Amrita Deb chose the Master of Science in Business Administration (MScBA) degree at TIAS, a top business school in the Netherlands. She explains why she preferred an MScBA over MBA, what it meant to be an international student in the Netherlands, and how studying and working there is different.
Life as an international student in the Netherlands
MScBA vs MBA Differences
by Amrita Deb
I started my career working with an IT- firm. After 2 years of work as a Technical consultant, I changed function to become a pre-sales consultant. During my journey as a Pre-sales consultant I realized, I love to interact with people.
I also realized the need to enhance my skills in order to add further value to clients. That was when I decided I should go for a degree in Business Administration.
Universities all over the globe provide a flood of business degrees and opportunities. To choose one from them that suits you and your objective is a challenging task.
I wanted to experience life in Europe and work there for a few years of my life. So my first preference in looking for business schools was in Europe.
I did not consider the traditional options in USA because management master didn’t fall under STEM degrees and I figured out that it might get a little tricky after graduation to find a job.
In Europe, I shortlisted the Netherlands and Germany because in 2015/16 almost until now the economy in Northern Europe was doing better than most of the other nations.
I talked to friends and learned that the work culture and work-life balance is very good in this part of Europe. So I started shortlisting business schools on the basis of their FT rankings.
The Netherlands was still in my priority because 70 percent of the people in the Netherlands speak English.
So I started shortlisting schools from the Netherlands.
RSM, TIAS and Nyenrode are the schools I selected. I was confused regarding the program I wanted to enroll for.
For example, all of these three universities provide a traditional MBA as well as Master of Science in Business Administration.
I sent an email to all the three schools. TIAS was the first to respond followed by RSM. I later requested them for more information on the programs.
Finally, I decided to apply for the MSc-BA program because of the preparatory courses, course content of the entire program, the specialization options (change management and business analytics) and the program format.
Differences between an MScBA vs MBA
The main differences between MScBA (Master of Science in Business Administration) and MBA (Masters in Business Administration) are as follows:
MScBA is preferable for students having around 3 years of work experience and the average age of the class is less than that of MBA.
The class has a mix of students fresh out of their bachelor as well as students who have experience of corporate life.
Msc-BA covers the base from a basic level so that you have a solid foundation and allows you to focus on your area of specialization like Business Analytics, Change Management, Investment Management, Marketing and Entrepreneurship.
One major difference between the MSc-BA curriculum and MBA is thesis writing. This is the most important part of MSc-BA having substantial credits.
This thesis is helpful for students wanting to pursue a Ph.D. as a later option. MBA students get to work on a live project with a firm.
Selecting the right MScBA program
The top institutes that offer MSc-BA degrees are TIAS, RSM and Nyenrode.
The Maastricht University in the Netherlands also provides a Master of science degree in combination with other Engineering degrees but the course curriculum is 2 years. They also offer a Master in Management (MIM) program with a 1-year duration.
My top concern was over-representation of my profile. Since I already had around 4 years of experience I was skeptical if my profile matches with the class profile.
In fact, during my interview, I was asked: “Why did I choose Msc-BA and not MBA?”
I followed MBA Crystal Ball blogs religiously. Reading different articles on different programs and universities was very helpful for my search.
I also posted my queries on MCBs own profile evaluation form. The quick and prompt reply helped a lot in my own preparation.
I appeared for the GMAT. My first time was a total failure and the second time was above 600. The third time I scored 650.
For preparation into GRE or GMAT, I enrolled in Magoosh (online platform). I would have taken another attempt with my GMAT score but I realized this score should get me into MScBa as the score bar is little less than what it is for an MBA.
I applied to three programs in total, all in the Netherlands. During my application procedure, I talked with current students and alumni. I found out that TIAS and Erasmus have a better international mix than Nyenrode.
Nyenrode is also an established brand in the Netherlands but the general culture in the business school is Dutch.
I found communicating and connecting with TIAS to be easier than with other business schools.
The interview lasted for around 45 mins. Before the interview, they asked me to prepare a 2-minute presentation about myself.
Most of the questions were about my introduction and what kind of work I did.
I think the most important part of the interview was “Give me three reasons why you should have a seat in the MscBA classroom?”
It took them approximately two weeks to share the results.
