By Sabrina Liu

Before coming to Darden, Aly Yarris (Class of 2018, far right in above photo) worked as a program manager at Stanford University where she designed educational leadership development programs for students. Aly earned a master degree’s in education at the University of Pennsylvania in 2012 before deciding to pursue a business degree. Darden’s tight-knit community, emphasis in the classroom experience and close student-professor relationships were a few of the main drivers in her decision to attend Darden. Aly served as President of  the Graduate Women in Business club (GWIB) during her second year. GWIB hosted its inaugural Gender Equity Week in early April. Aly also took part in three of Darden’s global Immersion courses during her time at Darden: Japan, Singapore & Sri Lanka and South Africa. After graduation, Aly will work for JP Morgan Chase & Co as part of the Chase Associate Program in their New York City office.

What about these Darden Worldwide Courses specifically attracted you?

Travel has always been an important part of my life and I knew that I wanted to take advantage of the unique global experiences that are available at Darden. The access that these courses provide to big-name companies and VIP speakers in each country is remarkable, and something I knew I wouldn’t be able to experience by simply reading a guidebook or exploring with friends. I was immediately drawn to the programs in Japan and South Africa, as these were countries high on my travel bucket list. I hadn’t originally planned to attend a third DWC but when spots opened up in the trip to Singapore and Sri Lanka I knew I had to say yes. The depth of learning I had already experienced on my first DWC was unparalleled. When else would I have these once in a lifetime opportunities?

How would you compare these three Global Immersion courses and what was one takeaway you learned from these experiences?

While each course was unique, there was thematic overlap between the three. My first experience in Japan taught me to not take anything presented to you at face value. This critical thinking lens aided me in seeking understanding in Singapore, Sri Lanka and then in South Africa.  The courses in Singapore & Sri Lanka and in South Africa were particularly closely tied as we explored how these countries navigated turbulent histories and sought reconciliation via government and business strategies. Seeking peace, justice and economic growth after the recent civil war in Sri Lanka and in post-Apartheid South Africa have cultural, political and historical overlaps and differences. Having each experience as a foil to the other allowed me to think more deeply about how each country was looking towards the future.

My greatest takeaway from these Global Immersion courses is that the more you learn, the more complex and complicated the world becomes. I had some set expectations going into Japan, Singapore & Sri Lanka and South Africa but each trip showed me complexity beyond what I had imagined. I went in looking for answers and came away with more questions than ever. I found that the experience became more intellectually complex when you go with a classroom mindset and ask a lot of questions of yourself and of those you meet. During these trips I would ask myself, “How are my own biases impacting my understanding? What don’t I know about this place that is impacting how I experience it?” These courses are powerful experiences and I am incredibly grateful for the global curiosity that they have stoked in me.

Would you recommend taking global courses with Darden?

Yes, definitely! For that matter take any and all Darden Worldwide Courses that are available to you! People can come up with any number of reasons why not to go, but I really believe you are leaving something incredibly special on the table by not going. After two whirlwind years of travel with Darden, I really feel that the whole world is open to me. I know when I look back on my overall Darden experience that these global courses will be some of my fondest and most impactful memories. These will be some of the best trips of your life!

On a safari in Kruger National Park in South Africa with DWC classmates and professor Andy Wicks
Aly with friends from Section A at Sigiriya Rock in Sri Lanka