The journey towards getting an MBA can, for many people, represent a huge life choice. For those studying full-time, it means leaving their current job, perhaps moving to a new city, and maybe even moving to another country or continent.
For Greta Romero Céspedes and Diego Camones, starting their MBA journey represented two big life choices entwined – as a couple from Lima, Peru, they decided to move together to Germany and enroll in the same MBA program at ESMT Berlin.
We met up with Greta and Diego to discuss their journey so far and find out what it’s like to study alongside your partner and go through the challenges and rewards of an MBA together.
Greta and Diego’s story
Before their paths crossed, Greta had been working in the world of tech, while Diego, who studied business administration, was working in supply chain management. A small stroke of luck would bring the two together.
“In my 2nd year at this company, there was a global reorganization and I got laid off.” Greta explains. “It was my first time in this position, but I wanted to use it as an opportunity to try new things.” She enrolled in a philosophy course, joined a gym, and also took a personal coaching program.
It was here that the two met.
“If I hadn’t been laid off, I wouldn’t have met him at all!” says Greta “And in the end, everything turned out great, because three months later, they [Greta’s former employer] called me back and offered me an even better role.”
Embarking on their MBA journey
For Greta, getting an MBA was a long-held ambition. “It was a dream of mine!”, she says. “I wanted to get a more global perspective.” Once they started dating, Greta wanted to let Diego know about her long-term goals. “Just in case. So there won’t be any surprises!”
For Diego, however, an MBA wasn’t on his radar. “It was not my dream.” He says, with a smirk. “When she told me, I was sad, because I thought she was leaving soon…”
“But he enrolled in my dream too!” Greta interjects.
Diego explains in more detail. “I began doing some searching about the benefits of an MBA and I convinced myself that it’s a good opportunity. By that time, I had been working for four years at my former company, in the same position. I enjoyed the supply chain experience and acquired a lot of insights and knowledge on that field but I wanted a promotion, I wanted to change from supply to selling the product.”
“So, the MBA was an opportunity to take a risk, to change industry. In the end, I decided, let’s take the journey together.”
“He was all-in, basically.” Greta adds.
Together they embarked on an almost two-year journey, studying for TOEFL, studying for GMAT, and hiring an advisor to help them decide which school was the right fit for them.
From Peru to Berlin: choosing ESMT
Like many prospective MBA students, Diego and Greta shopped around to find the school that would suit them the best. They weighed up competing criteria, such as rankings, scholarship options, language, and the economy of the country into which they would be moving.
Diego was the first to propose ESMT. With family living in Berlin and numerous visits under his belt, he felt that he already knew Germany’s culture and was attracted to the country’s economic importance.
Admittedly, Greta had a few reservations. Having never visited, she knew far less about what to expect. Both were concerned about potential language barriers, since neither spoke German.
But Diego explains, “I talked to my cousin. He told me that many companies work in English, so you’ll have no trouble with language at all.”
“In the end”, Greta adds, “because of his family, and their experience, and talking to alumni we realized of so many opportunities here.” But a big turning point in coming to that decision came from their mutual attraction to the program offered by ESMT.
“You get to tailor the program according to your preferences.” Greta explains. With her sights set firmly on transnational tech companies based in Germany, being able to tailor her learning experience to that career goal was a big plus.
Life in Berlin, from a Peruvian perspective
When asked about their opinion on living in the German capital as two Latin Americans, the first topic that comes up is the struggle of learning the language.
While not a necessity in multilingual, cosmopolitan Berlin, the two have leapt headfirst into the language learning process, as both are committed to working for German businesses once they graduate.
“But it’s complex… and tough.” Greta laughs.
Greta, who had never been to Europe before, explains that moving here was a huge culture shock. Arriving in the middle of a cold German winter, they enjoyed Berlin’s Christmas markets, before celebrating New Year’s Eve in London.
Diego adds that before he came here, he always wanted to experience the German winter. “But now I never want to experience it again.” He adds, laughing.
On a more serious note, he goes into more detail about what he likes about living in Germany. “I love the culture of respect. To be treated fair… Also, the transport is amazing! Greta and I are fascinated with the transport system. It is very easy to travel around Germany!”
The advantages (and challenges) of studying an MBA with your partner
As a couple studying for an MBA on the same program, Greta and Diego’s experience, while not unheard of, is unique. We asked what they thought were the biggest advantages or challenges to studying with a partner.
“There’s no huge challenge for me.” Diego asserts. “But it is crucial that you live together before…I already learned to love Greta’s company, I learned to cheer for her and celebrate every success that she has.”
He adds, “We are always asking what do we need, how can we help? So when we came here, we knew what our roles were, our “50:50” as we say.”
For Greta, the most important factor is having that emotional support, which has enabled them to go through this challenge together, compare experiences and benefit from a shared learning journey.
But she also stresses the importance of personal space for the relationship to grow stronger.
“We’re not together 24/7. He goes to the gym, I go dancing… we make our own space to make our own friendships and networks for each of us to develop as individuals too.
In class they have both formed their own close group of friends, and while they might occasionally ask questions on some of the course topics, they don’t share the same study methods.
“My style when it comes to studying is different from Diego’s, eventually we learned to prioritize and define what works best for each of us” Greta points out.
Greta and Diego’s MBA advice
So, what’s the most important advice they would pass on to others thinking of studying for an MBA?
For Greta, she feels it is important that students understand what their goals are and to have an idea of how an MBA can help to reach them.
“Don’t come just to do the MBA. No. It’s important for you to know what the main outcome that you are looking towards is… And if you are coming with your partner, then both of you need to be aligned.”
But studying for an MBA isn’t just about preparing for future job roles, it’s a chance to make new friends, live in a new city or country, and take on a wealth of new experiences. For Greta, that combination of professional and personal development is something that other students should also be focused on. “It’s also about getting to know yourself… If you’re looking to see how you can grow as a person – you will get the most out of the MBA.”
Diego’s advice, on the other hand, relates to the challenges of the program itself, especially the times when the learning curve steepens.
“If you are worrying about grades… trust your friends, trust your network, believe people when they say everything will be fine.”
Looking forward to a summer of opportunities
Greta and Diego are both in their first year of the full-time MBA and, having completed their first two modules, are now looking forward to the rest of summer. During this time, students can pick different options to suit their career goals, which in turn can mean wildly different plans for July, August, and September. This is certainly the case for Greta and Diego.
While Diego has enrolled in the Summer Language School to accelerate his German-language skills and prepare himself for a position with a German business, Greta is excited to work in a three-month internship with Indian tech giant, Infosys, traveling to their headquarters in Bangalore to do so.
If you are interested in following in Greta and Diego’s footsteps and taking on the challenges and opportunities of a full-time MBA, visit our website for more information about the program, its curriculum, admissions process, and available scholarships.