My DBi New Zealand Experience

Author: Sarah Qin is an MBA Candidate at the Stern School of Business in NYU, specializing in Technology Product Management, Brand Management, and Strategy. Prior to Stern, Sarah worked in corporate finance at GE and consulting at Deloitte. Sarah interned at and will be returning to Estée Lauder as a Finance & Strategy Manager after graduating in May 2024. Sarah enjoyed being co-president of Stern Technology Association (STA) this past year and strengthening the tech community across the full-time, part-time, and focused MBAs.

Throughout my life, I always viewed New Zealand as this beautiful utopia, a place far away from me, somewhere I could easily visit on Pinterest but not so much in real life. When I discovered that Stern had a DBi program there, it stopped me in my tracks! The opportunity to spend two weeks there with my classmates, exploring its incredible scenery while learning about how business is done in that country, was too good to pass up! As someone who absolutely loves the summertime and dreads cold temperatures, it was a no-brainer for me to escape the cold New York winter for a few weeks and enjoy summer in New Zealand instead. I also happen to be a huge tennis fan, and the Australian Open and all its warm-up tournaments (including the Auckland Open) conveniently coincided with my DBi. Watching those matches live on TV in the same time zone and attending some matches in-person both during and after the DBi was another dream come true!

Despite Auckland being 16 hours ahead of NYC, I didn’t experience jet lag because I was that ecstatic to be in this paradise! The locals were so friendly, the scenery was breathtaking, and the Sauvignon Blanc was as crisp and refreshing as it gets! Moreover, the black sand beaches glistened in the sunlight, and there were abundant sheep in the lush rolling hills of the countryside. I also got to visit the Shire in person as well, and even though I have not watched any of the Lord of the Rings movies, I was blown away by the set design and felt like I was on an architectural digest tour for Hobbits. Waiheke Island, just a short ferry ride away from Auckland, was heavenly with its turquoise waters and endless supply of the finest quality wine. Everywhere I looked, there was a postcard view, and I had to pinch myself many times to remind myself that everything was real life and not simply a daydream or figment of my imagination.

Hobbiton
Loved being a hobbit for the day at Hobbiton – I fit right in!

In addition to sightseeing with my friends, I also loved going to class and learning about the different industries in New Zealand. I realized that while New Zealand is ahead of the curve in many ways, there are also areas where it strives to improve, as no country is perfect. I learned that kiwis (nickname for New Zealanders) do not embrace risk and failure as freely as Americans do, and a big reason for this is because New Zealand is geographically much smaller than the States, resulting in fewer opportunities to fail. While an aspiring entrepreneur in the US can drive up and down Silicon Valley in California or even fly to New York City or Austin to present their business ideas to accelerators and venture capitalists, people in New Zealand primarily have Auckland as their one shot for success since much of the island is dedicated to tourism and farming. 

Despite New Zealand’s substantial efforts in sustainability, the methane emitted by its sheep and cows has caused an environmental strain that is difficult to offset. Additionally, the construction industry is essential to the country but difficult to execute because of New Zealand’s predominantly rugged terrain. Similarly, the public transportation system is subpar, and people prefer to use their cars. As a result, there is little incentive for the government to invest in improving its public transport system. While New Zealand may resemble America on the surface, it is quite different in many aspects and has its own issues to address. 

Nevertheless, it was refreshing to learn about how New Zealand actively acknowledges its shortcomings and makes significant strides to increasing investments in technology, dismantling Tall Poppy Syndrome, advocating for mental health, integrating its Māori and Pasifika populations into the community, and supporting entrepreneurs. One highlight of this DBi program was visiting an incubator called the Pacific Business Hub and learning about its support for start-ups and new businesses for the Pasifika community. It was inspiring to hear from successful entrepreneurs in New Zealand about how they beat the odds and have only become more passionate about their businesses over time. It is clear that New Zealand is so much more than a vacation spot for adventurous tourists or Australia’s “little sibling.” With its growing number of direct flights to different countries and efficient shipping routes for key exports like dairy products and wine, New Zealand has potential to add even greater value and become more connected with the rest of the world.

Auckland Open
Auckland Open with fellow Sternies and tennis fans Bianca Dy and Misato Aiso

I’m so grateful for the adventures and educational takeaways I had from this trip, but ultimately, the top reason I loved my New Zealand DBi was the people! Despite completing three semesters at Stern, there are still hundreds of full-time MBAs, part-time MBAs, and focused MBAs who I have not met yet! During my time in New Zealand, existing friendships deepened, and acquaintances became friends who were also ideal people to karaoke with on a boat! As someone who typically travels solo or with a few friends, I realized how fun group travel can be, especially when Stern plans a significant part of the itinerary. Going to New Zealand as part of a two-week intensive study abroad program rather than simply visiting the country as a tourist allowed me to learn about intricacies of each industry rather than purely sightsee the main attractions. Consequently, I gained a more holistic understanding of how New Zealand operates and have developed a greater appreciation for everything the country has to offer. All I can say is that going on a DBi during MBA is a must, especially in New Zealand, and you will get FOMO (fear of missing out) not JOMO (joy of missing out) if you don’t go! So what are you waiting for? Book that flight today.

