Fridays from the Frontline: Benefits of Duke Fuqua’s MBA Exchange Program
The study abroad experience is a major draw for prospective b-school students. Foreign exchange programs not only allow students to immerse themselves in new business cultures and expand their networks beyond continental confines, but also provide a global lens through which to understand their professional interests. This includes everything from the curriculum at international management programs to the challenges that face the local startup ecosystem.
It is for these reasons and more that Duke Fuqua MBA student Bonnie Kong shipped off to the Netherlands to study at the Rotterdam School of Management (RSM) as part of the Outgoing Exchange Program. King took to the Duke Fuqua blog to share insights from her experience.
Benefits of Duke Fuqua’s MBA Exchange Program
by Bonnie Kong, Daytime MBA ’19
“I’m studying in Rotterdam for eight weeks,” I would tell people.
“It’s in the Netherlands. Thirty minutes away from Amsterdam.”
My decision to study in Rotterdam during my MBA as part of the Outgoing Exchange Program baffled many individuals. Unlike my fellow Fuquans who were basking in the sunshine in Melbourne or drinking sangria in Barcelona, I chose to do my exchange program in a cold, cloudy city, where the most popular thing to eat was a cold cheese sandwich.
But the reputations of Erasmus University and the Rotterdam School of Management (RSM) were big enough draws. I also wanted to be the only Fuquan in my program. While I love being a member of the Fuqua community, I wanted the opportunity to make connections in a global program. My experience as an exchange student at RSM met my expectations and more.
Taking Classes Unique to RSM
My concentrations at Fuqua were in corporate finance and investments, which prepared me well for my career. However, I also have an interest in entrepreneurship and innovation. At RSM, I took three elective courses in the MSc Management of Innovation curriculum, complementing my studies at Fuqua.
All MBA exchange students were required to take courses in the specialized master program and not from the MBA curriculum. Thus, courses were more driven by academic theory and a focus on reading academic papers as opposed to focusing on cases as MBA students are used to. At first, I thought I made a mistake of selecting this program because of the amount of work required. However, the in-class discussion of theoretical concepts gave me a new perspective on practical applications.
Coursework at RSM was still practical. Each course emphasized group work. Similar to my experience at Fuqua, teamwork is integral to individual success. Professors brought in speakers from local startup companies, where students had to evaluate their business models and provide recommendations to senior management. One of my courses even required onsite visits to local companies. Before starting my exchange, I did not think I would be touring a global carpet manufacturer in rural Holland, but there I was.
Taking Advantage of Networking Events Abroad
As a frequent attendee of startup events in the U.S., I knew I wanted to attend similar events abroad. The Netherlands has a burgeoning startup ecosystem, and Dutch people are known to be entrepreneurial and design-focused. With the ease of public transportation in the country, I was able to attend events in Rotterdam and neighboring cities.
My favorite events were hosted by Female Ventures and the Next Women, two Dutch organizations supporting women in entrepreneurship and venture capital. While I was not a member of these groups, the event organizers welcomed me with open arms. Attending these events gave me insight into fundraising and the types of startups in the country. While there are challenges and opportunities unique to the Netherlands, l learned some best practices to bring home.
Establishing Connections with Students from Around the World
I was a member of a diverse cohort and one of three Americans in a group of 40-plus exchange students.
Through my program, I made friends from top-ranked business schools who traveled to Rotterdam from as far as Johannesburg and as close as Oslo. Our conversations ranged from understanding the economies in our home countries to celebrating the traditions of our cultures. Because it was a new culture and environment for all of us, we took the opportunity to explore local events and Rotterdam’s eclectic nightlife.
Being an exchange student during the semester also meant taking classes with full-time students at RSM. Because class sizes were small, I was able to establish relationships with many of the current students and understand Dutch culture on a deeper level. One of my Dutch friends came from a family of restauranteurs. As her family was Indo-Dutch, it was interesting hearing stories about their start in a new country and learning about the diversity of the Netherlands.
Doing a term-long exchange was one of the highlights of my business school experience. I am grateful for the insights I gained and the friendships I made, as they will be valuable to my career and personal development.