Americans In Europe: What It’s Like To Get An MBA Abroad


Boston native Amanda Moritz is going to HEC Paris for her MBA

Boston native Amanda Moritz is going to HEC Paris for her MBA

The cultural attractions of a European city can also be hard to resist. “I love that I can walk one mile and be in a new neighborhood with a totally different architecture and ethnic makeup, and all of the sounds, smells and, most importantly, tastes that come with it!” adds Hayes.

That was part of the appeal for Amanda Mortiz who is now studying for her MBA at HEC Paris. Originally from Boston, Moritz moved to the Bay Area after earning her undergraduate degree at MIT, landing a plum job at Google as a product marketing manager. Her three years in San Francisco brought a deeper understanding of herself and what she wanted. It also gave her, as Mortiz puts it, “the courage and self-confidence to take more risks, knowing that it will turn out just fine.”

So now she is on her next big adventure: getting that MBA at HEC Paris, drawn to the school by alums she met during the exploration phase of thinking about an MBA. “From our conversations, I learned that they came to HEC with an idea of what they were seeking, but were still open to possibilities that presented themselves,” explains Moritz who will be in HEC’s Class of 2020. “In some cases, this meant taking a different job or living in a different country than they originally planned. I was attracted to being around people who do not dwell on expectations or do not create stereotypes of what it means to be an HEC student.”


Margaret Millea Walsh

Margaret Millea Walsh and her husband, Steven, are going to London Business School

Besides, living in France had been a long-term goal for her. “I studied French in high school,” adds Moritz who couldn’t wait to practice it daily while living there. “HEC’s proximity to and connections with Station F in Paris piqued my attention. I am looking forward to starting my own venture one day, and I think what France is doing in the startup space is cool. Moving to France has stirred up some serious wanderlust, so I may want to continue living abroad.”

For some Americans, the choice to go abroad involves the desire for something entirely new and different. After graduating from the University of Notre Dame, Steven Walsh and Margaret Millea started their careers in Chicago. With a degree in civil engineering, he ultimately joined Deloitte as a consultant; she used her degree in psychology to work for Nielsen Consumer Neuroscience.

Married, they decided to take the leap and apply to several MBA programs together. The pair started their MBAs at London Business School this past fall. “My husband and I wanted the added challenge and adventure of the global experience,” she tells Poets&Quants. “It’s easy and tempting for us to take a U.S. centric perspective to business, but it’s not only fair but also practical, to understand cultural and political situations globally.  It’s also a personal challenge to be in a different country. Just figuring out the washing machine took us some time.”


Of course, the hurdles for Americans often go beyond the dials of a washing machine. Some Americans looking to return home, either in the short or medium term, worry that even the best-known European MBA schools might not be known to U.S. recruiters. But that doesn’t bother everyone.

“The name recognition of Bocconi is obviously high across Europe,” says Nick Banducci, who is studying for an MBA at SDA Bocconi, “but I’m happy that once American firms look it up they’ll be satisfied that I’ve got a good MBA.” That said, taking a job at a firm with a U.S. presence might smooth the route to return.

It’s also true that European employers might take a longer look at grads who are fluent in the local language. Multinationals might work in English, but consulting firms, for instance, require employees to communicate with clients fluently in their own language.

And it’s also a fact that many Americans who decide to get their MBAs in Europe prefer to stay and work in a European country. Last year, for example, 61% the 56 Americans who graduated from INSEAD and reported on their employment status accepted jobs abroad rather than return home, with the remaining 39% going back to the states to resume their careers.

For students and grads with little or no overseas experience, the troubles inherent in living in a new place — navigating an unfamiliar bureaucracy in a second language, for instance — might be a burden, especially added to an MBA’s workload. But on the flip side, employers often like candidates with resilience and genuine global experience. If you want adventure with your MBA, this could be the way.


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