Pohutu Geyser
Pohutu Geyser (largest in the Southern Hemisphere!) in Rotorua
Ferry Ride to Waiheke
Scenic ferry ride from downtown Auckland to Waiheke Island
Pacific Business Hub
Company visit to Pacific Business Hub, a vibrant incubator for start-ups
Maypole
Completed the Maypole with Olivia Cannarozzi and Sarah Sprole at the Shire
Waiheke Vineyards
Froliking in the Waiheke vineyards in the middle of wine tastings
Downtown Auckland
Serene view of the downtown Auckland skyline from the Viaduct Harbour

My DBi Experience in South Africa

Author: Hyeji Kim is a full-time MBA student at NYU Stern, graduating in May 2024. Prior to coming to business school, she worked at Accenture working on tech implementation projects for public sector clients. After school, she’ll move to Seoul, South Korea to pursue a career in strategy consulting at the Samsung Global Strategy Group. During her time at Stern, Hyeji served as the co-president of the Asian Business Society and the co-director of a Christian business conference for MBA students called Believers in Business.

Hyeji Kim

“Whoa, I want to do that!” was the reaction I had as I tapped through the Instagram stories of MBA2s who were on their DBi’s in January 2023. I, as an MBA1, was busy preparing for interviews, hoping and praying that internship recruiting would soon be over. I looked at all of the locations that were popping up: Australia, New Zealand, Costa Rica, and South Africa. ‘Any one of these would be fascinating destinations,’ I thought to myself and resolved to be on a winter DBi myself the following year. 

That is what I did! I spent two weeks on a DBi to Cape Town, South Africa, and every moment was extremely worth it. To be quite honest, I originally saw the DBi as an opportunity to travel to someplace cool with a bunch of friends from business school. But it turned out to be so much more. 

The Beauty of Cape Town

Our hotel and school building were located by the V&A Waterfront, a vibrant food and shopping district alongside the harbors of the Alfred and Victoria basins. On most days after school, many of us would visit the area to take walks, go eat, or simply sit and take in the beauty of the water and landscape. The water was so blue and sparkly; the backdrop of Table Mountain against the buildings, the ships, and the bustling of the district never got old. The sun shone for almost more than 12 hours a day, and save for some windy moments, the weather was consistently warm and welcoming. 

Besides the V&A Waterfront, Cape Town and the surrounding areas had so much to offer. Table Mountain and Lion’s Head offered good hiking experiences for those interested in the challenge (although many of us – aka me – chose to use the cable car that allowed for easier access). A few minute car ride would bring us to beautiful beaches for us to watch sunsets and enjoy each other’s company. Yes, many of us fell sick with the “Cape Town Tummy,” but the restaurant scene in Cape Town offered many interesting venues and dishes.

View of Table Mountain
On our first day of classes, we took a bus up to a hill that gave us a beautiful view of Table Mountain as well as the shoreline.

Deep Dive into Cape Town and South Africa

My favorite part, however, was how much we got to learn about this country that embodied such a painful past and continues to grapple with complexities around socioeconomic differences and race. We heard from phenomenal speakers – individuals we would not have had access to had it not been for this program – on the importance of entrepreneurship and its potential to lift up those living in poverty. We learned about energy and food security and how it impacts various parts of the city and country that was going through chronic “load shedding” to conserve electricity. We learned about the categorization of race and how one may or may not identify with the designations that they had to fall into.

Outside of the classroom learnings, we got to meet with locals and talk to them about how all these seemingly academic topics of entrepreneurship as well as energy and food security truly impacted their lives. We took a couple field trips to “townships,” areas slightly outside of the city center that are traditionally inhabited by individuals that would be considered of lower socioeconomic class. Some equate “townships” with “slums,” and the general tourist advice one gets when coming to Cape Town is to not visit these townships. Yet here we were in these townships (safely guided by locals) conversing with people in their homes. All of them were so interested in talking to us, sharing their views on how their lives could be improved, and how they hope that their grandchildren might live a better life. All were nuances, questions, and thoughts I would never have had if I had come to Cape Town simply as a tourist, and I was grateful for a chance to wrestle with them.

A picture with one of the locals
A picture with one of the locals (in the middle with the striped top; our local guide is in the pink dress) in the township that we spoke to. She ran a small business out of her personal kitchen baking bread and cooking chicken.

My Fellow Sternies

The group of Sternies that got into the South Africa DBi were a great group of people. I knew my fellow full-time students that were on the trip with me were great and fun to be around, but I was thankful for the opportunity to have met so many Langone students as well. Having actively stayed away from evening classes my first three semesters, my interactions with Langone students until that point were short and sweet, limited to the small interactions I had with them in student clubs. Yet here was a group of students I had not yet met, all of them so open and welcoming and eager to make new connections. It opened my eyes to the breadth and quality of the student body that Stern had to offer. Whether one was in the full-time, part-time, or focused programs, we were all on a similar journey to figure out the next steps in our careers and lives.

NYU Stern group photo

From weekend excursions to the wineries in Stellenbosch, to hiking the most southwest point of Africa at the Cape of Good Hope, to seeing tiny penguins at Boulders Beach, DBi South Africa gave me the best of what Stern has to offer: community and friendships with smart, engaging, and down-to-earth people paired with in-depth learnings that expanded my worldview of how we are simultaneously so different yet the same across countries and cultures. It’s always so exciting and rewarding to be able to challenge oneself personally, relationally, and academically, and DBi South Africa fulfilled all that and more.

