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May 2017 I turned in my last class project, took my last college exam, and graduated from Yale. Just one week later, I was back in the classroom. I am one of only a few graduated seniors studying here at iXperience, and while it is definitely an awesome opportunity for any summer of college, I think it’s particularly nice studying here in Cape Town as a recent college grad for a couple of reasons.
First, because I was lucky enough to secure a job before coming to Cape Town, I am able to enjoy all of the amazing things to do here without having to worry about class rankings, getting placed in the top internship, or really impressing my boss in just four weeks. Of course, I still put my best foot forward everyday and completed all my work to the best of my ability, but without that little bit of added pressure I’ve felt more freedom to fully explore all aspects of the program - attending workshops, going on hikes, and just generally filling up every day with another amazing Cape Town excursion.
Moreover, being slightly more experienced, I’ve been able to share advice and some of the lessons I’ve learned with my classmates. I’ll be starting my job at Altman Vilandrie & Co., a consulting firm based in Boston, in a few months and I went through the whole consulting interview process last year, so I am very familiar with how to best prepare for both case interviews and behavioral questions. Several students in the iX consulting class have asked me about my experience, and I’ve been able to pass on some helpful tips about the interview questions I faced and how I approached and answered them. It’s really nice not only to be on the other side of recruiting, but also to be able to give back and help my classmates, like so many others helped me. Many of those conversations have also been the start to great friendships.
On the flip side, the advice and mentorship I’ve received here has been incredible. If I didn’t already have a job lined up, this would be a great place to get connected – iXperience really can accelerate your career. I’ve had direct access to the Chief Operating Officer at AWA Digital, an Accenture Director with 28 years of experience, the head of the development arm of Barclays Africa, and the CEOs of two education start-ups. I’ve made a point to spend time with each of these people, asking questions and absorbing the lessons they impart. I’m about to launch my life in the real world, and there is no better time to have access to this trove of information and advice, tips that have already changed the way I think about going into my job and that will certainly impact the rest of my career.
In the end though, the differences between my younger classmates and me are minimal at best. All the students at iXperience are so welcoming and inviting of everyone that I often forget I’m a few years older. One of the best friends I’ve made here hasn’t even started college yet, making him a full 4 years younger than myself, but it’s easy to forget that when we’re just hanging out at a bar on Long Street (the 18 year old drinking age and his full beard help blend the age gap).
I came to iXperience for a few reasons – to learn more about Product Management and decide if it’s a career path I want to pursue down the road (it is!), to see the beauty of Cape Town, the city that has been number one on my list of places to visit for as long as I can remember, and to get valuable work experience at a startup doing cool things. What I have found most valuable, however, is the people I’ve met and the relationships I’ve formed, and that doesn’t change no matter what class you’re in. In fact, for me personally, I wouldn’t have been able to fully benefit from this incredible network a few years ago. As I’ve matured, I’ve opened up, and it’s allowed me to take advantage of my time with the amazing people here. From that 18 year old Australian to my incredible Product Management teacher (who practices full contact karate and catches venomous snakes on the side), from my diverse roommates who come from all over the US and are all studying different things to my fellow interns at Barclays Aliens, and from Rafi to Aaron, the people here are what make the experience.
I’ve made connections here that will last well beyond this summer and well beyond South Africa, and I’m so glad that I decided to get on a plane just five days after graduation and travel halfway across the world to get back in the classroom.