When you’re an international student pursuing your MBA in the United States, life can be a little complicated. You have to dive straight into a challenging curriculum all while learning American culture and business practices along the way. Lorena Quezada, a second-year student at the Darden School of Business, knew she was up for the challenge. She shares what brought her from her hometown of Lima, Peru to Darden and why the decision was definitely worth it.Why did you choose to pursue your MBA in the United States?
I actually always wanted to do my MBA abroad. Upon graduation, I was very interested to deepen my knowledge of finance and economics. But, I also knew that if I wanted to move up in my career it would be important to enhance my leadership skills. I chose the US because it was a market I wanted to be more exposed to and I knew I wanted to go to one of the most prestigious business schools in the world. I also considered one business school in Canada for the opportunities it provided international students, but I ended up going to the one my heart said I should go to.
Can you tell me a little bit about what it was like to go through the MBA admissions process as an international student?
It was quite complicated. I started with the hardest part for me, which was the GMAT. I prepared for many months before I took the exam. Based on alumni feedback, I took the exam a few times before I was confident with my results. The good thing about taking the GMAT first was that I already felt prepared for taking the TOEFL, which I did next. After that, I prepared my essays. I tried to tell my story in an appealing way that differentiated me from the other candidates from my region. Top business schools have to pick among a large pool of international students! Then I submitted my applications in late December and I was fortunate enough to be called by most of the ones I applied to for an interview. I really enjoyed having the opportunity to meet people in admissions for an interview. When you’re already in the process, you are hooked because you know you are one step closer and this kept me really motivated. At the end I chose Darden because Darden was always my first choice!
Tell me about your experiences as an international student at Darden. Are there advantages to being an international student? Any Disadvantages?
I would say that it’s been great being an international student! If you’re considering attending business school as an international student, I would definitely recommend coming as a full-time student because you really get to be involved in everything! It helped me get familiar with the culture. For instance, I’ve never been to a baseball game or American football game before.
I don’t think there’s an advantage to being an international student. I would say that you have the opportunity to make your country or culture known among your classmates. I think relating to classes, there’s not really an advantage unless they’re talking about a specific market you’re familiar with and you can contribute. As far as disadvantages are concerned, we have less certainty about where we will be after graduation because of visa sponsorship and visa lotteries. We need to take our job search further.
What surprised you the most about attending business school in the United States?
Networking was my biggest surprise! It can be overwhelming when you come from a different country where you’re not used to this process. We’re not used to networking a lot in Latin America to be called for an interview. You usually submit your resume and they will call if you have the relevant experience. It surprised me that you actually need to work your way to an interview even before you submit your application. That wasn’t in my mindset before and that’s something I have learned this year.
Do you have any advice for other international students considering pursuing their MBA in the US?
They should do it! This has been the best year of my life because I’ve been challenged in so many ways. Every day was different and intense, but rewarding. You feel like you learn something every day, not only from the faculty and things that you read, but also from the comments that you hear from your classmates. It really opens your mind and I feel like I’ve grown a lot in this past year.