Every year The Richmond MBA takes students on an International Residency course abroad. This year’s class in Croatia was incredibly meaningful for five students, who created lifelong friendships while there. 

Meghan Boyle, GB’18, Zarinah Graham, GB’19, Kevin Grum, GB’19, Julia Simo, GB’19, and Bridget Werderman, GB’19, participated in the course in Zagreb, Croatia, but decided to travel to Europe early to make the most of the experience.

All five say they bonded quite well through Opening Residency and their MBA courses, but traveling together took their friendships to a new level.

“Our group planned several months in advance to go to Europe early and take a road trip up to Lake Bled, Slovenia,” Grum said. “Those few days before the official residency began cemented our group’s friendship for life. When we headed to Zagreb, we felt like the adventure was just getting started.”

Boyle says one of the reasons she chose The Richmond MBA program was to have unique experiences, including studying business and consulting abroad. But, she didn’t expect that to be amplified by learning and growing with her friends.

“Experiencing this type of trip with my peers with whom I already had a great understanding and banter was great. We knew who would want to meet in the morning to work out before our classes, or who would want to search for the perfect cuttlefish ink risotto, glass of wine or bar to further experience all that Zagreb had to offer,” Boyle said. “I felt like I had a support system which grew deeper while we were traveling together. Traveling and learning in this environment, in addition to the cultural immersion, was an adventure in itself. Experiencing that with my peers about whom I already cared, made the relationship grow stronger and deeper.”

As part of International Residency, students traveled to various companies across Croatia to learn about how they operate. Each International Residency includes on-the-ground experience outside of the U.S., and is required of all graduate students. The focal point of the course is the International Consultancy Project. Three to five member student teams are assigned a client, and the team works with company management on an international business issue.

“Working with a company in an economically challenged country teaches you a lot about how businesses in different areas of the world survive,” Grum said. “Personally, it was difficult to remember to be sensitive to the challenges the people of Croatia face; whether in business or in life.”

The course is rigorous, but students are also immersed in Croatian culture while there, which Grum says made the experience memorable for him.

“Two years of a challenging professional MBA program really forged our friendship. Each of us brings a unique background and skillset to the group while having similar ‘drive’ and motivations.”

Zarinah Graham agrees, saying it gave her a new appreciation for international business.

“It introduced me to a new country with wonderful citizens, and gave me an opportunity to solve a real-world business problem,” Graham said. “It’s a great opportunity to apply what we’ve learned during the program, and it broadens your perspective by becoming exposed to new cultures.”

Overall though, the five said their favorite part of the experience was getting to explore a new country, bond as friends, and make memories they will never forget. 

“I think the bond you form with other students during the MBA program is the most important network you can create,” Boyle said. “Your strongest connections form from the people who help you learn how to apply the skills you develop while in school. These friends will forever make me grateful that I chose to become a Spider.”