How this student travelled the world and landed a McKinsey job

Student travel
Nik Sachteleben gave a speech at this year’s graduation as the student council representative of this class of Master’s graduates. Source: Nik Sachteleben

“Student travel” makes people think of cheap but gruelling bus journeys, over-filled backpacks, and weeks of scouring the internet for budget-friendly hacks and deals.

For those strapped for cash, exploring the world while studying seems more of a tedious task than a thrilling adventure.

But what if we told you there was a more economical way to see other countries without breaking the bank?

Growing up in Northwest Germany, Nik Sachteleben felt that seeing the world was a priority.

Even before his bachelor’s degree, the 26-year-old decided to self-finance a world trip.

“It was clear that I would love to study abroad,” he says. 

“But just with my world trip, I could not focus on a single country. When I saw the newly founded International Business Education Alliance (IBEA) programme, I immediately knew that this was the right thing for me.”

The University of Mannheim Business School offers the IBEA study option — a programme for which student travel is practically mandatory. Three out of eight semesters are spent abroad.

The IBEA option in the Bachelor’s in Business Administration programme requires four semesters at the university, followed by three in leading business schools in other countries and one final semester back at your home institution. 

The participating partner universities include:

  • University of South Carolina, Darla Moore School of Business, Columbia, US
  • ESSEC Business School, Campus Singapore
  • Fundação Getulio Vargas, Escola Brasileira de Administração Pública e de Empresas (FGV Ebape), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
student travel

Three out of eight of Sachteleben’s IBEA semesters were spent abroad. Source: AFP

This student travel opportunity will mean visiting four continents during your degree.

While there are many benefits to this exemplary bachelor’s option, there was one small snag for Sachteleben.

“Unfortunately, there were only 10 spots per university: 10 for students from Mannheim, 10 from the University of South Carolina, 10 for ESSEC Business School and 10 for FGB Ebape from Rio,” Sachteleben shares.

Despite his worry and the limited spots available, the 26-year-old prevailed.

“Luckily, the long and competitive application process turned out in my favour, and I was able to pursue this dream of a Bachelor’s program,” he says.

Student travel

The University of Mannheim is one of many institutions with study abroad programmes. Student travel becomes easier if you are doing one of these degrees. Source: University of Mannheim

The timeless benefits of student travel

Student travel presents a unique opportunity for students to embark on an enriching journey of exploration, cultural exchange, and personal growth, all while staying within budget.

What’s more, studying abroad is not just about academics; it is an adventure that allows students to immerse themselves in a new culture, make lifelong connections, and gain valuable life experiences.

For Sachteleben, the initial semesters at the University of Mannheim Business School set the foundation for the rest of his student travel opportunities.

“In Mannheim, we first got to know each other. To the German students, it was an ‘easy’ start,” he says.

“We still were in our home institution and were able to show all our new friends around. We organised little trips and went to sports matches. Of course, we were regular guests at the famous Schneckenhof-Parties at one of the courtyards of the palace-turned-university.”

student travel

Student travel can become tedious if not done right. Source: AFP

Every study abroad semester gave Sachteleben a whole new experience.

At the University of South Carolina, he had a taste of American college life, which featured tailgating before football games, road trips, and an enticing sports centre with free entry.

“Singapore was the complete opposite of the US in some ways,” says Sachteleben.

“In contrast to Columbia, with around 150k inhabitants, Singapore is a world city with a few million inhabitants. With a fantastic food culture, it is (at least to me) the pathway to Southeast Asia.”

He feels that Singapore’s Changi airport is the perfect place to begin travelling all over the region, visiting Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and more.

“With the university itself being much smaller than the huge University of South Carolina, we did much more amongst our group and travelled together a lot,” recalls the former ESSEC Business School student.

FGV Ebape in Rio de Janeiro offered beaches, parties, stunning mountain hikes and fantastic food.

“The students at the University were super inclusive, invited us for dinner and parties, and I even became part of the University handball team. Together we brought the team to unknown success,” the former FGV Ebape student enthuses.

student travel

Singapore’s Changi airport is very well connected to the rest of Southeast Asia, making student travel easy. Source: AFP

A major highlight for student travel — or any kind of travel for that matter — is the people.

“The best thing about IBEA is the diverse group of students,” says Sachteleben.

“You study with these great people from all around the world (we had more than 10 different nationalities in the programme) and travel with them from country to country, bringing you closer together every semester.”

Student travel can create a community, which was undoubtedly the case for Sachteleben. Strangers become close friends, practically family.

“Even after graduating, we still see each other regularly – we already had reunions in Barcelona, a small village in the West of France and the place where we all met for the first time: Mannheim,” he shares.

Sachteleben is currently organizing the next reunion at the Oktoberfest in Munich this year.

The IBEA programme also gave Sachteleben a chance to take part in field projects, covering start-ups in Singapore, a multinational in Brazil, a software company from the Silicon Valley in the US and a professional service company in Germany.

“We learned new skills with every engagement and were taken very seriously, and our support was very much appreciated,” says Sachteleben.

From student travel to McKinsey & Company

After his bachelor’s, Sachteleben completed his Master’s in Management at the University of Mannheim in 2022.

Today, he holds the position of Fellow Associate at McKinsey & Company in Germany.

“What I like most about my job is that I work on different projects every couple of weeks or months and frequently see different clients and different industries,” he says.

“This, together with extremely inspiring peers and leaders, gives me a chance to learn extremely fast.”

Much of what he learned during his student travels helped him get where he is.

“During the programme, I studied with great students from outstanding business schools in their respective regions and academic fields,” Sachteleben says.

“Therefore, I learned a lot from them, but I also knew I would not need to hide from any challenges or tests, as I had great friends that challenged me all the time. Together, we supported each other and grew.”

student travel

There are numerous benefits to seeing the world. Source: AFP

Student travel: What are some other general benefits of studying abroad?

Sachteleben’s story is a prime example of how student travel gave him the necessary skills to enhance his job prospects upon graduation.

That said, you’ll still experience many benefits as an international student living, studying, or travelling to a new country.

  • Global Perspective

Studying abroad immerses you in a different culture, broadening your world perspective.

By experiencing new customs, traditions, and societal norms, students can become more adaptable and open-minded, better equipped to thrive in a globalised workforce.

  • Language Proficiency

Living in a foreign country presents the perfect chance to improve language skills.

Fluency in a second language is a sought-after skill in the international job market and can significantly boost employability, especially for roles that require cross-border communication and negotiation.

  • Enhanced Communication Skills

Studying abroad requires effective communication with people from diverse backgrounds.

This fosters strong interpersonal skills, enabling you to effectively connect with colleagues, clients, and customers from different cultures.

  • Independence and Resilience

Living far away from home in an unfamiliar environment encourages self-reliance and resilience.

Coping with various challenges builds confidence and the ability to adapt quickly, qualities highly valued in the workplace.

  • Networking Opportunities

Studying abroad allows you to build an international network of friends, professors, and potential future colleagues.

These connections can open doors to exciting job opportunities across the world.