Cross border experience

To SBE, its international focus is key. Talkin’ Business talks to students coming to SBE from abroad, SBE students about their exchange experiences in other countries, SBE graduates now working around the world and others with a special international story to tell. Suzan Verheggen and Bart Diris tell us about their cross-border experiences.

Suzan Verheggen and Bart Diris, on a visit to New York City

Suzan Verheggen, who is currently following the Financial Economics master’s programme at SBE, and her boyfriend Bart Diris an SBE PhD student, are now in the USA.

After obtaining her bachelor’s degree in Econometrics & Operations Research at SBE, Suzan gained her MSc degree in Econometrics here last summer. This academic year, she is spending a semester at the International Business School of Brandeis University, and plans to finish her Financial Economics master next summer. During her bachelor’s programme she spent her exchange period in the autumn of 2007 at Sciences Po in France. “I chose to go to Sciences Po during my bachelor’s because besides learning French and living in Paris, I wanted to gain a broader perspective of economics by combining it with politics,” she says.

International diversity

Suzan chose Brandeis for her second period abroad largely because of its renowned business school, but also for the international diversity of its students.  “The business school is a close and relatively small community,” she explains, “with around 400 students. I enjoy going to IBS every day, and doing teamwork with fellow students on cases. I’m really enjoying it here. IBS is a really international place – from the 200 incoming students this year, only 45 are from the USA, around 40 students have come from China and the rest have come from countries all over the world.”

“The professors here usually have another job in the business world; they are really driven people, and sometimes entertaining too. A minus point is that most exchange students aren’t very happy with their on-campus housing. Many have decided to move, and are living off-campus in Waltham or Boston.” Suzan tells that Alex, a fellow student from Maastricht University, did choose to live in the dorms, and found that after a good clean it was fine, but it was not for her and Bart. “We live off-campus in Somerville, and I travel 15 minutes by train to Brandeis.”

Expanding horizons

She is impressed by the high quality of the lessons at IBS. “They’re also extremely varied, and a lot of use is made of Harvard business cases,” she says. “From a quantitative point of view, I find Maastricht clearly better, but having obtained a more quantitative background in terms of statistics and mathematics SBE with Econometrics, I’m now expanding my horizons into the finance field. We’re spending a lot of time on the current financial crisis in our classes here. We analyze the financial products such as credit derivatives that have been developed over the last years and whose risks have been mis-priced or misunderstood by many investors.” Her new studies seem to have had a big influence on her future plans. “I plan to work in the financial industry,” she tells us, “and as my two experiences of studying abroad have been very positive, I’d like to have an international job.”


Bart and Suzan enjoying ice hockey at Boston’s TD Garden

Bart gained both his BSc and MSc degrees in Econometrics and Operations Research at SBE. During his first degree he went to the University of California at Berkeley on a Bachelor Exchange in the autumn of 2004. “I chose UC at Berkeley, because it’s a top university, they offered interesting economics courses and I wanted to study in the US for a semester,” he says. “During my BSc in Maastricht, I mainly followed econometrics and mathematics courses. I used my stay in Berkeley to follow more general economics courses. San Francisco is one of the nicest cities I have ever been to, but my friends and family live in Maastricht.”

Good feedback

In his research for his PhD in financial econometrics, Bart is analyzing how long-term investors such as pension funds choose their investment portfolios. He’s now spending a semester from August through December at the economics department at Harvard University. “My faculty sponsor, supporting my application to spend a semester here, is Professor John Campbell,” he tells us. “A large part of my research is based his work, which is why I applied to come to Harvard. A few weeks ago I presented my newest research in an internal seminar, and got very good feedback from him.”

Bart explains that Harvard, like SBE, has a very international environment. “I find it very interesting to get to know people from all over the world,” he says. “It’s also very beneficial for my studies to get the perspectives and opinions of different people, especially if they are experts in their field as they are here at Harvard.” He will be returning to Maastricht and SBE in January, and expects to complete his PhD in 2010. “I very much enjoy doing research at the intersection of finance and econometrics,” he concludes, “so I hope to find a future job that involves research as well, either at a university, which is most likely, or at a financial institution.”

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