A BPE Year in Review: Are BPE Students Taking a Gap Year?

At the end of the day, the BPE year abroad is not the recruiting bogeyman that it can be made out to be.

By Prabhav Kamojjhala

There are a good number of shared experiences between the Business & Political Economy (BPE) students. Whether it be jokes about the strenuous introductory class or talking about studying abroad, there is one theme that emerges in each BPE Class – “are you dropping?” The idea of studying abroad both attracted and repelled students to the program. The question, however, is whether the concerns surrounding study abroad are merely overstated or if BPE students are functionally taking a “gap” year studying abroad for a year. 

For students that are thinking of recruiting for traditionally competitive fields like consulting and corporate finance, the concept of a year abroad bears the potential of sabotaging career prospects. Considering the appeal of continuing involvements with clubs on campus or building a network in Stern, the concerns surrounding BPE do carry some degree of merit. By spending an entire year abroad, one partially forgoes the opportunities to interview for clubs as a sophomore and may miss out on professional networking in the city. This has caused students to drop out of the BPE program on a yearly basis. 

Beyond concerns about the experience, it goes without saying that there are some circumstances where the BPE program falls short for those looking at other educational paths as well. One first-year cited a desire for an OPT eligible degree (a degree for a STEM field that grants three extra years of residence in the US) as a key driver behind their decision to drop out. “I think BPE is a great program and I’d love to stay but it’s just not practical to.” 

The University does try to be cognizant of these concerns. Professor Gian Luca Clementi, the Academic Director of the BPE program stated that “[w]e are working with the university toward solutions that will alleviate some of those challenges and will update students as soon as we are able.” Every semester, members of the BPE community work with Professor Clementi and other members of the administration to organize networking events specific to BPE students and alumni. While such events may not change the nature of the BPE degree itself, they do allow students to have a support system that makes their academic and professional journeys easier to navigate.  

At the same time, the vision and curriculum of the program do inspire many to stay and define the experiences of students in the program. “It really wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say I came to NYU for BPE” says Ryan Soo, a first-year student from Princeton, NJ. “I came for the synergistic and holistic approach BPE takes when exploring business which I believe is connected deeply with our lives and the world on many different levels.” At the heart of the program lies a different lens to view the world with – one which never feels like a bad case of tunnel vision. “Studying abroad allows students to more fully grasp that all humans are fundamentally alike no matter where they were born or live and appreciate how social norms, political and economic institutions, as well as standards of professional conduct differ across countries” says Professor Clementi. 

Having gone through the entire year abroad, multiple classes of BPE students have still gone on to work for big firms in traditional industries. Moreover, many seniors have also gone into exciting areas like financial access research and social enterprises. While the transition back into life in New York is not without its hiccups, I found that there were some truly successful cases. Whitney Dankworth, a junior in the BPE program and the President of the Stern Student Council, stated that “it wasn’t always easy, and coming back to a leadership position in Student Council definitely helped, but I wouldn’t trade my experience abroad for the world”. 

At the end of the day, the BPE year abroad is not the recruiting bogeyman that it can be made out to be. While it may not be for everybody, for those that have gone through the program, the experience is nothing short of transformational. 

 

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