A Memorable Sternie Experience in New Zealand

Author: Sarah Sprole is an MBA Candidate at the Stern School of Business in NYU, specializing in Strategy, Technology Product Management and Leadership & Change Management. Prior to Stern, Sarah worked in finance for five years in New York. Sarah interned at and will be returning to Adobe as a Strategy & Operations Manager after graduating in May 2024. Sarah is proud to have been a career mentor, the VP of Mentorship for Stern Technology Association, a SVP for Stern Student Government, and a VP with Stern Management & Strategy.

When deciding on MBA programs, Stern’s DBi (Doing Business in) program was a key differentiator in my choice to attend Stern. I didn’t have the opportunity to study abroad in my undergrad, so having the ability to explore and learn in a new country was an important factor in my decision. Stern’s DBi programs give MBA students the ability to take a class for credit in another country and I was fortunate enough to be able to travel to New Zealand for a DBi in January. It’s not a secret that I’m a bit of a homebody – I generally love my routine, but going on this DBi pushed me to try new things and leave my comfort zone for a few weeks and I’m so glad I had this opportunity! Over the course of the two week program, I learned a lot about the business challenges and opportunities in NZ, got to experience new things, deepened my friendships with my classmates and met Sternies in other programs. 

Learning about Business Challenges in NZ

We spent the first few days immersed in a classroom setting, learning about the unique opportunities and challenges of conducting business in New Zealand. My favorite lecture was on the Maori culture and customs and how they have permeated throughout the norms of the businesses in New Zealand. One of our lectures focused on the challenges in the housing market in Auckland and New Zealand. We also spent a lot of class time discussing and debating the pros and cons of the risk aversion culture generally observed by kiwis. After some time in the classroom, the program took us to three different companies to learn about their operations on-site. We had the opportunity to go to the Port of Auckland, a pharmaceutical company and a business incubator with deep Pacific-Islander cultural connections. I never thought I’d learn so much about shipping containers and the logistics of operating a Port, but it was fascinating.  After getting decked out with protective equipment, we also got to learn about the production processes at pharmaceutical companies.

The view from our wine tour and tasting on the Island of Waiheke.

Once-in-a-lifetime Experiences in NZ

In New Zealand, Stern and the partner university planned some incredible experiences for us. My favorite was our day on the island of Waiheke. We started the day by taking the ferry over to Waiheke Island. Once we arrived, we went wine tasting at two incredible vineyards and ended the day by watching the sunset over dinner on top of a mountain on the island. New Zealand is known for its Sauvignon Blanc, but we got to taste several other types of wine too. Outside of the scheduled program, I experienced some of what the north island has to offer with a few of my classmates. We went to Hobbiton, which was an incredibly beautiful and unique experience, got to see some glowworms in a cave, and saw the geysers at Rotorua. Although I never read or watched Lord of the Rings, my time in the countryside in New Zealand, seeing sheep, and witnessing the passion of the fans, was a very cool experience. Beyond that, seeing TWO kiwi birds was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me!

Sarah Sprole, Sarah Qin and Danit Fleishman at the Pohutu Geyser in Rotorua, New Zealand.

Deeping my Friendships Outside the Classroom

Throughout my time at Stern, I have built life-long friendships with people in my class. Seeing my peers every day, going to Stern Social together, grabbing coffee between classes and catching up in the grad lounge had already strengthened my friendships with my MBA peers. However, through this DBi, my connection with my friends grew even stronger. We explored new places, bonded over our love of skincare and supported each other through the good and sometimes hard times in the program. Two of my classmates (you know who you are) saw my disheveled self after flying for 20 hours from NYC to Auckland and fortunately, they still wanted to be my friends. Nothing bonds you more than some lovely time in the airport. My roommate in Auckland and I also deepened our friendship over some after-class sauvignon blanc and heart-to-hearts before shutting off the lights. We supported each other throughout recruiting and challenging coursework back in New York, but our relationship is forever stronger because of our time in New Zealand together. Stern is known for its community and my community has only grown as a result of my time in NZ.

A group photo of many of the students on the DBi in New Zealand overlooking the Auckland harbor.

Meeting with Sternies in Other Programs

One of my favorite parts of my experience in NZ was meeting Sternies in the Langone Part-time program. While we all go to the same school, Langone MBAs often take courses at night or on the weekends and I hadn’t met many of them throughout my coursework at Stern. On the DBi, I worked closely with several Part-time MBAs on our project, but more importantly, built friendships with them outside of the classroom. While grabbing some yummy pizza after class, chatting at the bar on the weekend and exploring the harbor together in Auckland, I built genuine and deep friendships with a few Part-time MBAs who I never would have met without this program. We’ve even maintained our relationships back in NYC!

Being a parent while pursuing an MBA

Author: Rachael is passionate about the ability of business to make meaningful, positive change. Before Stern, she was a Producer working at the intersection of the public sector and the entertainment industries. She interned at and will be returning to McKinsey Transformations as a consulting generalist. While at Stern, she’s proud to have been a career mentor, TF for Team Communications, and VP with Stern Women in Business, Management Consulting Association, and Social Impact and Sustainability Association. She’s also the parent to an awesome toddler and a passionate Brooklynite.

