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Bilingual Track

I am glad to have chosen to study in Section C, the bilingual section.  Before arriving, I was a proficient but non-native speaker, and I imagined that I would speak more and more Spanish as time went by, as I felt more and more comfortable.  During first term, I spoke in Spanish at every opportunity.  And my Spanish improved.  I’ve gone from being functional in Spanish to being more expressive in Spanish—at times, I feel more comfortable saying something in Spanish than in English!

At the same time, I’ve come to appreciate the chance to speak in English, to relate to friends and colleagues in my native language.  My Spanish is there when I need it, so I can indulge in English and the rich nuances of meaning it affords me.

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Applied Learning: Social Enterprise Business Plan

If you drive northwest from the doors of ESADE for about 1 hour, you’ll come to a small town called Manresa.  There, I discovered Moltacte—a discount designer fashion outlet that provides social rehabilitation and employment to mentally ill people.

Moltacte opened its doors in 2008 in the midst of the financial crisis and has managed to survive thanks to its founders’ steely commitment to the social mission.  ESADE professor Alfred Vernis introduced a group of us MBA students to Moltacte in the fall in order to discuss its need to validate and improve the economic aspects of its model and ensure sustainability.

Since then, we have entered into a formal consulting relationship with Moltacte and begun work on a business plan.  We (the students) are managing all aspects from start to finish, from people management to number crunching.  After establishing a good client relationship and clarifying our scope and deliverables, we designed the processes our team would use to complete the project.  Currently, we are implementing the research and assessment phase.

For me personally, Moltacte takes my learning from the classroom to the real world of social enterprise, where finding balance between the economic and social goals requires creativity and tough decisions, where people are the key to results, and where my new MBA tools are only as good as the quality of application.  It’s also a unique way to bond with truly impressive peers in the Net Impact club.

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Visit from the Director of Corporate Responsibility at BBVA

I was thrilled when, during his visit to the Net Impact club last Friday, the Director for Corporate Responsibility at BBVA focused on the ways in which the bank harnesses responsibility as a driver for differentiation and value generation (not philanthropy).

Early on, Antoni Ballabriga projected a letter from Societe Generale Asset Management upon the screen.  It requested that, in preparation for a particular shareholders meeting, BBVA share its specific environmental objectives.  This anecdote made everyone pay a little extra attention to the corporate responsibility initiatives that followed, which included responsibility to the customer, financial literacy and inclusion and environmental and social risk as well as eco-efficiency.

Mr. Ballabriga is an ESADE alumnus and dropped in during a visit to his home in Barcelona from his current base in Madrid.  He was kind enough to join us afterward for a “Feeling Good, Feeling Better” beer.  FGFB is a student initiative that allows students to donate 30 cents for every beer consumed to microfinance loans made through

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Reality Check, part 2

About two weeks ago, I started to share how my experience at ESADE has compared to the expectations I had before coming. I’ll finish up this line of thought today, sharing the last two of my main reasons for coming here. Then it’s on to Career Week!

#3: I sought a 1st rate general MBA education as well as research centres relevant to my specific interests in social innovation.

Reality: Right now I’m excited about a meeting that a group of us students had yesterday with Professor Alfred Vernis of ESADE’s Institute for Social Innovation. Thanks to the initiative of classmate Marcin Bortnik, Professor Vernis has offered us the opportunity to create a business plan for a start-up designer retail outlet that provides employment to people with mental illness. We will visit the client this coming Friday, so fingers crossed! If everything works out, it will be a nice way to apply important classroom knowledge to something I care about in the real world.

#4: By completing my studies in Spanish and study with a truly international student body, I wanted to become truly fluent and adept at working with intercultural teams.

Reality: I’ve studied and used Spanish in professional settings before, but the immersion experience is allowing me—and forcing me!—to work on more elusive aspects of language and style. My big challenge right now is to master not only the differences between direct vs. indirect communication but also the different between being indirect and being diplomatic.

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Reality Check, part 1

With the end of Pre-Term and the first round of exams last week, many of us students were asking ourselves and each other, “Has ESADE fulfilled our expectations so far?”

As a way of introducing myself on this blog, I want to share why I chose ESADE as the right business school for me and how my actual experience this past month stacks up against those expectations. I’ll start off with two personal reasons that don’t show up in my official application essays!

#1: I sought the freedom to explore my goals and the inspiration to push my personal boundaries. I am not a typical MBA. After receiving a BA in social anthropology from Harvard, I worked in nonprofit arts management in Boston and community development in Guatemala and El Salvador. Any business school would bring new challenges, but would I be able to define success for myself and be motivated to assert my vision at all of them?

Reality: Off the charts! I’ve already learned more about myself, about communicating my ideas and about working with different types of people than I thought possible in such a short time. The leadership class gave me insight into recognizing and resolving disconnects between my possible working environments, goals, values and competencies. In my study group, I’m discovering what pushes my buttons and my team mates’ buttons and what I can do to help (not inhibit) the group’s results as well as my own. Of course, this past month is just the beginning.

#2: I wanted to enjoy a fabulous life experience in Barcelona as well as a top-rate academic program. My professional life has been my number one priority for a long time. An MBA is an investment in my future, but why not live in Barcelona now?

Reality: The first month is an intense period of adjustment. New work. New city. New friends. It takes time. And so, it’s incredible that in a simple 2-hour study break, I can soak up the Mediterranean sun on the beach or listen to music at one of Barcelona’s free outdoor festivals. I can blow off steam dancing until 5am or relax sipping a cerveza in one of Gracia’s plazas. (5am is not late here, by the way!) I checked out the film festival down the coast in Sitges yesterday, and I’ve got tickets to see a renowned flamenco dancer next week. There is a lot out there! The trick is balancing it with the workload. Oh, and don’t worry, your friends back home won’t need convincing to visit you in Barcelona!

I’ll save my official reasons for coming to ESADE—the 1st rate education and research centers, the bilingual program and the international focus—for my next post.

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