For the scholarships, I applied by writing an essay on women in leadership. I got 20 percent of the tuition fees as scholarship.
Experience in the class
Well, I had a mix experience in the beginning in finding out my tribe and trying to mix with the diverse crowd.
Though I am an extrovert and had cross-cultural experience, I had difficulties in the beginning. The classroom was very diverse, representing 22 nationalities, diverse educational backgrounds (like fashion, humanities, technology, finance) and ages (22 to 32).
Sometimes I had problems understanding their accents and other times they had problems understanding mine.
During lunch, I was surrounded by bread, cheese, beef, pork, chicken and fish. I didn’t know what to try and how to mix them.
But it didn’t take me long to realize that Dutch bread is delicious and they have some of the best cheese in the world.
Within a few weeks, I started making friends and my first friend in the class is an Indonesian girl. Now I have a gang of girlfriends to hang out, thanks to my school.
The best part of my experience was the small groups that we were divided into. These small groups worked together to solve business cases along with professors.
It did not feel like a class of 120 people rather it felt like a small private tutor session. The groups were changed very often which gave me opportunities to know my classmates and work with people from diverse cultural background.
I challenged and pushed myself more to come up and share my ideas. This taught me to value and respect other people’s opinions.
We had a whole module for Personal Career Development tutored by one of the famous and highly reputed coaches in the industry.
One more point I want to mention is that each student had a personal coach and we had one to one sessions discussing our strengths and weakness. I personally found this very very helpful.
Internship and Placements in the Netherlands
I had an internship with Atos immediately after finishing my masters. The internship was provided from TIAS via an alumnus.
In the Netherlands, you will have one year as your search visa after you graduate. You can also avail that within 3 years after graduation.
Regarding job search, career labs by the school have been particularly helpful. Every job market has its own resume style.
TIAS helped me with customizing my resume to each job application. One more addition to my resume is the cover letter.
A cover letter is to explain why are you interested in the job. Writing a cover letter was really challenging for me because I was not used to writing cover letters while job hunting in India.
My classmates reviewed my cover letters before I sent them and provided useful insights.
Working in the Netherlands
After MSc-BA I started off with Atos. There I got to apply the basics of digital marketing that I learned during my program.
On the job, the experience I gained in the Dutch working atmosphere was my biggest learning.
Atos is a Dutch IT firm and all the people in my team (Marketing and Sales) were European. We had Indians in the company but mostly in IT.
The best part of my masters in the PCDP (personal career development program). During one to one sessions with my coach, I realized that I wanted to help others and I wanted to be an entrepreneur.
Currently, I am on my entrepreneurship journey. I am building my network in schools across Europe to provide them a platform to connect to students and vice-versa .
Working in the Netherlands is different from working in India. The basic difference being people start working early at 8 am and end the day off by 5 pm (by 6 pm the shops and malls will be closed).
In India I have often worked on Saturdays, here people strictly do not work on the weekends.
People are very punctual and they will expect you to be on time if you have an appointment. Last minute cancellation is highly undesirable.
In general, salaries are less and taxes high, compared to USA. However, I feel that societal benefits are superior.
Since traveling by public transport is expensive, companies bear the employee’s travel expense and this is not counted as part of your salary.
The Lunch culture: The Dutch will have a quick lunch (mostly bread and cheese). Unlike India, the lunch-time is very short 20 to 30 mins.
The overall standard of living is very high and the government has a standardized salary slab for the different level of education and type of profession.
Unlike in India, probability of a colleague becoming your friend is less. They are professional, helpful and direct in communication.
In my free time, I like to travel around the Netherlands or neighboring countries like Germany, Belgium or just take a walk in the woods. I blog in my spare time (@deb.rhea) and run a woman-oriented support group by the name Naree in India.
Leaving a well-settled life in India and starting all over again was the biggest challenge that I have taken and I am glad that I decided to do it. This journey completely changed my life and perspective.
I have made amazing friends worldwide, known and experienced cultures that I had only read about, in books.
Given a chance, I would do that again.
If you are an international aspirant targetting European programs, please thorough research about the culture of the country you choose and how friendly it is to expats.
Also, it is important to talk with alumni to know life after graduation.
Studying abroad is a life-changing experience. Go for it!
– Living and working in the Netherlands as an expat