Here’s How An International Exchange Will Set Your MBA Experience Apart
Exchange programs with elite business schools around the world mean AGSM @ UNSW Business School MBAs can experience a truly global business education
When Brad Swartz started looking at which MBA programs he wanted to enrol in, he knew that getting an international education would be key.
He’d first studied abroad as an undergraduate, spending a semester in Spain as part of his mechanical engineering degree. Inspired by the personal growth he experienced by placing himself in a radically different environment after graduating, Brad made international experience a priority in his career, working internationally for Siemens wind power for eight years in both Denmark and Germany”
“That was amazing,” he says, looking back on the experience. “To move somewhere where you don’t know a single person, uproot your life—it gave me a new perspective.”
When he was looking for an MBA to round out his skillset, he knew that going abroad again would be a priority, and soon settled on the MBA at the Australian Graduate School of Management (AGSM) at the University of New South Wales (UNSW).
As part of the Partnership in International Management (PIM) network, AGSM boasts exchange opportunities with elite business schools all around the globe—from London Business School in the UK, to the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School in the US, to HKUST Business School in Hong Kong.
For an internationally-minded student like Brad, this was an opportunity that was too good to miss.
Striking a balance
Now, several months on from his enrolment, Brad has just returned from his semester abroad at IE Business School in Madrid, Spain, a school he had in fact considered when making his applications.
Despite IE’s impressive offering for entrepreneurship, Brad ultimately decided against enrolling there—one of the key reasons being that he was attracted by the small cohort at AGSM.
Classes at AGSM generally number around 60 students, offering a more close-knit experience, and combined with the shorter program length, this strikes a balance between more intensive, one-year MBAs and the traditional two-year options at American schools.
“At a lot of big schools, they have 800 full-time students, and they’re so expensive!” Brad notes. “If you go to a top-end business school in the US, that’s almost $400,000.”
Instead, Brad opted for the course that he felt would bring him the most personal value while also giving him the skills he needed to take his career to the next level.
Experiencing entrepreneurship teaching abroad
Though he ultimately decided on AGSM over IE for his Full-Time MBA experience, Brad says that getting to experience IE as an exchange student complemented his MBA teaching in Sydney in a way that has rounded out his learning.
“Having the IE experience solidified my thinking that AGSM was completely the right choice for me,” he says. “I would never have gone anywhere else looking back.”
This is largely due to the entrepreneurial teaching at IE, which Brad says allowed him to go into more detail in some of the topics he had been introduced to at AGSM.
“IE has a reputation for being one of the top programs in the world for entrepreneurship, and I’ve always toyed with that idea,” he elaborates. “But AGSM had turned one of their core programs to focus on entrepreneurship and innovation.
“I thought that if I went to AGSM, I’d have the opportunity to go back to IE and really see what it was about—for me, AGSM provided me with the opportunity to do both.”
Specifically, the exchange allowed Brad to take advantage of the size and breadth of IE’s elective offering: “AGSM offers you a great foundation in entrepreneurship, and IE gives you the ability to expand and add texture and diversity to all the different avenues down which to take it,” Brad says.
“IE has a very structured approach to how you can develop your entrepreneurial ambitions, and for me, I saw it as the best of both worlds—to be able to get the AGSM experience, but also to diversify and see the perspectives of two of the top business schools in the world,” he says.
Making the right decision
His time at IE also allowed Brad to appreciate from a different perspective the way that his course at AGSM was run, and contrast his experience with those of his IE classmates.
Despite IE’s larger cohort, for example, Brad says that he felt the diversity of the smaller group at AGSM more keenly, and that he found his classes more challenging.
“In a cohort of 55 students with 21 countries represented, although IE is bigger, AGSM feels more diverse because you get to know every single person,” he says.
He describes the atmosphere at AGSM as a “family feeling,” and recommends it to others looking to work in the Asia Pacific region.
Where it comes to studying abroad, the conclusion is clear for Brad—the growth possibilities are endless, and although it might be a challenge, it’s one that will pay huge dividends for your professional and personal life.
“Studying abroad has opened my mind to how much more there is out there in the world than just the US,” he says.
“It’s ok—there’s nothing to be scared about!”