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.

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
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