During the course of her Master’s studies at Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster in Germany, student Andrea Wandrey had a strong desire to expand her horizons and study at a top-tier university in the United States. After researching programs that would allow her to study subjects that interested her, and where she would also be able to gain transferable credit towards her Master’s studies, she chose the Graduate Student-at-Large program in the University of Chicago’s Graham School.
While at the University of Chicago, Andrea primarily took classes in the Booth School of Business and focused more on “advancing…my marketing knowledge. I’ve been doing marketing for a number of years, business communication, PR for my Bachelor’s degree, business administration for my Masters, so I was looking to take more [classes] in specific fields.” The Booth School allowed her this flexibility. “I took the entrepreneurship course and I did the new product development course, so I was able to gain more knowledge in these specialized areas.”
What else did you find unique about the GSAL program?
“On the one hand, and one thing that’s really special about [the University of] Chicago is that they have top-notch research. For example, while I was there Professor Hansen and Professor Fama were awarded the Nobel Prize, and being around for something like that was really special. And being in an environment where research is so important and is so successful was really important and inspiring.”
Thanks to the unique and collaborative research environment at U of C, Andrea was able to secure some valuable experience to further enhance her skills. “I ended up getting a research assistantship with the Psych department with Professor Boaz Keysar. There I learned a lot more about consumer behavior because we studied language and emotion. Working with him, I was able to offer my own opinion which was really special to be able to contribute to the top-notch research they were doing and to play an active part in it.” Through this experience, Andrea was able to gain some useful contacts at the university, and still remains in close contact with those involved in the study.
What else made U of C unique? What advice would you give to students coming in to the program?
“I think students coming in to the GSAL program need to be active [in order to feel at home and comfortable], especially in Chicago.” Andrea found the University of Chicago “very diverse," but believed that that helped her overall learning experience. “I don’t think there is a better place to come and integrate yourself because Chicago is such a diverse setting. It’s also very different from studying in Germany. When studying here [in Germany], the students aren’t nearly as diverse as they were at U of C, especially at Booth—I think the Americans were actually in the minority there. So, if you come there as a foreigner, you’re already a part of that diversity and you’ll fit right in.”
Should students feel intimidated coming in to the GSAL program and not being welcomed by their foreign or American peers? Andrea doesn’t think so. “You do have to go out and introduce yourself to people. But I’ve never once had an experience where I reached out to people and they were put off or said something like ‘Why are you talking to me?’ They almost always welcome you with open arms, but you have to reach out. Socializing with all the clubs that U of C has, I think it’s almost harder to not make friends than to make friends. The only risk of not being involved is that sometimes you just get too wrapped up with the coursework that you just don’t have time to hang out and socialize. But even in your classes, if you don’t have time to hang out outside of class, you’re still making friends in class.”
For those who still might be a little intimidated by the prospects of studying at a foreign university, Andrea has one more piece of advice. “If someone were scared of not making friends, I would suggest that they move into the International House, because there you really cannot not make friends.”
How the academic setting at Booth and what was your overall experience like there?
Thinking back to her time attending classes in the University of Chicago’s Booth School, Andrea had quite a bit to say about being a woman taking business classes—an arena historically dominated by the opposite gender. When asked what she thought would be a draw for prospective women in business who might be contemplating entering the Booth School, she states “I think what would help attract more women would just be to point out the large amount of female professors at Booth, and maybe have them help to promote the program. For example, Professor Jane Risen, I was in touch with her and just the personal contact with her was a really great experience. She invited me in to her lab meetings and is a great example of a female who has ‘made it,’ because I’m sure that becoming a professor is very hard to do.”
According to Andrea getting involved in Booth School activities was very easy. “My favorite club at Booth, aside from the Marketing Club, was the Graduate Women-in-Business Club. They were really, really wonderful women who were very welcoming.” Clubs such as these are known to hold several events throughout the year, and Andrea was especially fond of a few such events. “One event [held by the Graduate Women-in-Business Club] I went to was with Harper’s Bazaar at the W Hotel on Lake Shore Drive where a stylist was showing different outfits and presenting that year’s looks. [We were] sitting there with a whole bunch of MBA women on the top of the W Hotel on Lake Shore Drive, feeling great, looking at all the fashion…it was not intimidating at all. Another one of my favorite memories was when the Graduate Women-in-Business Club went to Howell’s and Hood’s by the Wrigley Building, and we sat outside in the warm weather. We were able to look up and down Michigan Avenue, the evening sun was shining, and you’re sitting there having your glass of champagne with the other women in business….it was just such a great experience.”
Set to graduate with her Master’s in the fall of 2014, a potential return trip to the United States might be in the cards. But, for now, Andrea is focused on “…finishing up her coursework and Master’s degree.”