An international student perspective: Should I move abroad for my MBA?

By Gabriela Belo

 When I was accepted to Haas, I wasn’t sure whether moving abroad for business school would be worth it. I already had a business background and a career in a prestigious management consulting in Brazil, so I did not know if I would learn new things in b-school. But, By the third day of my first week at school, I realized this experience would be life-changing.

Now that I’ve completed my first year, I am even more sure that I made the right decision.

Here are some of the reasons why:

1. Haas empowered me with an entrepreneurial mindset

Gabriela Belo portrait.pngBeing at Haas as an international student is a privilege. On top of the whole MBA experience, there is another layer of learnings on a daily basis: I am experiencing a new way of seeing the world and how it is translated into corporate culture and ways of doing business in the Bay Area.

I was surprised to learn that being in the Bay Area automatically makes you an entrepreneur! I’m exaggerating just slightly here. But I’ve found that discussions about business opportunities and problems which could be solved happen every day.

My classes push that to the next level. This spring, I took two amazing electives: Hands-on Rapid Prototyping, in which I created and tested a prototype of a new product in five weeks; and Opportunity Recognition in Silicon Valley, in which CEOs of disruptive technology companies discuss their go-to-market strategies with us every week.

Being exposed to this environment has awakened my entrepreneurial side, and empowered me with tools and a can-do attitude to create new solutions and implement them. During the spring semester, I worked with a startup, mapping its competitive landscape and creating reports to the board. For the summer, I decided to use my internship to gain experience in the tech industry and put into practice some of the concepts I learned at Haas. I am passionate about consulting and strategy, but this summer I am working as a product manager at Walmart e-commerce. PMs (as product managers are called) are responsible for designing and bringing to reality products and features. I am super-excited to see something that I created and owned going live, and getting used by millions of customers.

2. Haas is more multicultural that I ever thought it would be

Complementing the professional side, the personal experience of being an international student in such a diverse environment is very gratifying. I have learned that at Haas, nationality and culture show themselves in many colors and tones—far beyond just where you were born. I’ve met Americans who have lived many years abroad and carry that experience in their DNA. I’ve also realized how many second-generation American and bi-cultural students are at Haas, and how this enriches our perspectives.

This is a very encouraging environment to share my ideas inside and outside of class. This year, I attended several events where people share their unique points of view. My favorite one is “Hot Topics,” where students speak controversial themes such as immigration or gentrification. These events gave me a chance to listen and discuss emotionally charged subjects, build empathy, and listen other perspectives that I hadn’t considered. Those are essential leadership skills that I am learning inside and outside of the classroom.


3. I have found many ways to grow as a leader

One way that I found to contribute within this environment was by assuming a leadership position at the MBA Association student-led government organization (pictured above—photo by Eric Tecza). My role as VP of International is to represent the 40 percent of the full-time MBA student body that is international, making sure that school initiatives take into account our needs. I have had meetings with the program office, the career management group, and my peers in the MBAA. This has given me the opportunity to interact with a wide variety of people and learn a about the program from different perspectives. In parallel to MBAA, I also am the Haas ambassador for GNAM, the Global Network of Advanced Management, a league of 29 business schools from diverse regions, countries, cultures, and economies in different phases of development.

The leadership opportunities in Haas are endless! You can work in clubs, organizing events, representing the school as a student ambassador, and organizing treks. One of my most memorable experiences was to co-led with my amazing classmate a trek to our home country of Brazil (below—photo by Will Myers). It was incredible to show the places that made me who I am to my beloved classmates, and to rediscover my country through their eyes.


Finding home away from home

When I arrived in the US, I realized the way that I was used to greeting people in Brazil—with hugs—was not the default behavior here, and that I should start shaking hands or waving to my classmates. However, to my surprise, my classmates learned how much hugging is important to me and part of my culture. So when we greet each other, we go ahead and give a big hug. This is a great example of how the Haas community is open and embraces everyone's different life stories and cultures. 

Ultimately, the Haas community is about sharing. This two-year experience definitely pays off being far from my country, family and friends, because at Haas I always feel at home.

Could Berkeley-Haas be your home away from home? Learn more about the Full-time Berkeley MBA Program.

Learn more about the Full-Time MBA program

Posted on July 26, 2017
Gabriela Belo
Gabriela Belo is a student in the Full-time Berkeley MBA Class of 2018, where she serves as VP of International in the MBA Association. Before moving to the US to pursue her MBA, she worked as a consultant with the Boston Consulting Group in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Gabriela is using the MBA experience to learn more about how the technology is disrupting established businesses, and this summer she is interning as a product manager for Walmart e-commerce.