By Anelle Mensah

Noreen Nagji is currently a second year MBA student from Albuquerque, New Mexico. She attended Duke University and earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in 2012. Before enrolling at Darden, Noreen worked at Cintas as a Sales Manager. During her first year, she traveled to Sweden on a Darden Worldwide Course and is currently living in Barcelona, Spain as an exchange student at ESADE. She took some time to share with us her thoughts on her experiences thus far (in her own words):

How did you hear about Darden and what were the deciding factors?

While attending Duke, I traveled up to Charlottesville a few times to visit friends and family that lived here and I really appreciated the beautiful nature and community aspect of the town.  Therefore, when I decided to apply for an MBA it was only natural that I looked into Darden.  The institution is obviously highly ranked and is very well-known, yet what drew me to Darden was the confidence and pride the school has regarding its faculty.  During my interview, it was immediately apparent that Charlottesville’s community spirit also spread throughout North Grounds.  I witnessed classmates supporting one another, faculty collaborating with their students, and general involvement from staff members as well.  This culture, along with its rigorous coursework and strong alumni network, are what ultimately led me to choose Darden.

Why did you choose to go on exchange at ESADE?

I chose to study at ESADE for a few specific reasons.  Firstly, the campus is located just outside of Barcelona, which is a great city to both live in and explore other countries from.  I hadn’t practiced my Spanish much after leaving New Mexico, so this was a great opportunity to refresh my skills and learn the language with a Catalonian touch.  Secondly, the ESADE classroom provided me with a more global perspective on subjects such as strategy and economics.  Most importantly, ESADE students are just as inviting, brilliant, and diverse as Darden students.  I was able to develop profound relationships with fellow American exchange students and ESADE first and second years in such a short period of time, which I am extremely grateful for.

What experiences and lessons have you been able to gain through your exchange program?

There were several exchange students from other American business schools at ESADE as well, so I was really able to grow my MBA network and develop unique friendships through this experience.  In addition, classes weren’t always centered around the United States market.  I think there was a stronger focus in my strategy class, for example, on emerging markets and the presence of corruption in business.  In addition, I really appreciated gaining insight from my professors and international classmates on how our government policies affect their countries’ economy.  While some of this may have been available domestically, experiencing these lessons while living in or closer to that environment was definitely unique.

You went on the Sweden Darden Worldwide Courses during your first year. How does the Sweden DWC compare to the ESADE exchange?

The Darden Worldwide Course in Sweden allowed me to immerse myself in a country that excels in entrepreneurship and sustainability, and learn about why that is.  Through company visits, guest speakers, and exploring Stockholm, my classmates and I were able to learn from the experience itself.  Studying abroad, however, was more focused on developing a global perspective when it came to subjects such as strategy, leadership, and economics.  In addition, it provided me with the opportunity to explore various surrounding countries during my time there and experience different cultures almost every week.

Why do you think it’s important for students to participate in programs like ESADE and Darden Worldwide Courses?

Programs like ESADE and the Darden Worldwide Courses really provide you with the opportunity to immerse yourself in a foreign environment and discover its unique qualities through a business perspective.  In addition, you are able to expand your network internationally and build relationships abroad.  Being immersed in unfamiliar territory with your classmates – whether they are from Darden or other US MBA schools – allows you to connect with each other and form a unique bond very quickly.

Noreen with her Sweden Darden Worldwide Course Peers
Noreen with other students at ESADE