International travel for a honeymoon is fairly common for the MBA crowd. Two-year honeymoons are not. But that’s exactly what two recently married first-year MBAs at the University of California-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business are calling their MBA experience.
“For our young family, being here in California together is like being on a honeymoon. But also a very useful one,” Eugenia Zanina points out.
“I like the way Eugenia says that, because we do treat this experience kind of like a honeymoon,” echoes Zanina’s spouse, Daniil Pushkin.
The Russian natives moved to northern California at the end of last summer to start their MBAs after getting hitched in Moscow in July. But the paths to their eventual marriage — and acceptance into the full-time MBA program at Berkeley — were far from linear.
THE LATIN DANCE CLASS INCITING INCIDENT
It’s been a path that has been about a decade in the making. Zanina and Pushkin first met as undergraduates at Moscow State University after entering the school in 2009. They both also entered the same master’s program at the New Economic School, also in Moscow. While they knew each other, it wasn’t exactly love at first sight. A few years after graduation, the inciting incident of the love story occurred when they both happened to be in the same Latin dance class. “We chose the same dance that we love,” Pushkin says of the reunion.
Pushkin and Zanina began dating, but it wasn’t easy. After earning their master’s degrees in economics in 2016, both took consulting jobs — Pushkin at McKinsey and Zanina at BCG — that had them traveling all over Russia and Europe. Both based out of Moscow, they mostly saw each other on weekends. “We had lots of travel during these almost four years of work,” Pushkin recalls.
While the budding relationship blossomed, they remembered how well they studied together, especially while earning the graduate degree. “We could help each other in different classes. Daniil helped me in some classes and I helped him in other classes,” Zanina says.
So they decided to start looking at MBA programs — but this time in the U.S.
ACCEPTANCE FOR ONE, WAITLIST FOR THE OTHER
After some research, they decided to target two schools on the East Coast and two on the West Coast. “We wanted to end up at least in programs on the same coast,” Zanina says. It definitely would’ve been a drag moving to a new country but having the same lifestyle of long travel and little time together. So in 2018, the couple began applying to the same four programs for fall 2019 entry. In December of 2018 good news came for just one of the duo. Zanina new first-round decisions were being made when she missed a call from a U.S. number.
“I looked at my phone and saw missed calls from the United States,” Zanina remembers. She was meeting with clients in Germany but when she found a break, Zanina called back. It was the admissions office from the Haas School informing her that she had been accepted into the full-time MBA program at UC-Berkeley. “I was really happy. And I called Daniil but he had no news at the time,” Zanina says.
Pushkin would eventually receive news. It was that he’d been placed on the waitlist at Berkeley Haas. He also received news he’d been accepted into one of the East Coast programs the two applied to. “That was a good feeling,” Pushkin says. “But at the same time, we didn’t want to spend the next two years flying from one coast to another.”
OFF THE WAITLIST, INTO HAAS
In February of 2019, Puskin and Zanina flew from Moscow to San Francisco to visit Berkeley before visiting Pushkin’s East Coast school. They both immediately loved Berkeley. The community was open and friendly. And the program was full of students with diverse backgrounds and experiences. Plus, “the weather was extremely good,” Zanina adds. Berkeley’s year-round temperate climate probably felt like a tropical vacation from Moscow in February.
Puskin was working in a small town in Russia in what he describes as the “middle of nowhere” with a client when he received a call from a U.S. number. It was classic consulting life. “It was very depressing because it was 1 a.m. and I was still working alone in this hotel room on this presentation,” Pushkin recalls. But all of that changed when Pushkin heard the voice of a Berkeley Haas admissions officer informing him he’d been moved off the waitlist and into the program. He immediately called Zanina, who was working in a town three hours ahead of where Pushkin was. “It was 4 a.m. and I woke her up, but it was with good news,” Puskin says.
The two were officially set. But first, they decided to get married, saying it meant a lot to them and their families to get married before moving to the U.S. for at least two years.
THE TWO-YEAR HONEYMOON ABROAD
And with that, Pushkin and Zanina set off on their two-year honeymoon abroad. Instead of having to fly across the U.S. to see each other, the two not only ended up at the same school but in the same cohort. “We didn’t ask for it, but that’s how it ended up,” Zanina says.
So far, Berkeley’s full-time MBA program has lived up to the expectations built from their visit.
“Everyone we met here was super friendly and super open,” Zanina says. “They all tried to learn something about us. And even one year after, that’s still true.”
“Berkeley Haas is a very unique school from others in terms of the culture,” he says. “You know all of your classmates after the first semester. It’s really like a large family here.”
As for entering a full-time MBA program as a married couple, Pushkin and Zanina are fans.
“In my opinion, our network is not small because of it,” Zanina says. “It’s still growing. Daniil has his own friends and I have my own friends.”
“From our experience, it works perfectly,” Pushkin adds. “Both people can really develop a lot.”