Rachael Nisenkier

Deciding to pivot

During the fall of 2021, I got on the phone with a Stern alum (shout out to Jessie!) as I prepped for an interview with the MBA program. I didn’t know when I picked up the phone, but that was the start of a new plan for my life, and a wild ride for me and my family. 

Being a parent and a Sternie

When people find out that I birthed and take care of a tiny human, they tend to ask “how do you do it?” And I mostly demur and say “it’s easy” or “lots of help.” Both of which are true. My kid is great. My husband has a flexible job. We have the money and the familial support to fill in the gaps that need filling.  It’s also often really hard. I skip happy hours, avoid night classes, and frequently have to miss fun events. But it’s been deeply fulfilling and more interesting than I dared to hope. I feel like being a parent and a Sternie has really grounded me in what is most important and made me a mastermind when it comes to prioritizing. It’s also helped me form really deep bonds with other parents at the school – including a Sternies with Little Sternies What’s App Group that basically got me through my first year. 

Not being a typical student

I know my business school experience is not everyone’s, but honestly, I’m not sure ANYONE’S experience is “typical.” Stern has shown me over and over again that my fellow students come from a diverse and fascinating set of backgrounds, with their own complicated stories and circumstances. That said, I know a lot of us aren’t at a point of going directly from watching your chaos-loving kid try to eat your cat straight into a fancy dinner with a top consulting firm. For prospective students thinking of taking this journey, definitely get ready to have to quickly remove peanut butter stains from your favorite coffee chat outfit. 

When I came to Stern, I was so scared about not being a typical student, not being able to keep up with the typical students, of losing out on opportunities because my Millennial self needed to go home and sleep rather than go to Stern Social. And there’s definitely been trade offs – thanks to my economics classes I understand the idea of opportunity costs, and pursuing an MBA at any time in life (but certainly once you already have a family) requires trading off time with friends and family, missing trips we want to take, and occasionally sitting at home to finally finish homework rather than exploring the city. But the biggest surprise about being here at Stern was finding a community of humans who were so supportive, smart, and willing to meet me where I was – even if that  was on day two of a stomach flu while trying to prepare for consulting interviews. My classmates shared their notes with me, helped explain complicated concepts, and generally held space and time for my unique life circumstances every day of the year. In the second year of my MBA, I was able to give some of that back, and build a new community of parents supporting each other through this program. 

Top Three Pieces of Advice for Prospective Students

  1. Create space for being a human – whether that’s coffee with an old friend or a run through Prospect Park. 
  2. Listen to your needs – attending Stern (especially during recruiting) can be like drinking from a firehose. If your body needs a break from networking and happy hours, listen!
  3. Go outside – it can be so tempting to hole up in the 2nd floor study rooms and crank out work and thank you emails, but we’re in this glorious city and you should experience it.

Becoming a Sternie Couple

Author: Paloma Giuliani is an MBA Candidate at the Stern School of Business in NYU, planning to specialize in Innovation and Strategy. Prior to Stern, she worked mostly in the Tech industry, in various customer services roles, such as Reporting, Quality Assurance and Learning & Development. Most recently, she has spent 2 years in the innovations team in Uber Eats, focused on identifying new revenues streams by piloting new products in LATAM. Paloma holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Insper. In her spare time, she likes to cook and get adventurous around beauty and wellness products.

The Long Journey of Becoming a Sternie Couple 

I’ve always joked that I was an “MBA baby,” destined to walk the path laid down by my father as soon as I decided to study Business. His stories of transformative experiences and brilliant professors during his MBA followed me since I was a kid. Despite being early in the game, I told Lucas, my husband, when we just started dating in 2017, that it was something I might pursue in the future. 

Our MBA application journey

In 2020, this conversation smoothly came back as I wanted to pursue an MBA before having kids. Being very honest, I wasn’t as excited as I noticed no one around me had an MBA, giving me the sense that the industry I wanted to follow didn’t value such investment. On the other hand, Lucas started talking with MBA graduates at his workplace and was more and more convinced of how this experience would bring great challenges, learnings, and an advantage for him in his career. As I watched him grow more passionate about the MBA, I decided to switch to a strategic team, to be closer to the leadership, who I was surprised to find out that most were MBA alumni. Hearing about their experiences, and seeing the sparkle in their eyes convinced me that the MBA must be something I do.

Our preparation journeys started in the second half of 2021, and they were very different for us. Lucas nailed the GMAT in 2 months, whereas I took almost 1 year before feeling confident about my score. Of course, this year was very eventful: we got married, my family went through several challenges, my department went through one lay-off round and one reorg, and I got promoted. Our plan was for Lucas to apply in the first round in 2022, and only to schools in cities that had more than one program, maximizing the chances of us living together, since our marriage was a priority. I would apply for the following round for the schools in the cities he was accepted to.

Choosing the school for us

In December 2022, he was accepted by two schools, one being NYU Stern. So in January I applied to four schools, but of course, with a clear priority for which school I wanted the most, since Lucas had an outstanding experience in the interviews.

