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Breaking out of the booth bubble: a summer survival guide

By William Lee '14  |  april, 2014, Issue 1
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William Lee '14 at a technology Meetup.

Last summer, while most of my classmates moved to Booth magnets like New York, San Francisco and Washington, I went to an unlikely location: Bogotá, Colombia. Just three people from my class had internships in this city of 8 million. I thought I was special in choosing a place off the beaten path, but actually I was far from the only adventurous spirit. 16% of current second-years went to cities with three or fewer classmates last summer.

If you're doing the business school equivalent of "roughing it" this summer, here are some suggestions:

Go broad at your workplace. When you're in a setting that doesn't have many MBAs, you probably will have a loosely defined role. Look for opportunities to make an impact on your firm in novel ways. Last summer I worked at a taxi startup, and my ostensible role was researching technologies to improve its operations. In eleven weeks I not only fulfilled that assignment but product-managed a mobile app, designed and implemented backend-operations software and recruited technical talent. The last task took me to Meetups that were conducted completely in the local language. Since I barely remembered my high school Spanish, I really had to step out of my comfort zone. I never did master the translation for "cross-browser compatibility", but I did learn the ways that professionals network in emerging markets. By finding ways to evolve past my job description, I gained much more than I expected at the start of the internship.

Go deep into the Booth bubble. Going somewhere that has just a handful of Booth students and alumni is a wonderful way to know its community well. Before I moved to Bogotá, I vaguely knew two other Boothies that would be spending the summer there. Over two months I met them a number of times, and we became good friends. I also asked faculty and Alumni Affairs to introduce me to active alumni in Bogotá. I was warmly accepted into the Booth network in Colombia, and I'm glad to know that I can reach out to them without hesitation the next time I travel down there.

Then break out of it. The most rewarding part of the summer was exploring the vast world that has no connection to Booth. My colleagues and I enjoyed Bogotá's burgeoning dining scene, visited a wine expo and spent a weekend at a ranch outside the city. I took the cultural immersion a step further and joined a Spanish-English language exchange program. My partner, who attended university, introduced me to a vibrant student culture. Through a website for travelers, I found people to join me on expeditions to unique places and events. (A night out at a rock concert got me featured on local TV!)

My biggest takeaway from last summer was that when you aren't firmly entrenched in a familiar network, you have the freedom to form new connections and view the world in unexpected ways. Wherever you find yourself this summer, seek opportunities to break out of the "Booth bubble" mindset.

Last Updated 4/14/14
Last Updated 4/14/14