What attracts graduates from top universities in Southeast Asia to take a Master’s degree at ESSEC’s Asia-Pacific campus in Singapore?

For Filipinos, Ma Patricia Sol Gamilla and Adriel Ronald Caumban, who graduated from De La Salle University and Ateneo de Manila University, respectively, attending a prestigious school meant a relatively smooth path to the workforce.

Patricia found employment at a consulting firm, while Adriel worked in IT and financial services. To both of them, a Master’s degree was initially deemed unnecessary.

“I’d say it’s fifty-fifty,” Adriel muses. “People from the Philippines might take a master’s only when they want to change industries or take on a managerial position. Even then, the budget is a big constraint, so the preference is usually for local programs.”

Accessing a Global World

True to his words, as Adriel’s and Patricia’s ambitions grew, the pair found their way to ESSEC Asia-Pacific’s Master in Strategy and Management of International Business (SMIB).

One of the first things they noticed was that the internationally diverse group was apart from their undergraduate days when the students were mainly locals.

“I liked being able to interact with people from India, Europe, and Asia, to hear their different perspectives and to share my Filipino way of thinking,” says Adriel, who received an Academic Excellence Scholarship to come to ESSEC.

He adds that these views added to the knowledge gained from his philosophy and marketing classes to give him a depth of perspective he had yet to have as an undergraduate.

For Patricia, who began her Master’s degree to improve her business acumen and prepare to join her family’s business, the international exposure was perfect: “I was able to gain insights about how businesses are run in a global environment and learn from people with different backgrounds and cultures,” she explains.

Empowered by a United Community

Being part of a smaller cohort was also a boon, Durga Gopalan adds. When doing her undergraduate degree at the National University of Singapore, the sheer number of students made it easy to blend in with the crowd.

But by pursuing the SMIB degree at ESSEC, “I was able to take the lead in organizing activities for the entire school, which helped me build my leadership capabilities,” she says.

Patricia adds that the smaller community also means that ESSEC prefers to hold guest talks with individual speakers instead of large seminars so students can network more intimately.

“During these talks, many alumni returned to share about their different industries and the work they do, which gave us exposure and understanding of the opportunities we might have,” Durga chimes in.

Some alumni even return to support the new cohorts through an official mentorship program available exclusively to SMIB Asia-Pacific students. As Adriel had expressed an interest in consulting, he was paired with a mentor who could offer advice.

“Besides helping me understand the job market, my mentor also passed my resume to different people, which eventually led to me getting an internship in digital marketing,” he says.

Equipped Through Learning By Doing

Durga notes that this career support worked with ESSEC’s learning-by-doing approach to help students prepare for the working world.

Experiences such as the Asian Strategy Challenge, where she was paired with Heineken to solve real-world business challenges, deepened her understanding of data analytics and supply chain management in a business context and taught volumes about conducting client meetings and giving presentations—all of which add to her portfolio and attractiveness as a job-seeker, she says.

Although Patricia had worked on similar projects back in De La Salle, the fact that her undergraduate degree was in IT meant that these assignments were highly technical.

“At ESSEC, I was constantly placed in situations where I had to work on projects unfamiliar to me—from doing a market research report for a sports retailer to supply chain work for the fragrances and cosmetics industry,” she recalls.

These projects are valuable exposure, but perhaps even more critical for Adriel, Durga, and Patricia, they breed confidence—confidence that no matter how large the world may be, they, like other ESSEC master’s program graduates, are more than ready to conquer.