Written By Juan Pablo Quintero, iXperience '15 (Consulting), NYU Stern
I’m still recovering from reverse culture shock. When my Uber arrived to pick me up from JFK airport, I sat down in the driver’s seat – just like I did in my first week in Cape Town where the steering wheel is on the right – and was perplexed by the dashboard lights staring back at me. New York is still my home, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t daydream about hiking Table Mountain and playing with ostriches.
Spending 8 weeks in Cape Town was an unreal experience. When I touched down in surprisingly cool South Africa I didn’t know what to expect – I had purposefully avoided doing any research beforehand so that I could take in the country and culture as I went. The first thing that impacted me was the physical beauty of the city. As we drove into town, one of my fellow iX consultants Phoebe pointed out the names of the three mountains that dominate the Capetonian skyline: Devil’s Peak, Table Mountain, and Lion’s Head (she had done her research). The settlers built Cape Town around the mountains and they can be seen from anywhere in town. Oh, and we were living minutes away from the famous World Cup Stadium and the waterfront. The city is a blessing for Instagrammers.
The next thing I noticed was just how incredibly busy we were going to be. When we arrived, there were letters on our hostel beds instructing us to take the afternoon off because class would be starting the next morning. In the first week, the iX team took us hiking, eating, dancing, and shark cage diving. On top of class. On top of jet lag. There’s never a dull moment in Cape Town – even when we had the opportunity to take the day off, we would get up early and go to the market, or spend the day rock climbing, or skydiving, or some other amazing adventure.
Our instructors Jenny Rae, Collin, and Daniel, were witty, sharp, and kind (a trend I saw in every Bain person I met.) They worked tirelessly to make sure we mastered the material, and on multiple occasions kept us company during our frequent late-night Excel-a-thons. Not only did we learn how to market size, analyze competitors, and evaluate mergers and acquisitions, but we also learned to think critically, and to be comfortable with ambiguity.
I remember our first class when Collin, one of our teaching assistants, tried to scare us by telling us that in a consulting interview, a recruiter could ask questions like: “How many planes take off from the Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport each day?”. We panicked. How were WE supposed to know? After all, we’re students, not plane experts! Turns out, that exact question would be part of our homework the next day, and we would be perfectly qualified to answer it. Within a week, we were assigned a company to work with and we found ourselves doing exactly what we learned for companies like Uber, or Groupon, or Discovery Insurance. Once the course was over, we got to stay on with these companies full-time and refine our skills in the real world.
All in all, iXperience is not for the faint of heart. You will have fun. You will work hard. You will go on adventures that most students only dream of having. An iXperience day is equivalent to a week of regular time – are you ready to gain a year’s worth of wisdom in one summer?