NYU Stern had a bunch of factors that played very well in its favor. First, its application process was like no other. It felt like Stern’s essays and interviews were designed to not merely evaluate, but to truly understand the essence of who we were as individuals. The interviewer having already read the essays before the interview, made the conversation have a much bigger depth to foster a genuine connection with the future candidates. 

Second, beyond academics, NYU Stern resonated with me through its core values of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEI), and collaboration. These principles mirrored my personal convictions and experiences, which diversity and inclusion form the cornerstone of innovation and leadership.

Third, choosing NYU Stern also meant choosing New York City—a metropolis teeming with opportunities, culture, and an endless array of activities. From Broadway shows to corporate workshops, the city offers an unparalleled backdrop to our MBA journey, enhancing our experience beyond the confines of a traditional campus. The absence of a traditional, isolated campus is hardly felt. The vibrant student life, fueled by active WhatsApp groups, students’ clubs and a community eager to connect and explore, means there’s always something happening, always someone to meet, and always a new corner of New York City to discover together.

Choosing NYU Stern was a decision that went beyond academics; as soon as I also got the acceptance letter from Stern, we both knew we were going to live in NYC, and it felt like it was something we had been destined for. Being in such an eventful, but also full of diverse talent, felt like the right place for us to be. For Lucas and me to learn, to find a new community within Stern, and to open many doors for our future careers. 

Being a Sternie Couple!

Both of us being Sternies at the same time felt a little unreal at the start. I remember like it was yesterday when we finally got our NYU Student ID and how it just started sinking in that we were going to embark on this journey together. 

Of course, Stern has put us in different blocks (what we call each class) for the first semester, and this was the best decision, because we got to meet way more people as we introduced each other to our friends! 

And as we approach the second semester, our paths are going to be very different. I’m focusing more on Marketing and Entrepreneurship, and Lucas on Strategy and Data Analytics. But the most interesting thing is that every now and then, we get to share some highlights of our classes and reflect on some of the classes’ insights.

Meet the Class of 2025

Executive Director, Lindsay LoydLindsay Loyd is the Executive Director for MBA Admissions at NYU Stern. She joined NYU Stern in January 2023 after a 20-year career in financial services.  She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Washington State University in Pullman, Washington, and an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.  Lindsay lives in northern New Jersey with her husband, two daughters, and her rescue dog, Oreo.  In her spare time, you can find her snowboarding with her family, baking a sweet treat, or reading a new novel.

The start of the school year is a period of anticipation and joy for students of all ages. A new year means new possibilities. This is especially true for MBA1s who are returning to school and embarking on a new journey.

For the Admissions team, LAUNCH – NYU Stern’s orientation – is our first chance to see 327 motivated individuals who chose to become our newest Sternies come together as one community. 

We are thrilled to share a little more about the Class of 2025 through the class profile, but the numbers don’t tell the whole story. 

MBA1s bring their knowledge from every conceivable sector of business and society, yet they are so much more than their resumes. We have pilots. Climbers who have summited Mount Kilimanjaro. Former professional musicians and national team athletes. Content creators who’ve had videos and articles go viral. Singers, dancers, bakers, golfers, linguists, and world traveling DJs. 

These folks are passionate in the pursuit of their interests. They amaze us with their range of industry knowledge, their commitment to their academics, their seemingly endless talent, and most importantly, the Sternie spirit that brought them together.

The Admissions team is now in the process of recruiting the next crop of Sternies. For those of you who have already applied, thank you! Interview invitations will be starting before you know it.

For those of you who are still considering us, take a look at the class profile, but also connect with the students behind the numbers and see if NYU Stern is a place where you can see yourself grow. You can connect with our Graduate Ambassadors here

We can’t wait to meet you!

 

LAUNCH 2023 Ellis Island Welcome Dinner

Students celebrating the start of the MBA program at the Ellis Island Welcome Dinner during LAUNCH

The Fertitta Veterans Program

Benjamin Davies is a current Full-time MBA student, specializing in Investment Banking and Strategy. Prior to Stern, Ben was a Captain in the US Army. Post-MBA, he hopes to pivot into an Investment Banking role. At Stern, he is a Consortium Fellow, Fertitta Scholarship recipient, and is active within the Military Veterans Club.

The Decision to Pivot

When I graduated from West Point in 2016, I had one objective I wanted to accomplish during my time in the military. I wanted to deploy to a combat zone as a junior leader to gain experience leading Soldiers in a challenging environment. I was fortunate enough to accomplish this goal twice over and faced the option of getting out of the Army in 2021. When presented with this decision, I realized that I was ready for a new challenge and needed new goals to align with my passions.

I took several months to self-reflect and understand what I wanted from the next chapter in my life. I wanted to continue solving complex problems based on comprehensive research and learning new skills in a short period of time. I decided that investment banking would allow me to continue working in this fast-paced environment that required teamwork to succeed. In order to make this pivot, I realized I needed to grow my business acumen and professional network to be able to secure a job at a leading financial institution. In order to pivot from the Army to corporate America and investment banking, business school was the obvious answer.

Why NYU and Why Fertitta?

