Oscar Norman, a student at the Stockholm School of Economics in Sweden pursuing a Master of Science degree in accounting, valuation, and financial management, participated in the Fall 2021 Darden Exchange Program. Before he returned to Sweden for the winter holiday, Norman shared more about his Darden experience in the exchange program:
How did you hear of Darden and what made you decide to study abroad here on exchange?
I knew that I wanted to do my exchange program in the U.S. as I was looking forward to getting a sense of what it would be like to live here for a longer period. There were a couple of MBA programs that I could apply to, but Darden was my first choice for a couple of reasons. First, I knew Darden offered a highly ranked MBA program with a great reputation and its well-known case method appealed to me. Second, I wanted to live in a smaller town as I thought it would be easier to become part of the school community, compared to living in a larger city. Third, I spoke to a friend of mine who went to Darden, and she absolutely loved her experience here and highly recommended that I apply to the school.
How was your academic experience at Darden similar to or different from SSE?
I’d say that the schools differ a lot in their educational formats. In my experience, Darden encourages its students to pay attention and prepare for every class throughout the entire quarter, while at SSE, exams are emphasized to a higher degree as the final grade is often more or less entirely dependent on your exam results. In other words, at SSE, you’re not required to pay as much attention to your classes during the entire quarter, if you can make up for it during the exam period. Active participation is much more encouraged and demanded at Darden than at SSE. That was something I had to get used to coming from a school with more of a traditional lecture-based set-up. Personally, I’ve grown to enjoy the Darden case-method. I believe that you really learn during the discussions in class because all students have their own perspectives on different subject matters.
What are some lessons you learned at Darden that you will continue to apply in your future career?
I believe one the biggest lessons that I’ve learned is how valuable it can be to be part of a community. For the last two months, I’ve been recruiting for a global consulting firm’s Stockholm office. During this period, I’ve received significant help and advice from students going to the same firm, but also from students going into consulting to other firms. I was hoping to get help from maybe one or two classmates, but I ended up doing mock interviews with over 10 classmates, some that I didn’t knew particularly well before reaching out. I believe that speaks a lot to the mindset of Darden students. They all helped me as if I’d been a full-time MBA student, even though I’m “only” an exchange student. That’s a lesson that I will apply in my future career as well. When part of a community, make sure to help whenever you can to whoever needs it.
What are some of your favorite memories from your time at Darden?
There are so many great memories to choose from. I’ve really enjoyed the social community at Darden and all it has to offer. The 400-case party, Oktoberfest, and Thanksgiving dinners were some of my favorite events, just to name a few. I’ve also had the opportunity to go to New York and Washington D.C. with friends from Darden. Other than that, I’ve really enjoyed the everyday life at Darden in Charlottesville. Some highlights include going to football games, playing tennis, going on hikes and hanging out with people on a regular basis. I’m not looking forward going back to 2-day weekends after having gotten accustomed to Darden Fridays on Thursdays.
What are some of the benefits of participating in an exchange program?
I believe the biggest benefits of participating in an exchange program are that you get the opportunity to experience something entirely new and meet people you’d never have met otherwise. It’s not often that you get to move to a different country and start a new life for a couple of months. I would recommend the experience to anyone who has the chance as it’s very developing, highly rewarding, and overall, a lot of fun. I sincerely hope and expect to stay in contact with many of the friends that I’ve made at Darden and I’m already looking forward to welcoming everyone who is coming to Sweden for their DWC in March.
Any advice for someone considering coming to Darden on exchange?
Try to get as much out of your experience as possible. Darden has so much to offer both from an educational standpoint but also socially. I would pick classes in subjects that interest you the most. As the professors are generally very engaging in their teaching, you’ll appreciate the classes even more if you’re genuinely interested in the subject. Also, I would try to get involved as much possible in the social community. Darden offers many different social clubs, so it’s not hard to find something you’re interested in. Finally, reach out to as many people in the Darden community as possible. I found that students at Darden are all very friendly and open-minded. It was the students at Darden who made my exchange program something I’ll forever treasure.