Christina Haider, a student at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland, is currently participating in the Fall 2022 Darden Exchange Program. Haider is pursuing a master’s degree in strategy and international management (SIM). She grew up in Bavaria, Germany and then obtained her undergrad degree at King’s College in London, England where she majored in Economics and Management. Haider offered some reflections on why she chose Darden and what her first impressions have been.

1) Tell us about yourself. What inspired you to come to Charlottesville?

I am currently pursuing a Master’s in Strategy and International Management at the University of St. Gallen as part of which each student has the opportunity to spend a semester abroad. Darden was at the top of my list, as it seemed to combine everything I was looking for in an MBA programme. Beyond its great reputation, I really appreciated that Darden fully embraces the case method across all its courses. On top of that, Charlottesville offered the opportunity to live in a small college town with a tight-knit community whilst being able to easily reach and discover larger cities along the East Coast. Finally, all previous HSG exchange students had a great time at the school leaving me excited to also spend my exchange here.

2) One week in, has anything surprised you about our MBA program or the Darden community?

So far, the surprises have exclusively been of a positive nature. I really appreciate how welcoming everyone is and that both students as well professors make an effort to help us exchange students settle in fast and well. The vast number of regular events such as Cold Call or First Coffee are great to meet Darden students and to feel part of the community. In addition to that, I was surprised by how dynamic courses and discussions within the classroom are. Hearing about the case method versus completing one’s first class are definitely two different pairs of shoes. However, it was great to see how active everyone is and how quickly time can pass when one is discussing a topic in class.

3) How does the academic experience at Darden compare to St Gallen? Any similarities? Differences?

The classroom experience at Darden differs a lot from St. Gallen, as both schools emphasize very different educational formats. As I am enrolled in a Master’s programme (not an MBA), we rarely worked with cases and most classes relied on a traditional lecture format. Class participation didn’t matter, and the focus was on one’s performance in exams and group projects. Therefore, it was extremely interesting to see that Darden students are prepared for each class and that participation is often the biggest grading component. Even though it takes a while to get used to this shift, I really appreciate the case method, as I think it teaches you extremely relevant skills for any corporate setting.

4) What are you most looking forward to this upcoming semester? What are you excited about outside of classes?

I am looking forward to getting to know more students and their diverse backgrounds as well as the different events by Darden’s Student Clubs. I am particularly excited about the upcoming Global Food Festival as well as the next Darden Cup events (and since I was born and raised in Bavaria – of course Oktoberfest). As I have never been to the States before, I also really enjoyed my first tailgates and football matches and hope to be able to see more of Virginia and the East Coast throughout the two quarters. Finally, based on the many recommendations I have received so far, I am very excited to try out more of the Charlottesville Food Scene.

5) Have you felt that Darden is a global community? Explain!

I definitely think Darden’s diverse student body and strong alumni network make it a global community. This becomes particularly evident during classes, as everyone shapes the discussions through their unique perspectives and backgrounds. At the same time, the Darden Student Association actively celebrates diversity through amazing affinity groups and inclusive events. Regardless of one’s own background, there are so many opportunities to learn about and experience different traditions, foods, and cultures. Finally, it is great to see that the Darden community does not end after graduation and that we are able to learn from inspiring alumni speakers in class.

6) What draws you to a global experience? Why are global experiences so important to have?

Personally, I’ve always been drawn to global experiences, as I grew up in a rather homogenous environment in rural Bavaria in Germany. Even though I love my hometown, I was eager to get to know different people and cultures and was very fortunate to be able to complete my undergraduate degree in London, United Kingdom. This experience made me appreciate the benefits of immersing oneself in a different environment and learning about different values and perspectives. I believe that our connected society nowadays also asks for open-minded people that thrive in a diverse setting – especially if one aims to work in a multinational enterprise.

All in all, I believe an exchange programme, or any global experience is the perfect opportunity to learn more about oneself as well as other environments. It is an extremely fun and rewarding experience that allows you to grow, which is why I would recommend it to anyone!