Living Entrepreneurship Blog / Global & Multicultural

How much freedom do you want in a classroom?

Post by Karla Chavez Hernandez, who reflects on the differences between Babson’s classroom culture and the classroom culture at Bocconi University in Milan, Italy. Click here to learn about the many opportunities to travel abroad at Babson.

After going to three different colleges in my lifetime I´ve realized that one of the most important aspects of a school relies in its classroom culture. In my opinion classroom culture defines everything; it defines your relationship with your classmates, your professor and your interaction with the courses. I´ve learned that the classroom culture should fit with your personality and should be parallel with your expectations on the course and the overall experience. The classroom culture at Bocconi University in Milan is extremely different from that of Babson´s. The difference of these made me value my time abroad and learn about the academic differences in both the American and Italian culture.

Babson has a very intimate classroom culture. With classes of average size of less than 30 students, Babson is able to provide students with a space for listening and constant participation. The professors are seen as more than just a learning source, but also as role models, mentors and facilitators. What I always say to people asking me about Babson is that I not only learn from the great faculty that we have, but equally as important from my classmates. Every class at Babson pays extreme importance to participation, thanks to that I´ve been able to hear from other people´s perspectives and that has helped me grow both academically and socially. Teamwork is another huge factor in classes at Babson. Every course requires teamwork, in order to simulate the real world and what we will face in the near future. More than lectures, Babson classes are debates and judgment-free zones.

Karla in Milan Italy

Bocconi University in Milan is one of the best business schools in Europe and in the world. I went to Bocconi for a semester last fall in the hopes of learning from a great school and a great city such as Milan. The classes that I took would range from a minimum of 32 students all the way to some classes with 70 students. The classroom culture is very different not only because of the class size. Attendance to the classes is not mandatory and participation is encouraged but doesn´t play any role in the final grade. The result is a class in which professors speak for most of the time while students take notes and work on class activities. As a Babson student in Bocconi, I tried to participate actively in my classes and the professors felt really grateful about it. For example in my International Banking my professor only remembered my name and the names of other 3 people in the classroom by the end of the semester because we were the only ones that participated.

Even though the class was in English the Italians would be the ones that participated, but mostly just to ask questions. I had to adapt myself to the new system, as it was extremely different from what I´ve experienced at Babson and at my hometown in Mexico. I decided to three things: meet with my professors for a couple of minutes after class, go to their office hours if I was having trouble understanding a topic and lastly participated at least once per class. Those were three good solutions to the challenge and even if those are common to do at Babson they´re definitely not done by most of the students at Bocconi.

Picture of Bocconi University

The legend says that if you pass in between the lions you will not graduate from Bocconi.

I´m extremely grateful that I chose Bocconi mainly because of its classroom setting. I still miss the freedom of going to the classes whenever you feel like going and talking without being forced to participate. At Babson on the other hand you have the freedom of speech and no-judgment. I don´t think that a classroom culture is better than others; I just think that every person has a classroom culture that fits them best. After all the purpose of travelling and going abroad is to experience different things and learn alternatives from what you´re used to do all the time.