Isabelle Ji Seon Jang, MBA ’16

Feb 24 2016

Ricordando Milano (Remembering Milan)

Isabelle Ji Seon Jang, MBA ’16

Spring classes are underway and I am delighted to return to the gorgeous Ithaca campus that I’ve missed for the past few months. Dyson Atrium in Sage Hall has been refurbished with new tables and sofas and breakout rooms have been updated with new flat screen televisions; despite these changes, the cozy feeling of Sage Hall remains the same.

The view of Milan from the top of the Duomo Cathedral

I am excited to be reunited with friends while also missing a few classmates as they complete an exchange semester similar to my experience in fall 2015. I spent fall and winter semesters at SDA Bocconi School of Management (SDA Bocconi) in Milan, Italy. My time in Italy was well spent not only because I had the opportunity to travel to 20 European cities of hidden treasures, but also because I was able to enhance my knowledge of craftsmanship industries, global expansion, and luxury markets. Academic activities included company visits and competitions allowing me to widen my vision of the European market and deepened my understanding of global operations.

The winning team at Lamborghini headquarters L to R: Lennie Liscio, Avi Maltz, Isabelle Jang, Abdulrazzak Jumaa

During the semester in Milan, I teamed up with three other Bocconian think-tanks to win the Mobility Case Competition hosted by Audi AG, a prestigious German automobile manufacturing company. Our team proposal for a new business concept for the company’s key segment in strategic regions was selected by their executive team of evaluators. I will never forget our teams countless nights of hard work. The first meeting began in a casual environment at an “aperitivo,” a traditional all-you-can-eat bistro at an incredibly reasonable price, during happy hour. Audi invited us to an awards ceremony at the Lamborghini factory in Modena where we held our final farewell meeting.

Apple CEO Tim Cook

Bocconi Conference Hall where Apple CEO Tim Cook delivered his speech

While at SDA Bocconi, Apple CEO Tim Cook visited the campus. It was his first official visit to a European university. I was invited to his speech which was live-streamed across the country. My most memorable highlight was not just about being able to see Cook in person but that I had an opportunity to briefly interview him. In my previous career as a newspaper journalist, I had interviewed numerous well-known business leaders, but this felt special because he shared personal information including his experience at Duke as an MBA student. It was an unforgettable moment when he asked me to join him on-stage to take a photo.

My goal for Bocconi was to concentrate on learning about new product innovation and digital strategy. I visited companies involved in manufacturing and retail businesses in Italy and Switzerland. SDA Bocconi sponsored career events such as Fashion and Luxury Career Day, bringing together various fashion, design, and clothing manufacturers headquartered in Germany, France, and other European countries in one location. That precious experience would not have been possible without the exchange program, made feasible through the partnership of Johnson and Bocconi.

Many people ask why I completed a semester abroad in the fall versus spring. My answer is clear. I always wanted to live in Italy. The country is well known for its creative ideas and innovations, competitive agricultural sector, high-end automobiles, film, food, fashion and design industry. With Mediterranean climate, supportive and nurturing environment, and intriguing history, Italy developed its own way of preserving its heritage for artisan enterprises while continuing to invest in new and explorative businesses. Milan is the industrial, commercial and financial hub of the country, and there was no better time to be in Milan.

Pavilion Zero Exhibit at Expo Milano 2015

During my stay in Milan, the city hosted Expo 2015 which included 20 million visitors in a six-month period. This global event naturally brought an influx of foreign investment. According to the Italian government, hosting the Expo cost 2.6 billion euros (3.1 billion USD) with an estimated economic return estimated at more than 10 billion euros (12 billion USD). More than half of that was generated from tourism alone. Milan received world-wide attention, and I was excited to be a part of the scene. At the time, I was working on a Johnson School project for an outside company attempting to identify the presence of disease-causing pathogens in food products. Milan Expo presented various proposals and ideas for sustainable food production and it served as the center for international collaboration on global food topics. The event provided a perfect environment for me to explore different views, critically assess foreign ideas, and employ them in the ongoing project when applicable. I also had the opportunity to work for one of the largest global nutrition, health and wellness companies developing a marketing plan for a high-end gelato product presented at the Expo.

I left Ithaca in June 2015 for my summer internship in New York City. After spending the fall and winter in Milan, I finally returned to the Ithaca campus. At first everything felt the same, grateful for the unchanging warm welcome. But soon, I began to realize that this was my last semester of the two-year journey as an MBA student, and I suddenly found myself with mixed feelings. On one hand, I am grateful to have survived this rigorous process, and that I find myself in the home stretch. On the other hand, I cannot help feeling sad that I will soon leave friends and campus behind and venture into the real world. Knowing that core and elective courses, immersion, concentration, internships, and study abroad have contributed to shaping me into a Johnson businesswoman, I am more confident than ever before.

To first-year students considering study abroad, I suggest you start the process early participating in info sessions hosted by the Career Management Center. Be prepared to invest time in research and information sessions.

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