*Repost from the LSE Management Blog.
If there is one thing I’ve learnt after two years of Management education, it is to classify ideas into 4s, all starting with the same acronym. When I faced the daunting task of recounting my CEMS international exchange experience at ESADE Business School in Barcelona, the magic classification into 4s came to save me. So here it is, 4 amazing months in the story of my life, distilled into my unusual 4 Ps: Place, Philosophy, People, and Perception/Paideia.
When I submitted my CEMS application, I had no doubt that ESADE would be my top choice. It was hard to resist an admittedly top business school in Spain (and Europe), with social orientation, a list of cool courses to choose from and the chance to mejorar mi Español. 5 years in rainy and hectic London made me seek a sunny Mediterranean refuge, a window into a different educational system than the British one, and a potential door to the Spanish-speaking job market, in Spain as well as Latin America.
My vision for my exchange term was to obtain tangible skills, not simply written qualifications. For this to happen, I embarked on a cultural, rather than simply educational, journey: I familiarised myself with matters of Catalan History and Culture (let’s not forget Barcelona is Cataluña and not only Spain!), I traveled to the rest of Spain, and I tried to put myself in the shoes of the permanent residents, while sharpening my Spanish at any occasion.
I learnt how to drive a car within the tunnels of Barcelona up to the green suburb of St Cugat where the ESADE campus is located. I ticked two boxes of my dream travel diary: reaching the south corner of Europe, Cádiz, and swimming in the tropical seas of Formentera, in the middle of November.
I felt welcomed and embraced by Barcelona, a place combining the beauties of my home country Greece, the sea, the salt in the air, the ‘going out’ culture, along with an educational system as trustworthy and insightful as the British one, in its own unique Spanish way.
Having acquired a solid understanding on the foundations of management, thanks to my first year of the Global Master’s in Management programme at LSE, it was a welcome surprise being greeted by the ESADE curriculum, tailored not only to my student needs but also my intellectual curiosities. I was grateful to have professors who were not solely interested in preparing me for the job market but also for ‘real life out there’. I was encouraged to look within myself as a person, as a manager, as a strategist, and prompted to reflect on ‘who I am’, ‘what I have achieved so far’ and ‘where am I going’.
ESADE by no means gave me the answers to these questions, but it certainly did equip me with the tools to face them. More specifically, I was immersed to the beauty, power and impact of Socratic dialogue, and I was taught how to eloquently and ethically use power and influence in my future career. I was aided to make the transition from learning about strategy to formulating my own mind as a strategist.
Our Director of Studies at LSE, Dr Brittany Jones, used to tell us in my first year at LSE that ‘it will all make sense one day.’ With a little help from CEMS and ESADE, this day has finally arrived!
The CEMS community of ESADE will proudly hold a special spot in my heart as a place where I truly find myself fitting in. 4 months of memories, smiles, days and nights out; 4 months of sharing our lives with people who crossed the line from ‘teammates’ to ‘friends’ in a miraculously short amount of time.
One of the strongest ‘selling points’ of CEMS is the international network. However, I would never call the people I met here as ‘my network’, but rather ‘my friends’… All contributing towards building what we might call as the ‘CEMS spirit’; the peak of our youth coinciding with a moment of considerable maturity, a time of real relationship-building, rather than small-talk among classmates.
I am leaving this place, with the warmest of memories: the salsa class nights (taught by our amateur dancer classmates!), the cinema festival daytrip and cultural walking tours, the groups of people sitting on the pavement of Plaça del Sol, chatting under the night sky, the impatient voices of people queueing at the ESADE canteen, the view of Barcelona from the Arrabasada, the sounds, images and smells of autumn, warm enough to warm our lives forever. Our roads will soon diverge, most of us continuing our global journey. But what will always remain with us is our ‘CEMS identity’. Or in the words of Scott Fitzgerald ‘Somewhere inside of us, there will always be the person we were tonight.’
In Greek, my native tongue, we have two words for education. One more closely alludes to training and knowledge acquired through teaching (εκπαίδευση) and one better captures a holistic form of education that takes a pedagogical approach towards creating a well-rounded and informed, culturally and intellectually educated citizen, called Paideia (παιδεία). My CEMS exchange at ESADE built upon the latter. It sharpened my perception of the world and people around me, and where I stand within it. While LSE devotedly strives to help me know the causes of things (our School motto), ESADE ardently pushed me in the direction of knowing myself.
CEMS ambitiously attempts to smooth out national differences in educational systems, in view of focusing on what unites us as international business leaders. When I look back on my exchange experience, the focus was not on being more ‘employable’, ‘international’ or ‘diverse in my ideas’, nor more ‘competitive in the job market’. Instead I am leaving ESADE more self-aware in managing and leading my post-university life. I am leaving with my perception of myself, the world and others sharpened. I can only feel grateful that I was part of this, and grateful to LSE, CEMS and ESADE that they have all been spectacular in being true to ESADE’s motto: inspiring futures.