Why I Snubbed Top US Business Schools For An International MBA Experience In Italy

Stephen Calicchio wanted a life-changing, international MBA experience abroad. He went for MIP Politecnico di Milano’s one-year MBA

Stephen Calicchio worked with startups in Philadelphia before relocating thousands of miles across the Atlantic to pursue a one-year MBA program in Milan, Italy.

Why? Stephen wanted a truly international MBA experience in his ancestral home.

In the US, many MBA programs are still dominated by domestic students. International MBA students make up less than 50% of the class at most top-ranked US business schools.

At Italy’s MIP Politecnico di Milano, 75% of full-time MBA students are international, representing over 20 different nationalities.

While some US MBA programs cost upwards of $100,000 in tuition fees alone – plus the added opportunity cost of a two-year stint out of the workplace – the one-year MIP MBA costs a more affordable €32,000 ($36,000).

At MIP, MBA students engage in real-life projects for real firms. Stephen worked on a project for luxury Italian eyewear company Luxottica. He went on a career trek to San Francisco, and visited Google in Silicon Valley.

Prior to his MBA, Stephen started his own clothing company and worked as general manager for an action sports retail store. He’d never worked outside his native US. Now, he’s considering career options internationally.

Why did you decide to pursue an MBA at MIP?

The main thing giving Italy a heavier weight came from my heritage, but there were still other options. I sent a wave of inquiry emails to a handful of schools in Italy, France, and London, like, ‘Hi, I’m interested, but I don’t know what it takes to do this.’

MIP got back to me on a personal level. The rest were templated emails, websites within emails, automation saying, ‘The process is all online, click here.’ I didn’t like that.

I liked the one-year format and I liked the details, but most of all I liked the help. I needed to know I could reach out to the other end with any issues that might arise.

Why did you decide against pursuing an MBA program in the US?

In my eyes, an international MBA was always the only way to do it. I think the life experience is more valuable than the prestige or the course content that comes with the popular US programs. 

Everyone has different needs, different expectations, and it’s hard to recommend an international program to one who knows exactly what they want, or knows that staying home will get the job done. Still, there is something to be said for personal differentiation.

What should MBA applicants think about when deciding on a school?

The year-long program is great, I would recommend it to anyone, but understand in the beginning how short one year is. International programs present a new culture or language to get accustomed to, and this can take time. Also, as I said, I’m pleased with my experience because I knew from the beginning that I could ask for help. You should feel that comfort with your own choice. 

It’s hard sometimes to consider taking a professional step forward while also recognizing you are now a baby in a new country, but you can learn a lot about yourself and the world in doing so. Go for it!

What stands out from your MIP MBA experience so far?

One thing that stands out in my mind is the week-long trip to Silicon Valley we took at the end of April. We participated in seminars focusing on the different phases of developing and growing a business, we went to Stanford, and visited Google, and met some amazing people.

More generally, towards the end of the program things moved from the theoretical to the practical. We began weekly ‘boot-camps,’ where companies got involved and put us to the test. On a Friday afternoon, Luxottica invited us to their headquarters to present responses to prompts given Monday. 

You can sit in a classroom for too long and begin to think, ‘What’s the point of all this?’ Or, ‘But how does it really work?’ With the boot-camp weeks, these questions were answered in an exciting format.

What are your plans for the future?

I’m open to almost anything after the MBA. To remain in Italy comes with the August vacation, during which I plan to take some time and process everything that’s happening in this last phase of my studies.

I’m currently working on a marketing project with Moleskine, helping out with the first cafe they’ve opened here in Milan. MIP helped in arranging this opportunity and I find it a perfect fit, as well as an exciting challenge.

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