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Latin Americans Flock to Spain to Pursue an MBA

In growing numbers, Latin Americans are turning to top business schools in Spain – notably ESADE, IE and IESE – to obtain their MBAs before returning to careers in Latin America, the New York Times reports.

Spain’s own economy is still faltering, but business schools there say they are attracting more and more Latin Americans, many with international career experience, who plan to return to Latin America when they graduate, according to the Times report. They are drawn to Spanish MBA programs, according to the report, because the classrooms are more diverse than at schools in the United States and the business culture is a more familiar one. 

“I really feel like I made the right decision to come to Europe because the whole educational system — the interaction with the professors, the interaction with the students — is so much more similar to the way that business is done in South America than what I was exposed to in the U.S.,” Brazilian native Joana Jo Fratini told the Times. She started classes at ESADE last year after obtaining an undergraduate economics degree from Penn State University.

At ESADE, 19 percent of this year’s graduating class is Latin American. In response to this growing contingent, ESADE has launched a study program called “Doing Business in Latin America,” and has decided to offer a full-time MBA program in Spanish beginning next year. Until now, the school’s MBA program was taught only in English.

IESE, another top-ranked school based in Barcelona, is also making changes in response to growing numbers of Latin American students. This year, with 15 percent of its students from Latin America, IESE launched an executive MBA in São Paolo, Brazil, which offers courses in English, Portuguese and Spanish for business professionals from Brazil and neighboring countries.

That Latin Americans are showing interest in Spanish schools is not surprising or even necessarily new – there are existing economic ties, a shared business culture and, for many Latin Americans, a shared language.

What is new is the degree to which Latin American students are heading to Spanish MBA programs with every intention of returning to Latin America after graduation. “There are a lot more opportunities in Latin America,” Javier Muñoz, IESE director of MBA career services, told the Times.

Xavier Gimbert, who oversees Latin American programs and initiatives at ESADE, agrees, noting that demand for qualified MBAs has soared as countries in the region open up to big Latin American-based multinationals. “If you compare Colombia with five or 10 years ago, it is another country,” he told the Times.

A plan to return to Latin America with an MBA in hand is prevalent among students at Spain’s IE Business School as well. The majority of Latin American students at IE – where they make up about 22 percent of the total student population – say they want to return to Latin America to work, according to the Times report. IE student polls reveal that as many as 95 percent of Brazilian students and 97 percent of Peruvian students plan to return to their home countries.

Read the complete New York Times article, “Latin Americans Head to Spain for Business School.”