Building A Global Network: Why These American Students Opted For A European MBA by: HEC Paris MBA Admissions on January 17, 2023 | 1,762 Views January 17, 2023 Copy Link Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Email Share on LinkedIn Share on WhatsApp Share on Reddit Doing an MBA is a big commitment and with so many programs to choose from worldwide, we wonder what makes a French program appeal to North American students. We sat down with two American participants in the HEC Paris MBA to discuss how they made the decision to study in France. After all, there are plenty of programs to choose from in the U.S. Current students Cassandra Valdes and Nicholas Taylor share their journeys and decision-making processes with us. IT’S PERSONAL, BUT IT’S ALSO GLOBAL Any student coming from the U.S. to study in France has personal motivation to do so, but when you scratch the surface of the choice, there is something universal underneath. Both Nick and Cassandra are looking to expand their careers more globally after having worked in international companies. Cassandra Valdes, HEC Paris MBA student Cassandra, a New Jersey native, has a 10 year career in advertising and publishing, having worked in women’s lifestyle publishing at PopSugar and Group Nine Media, and most recently at TikTok as a team lead for client solutions. At TikTok she was able to interact with their teams in France, Germany and the UK. She loved that global aspect and wanted more. “I wanted to grow my global network,” she says. “That was a big motivator when I began considering what my MBA journey would look like,” she says, stressing the importance of “the opportunity for that cross-cultural collaboration with my peers, given how digital and global everything is. That’s the nature of the world we live in.” Cassandra comes from a Franco-American family, so doing an MBA in France allows her to be closer to relatives here. She has also spent time living in Paris and knows it well, so mostly considered programs in the region. She sees the practicality in pursuing an MBA here, even for U.S. candidates working at a company with a very North American-specific experience. “Doing an international MBA gives them that edge and experience to understand business from a different perspective.” Originally from Pennsylvania, Nick was most recently employed at Veolia, a transnational water, energy and waste management company. Although Nick was a U.S.-based transformation leader, he worked with teams across the world, including China, Japan, Korea, Singapore, India, Middle East, Europe, and Latin America. “It’s addictive,” says Nick of operating in the international sphere. “And globalization is here,” he adds. “In business, you’re always going to have that shift back and forth between the international versus the local supply chain. The exchange of ideas and having to work collaboratively with other people: it’s here to stay.” Nicholas Taylor, HEC Paris MBA student For Nick, his experience studying abroad in Korea during his undergraduate years was formative. “It’s the most personal growth I’ve experienced in such a short period of time,” he says, speaking of the level of diversity he encountered, not just with the Korean culture, but also living in international dorms with other students from around the world. “It really set me up foundationally to continue with a global career.” Nick had always considered mostly U.S.-based MBAs. “As an American, it’s all you see.” However, his French mentor encouraged him to consider European and Asian MBAs, and so his destiny inched closer to HEC. TIME IS MONEY, PEOPLE Both agree program length is very much a personal choice. Some are looking to do a 10-12 month program and hurry through it for the qualification. Others want a full two-year pause, more common in U.S.-based programs. Both Cassandra and Nick chose the HEC Paris MBA because its 16-month duration is not too long, and not too quick. “The cost isn’t just the tuition. It’s also the time you’re out of the workforce,” reflects Nick. “I think 16 months is perfect for us because it’s plenty of time to explore without getting complacent or getting bored. There is always something to do.” Cassandra wanted the time to really get to know her cohort and make lasting connections. “I looked at shorter programs, and others in the Paris region that were year-long programs. I wanted a balance – I didn’t want to be out of the workforce for too long, but also wanted a program culture where I had time to build relationships, and HEC had an element of openness I didn’t sense from shorter programs.” In terms of cost, Nick says he noticed the price of some U.S. MBAs were often double that of a European program. And living expenses, he warns, are not always laid out clearly on university websites. “That’s a great thing to ask about when you’re connecting with current students.” He adds, “And if you’re not connecting with current students yet, do it. I strongly recommend it to anyone applying, because it will give you a good sense of what it’s actually like.” He’d been planning on doing an MBA since his undergrad and putting away money into savings in a mix of growth accounts to pay for it. “If you’re even considering an MBA, start now,” he advises. CULTURAL EXPOSURE Students benefit from the diversity of an international MBA, and it’s for more than just the global networking opportunities. At HEC, where participants can live on-campus in dormitories, opportunities to share cultural experiences abound. Students host events, such as the recent Japan Night, where Japanese participants served sushi, shared games and history, as well as a traditional Japanese dance with their peers. With 60 nationalities represented in the MBA program alone, EMBA students, Masters students, professors, and staff from all over the world, plus members of the local community and even company reps that come to campus, the opportunities are endless. “Think about the type of network you want to have. If you’re looking for a purely American network, stay in America, that’s fantastic and you’ll do well,” advises Nick. Deeply interested in the evolution of organizations, he feels the subject of sustainability is highlighted more in European MBA programs than in the U.S.. “People are questioning pure profitability,” he says. “A lot of businesses right now are very fragile, and you can see this from the pandemic. You get to this point of optimization where when something goes slightly off it breaks.” As president of the HEC MBA Sustainability Club, he brings these questions and others forward with other club members who come from all over the world, with different points of view. While he says his core MBA studies have a broad, generalist scope, the flexibility of the program allows him to dive deeper into things he cares about and to share and engage with the diverse student body. Read about life on the HEC Campus. Cassandra is committed to sharing French culture with others as president of the French Connection club. The three pillars of the club are Culture, Language and Business. From events taking place locally, to trips further afield in France, students are invited to experience the rich history of the country in which they study. Francophone members like Cassandra teach beginner students the basics of French like ordering in a restaurant. She wants to equip students with skills to feel comfortable in France. The language component is important to the club, which looks forward to pairing students up with language buddies and hosting activities like film viewings to work on their skills. In a professional capacity, for those interested in working in France after their MBA, translation help is provided for creating a French resume as well as tips for interviewing with French companies. Doing an MBA requires applicants to look within themselves and get clear about their goals, both in the program itself and afterward. North American students have a lot to gain from a European perspective, and with a program like the HEC Paris MBA, a chance to gain a global perspective from interactions with their peers and professors. Could a program abroad be a good fit for someone who has never lived outside their native country? “I’m sure there are some students here like me who didn’t study abroad while they were in undergrad at university,” says Cassandra. “To have this opportunity to pursue your education overseas as an adult I think is a completely different perspective from that of an undergraduate student. You have a much stronger sense of who you are as a person and what you want to pursue professionally.” Learn more about the HEC Paris MBA admissions process. Interested applicants can submit a candidate profile form to connect with a Marketing & Recruitment Manager from your region. Comments or questions about this article? Email us.