Student Stories

26.11.2020

My MBA Exchange Journey to the Big Apple - Puranjay Mahapatra

Puranjay Mahapatra (India)
Class of 2020
Pre-MBA: Consultant, KPMG India
Post-MBA: Product Manager, Setu

“The True New Yorker secretly believes that people living anywhere else have to be, in some sense, kidding.” – John Updike

The opportunity to have an academic exchange in a different geography and experience a different culture was a big part of my decision to take the Full time MBA Program at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST). The exchange program during the final semester serves as both a culmination of your formal MBA studies and an opportunity to compare your skills gained over the past year in a new learning environment.

At the HKUST MBA, we have the option to choose from a long list of top partner schools across multiple regions, students have to first shortlist their preferred schools. The MBA office then nominates students based on the availability of exchange spots and our individual contributions to the MBA program. I personally selected NYU Stern for the opportunity to be a New Yorker for few months, also that NYU Stern offered some really exciting classes such as Cryptocurrency and Impact Investing which I am really interested in.

 

In front of the NYU Stern School of Business Henry Kaufman Management Center; the home for the MBA program.

While adapting to the pacing of another new city, it made me anxious especially I had just gotten used to Hong Kong – a new city to me. My emotions after landing in New York followed the classic four stages of acclimation - Denial, Doubt, Acceptance and Thriving, during the four months of the exchange program.

The first month felt like the longest. Being in New York as a new comer, mental denial happens when my mind compared everything with the familiar environments back home. You see yourself a tourist in the city. My first reaction was always to compare the situation in Hong Kong when I felt disappointed, for instance, on the subway system, the homelessness, and drug issues in the streets. It was the best time to visit major tourist spots because of the pleasant weather and workload, it was also the time when I had the biggest craving for Hong Kong Yum Cha (tea drinking).

As the classes started picking up in the second month, at times I slipped into doubt, with teaching styles at HKUST being at par with most top schools, did I really need a new academic environment in my MBA Journey? Having to trudge to the local laundromat a few blocks away (a common experience in New York), did I really enjoy my nitro cold brew coffee in New York better than my bubble milk tea in Asia? I did not have answers to all these questions but as people say, distance makes the heart grow fonder and eventually we appreciate home more.

 

The HKUST MBA Group celebrating Mid-Autumn Festival at a Hot-Pot Restaurant in Flushing China Town. Getting to experience a new place with old friends is always a blessing!

 

By the third month, days passed by quickly as you started to live like a local enjoying Bagel, Schmear and Lox for breakfast, and Marvel. Figuring out the best spots to finish assignments in the business school and being brave enough to venture out the corners of all the five boroughs of New York were great experience too.

 

Washington Square Arch – The landmark that lets you know NYU is just around the corner. Fun Fact- Built in 1889 to celebrate the centennial of President George Washington’s inauguration.

The importance of the exchange program during the MBA journey allowed you to appreciate the diverse non-Asian and American context on different business issues. It is also a great opportunity to network in a new business environment. I obtained insights on different job aspects and started to build a more holistic sense on the global trends in my desired industry.

In the last month, when you finally get a hang of things, time passes the quickest. It was a month when I finally felt like I was thriving in the new environment, which was a completely new chapter to me only a few months ago. I had the chance to research and present on topics in Crypto Investing which I did not even know a few months back. I also had the opportunity to listen to Twitter speakers I followed as an ardent fanboy. Having discovered the best hidden outdoor spots, bodega sandwiches, and off-off-broadway theatre experiences also helped improve my spiel in front of both New York natives and friends visiting.

The exchange program in summary is a great way to top-off what was undoubtedly the most challenging and transformative years of my life. Some tips from my personal experience about exchange programs:

1. Be clear with your key priorities from the exchange program, be they on academic, cultural or personal.

2. Try courses both of your interests and outside your comfort zone. Many schools are known for MBA concentrations in diverse areas such as Healthcare, Media, Energy and FinTech etc.

3. Plan your career goals and be conscious of both the opportunity costs of being at your home school and at the exchange school.

4. Try to live like a local in your adopted city and experience neighborhoods not mentioned in the tourist guidebooks. Please feel free to reach out to me in case I can help in anyway when you evaluate going on an exchange program or joining the Full-time MBA program at HKUST.

 

Trying to show the school spirit with a NYU Stern Tee. Random Fact- Had a lot of random chance encounters with people on the street and at the airport wearing the T-shirt. Short Lesson- Always show your school pride

 

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