Getting an acceptance letter from one of the best business schools in the world is not easy. At Fuqua School of Business, Duke University, there are only two Indonesians currently enrolled as students. In this article, Winny talked about her struggle to get through Fuqua’s selection process. She also shared her experience joining an exchange program in Chile while taking a Master’s of Business Administration (MBA), and her plans after graduation.
Why do you think there are only a few Indonesian students—and it’s not in every year—at Fuqua?
Getting an acceptance letter from Fuqua is difficult. It is very competitive. Other than a high IELTS score, your GMAT score should also be high. They check your application very carefully, from your professional background and essays to interview, and so on. I think that kind of requirement often overwhelm people.
You will be graduating soon. What would be your suggestion for the other Indonesians who want to study at Fuqua?
First of all, surround yourself with people who are ambitious and who have the same goals as you. It is hard, but it is doable. It’s just a question of whether you want to or not and whether you are willing to put extra time on top of your work to finish the application process or not. I’m not going to lie. It’s going to be tough. It takes a lot of self-reflection, especially when you are writing the application essays.
Secondly, determine what your motivation is and what do you want to achieve in life. You should reflect on what your short-term and long term goals are. Don’t just do an MBA because other people do it. The right motivation will take you far along your application journey and during the two-year program. My motivation was two-fold: to equip me with necessary business skills for me to advance my career and to expand my professional network. If you do not have the right motivation, everything will fill like a burden. I mentioned that the process is not easy, but it should not be a burden. You should embrace the difficulties and you can do this if you have the right motivation. Once you get the right motivation, you are good.
Last but not least, find a mentor. I met my mentor when I was in Singapore. He did an MBA too. Every time I had difficulties in the selection process, he would help me.
How important is it to have a mentor during the application process?
I think it is important to know people who understand the benefits of an MBA and who have a lot of related experiences, so they can tell you what to do if you encounter any issues during the application. Try to find someone who recently graduated from MBA school or still an MBA student who can be your buddy as well. They can remind you, have you taken your GMAT, have you completed your essays, or have you finished the list of business schools that you want to go, and so on.
I think when you do your research on business schools, you should also reach out to Indonesian students or alumni. It will help a long way for you to determine which schools that would potentially be a good fit. If you are unable to find any Indonesian students or alumni, try to reach out to Southeast Asian network. I felt energized every time I talked to them, and that helped me to reduce my stress since at least I knew that a lot of people were trying to help me, and they also understand the difficulties that I was facing. So yes, talking to mentors and alumni helps a lot.
I believe you learned a lot during your time studying at Fuqua. You even participated in an exchange program in Chile — can you talk more about it?
The exchange program I did in Chile was a ton of fun. The program is open for all second-year studentsat Fuqua. I purposely chose Chile because first of all, I have never been to South America. Secondly, the program that I wanted to take, Management of Foresights, is only available in Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile which is the best university in Chile.
Management of Foresights is basically strategy class. Among other things, I learned how to formulate a business strategy for the long term. I think the biggest takeaway is to learn how to identify your stakeholder or customers’ need even before they realize that they have those needs which was very fascinating. Another interesting experience is that I got a chance to meet many new people from around the world, such as Australia and South Africa. I was amazed with the diversity of the class. It was four and a half days, and I got four credits. The class was from 8 am to 8 pm.
I got a chance to travel here and there when in Chile. It was really fun. I visited one of the most beautiful lakes I have ever seen in my life: Cajon del Maipo. Chilean people are very friendly and warm. They did not hesitate to share with me and other students about their culture and history by taking us to some of cultural places in Santiago.
The educational system is a little bit different compared to the system here in the U.S.
I learned to have a more worldly point of view. I learned more about South America, especially their economy which has grown tremendously in the past ten years. I have a deeper understanding of the history and also the background of the South American countries. I think a lot of business schools are doing this kind of exchange program. And for me, it gives a competitive advantage for the schools and for the students who participate in the program.
Now let’s talk about your plans after graduation. What is the next step after Fuqua?
I was fortunate to secure an internship with McKinsey in Jakarta that allowed me to return to Indonesia for the summer between the two years of my program. I will be returning to McKinsey full-time after graduation. I am excited to gain more consulting experience and utilize my working experience in investment banking in the past. Both of these skills will serve me well as I try to develop Tatoen, my startup. I hope I will get a chance to learn about project management and to handle very diverse clients, be exposed to many industries and so on. I feel that it is a piece that I want to put in my life puzzle.