By Lauren Wallace

Alyssa Apolonio, from Baltimore City, Maryland, is a second year residential MBA student at Darden.  She received her B.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of Maryland—College Park in 2011 and previously worked in Technology Consulting at Accenture out of their DC office. This past summer she interned at Google in their Financial Operations Division.  She is a Second Year Career Coach, on the Non-Profit Board Fellows Program, and Consortium Liaison. She also enjoys being active in various clubs including Tech, GWIB, HAND, and BBSF.

Ashish Pankaj Thadani was an exchange student at Darden during the fall 2016 semester. Originally from India, he received his BBA from the Symbiosis Centre for Management Studies before getting a post-graduate diploma in Mass Communications from the Xavier Institute of Communications in Mumbai. Prior to pursuing his MBA degree at ESADE in Barcelona, Ashish worked for KPMG in the Risk Consulting field. While at Darden, he was involved with the Darden South Asia Society and Darden Toastmasters clubs.

Through the Center for Global Initiative’s Exchange Student program, Alyssa and Ashish were paired together as buddies before Ashish arrived as an exchange student at Darden; but, as Alyssa specified, “we aren’t buddies—we’re friends.” The program pairs up exchange students with second-year Darden students to ease the transition process for the incoming exchange student. The Darden buddies help with any questions or concerns the exchange student may have before their arrival, oftentimes about signing up for classes and finding housing, as well as during their time as a student at Darden.

Alyssa and Ashish took some time to share about their experience as Exchange Buddies at Darden:

Ashish: I had heard of Darden previously in my initial business school search, and in looking into exchange opportunities at ESADE, Darden caught my attention. It was the longest exchange option and the fall is supposedly the best time of year to visit. I also loved the case method approach and was excited to experience that at Darden. The biggest change coming from ESADE was going to a school whose campus is so spread out and that isn’t situated in a metropolitan area. This was my first time to the U.S. and I thought, “Oh, it’s just like in the movies!”

Alyssa: For the first month he would say, “Oh, just like the movies” for about everything we did. We were paired together because originally I had thought about studying abroad at ESADE, although that didn’t pan out. I volunteered to be a buddy because I have always enjoyed helping people and I’m currently working with seven coachees and six mentees, so I’ve gotten pretty good at checking emails, being responsive, and going out of my way in that regard.

Ashish: It is super helpful to have someone answer questions and just be there to make the transition easier. Being an exchange student, I can see how easy it would be to find a group of people from your culture or country and only hang out with them. For those of us who have come on Exchange, there are Darden students that go out of their way to get to know you and through those few people I’ve gotten to meet so many more.

Alyssa: It’s great to make a friend with someone who’s not from here. There are a lot of opportunities at Darden and you’d be surprised by the friendships you can make from those. We ended up sitting next to each other and now we hang out almost every day. (I’m going to visit him in India, he just doesn’t know that yet….) Without this program we might not have been friends. Being willing to help people really does go a long way. If I was an exchange student, I would wish that someone would be there to help me.