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Sandy (Sandra) Dias is doing a Kellogg-Schulich Executive MBA. She has more than 10 years of sales experience and has spent the past six years working for L'Oréal Canada. She is both a national key account manager and a district manager for Quebec and Ontario boutiques for the luxury brand, Kiehl's Since 1851.

After a well-deserved summer hiatus, my peers at the Kellogg-Schulich EMBA program started back at school in late August. However, instead of starting back at the Schulich School of Business, we kicked off the school year at the Kellogg School of Management in Evanston, Ill. Given the joint program between Kellogg and Schulich was a determining factor for most when applying to this EMBA program, having the opportunity to attend classes at Kellogg six months in was a huge motivator, and it did not disappoint.

Kellogg is located just north of Chicago. It's situated on a beautiful, well-groomed campus along Michigan Lake with a lovely view of Chicago. Facilities are excellent and students are welcomed and taken care of very well. In two weeks we completed four classes: Negotiation Strategies (Prof. Jeanne Brett); Strategic Crisis Management (Prof. Timothy Feddersen); Strategic Marketing Decisions (Prof. Tim Calkins); Economics of Competition (Prof. Sandeep Baliga) taught by experts in the field. The classes were dynamic and engaging, with students encouraged to participate and challenge the professors.

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The groups went down in waves, and in my first wave we were joined by students from the Kellogg-HKUST program in Hong Kong, Kellogg-Recanati in Tel Aviv, Kellogg-WHU in Vallendar, Germany, as well as by cohorts from the Evanston and Miami campuses of Kellogg.

It was a definite change to what we were used to at Schulich, going from a 30-35 person classroom to 90-100 person classroom. And, as was to be expected, we also changed teams, being assigned a different one a week. We felt the comfort of our "home teams," which we had finally become accustomed to, challenged by different cultural backgrounds, business practices, language barriers and work processes. However, there was a unifying underlying theme: the extreme pride we felt of being a part of such a rich network, and a top-ranking program.

As for attending classes at Kellogg, it was pretty unanimous that we felt there were elevated expectations. We almost felt like a group of rowdy freshmen joining seniors in an advanced placement class. Many of us immediately felt the weight of the responsibility of being part of such an important network: Our classrooms became richer with more entrepreneurs, physicians, CEOs, vice-presidents, award-winning teachers, published authors, not-for-profit leaders – and, as a result, many of us sat up a little straighter in class.

But put 200 overachievers in a building for two weeks and work them to the bone, and there's a need for well-deserved release. So, many nights were spent networking over beers and wine: on campus, in Evanston at the beloved Bar Louis or Nevins, and, of course, in Chicago proper. For two weeks, a small extended family of friends and peers was created, no one was ever left behind, all studied, partied, ate and slept (albeit very little) in the spirit of higher education, in the hope that this degree would help propel one's career in the direction one desired.

We left not only being inspired but left wanting to attend more than one international elective (even if it meant paying for it out of pocket). I must mention, however, the Canadian cohort is especially fortunate, as we will take Module 4 at Kellogg instead of at Schulich (six alternating weekends starting in January), which no other international partnership offers. This will allow us to further tap into the Kellogg network and definitely maximize an opportunity no other partnership will have.

Next up, two months of Strategy, Finance and Operations – then it will be our turn to host international students for a week in November. We cannot boast a waterfront campus but we will welcome our fellow peers and make it a week to remember, eh?

This article has been corrected from an earlier version.

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