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Real Humans of MBA Students: The Wharton School MBA Class of 2023

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wharton mba class 2023Yara Azouni, Wharton MBA Class of 2023

Age: 25
Hometown: Nablus, Palestine
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Mechanical Engineering
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 3 years, management consulting

Why did you make the decision to attend business school? Why now?
After spending months under lockdown, my passion for education technology was reignited as I saw the potential for education to change and become accessible to everyone. Living in Palestine, I struggled with the restrictions on movement that prevented me from attending school on many occasions. Thus, I decided to attend business school to pivot from my consulting job to a product management role at a tech company, which will prepare me better for my future aspirations. In the long-term, I hope to leverage my business knowledge in innovation and entrepreneurship to launch my own edtech startup in the MENA region and find innovative solutions for distant learning and development. 

Why did you choose The Wharton School? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
The two main reason that led me to choose Wharton were diversity and collaboration. Given my international experience and curiosity, I was searching for programs that would push me to explore new regions and learn from a large network of global citizens. After learning about the Lauder Institute through my coworkers, I concluded that this program was made for me. This program is part of the Wharton School and provides a dual MBA/MA program with a global or regional focus. I personally decided to focus on the MENA region in my studies to expand my knowledge about the regional history, politics, and economy and engage with the large but close-knit community of Lauder alumni. In addition, given my love for collaboration, I was searching for programs that would fuel my entrepreneurship and allow me work with others on my startup ideas. Over the past years, Wharton’s entrepreneurial ecosystem has grown tremendously. Given that this ecosystem is based on the Learning Team model, which I was first introduced to in my Team Based Discussion (TBD) interview, it inspires collaboration during the two years and beyond.

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2023?
I believe that my Palestinian identity is what differentiates me the most. After being silenced for many years, I was finally able to find my voice and fight for causes that I believe in, such as education for girls and women. Thus, as a Palestinian woman, I aspire to help other marginalized groups find their voice to empower them to accomplish their own aspirations. 

Tell us a fun fact that didn’t get included on your application:
I attended a dinner with Stephen Hawking in celebration of his 75th birthday when I was studying abroad at the University of Cambridge! 

Post-MBA career interests:
I hope to work in technology in the short-run and become an entrepreneur in the long-run. 

Advice for Current Prospective Applicants:
–What is one thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
I would start writing my application essays early on to collect as much feedback as possible from friends and family. It took my Wharton essay ~10 iterations to get to its final shape. 

–What is one thing you would change or do differently?
I would take extra time off from work to self-reflect throughout the stressful application and interview process. For instance, I would recommend taking a day off from work the day before the interview to practice and set the right mindset.

–What is one part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
I really disliked the GMAT and had to take it multiple times to get my target score. After attempting to take the GMAT twice, I found it very challenging to study for the GMAT while working 80+ hours a week, so I finally decided to go on a one month unpaid leave and dedicate my time fully towards the exam. 

What is your initial impression of The Wharton School students/culture/community?
I was very impressed by the of level of class diversity and the fact that people came from very different backgrounds and had very different career aspirations. Before coming to Wharton, I had the impression that all students either wanted to become consultants or investment bankers. However, I was proven wrong after spending only a few weeks on campus. At Wharton, I am surrounded by individuals who plan on pursuing a spectrum of careers ranging from food, to fashion, to sports and who plan on living in different parts of the world ranging from France, to Japan, to Chile. 

What is one thing you have learned about The Wharton School that has surprised you?
I was especially impressed by Wharton’s efforts to promote gender diversity, which allowed it to surpass its historic milestone of 50% women for the first time in its 140-year history!

Has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your personal application or admissions process in any way? If so, how?
I had to take the online GMAT which required additional practice.  

What is one thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
With only two years, I’m worried that I will not have enough time to do everything I want to do. There are countless opportunities at Wharton/Lauder; however, I have learned to prioritize my different commitments to find a balance. 

What is one thing you are most excited about in your first year?
I am most excited about the Lauder Culture Quest, which is an amazing race-style program that enables Lauder students to race through a region in teams and score points along the way by engaging in various cultural activities. This year, I will be organizing the Culture Quest which will take place in the winter break in Egypt! I am mainly thrilled to bring 80+ first- and second-year Lauder students to one of my favorite countries and show them its rich history and beauty. 

Lauren Wakal
Lauren Wakal has been covering the MBA admissions space for more than a decade, from in-depth business school profiles to weekly breaking news and more.