Have you thought of taking a year away from your university and going to another country? It’s a great opportunity to make new friends, live and learn in a different culture and experience a different kind of higher education.
i2i founder, Julia Macmillan, interviewed Tyrone Omojowo about his year out at The Wharton School of Business.
T: Hi, my name is Tyrone. I’m a student at the LSE, the London School of Economics in London, and I’m currently doing a year abroad at the University of Pennsylvania.
J: And what were you studying or what are you majoring in at the LSE?
T: My degree is BSc management, but here in the US I’ve tried to do a bit more finance.
J: Okay, how did this come about? Because this is such a brilliant idea to do a year in another country. How were you offered it? Did you have to apply for a scholarship or how did it all come about?
T: So my university offers this kind of exchange programme university-wide, but this one particularly, with the LSE, to the Wharton School of Business is specifically for the management students. So, I just decided to apply. I think because I would have been graduating this year I was a bit nervous about graduating and starting the world of work. So I thought I’d apply to this exchange programme to make some friends and have an extra year to kind of just study and figure out what I want to do.
J: May ask if it’s paid for or do you have to put the cost to yourself?
T: The LSE does offer some kind of financing for those who may not be able to get all the fees covered personally. And recently, The LSE emailed all of us and said we were eligible for what I think is called the Turing Fund which comes from the UK government for students studying abroad. They’ve recently sent us some funding for the trip which has really helped us all financially.
J: Okay, so those are the logistics. Now tell us when did you arrive and tell us what did you feel like on that trip when the plane was landing? Were you very excited?
T: Yeah, getting ready to fly out, like just a couple of days before it didn’t feel real. It didn’t feel like I was moving countries. And then, when I got into the plane it really sank in. I’m going to have to make a whole bunch of new friends, and I won’t see my friends and family for a while, but I was still really excited. It was the kind of excitement that fights with fear. Yeah, this is like, wow, all these new opportunities and possibilities!
J: And what was it like when you actually arrived? It was Wharton. It’s a very good school, isn’t it? What and what’s it called actually?
T: Wharton School of Business
J:It’s a very prestigious one, isn’t it? What did it feel like to arrive? How did you settle in and when you welcomed and tell us all about that bit?
T: So I arrived a day earlier than we needed to. When we arrived, the school was amazing. Just looking around it is way way different to what I was used to because it’s a campus university. You see all the students coming in with the big trolleys and their families. And I just felt like yeah, there’s so much opportunity to have got to make the most of it. I was really excited to meet people. As soon as I landed, I just wanted to speak to people saying, Hi, how are you? What do you study where you from? I knew no one in the US and was eager to change that.
J: Did you quite quickly make a group of friends?
T: Yes, It was really easy at first because the university organised events based on your situation. For example the year you are in, whether you’re an exchange or international student or part of a sports team e.c.t. So the exchange students and the international students moved in all at the same time. And I found everyone was in the same situation as myself. They came the same day as me or a couple days after, and they were coming from their home countries. The friends I made and kind of my closest friends to date were exchange students from the UK. But I did mix with the other international students. It was quite difficult to make friends with American students, however, because they were kind of separated, as in they moved in a few days after us, and most already had their already established social circles.
J: Were all international students together?
T: Yeah, that was the most difficult part socially was integrating with the Penn students. I think because we joined in our junior year. The US students who were third years or seniors they’ve already been here for three or four years. They have their own friend groups so just naturally you find yourself spending a lot of time with other exchange students. But I think for me, I’m lucky because I’m big on sports. So I quickly joined the rugby team. From joining the rugby team I kind of met a lot of great Penn students of all ages, freshmen, sophomores, seniors and juniors, which changed my experience drastically. And I found myself getting along with freshmen more just because they were also new to UPenn and looking to make friends. But I think, with the older guys who already had their friend circles, it was a bit more difficult. Like they were all great guys and super fun to hang out with but they often will have other commitments such as fraternities, academic stuff e.t.c.
J: I’m surprised they had a rugby team. I didn’t think they did any rugby. Is that quite unusual?
T: Americans are really big on sport. In the universities, the varsity teams are taken very seriously, you’ll even see them play on TV or in the news. Club sports however are a bit more relaxed. So club rugby is more casual and more for fun and leisure. I think rugby is up and coming in America. A lot of the universities do have rugby teams, but they’re a bit smaller and not as big as more popular sports such as American Football. But it’s still been a great experience. I’ve got to travel to Boston, to Ithaca, and all around the US to play rugby. And hopefully, we will get the chance to play a rugby tournament over on the west coast in LA before we leave.
J: So when are you coming back to the UK?
T: So I’m coming back at the end of June.
J:Right. Okay, so it’s almost a whole Yeah, you’ll have been away.
T: Yeah, almost a year. I have not been back since I arrived, I’ve spent all the holidays including Christmas here.
J: So the academic side so did you have choices of what modules you could do? You said you wanted to do more finance. Did you choose that as a main subject?
