By Courtney ZerrennerAlexander Kaps Passfoto

Alexander Kaps (Class of 2017) studied business at WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management in Germany and completed a semester exchange program at Washington University of St. Louis before coming to Darden. He  spent this summer interning in Operations with Amazon in Texas.

Alexander knew from his semester in the United States several years ago that “American universities treat their students more like customers, not like livestock.” When Alexander graduated with his bachelors in Germany, he wanted to immediately pursue an MBA in the United States. He just did not know where he should go. Alexander explained that after his results from the GMAT were published, Darden contacted him directly and then put him in touch with a current student, who made all the difference.

“That student happened to be in my town in Germany for a small classical music festival. It was a magical moment for me that out of all the places in the world a Darden student was able to meet with me in my little city when I was trying to decide whether I should come. His name was Alvaro and within 30 minutes, he sold me completely on the Darden School.” Alexander moved to Charlottesville only a few months later.

During his first year at Darden, Alexander learned from his learning team. “My learning team mates were very diverse in character, in career goals, in learning styles, and in prior experience. Having us all on one team taught us so much, and we became invested in each other’s successes. We really helped each other with assignments, especially during recruiting season, and we built a group of friends – a community.”

While Alexander is “allergic to clichés and virtue signaling,” he asserted that “people really are the reason that I’m at Darden. Universities no longer have the corner on the market on knowledge or education. But with Darden, you get access to the greater Darden community. These people have incredible business connections, but they are interested in you, the human, not the student and not the future employee. I think that is very unique. Darden is unlike any other university I’ve been at before, and I’ve been at four . . . I cannot imagine a better support network both personally and professionally at any other business school.”

The experience Alexander had at Washington University was very different from his Darden experience. Alexander felt that “there was a clear line between international students and the American students when I did undergraduate exchange. Alexander was happy that “luckily, that is not the case at all at Darden. I feel very integrated; I don’t feel any different than any of the other students. I was promised that would be the case, and it was 100% correct.”

After Alexander graduates from Darden in May 2017, he wants to work for a large US cooperation for several years, gaining experience and expertise in business management. Following that time, Alexander hopes to start his own business. “I do not aspire to be the next Jeff Bezos, rather would I simply do something I am passionate about, but then again that’s how many big companies began. One way or the other, I would like to end up in the firearms or shooting sports industry, because that is what I truly am passionate about. I did not come here from Germany to become rich and famous, even though Darden certainly offers you that path if you’re interested. I came because I wanted the option to live and work in the United States, and there is no better way in my opinion than studying at a world class university like UVA and a top notch business school like Darden.”

Alexander has also considered returning to Europe and living in Czech Republic, where some of his family is from. Although he does not speak Czech at this point, he is sure he could pick it up in a year or so. “The Czech Republic is a beautiful country and like many European countries the society is very close knit, after being forged together through many decades of foreign imposed communism. People often spend their entire lives in their place of birth, which provides you with a close-knit community of people like Darden has provided me with. Czechs are also very freedom loving people. The 15% flat rate tax is another reason I want to move there (laughs).” Regardless of whether he will decide to stay in the United States, or return to Europe Alexander believes that “the support network of Darden, as well as the Darden brand will help me achieve those goals.”