Interview | Answering the Unasked Questions [3/6]
Deciding to pursue an Advanced Masters at Solvay Brussels School is a big decision. Luckily, there’s plenty of information available about the programme, what classes you need to take, who the teachers are, etc.
But what about those questions that keep you up at night? You know, the questions that you feel might be a bit too “silly” to ask: What will my classmates be like? What’s there to do in Brussels? Will I like the programme?
Guess what? Everybody has the same questions! But as nobody seems to be asking them, we decided to do the asking for you!
Today we sit down with Yan Christiaens, an Advanced Masters student from Belgium with a background in engineering.
Solvay: What was your biggest fear about enrolling in the Advanced Masters programme?
Yan: At first, I worried that I may not have the right background or sufficient knowledge to enter a business school. That’s why I took several online classes, such as ‘an MBA in one course’, and on such topics as using Excel and business administration. I was also afraid of making the switch from an engineering background to a business environment.
What’s the most exciting part of studying at Solvay Brussels School?
I really like that our teachers have real-world experience to share with us and that they draw on this experience to explain some of the challenges they have faced in their own professional life. This really brings value to the course and makes everything more concrete when learning. I’ve also been very impressed by the quality and prestige of the many guest speakers that join us. They always bring an interesting view and it's a great opportunity to network.
For me, every day is an exciting day of learning. Everyone is so knowledgeable and easy to access that I can continuously become a better version of myself. And it’s interesting to be surrounded by a range of different backgrounds and cultures – it is not always an easy task to deal with, but together we go further.
On the night before your first day of class, what kept you awake at night?
Although I knew I was going to pivot from my career as a mechanical engineer to another one, the what, where, and how remained unknown. So, the night before the first day of class, I committed myself to taking every possible opportunity to learn everything I could and, hopefully, discover the answers to these questions. I was really excited about starting as I knew it was going to be something way bigger than what I could have achieved in the past.
What was your best experience so far?
First of all, there is the quality of the exchange I have with my teachers. From hearing the biography and decisions of a former McKinsey CEO to receiving human and self-development advice and going through really challenging and reflective questions, these are the moments that will stay with me for a long time.
There’s also the interactions and good vibes I have in certain group work, where we really sit elbow to elbow to find innovative solutions to complex problems. On a more personal level, I had the opportunity to be invited to several networking events hosted by prestigious companies, and I really felt accomplished and in my ‘zone’ while attending these events.
What advice would you give to someone considering the programme?
Be curious and proactive. If you’re considering taking this programme, it's either to shift your career or reach a higher position. These decisions aren't easy to make, but Solvay Brussels School gives you all the opportunities and necessary tools you need, so long as you really work for it and are willing to do it. If you are still on the fence, I suggest to really ask yourself what you hope to get out of this experience and what your final goal is.
What’s the best part of getting to live and study in Brussels?
Even if I am Belgian and have spent over four years living abroad, this is my first time living and studying in Brussels. I really enjoy how the school – and the city for that matter – is full of international and interesting students from which you can learn and have a lot of fun with. As the capital of Europe, many important companies are located in Brussels, so no matter what sector you want to work in, you can always be in touch with one of them. The infrastructures and facilities are great, and you can find lots of interesting cultural events. In Brussels, there is always something new to discover.
Solvay Brussels School and the city of Brussels are very international. With so many different languages and cultures, have you ever found yourself ‘lost in translation’?
Not at all. Since I was 17, I have always been exposed to an international environment, regularly switching from my mother tongue to another language. In Brussels it’s great because I can practise several other languages. Since living here, I have been speaking French, Dutch, English, Spanish, Portuguese and even Japanese to some tourists I met at the Grand-Place. I always try to speak the mother tongue of everyone to fully connect with them.
When not studying, what’s your favourite activity to do or place to go in Brussels?
I like to go to the gym, which is just a minute from my place. I also enjoy exploring Brussels and going shopping, so I can often be found around La Toison d'Or, Avenue Louise, or the Grand Place. For dining, my go to places are Place Flagey and Place Jourdan.
If you had to pick just one, would it be waffles, frites, or chocolate?
You just can’t beat a dark chocolate from Galler enjoyed with a glass of almond milk at night!