From US Military to IE MBA Student
This interview is the latest in an Accepted blog series featuring interviews with business students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top programs. And now, introducing Nick…
Accepted: We'd like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad?
Nick: My name is Nicholas Laine. I was born in Seoul, South Korea (military brat), and I majored in Physics at the US Naval Academy.
Accepted: Where are you currently attending business school? What year are you?
Nick: I’m a member of the September 2017 International MBA intake at IE Business School.
Accepted: Why did you choose IE? Why an international program? How did you know that you were a good fit for their program?
Nick: A one-year program was an important factor for me. Besides this, the big draw with IE was its strong entrepreneurial program and the incredible cultural and professional diversity in the student body. I felt that I was a good fit because of my military background, which the school seemed to value highly.
The opportunity to improve my Spanish proficiency and the immersion into the Spanish culture, which I really love, was also an important factor in deciding on IE.
Accepted: You're currently a Transitioning Nuclear Submarine Officer with the United States Navy. How has the switch been from Officer to MBA Candidate?
Nick: It has definitely been a culture shock, especially because I’ve shifted not only from military professional to student but also the move from the West Coast of the US to Madrid, Spain, and entering an environment where I’m interacting with a lot of people from all sorts of different backgrounds, most of whom have never really interacted with a military veteran before. At the same time, the switch has so far been a very rewarding experience. The beauty of the MBA program is that it’s a focused opportunity to learn about all the different industries out there that I was not too familiar with before as well as network with classmates from those industries.
It’s the perfect launchpad into a new career for a military servicemember.
Accepted: You have such a diverse background! You studied Physics at The U.S. Naval Academy, became a Nuclear Sub Officer, and were a Tactics Instructor. How will an MBA help you reach your career goals?
Nick: I felt that there was a gap in my experience and knowledge base that would make it harder for me to pursue a career in the corporate world. The MBA is helping me close the knowledge and experience gap at least enough to build up my confidence. I also wanted to learn about and experience the entrepreneurial world. IE Business School is giving me a way to explore that world with a little bit of a safety net, and so far, it’s been a tremendously fun and humbling experience.
Accepted: Looking back at the application process, did you experience any challenges along the way? How did you overcome them?
Nick: Fortunately, the application process went smoothly for me. I applied to two schools during the Round 1 period and got into both. My plan going in was to apply to only two schools in each round. I think this is a good strategy because it gives you the time to focus on putting together a high-quality application package and to really learn about the school.
Accepted: As a member of our military, what would you tell other officers and enlisted personnel who are looking to further their career goals with an MBA?
Nick: The biggest decision I had to make besides the decision to leave the military was whether I wanted to jump straight into a career post-military, or pursue an MBA. A career shift is something that many veterans, unfortunately, struggle with. Like I’ve said before, the MBA is the perfect corporate launchpad because of the networking opportunities and the rigorous academics. Having chosen a one-year program, I’ve chosen to forego the summer internship experience, but that particular benefit definitely cannot be understated. Several of my friends and veterans who pursued the two-year program valued the summer internship program because it offered on-the-job training in their industry of interest.
I chose an MBA because I felt that it would give me the credentials and skillsets that prospective employers might feel that my military experience does not adequately cover.
A couple of caveats with choosing the MBA:
1. Don’t pursue an MBA if you’re just looking to postpone your career search. This is particularly true with a one-year program. Though the MBA does offer you the time and space and even encouragement to do a little bit of soul-searching, your peers will be hard-charging, goal-oriented professionals with impressive resumes. They are starting their job search from day one.
2. Research your GI Bill benefits fully! Talk to the appropriate representative at your command, and also reach out to the financial aid office and the veterans club at your prospective school. They’ll be more than happy to answer questions about your financial plan. MBA tuitions are not cheap, so have a strategy to maximize your benefits. Don’t forget the other military scholarship opportunities that are available. Again, talk to your school’s financial aid office to get a clear understanding of what these opportunities are.
If you’re interested in studying abroad, there are a lot of foreign MBA programs that accept the Post-9/11 GI Bill and have a great veteran support network.
Accepted: Lastly, what are three tips that you would like to share to those who are considering an international MBA?
1. Make sure you dot your i’s and cross your t’s when you’re applying for your student visa. The process is lengthy and costs money, so start early and double and triple check your visa application package to make sure you’re meeting all requirements. I had a couple classmates that showed up a week or two late because they didn’t get their visa approved on time.
2. Make sure you have a plan to transfer funds from your bank back home to pay for your various costs, because exchange rates, transfer and local ATM debit fees add up! I opened an account with a local bank and transferred enough money to cover my monthly costs (rent, phone bill, health insurance, and groceries) to avoid paying fees.
3. You’re going to be busy with your MBA classes, but take the time to learn at least the basics of your host country’s language if your program’s language is in English. Knowing even a little bit of the language goes a long way in making life easier and more fun.
Thank you Nick for sharing your story and advice – we wish you much success!
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