NYU Stern immediately stood out amongst other business schools due to its location in the heart of the banking capital of the world and its veteran initiative – the Fertitta program. After speaking to veterans who were current Stern students, I quickly realized that they lived the values of IQ + EQ. Every student and faculty member I interacted with spoke about the incredible people they were surrounded by. It was inspiring to find a school where I could grow my network and learn from some of the best professors in the world.

From the outside looking in, I thought the Fertitta program was too good to be true. NYU Stern truly stood out in the way that it supported its veterans in such meaningful ways. The program deliberately bridged the gaps that most veterans inherently have when transitioning to corporate America. The Fertitta program allows veterans to take Financial Accounting and Statistics – requisite 3.0-credit core classes— over the summer, which reduces the course load during the fall, and ultimately enables us to focus more on recruiting and securing a summer internship. During the summer semester, the veteran cohort also had the opportunity to participate in company treks to tour offices and meet Stern veteran graduates who were working in top-level companies. The final piece of the Fertitta program is the financial aspect which greatly assists the change in lifestyle that all full-time students undertake. Looking back on the experience, I was also able to build incredible bonds with my veteran cohort from an early stage and give me a close circle of friends that I can always rely on.

Education Benefits

At 29 years old, I had not been in an academic classroom in over seven years. I was nervous and apprehensive about contributing to a classroom filled with brilliant classmates who had recently graduated from top-tier institutions. Being able to attend the summer semester surrounded by other veterans made the transition from the military to the classroom much more manageable. Both of my summer professors presented challenging material in ways we could digest and establish academic proficiency. Because of my summer classroom experience, I now have a much stronger foundational knowledge of accounting principles, which will pay dividends during fall recruiting.

Company Treks

The most beneficial part of the summer semester was the opportunity to participate in company treks to firms like McKinsey, Morgan Stanley, Mastercard, and Pfizer. Our cohort was able to network with other veterans at these companies and gain a firsthand look at their day-to-day operations. We were able to ask candid questions to veterans—many of whom were Stern alumni—and had been in our shoes several years ago. I found the experience incredibly beneficial, and I now have a roadmap for success for the upcoming semester and a much deeper understanding of what type of job I will be recruiting for.

Looking Back on the Experience

As I look back upon my summer semester, the moments that stand out occurred because I was surrounded by fellow veterans whom I am now lucky enough to call friends. When I left the military, I was saddened by the realization that I might never find the same closeness and trust with the people around me. When I nervously arrived for my first day of class at Stern, that thought was immediately erased. Through the Fertitta program, I found 29 remarkable veterans who will be some of my closest friends during my time here and beyond.

Mastering the Art of the Coffee Chat

Isabelle is a recent MBA graduate, specializing in Global Business, Strategy and Product Management. Prior to Stern, Isabelle was a consultant at Accenture specializing in the life science industry. Post-MBA, she is about to start working for Samsung Electronics as a Global Consultant . At Stern, she was involved in the leadership of Asian Business Society, Student government, Stern Technology association, European Business association and as a member of the Latin American Business Association, Stern Women in business  and the admissions office as a Graduate assistant. 

I came into Stern knowing I wanted to work directly with a product in an innovative field, but like many people who join as first years, I was also looking to learn and explore. While I was secretly hoping someone would be able to tell me my dream job, real life is not that simple – it never really is! But Stern gave me every opportunity to explore. 

Even before you start school, you begin hearing about the importance of recruiting. You receive the Ignite prep and begin chugging away. A lot of information is thrown your way but you keep hearing the same two words: Coffee chats. 

As someone allergic to caffeine, I was less than enthused by the idea of chatting with someone over coffee. My nerves continued to grow as I pictured a potentially  awkward conversation with an industry leader, while I sat there with a cup full of coffee, easing my nerves by pretending to sip every so often to have something to do with my hands. Beyond the awkwardness, coffee chats or informational interviews invoked an image of small talk and desperation. To say the least, these “chats” were not something I was looking forward to.

Now however, I now easily have a coffee chat a day, even after the end of formal recruiting. This change is completely thanks to Stern and the students I recruited with. Almost every alum, student, professor, or professional I reached out to has replied eagerly to share advice, experiences and sometimes (when I was really lucky), even an interview or job opportunity. In an effort to ease your nerves, I thought I would share my learnings about coffee chats!

Rarely any coffee 

This may be silly to say or obvious to some, but coffee chats often don’t involve any coffee. Today,  many coffee chats today are virtual, and if they aren’t, you are always welcome to get another beverage!

Networking is not a dirty word

Often people feel like networking is superfluous because it conveys that you want something (in this case, a job), but that’s not all networking is. Yes, when you set up a coffee chat, you should be the best version of yourself so that the person on the other side will help you, but the aim of the conversation should be to learn about the person you are talking to- whether that is about the company they work for, their interests, or what they did before. In the end, you should aim for the conversation to be as fruitful for them as it was for you. It is a give and take. My best coffee chats were those in which I was able to share my experience with the industry professionals to help them with their own questions or problems. 

As an example, when I was networking with a large bank, I met someone who had the exact position I was interested in. We spoke about the job and the company, but even more so we spoke about what we liked to do, I talked about my community and non profit interests, and they asked me to help them find a way to give back. This person became more than just someone who helped me get an interview, they became someone who I still connect with for advice. 

