that are specifically for MBA recruiting. I got several internship offers by attending one of the fairs, and many of my classmates did as well.
Europe appears to be different. The MBA market in Europe is not as choreographed, so you will need to be grittier. In general, the companies that recruit heavily in Europe are large American companies like Microsoft, Google and Amazon. That said, I received my job offer a few days ago from a company headquartered in Europe. I found the position though HEC’s Career Management Center. It’s my dream job and I’m going to love the work. It pays as much as an MBA job would in the States, and presents me with the opportunity to live in Europe! Keep in mind that for many MBA jobs in Europe, full language proficiency is mandatory, and the pay is sometimes lower than MBA jobs in the US.
Whether you chose to do your MBA in the United States or in Europe is a very personal decision. I chose to do the exchange in Europe because I wanted some exposure to the European MBA experience, and I wanted to do HEC’s specialization. One might choose to do exactly what I did, but the other way around. Exchanges are not so popular among schools in the US.
In any case, you will make amazing friends and gain a dynamic professional network. You will learn about key aspects of business and find out new things about yourself as well. I am so happy with my choices. Both schools can open doors for you that you never even knew were there. It is just a matter of taking the time to get to know your options and making a truly informed decision that works for your future.
–Text and photos by Tahira Taylor