Joana Arrizabalaga Azkarate is the most recent student from Spain to earn a Richmond MBA thanks to a dual-degree program established several years ago by the Robins School of Business and her home institution, Universidad de Deusto.  Before arriving in early 2011 from her home in the north of Spain, Joana did not know much about the Richmond area or the University of Richmond.

When she arrived in the United States the MBA staff was a tremendous help in the adjustment to life in America and the cultural challenge was minimal.

“It was pretty easy adjusting,” she said. “The staff in the MBA program made me feel at home from the first day.”

Joana declares that she has never been one to take the easy road. Now that she has finished her MBA, the one thing she knows for sure is that she does not want to start her career in Spain.

“I don’t want to remain [and pursue employment] in Spain, because that would be too easy. I like challenges,” she said.

While living on campus last year, Joana took advantage of all the opportunities the University offered.  “There is so much happening on campus that there is no time to miss anyone from home,” she said. “It has been a great experience.”

The close community in The Richmond MBA program gave Joana the opportunity to bond with her classmates. The real-world applications that she has gained from her professors and peers have given her the tools she needs to be successful in the workforce.

“One thing that has helped is that most of my classmates are working,” Joana said. “They have the professional experience that they bring to class. You can really see that they are applying what we learn in class at their jobs. This has been very helpful for me in making the material more applicable for my future job search.”

Contrary to the Universidad de Deusto where most of her class grade comes from a single final exam, Joana said The Richmond MBA classes required homework assignments most weeks and the learning experience continued for the entire semester.

“It has been totally different,” she said. “You prepare for your classes instead of just going to them passively.”

Her classes included a lot of student-led discussions that helped Joana learn how to present ideas in a unique way.  “These are the types of classes in which you participate and practice all the time,” she said. “You’re constantly thinking about how you’re going to explain things to people.”

The flexibility of The Richmond MBA program left an impression on Joana, who took four classes each of her two semesters at Richmond.  She also took two courses during the summer between semesters and did an internship with the Greater Richmond Partnership.

“The professors were very flexible with my schedule. The difference is that when you go to a professor in Spain, there is not the level of individual attention provided by The Richmond MBA professors.  The professors here are student-focused and have more time to spend with you.”

Now that she has completed the program, Joana plans on taking some time to find the right position and not settle for the first offer that comes her way.

“I want to make a smart decision in accepting a position. I’m going to be picky.”