T: SO I have to take two classes in the Wharton School of Business. But other than that, I’m flexible to kind of choose my other classes, I can choose up to 5 units so roughly 5 classes. So I’ve kind of kept most of mine to do with finance and business because I just kind of want to make sure I’m learning about stuff I think I will use in my carrere. But I do have some friends that have taken the two classes in Wharton and the chosen drama or psychology classes, which are completely different to their degrees.
J: I think correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the American system is much more open to studying more things. Whereas I think the UK system I don’t know what your experience at the LSE was was much more focused on that one thing that you’ve chosen to study, you don’t have all the options is that right?
T: Yeah, it’s confusing because you have an area of expertise, but then you don’t focus immediately so you can choose classes that are outside of that. As long as you’re fulfilling a certain amount of compulsory modules. But then, at any point you can drift away and say, maybe want to focus on this area instead or change. So with me because I’m doing business. I was choosing classes from marketing to finance, psychology, and accounting, so I could just choose my own classes rather than being told these are the classes you have to take. And it’s a lot different from what I’m used to at the LSE. Most of the modules last for the whole year. Here, all the classes are only one semester only.
J: I see a very different actually quite different system. How do you think you’ll find it going back to the LSE?
T: I think I might find it difficult going back to the LSE just because I really enjoyed the teaching style here. At the LSE you learn for your exam, which is either the end of the first term or the end of the year. Here, examinations are much more frequent and take a variety of forms.
J: Is it like you have to do an essay every two weeks? Or is it more like an exam you’ll get tested on questions?
T: No, it’s really different. So here, the course teacher, the professor, is completely in control of how you’re examined. In some of my classes, I’ll have a quiz every two or three weeks, or in other classes it’s completely group work where every three weeks I’ll have a group submission. But there’s a lot of case studies. So unlike the UK where you get a lot of theory, here you’ll get a case from say, a past company to work on. So I feel that’s a lot more interesting because these are actual stories, an actual business situation that you find yourself in, and you’ve got to find the answers yourself.
J: How interesting. Tell me about the social life and what about these famous American sororities and fraternities? Were you part of that or was that not for international students? Well, how does social life happen in American universities?
T: It’s really different. I’m not used to being in a campus university. So coming here you just see a whole bunch of events happening every day. I can’t join a fraternity because I’m only here for one year. It starts in your freshman year. There’s all these events at the beginning of the semester: parties, dinners, talks, and you can just go to the events and meet the “brothers”/”sisters” at the fraternities/sororities and you get to know them. and each sorority or fraternity has its own vibe. You know, some are very international, some very, like party orientated, some very business and education oriented. So you kind of get to feel the vibes at each of them. So if you’ve met the right people, you’ll get to some more exclusive events. Then eventually you are offered a place and go through the joining process.
J: It’s not just open to everybody?
T: It could feel like that but I think it’s more case of getting to know people and figuring out which suits you. You wouldn’t want to join a fraternity or sorority where you don’t really have anything in common with the members there. So it’s just finding what’s the best fit for you. The events happen all the time, like every week there’s going to be a different event because there are so many different fraternities or sororities. And although sometimes events won’t be open to all, it’s not completely exclusive, even if you’re not in the fraternity or sorority, you can get an invite from a member. This isn’t anything like what you would be used to with UK university societies.
J: There’s more of a social aspect?
T: Yeah, I’d say the fraternities and sororities are more of a lifestyle. Like these are the people you live with, they are referred to as “Brothers” and “sisters” . These are the people you eat with, party with, study with. It’s like, way more involved at every level than you’d get with societies at a UK university.
J: You’re an international exchange student. Were you able to take part in those events, or only if they’re open ones?
T: Yeah. So I wasn’t able to join a frat as an exchange student, but I was able to kind of go to the events like the parties, maybe sometimes the date nights because I’ve got friends in some of the houses so they invite me. And they’re a lot more open because I’m an exchange student.
J: Maybe this isn’t the case anymore, but is having an English accent quite an attractive thing in America?
T: I think having an English accent in the US really makes you stand out. You’d just be talking casually on the phone with your friends and someone would turn around and say “oh you English?”, I’d say yeah and from there a conversation is born.
J: And do you think that you would personally like to go back and work in the US after you’ve graduated?
T: Yeah, I definitely consider working in the US. But still personally, London is best for me. I think I’m still quite not used to the US yet, just because of how big the US is. So I’d definitely consider that but I think my preference would still be the UK, because that’s home for me.
J: To sum up, what did you like best about this experience?
T:I think the thing that I liked the best was the international aspect, because you’re surrounded by so many exchange students. I’ve now got friends everywhere in the world. Yeah, and we had kind of a little lecture when we first joined. And what stood out to you was one of the speakers said when you complete your year here, you will have friends in every corner of the globe. And I was like well that’s gonna be crazy. And now I’m here planning trips to Copenhagen, Tokyo and Sydney!
J:So what’s the internship you applied for when you’re back in the UK in the summer?
T:It’s Morgan Stanley.
J: And what will you be doing for Morgan Stanley?
T: It’s risk analysis. I’ll do that from June 14 for 10 weeks.
J: Good luck with everything, Tyrone!
T: Thanks, Julia!