Coffee chats are not always just a one time thing

The goal of a coffee chat should not just be a one-time conversation to learn about the company, it should be about you growing your network. If you are able to form a more lasting relationship with that person, it makes a big difference – not only in recruiting, but in many areas of your life. 

Remember, industry professionals are just people 

We all often walk into coffee chats nervous and lost. “What do I tell this stranger about myself?” But often, the other person is feeling exactly the same way. They may have just come out of a long meeting or were just concentrating on a task at work. In the end, they have given up their time because they want to be of help, so make sure you come in with questions that will help you most.  

I have been and still am on both sides of the coffee chat, and what always goes through my mind is the airport test. Throughout this conversation with this person, have they given me a sense that I would like to spend 5-10 hours with them in an airport if we were to get caught in delays? So remember that the person is human, have empathy, and build a human connection.

Coffee chats are not always conducted one on one 

Sometimes, coffee chats during recruiting include multiple people with one industry professional. When this happens, make sure that you stand out in some way. Have a list of questions you want to ask and do your research on the person. Always ask for their contact information and follow up to see if you can get a solo chat. 

Lastly, Stern is always there to support us 

Every office at Stern comes together to make sure that you are prepared for recruiting. Stern Career services constantly provides you the opportunity for you to make connections, bringing in hundreds of companies to speak with students. The professional clubs like Stern Tech Association and Management Consulting Association lead knowledge transfer sessions and study groups to prepare you. Other students and professors give up their time to practice with you and give you advice. So take advantage of it!

Key Takeaways

Keeping these things in mind really helped me reform how I looked at coffee chats. Now, everyone is going to have different advice for coffee chats – a former Sternie wrote her advice in 2021 –  but mastering the coffee chat is really about understanding yourself and how to present that to the person standing in front of you. These are some tips that helped me feel comfortable  while growing my network. 

1.  Always ask for the coffee chat host’s contact information 

Make sure to get their information before the end of the coffee chat and send a thank you note afterward. Often, it is good to ask near the beginning or middle of a group coffee chat, but if you are alone, leave it for the last question. 

2. Be genuinely curious

People like to talk about what they are doing – so ask them about it! Make sure to do your research and prepare questions ahead of time. While the conversation can go in any direction, preparation will help you stand out and make the most of the conversation.

3. Look at each coffee chat as a first step

You will rarely only speak to one person at a company. So use each coffee chat as a chance to research for your next one. Ask questions like “what is the biggest challenge your team is facing” or “where do you see the company going in the next year” or “what is the most exciting thing your company is doing?” This way, you hear real-world problems companies face today and will be ready for your next chat and, eventually, interview! 

4. Not all coffee chats are evaluative, but you should prepare as if they are 

Always research before a coffee chat and show your commitment. You never know how the conversation will impact your future career.

5. Be direct 

When you ask for time, be direct in what you hope to speak about so that the person knows exactly why they are meeting with you. You don’t want to use their time asking questions you could have learned on the website!

6. If you have the choice, choose a place in which you are comfortable 

Many coffee chats are done virtually now, so make sure you pick a place that you feel most comfortable. If the person gives you the option of an in person chat, take that option because it often leads to better connections. Choose to meet in a place you like that is quiet and also not too expensive, often they will pay out of their own pocket for you. 

7. Never leave a conversation without having at least one other person to reach out to

You can not build your network unless you ask for more contacts. I like to ask every person I talk to for 2 other people who I should contact based on the interests I have expressed during our conversation. 

8. Be you

As someone who has been on both sides of the coffee chat, it is so easy to see when someone is not being genuine. Remember the airport test-  I want to be able to tell if I would like to spend time with you. The more I want to spend time with you, the more helpful I can be. 

Just be yourself. I promise you, the other person will appreciate it.

DBi Italy

Sarah Story is a full-time MBA student, specializing in Marketing, Strategy, and Operations. Prior to Stern, Sarah was a home furnishings designer. Post-MBA, she plans to work in marketing or supply chain management within the retail industry. At Stern, she is co-president of the Luxury and Retail Club, and a board member of the Graduate Marketing Association and Stern Adventures. Outside of school, Sarah enjoys swimming with a local masters swim team and attending concerts.

One of the primary reasons I chose to attend Stern was because of the extensive DBi, “Doing Business in…”, opportunities. I was not able to study abroad during undergrad, so I was excited to take advantage of the many 1-2 week intensive courses that are part of this program. I was thrilled that my course lottery results allowed me to have this incredible opportunity to study for a week in Milan, Italy with a focus in luxury retail. I am so grateful to have had this experience; there were many laughs, amazing food, and new friendships.

We were given a warm welcome at the hotel with an “aperitif” hosted by Stern. About a dozen of us went to a group dinner afterwards, which was a great way to introduce ourselves in a smaller group and have some time to get to know each other before the class officially started. It was quite magical to walk up to a restaurant requesting to seat 12 people, and be seated in a private dining room that also functioned as the wine cellar.

The first day was class packed with great lectures, an impressive coffee break, and was capped off with speakers from Ferrari and the CMO of Gucci, who also happens to be a Stern alum. (The aforementioned comment was, thankfully, NOT said while he was there.) After class, we began our in-class project: visiting a short list of luxury retailers to examine how they treated their shoppers, whether purchases were made or not, and the overall experience of shopping in these stores. It also became a regular occurrence to find classmates at Camparino, the Campari Bar, after class, located near our hotel.

