Should You Ditch Backpacking For Business School?

International travel, a new network of friends—and all while studying to boost your career. Do dual degree master's programs offer a better alternative to a gap year?

When it comes to routes to self-discovery, the gap year is certainly the one that gets the most press. Donning colorful pants and backpacking across Europe or Asia is a popular choice for young professionals who need time to soul-search about what career to pursue.

But hostel-surfing on a different continent is not the only option for those who want to learn about themselves in an international environment, and many ambitious young professionals are now opting instead for double degree master’s programs.


Satisfy your desire to travel

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“At the beginning of my studies, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do,” recalls Sophia von Feilitzsch, a dual degree master’s student at ESADE Business School in Barcelona.

“I thought that two years would give me more international exposure and work experience, and the chance to get inspired.”

Sophia’s dual degree in International Management gave her the opportunity to travel internationally, undergoing a study tour to San Francisco in the USA and studying for a year at Tsinghua University in China.

Experiencing two drastically different business environments as part of the same learning experience has been invaluable. 

"I learned a lot about different cultures and expanded my network a lot," she says.

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Nuria Gómez Hilari is another dual-degree ESADE student who has benefited from the international study options available on her program, but in a very different format.

Rather than opting to spend a full year in another country, Nuria kept a firm base in Barcelona, instead making excursions to other countries as part of her combined Master’s in Marketing Management at ESADE and CEMS Master's in Management.

She spent a week at one of the top universities in Brazil on a study tour, as well as spending time at Aalto University in Finland.

“On top of [my time at] these universities I was also working with quite big companies,” Nuria adds. “I had the opportunity to work with one of the leading companies in the Finnish market, one of the biggest contributors to the Finnish economy.”

With these companies, Nuria and her classmates undertook project-based learning that was derived from real cases, an experience that she was used to from her time at ESADE.

“That was something I was able to bring back—the structure and methodology [of doing business],” she says.


A head start in work

Both for Sophia and for Nuria, these international learning experiences have blossomed directly into international careers post-MiM.

Sophia found her job in consulting through ESADE’s corporate network—“The company contacted me and asked me to apply with them, they were really proactive,” she says.

“That’s what’s really good about ESADE: they have a lot of corporate partners, and companies really want you to work for them and interview with them.”

Nuria agrees; after her MiM, she was able to use the connections she’d made abroad to start an international career.

“My first step after the Master’s in International Management was that I wanted to stay in the company I had done the project with in Finland,” she recalls.

“By talking to the people there and doing an application I ended up in Singapore working on a marketing internship [with them]—it was an amazing opportunity to do totally different stuff.”


Discovering what’s possible

But a dual degree is not just about discovering which niche of the corporate world you would best fit into—it can also be a springboard to other career paths.

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Maïté Lauby is a current student at ESADE, who after completing her Master’s in International Management doubled up her degree with a Master’s in Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Although she didn’t initially plan on studying for a double degree, when Maïté caught the entrepreneurship bug in her first year, it turned out to be a great way to explore her newfound passion.

On study tours to Hong Kong and San Francisco’s Silicon Valley, Maïté got to network with executives and prominent business leaders like the cofounder of the brand North Face. She says the degree has opened her mind to the options that are out there for her in the world of work.

“Before starting at ESADE, I would never have thought of myself as a potential entrepreneur,” she says. “Now, it seems very tangible and feasible to launch my own venture.”

For young professionals looking to find their way in the world of work, it’s clear that the options are manifold—with a double degree, you could not only ‘find yourself’, you could find a new passion, and even a new career.