On our second day, we headed off early to visit the Mantero Silk Factory, located just outside of Como. Seeing the printing process in action, both with traditional silk screens and digital printers, was enlightening for many. We learned how so many luxury companies from around the world, not just those in Italy, seek out the talent and expertise of the Mantero factory. Of course we all panic-shopped (there was limited time) at the sample store and came away with some great finds for ourselves and gifts for others. Upon returning to campus, we were greeted by a room full of the most beautiful, soft wool textiles and raw fibers, for a talk from a Loro Piana representative about what makes their textiles and apparel so highly coveted. After the talk we continued our “shopping safari,” visiting the last stores on our lists. Each team chose to divide and conquer differently – some shopped as a group, some split the list in half between team members, and some shopped at all the stores independently. 

Our third day was focused on brand extensions, particularly in the furniture category. We explored the history of design and manufacturing excellence of Italian furniture companies and the differences of how they are structured in design, manufacturing, and distribution compared to American furniture companies. In the afternoon we visited the Cassina, Versace Casa, and Dolce and Gabbana Home showrooms and heard from the CEO of Cassina, the design director of Versace Casa, and the Vice President of Luxury Living Group, which is the parent company of Versace Casa and Dolce and Gabbana Home. After a long day, we had a class dinner in the canal district, and mostly avoided a very rainy evening!

The final day, we heard from Paolo Pedersoli of Jakala, a consulting firm that includes a focused division in luxury and design enterprises. Before lunch, we finalized our findings for our group presentations, and presented our findings with the class in the afternoon. Gucci was one of the stores that several of the groups were assigned to visit, and the general take away was that the shopping experience was not as expected. It was quite entertaining and interesting to hear how each group’s experiences differed, and how some brands were presented in a positive light from our guest speakers, yet the shopping experiences were not reflective of that or very welcoming to customers.

The course wrapped up with a stellar group dinner, a close walk from the hotel. One of our classmates had a birthday on that Friday, so several of us toasted him at midnight in the hotel bar with some champagne: the perfect way to celebrate the end of the course.

I could not be more grateful to have had this experience. In addition to the course, I added on about a week of personal travel throughout northern Italy. I absolutely fell in love with Italy,  and I cannot wait to go back to explore more of Milan and the rest of the country.

Sweet Dreams Are Made at Stern

Sheron is a recent Stern grad from the two-year full-time program in the class of 2023. She was previously an engineer in the oil and gas industry and will be transitioning to consulting post-MBA. On campus she was involved in many clubs including ESA (Entrepreneurship and Start-up Association), AHBBS (Association of Hispanic and Black Business Students), MCA (Management Consulting Association), STA (Stern Tech Association), SWIB (Stern Women in Business), PEVC (Private Equity and Venture Capital Club), and Cellar.

If you are looking to live out your Eurythmics dreams to “travel the world and the seven seas,” you’ve found the right place. Stern offers so many different international opportunities to travel through school-sponsored programs or just casually with classmates.

DBi programs—which stand for Doing Business in—are 1.5 or 3 credit courses that take you to places such as Morocco, Australia, Argentina, Germany, South Africa, New Zealand, and others over a week or two. There you’ll learn about business in the local economy through classes at a partner university, company treks, and cultural excursions. Stern Signature Projects feature international consulting engagements that can take you to Israel, Guyana, and other countries to support business development for different organizations.

There are also longer-term study abroad programs at partner schools all across the world. I studied at London Business School for an equivalent semester, and I would not have traded that experience for the world.

Stern’s student body is incredibly diverse, and so is London Business School’s. The European location of LBS attracts a different type of diversity, which made the classroom discussions vibrant with multiple perspectives. It was very interesting to compare the viewpoints of Stern and LBS students to grow in my thinking about different business approaches and issues. Similar to Stern, the professors at LBS all had office hours and were more than happy to chat about topics on my mind from class. Whether you choose to study abroad or spend the full two years at Stern, be sure to connect with the professors. They are all super cool. Many have written best-selling books, host podcasts or TV shows, and are celebs in the business world.

The student clubs at Stern are all very accessible, and I had the same experience at LBS. Like at Stern, most of the club events were open to all members of the MBA student community and are free or only require a nominal fee to join. Stern clubs host visits to museums, company offices, theater shows, outdoor hiking trails, and favorite foodie spots. I got to experience these types of cultural and professional adventures with new LBS friends as well. From seeing Wicked in London’s West End to learning the art of Japanese Shibori to experiencing a traditional Sunday roast, LBS’s clubs provided a similar opportunity to build community and friendship while abroad. 

Through networking events hosted by the student clubs at LBS, I also met many students from Oxford and Cambridge’s MBA programs. I went to see my new friends at their campuses for a tour and class visit. I even attended the Oxford vs. Cambridge polo match, which was my first polo experience and one of the highlights of my exchange semester.

Business school is an incredibly transformative experience academically, professionally, socially, and personally. Spending extended time abroad was definitely a time of growth in every way. If you have any thoughts about a full exchange semester, then go for it! You’ll be amazed at what you learn, who you’ll meet, and what you’ll experience.