Productivity

Life in Italy for Indian students: Bocconi Msc Finance experience

How is it to study Bocconi MSc Finance as an Indian student?

After graduating as an Engineer in India, I made a very unconventional move to travel to Milan, Italy for a Master’s in Finance at Bocconi University in 2010. I embraced the uncertainty of traveling to a foreign land to study a new subject that was much different from Mechanical Engineering. However, Finance and Engineering are applications of Mathematics for different purposes. So I was quickly able to make sense of, enjoy, and even excel in this new subject.

Years later in 2018, I found myself helping the Austrian Central Bank on a challenging stress-testing project with my unique skill set. Looking back, I couldn’t have picked a better place than Bocconi to help me out on this exciting journey across the European Job Market.

To anyone looking to chart a similar path from India to Milan and beyond, I hope the information below helps you on your quest.

Typical questions Indian students have about Bocconi

My Bocconi Experience: Finance, Food, and Fun!

The Bocconi MSc Finance is very highly rated in Europe. I very much recommend it for an Indian student seeking to push himself out of his comfort zone, study with the smartest European students, learn a new language, and make new friends in a distant land. The course has been popular because it allows many graduates to also enter the London Financial Sector. I have done numerous interviews for positions in London. It is quite competitive as I remember having students from all over the world from top London schools interviewing me at the Investment Bank offices in Canary Wharf, London.

Bocconi MSc Finance gives you several big opportunities. If it can land you in the same room with the brightest students from University College London, Imperial College London, London School of Economics and Political Science, Warwick, etc.

Convincing someone to hire an Indian in Europe for a nontech job can be challenging if you lack enough experience living on the continent.

The two-year Master’s program is perfect for graduates of non-economics backgrounds to study Finance. As a former Engineer myself, I found Bocconi University to be a great place to learn a lot inside and outside the classrooms. As it was a two-year program, there was more time to absorb learning and also have a little fun.

I had to complete over 14 mandatory Finance courses along with 2 language courses, an Internship, and a Thesis to graduate. With 10 challenging compulsory courses in the first year, there is a choice for the 4 electives to be selected the next year.

Bocconi Msc Finance: All work and no play makes Indians in Europe a dull boy

Honestly, if you want to work in Europe, you should be more familiar with the Europeans. As an Indian in Europe, Communication changes as you meet more people. Hence, life in Bocconi has its fair share of fun and parties which play an important part in business education.

The course structure is very flexible and many students (even me) skip a semester to finish an internship if required. Most others would finish the internship in the summer itself. But it can be challenging to finish all your 10 finance courses and also find your internship to start by summer.

Making it worse is an Indian student’s difficulty in getting a visa to visit London from Milan just for the interviews. Nonetheless, if you work hard and keep applying you should get called by some prestigious firms.

Cracking the interview and getting the job can be challenging and you will have to prove yourself to be the best for the job. Lots of training is required, but two years is a long time and you will be finding more time in the second year with fewer exams left.

While attendance may not be mandatory, the Professors also provide regular meeting hours outside class hours to clarify student doubts.

Bocconi Msc finance: Behind the scenes

The MSc Finance program at Bocconi University is very quantitative and might also make engineers sweat. You usually have group projects in certain subjects like Corporate Finance, Financial Statement Analysis, Financial Law, Theory of Finance, etc where you get to work on really fun and challenging tasks in international teams.

Though a class of around 60-70 students may have around 30% international, there are also exchange students who join in. As an Indian in Europe, you usually don’t meet many other Indians like how you would in the United States or even in the UK.

But nearby Milan, the Brescia and Bergamo region have had a steady influx of Indians mainly from the Punjab region. If you can drive around, you could even have chai in a cafeteria on this street near via Milano in Brescia. Largely inhabited by the Indian community there are sweet shops, and cloth shops and you could even watch a Cricket Match and munch on samosas in this strangely comfortable cozy Indian cafeteria.

What are the Job opportunities after studying at a top Italian university like Bocconi?

I arrived early in Milan to attend the preparatory courses for two weeks before the actual classes began. One of our senior Professors had some useful advice for us uninformed students. He had asked us to apply for the internship programs at the London banks as soon as possible.

His words were that if you apply this year you will seem more confident. If you do the next year, you may be less desired. He was quite right about it.

So I had barely begun my course and was expected to have my resume prepared and sent around while I also prepared for a challenging first semester.

Life in Bocconi: The good times!

Classes began in September and we had our first semester exams in January and February. A lot of these Investment Banks would be interviewing students right before or around exam time.

So basically, you not only have to study for your exams but you also have to spend extensive time in the internship application process.

Application for internships and jobs online on the website of these banks can take quite some time and energy. You usually have to answer some questions and even do some simple online tests.

Interviewing with Investment Banks: Then and Now

Not every Bank has the same selection criteria. I have done interviews with American Banks like Morgan Stanley, J P Morgan, and Bank Of America as well as European banks like Unicredit, Intesa Sanpaolo, and BNP Paribas. I did Phone Interviews, Assessment Centers, and a lot of other rounds in the entire rigorous ordeal.

Though I was prepared well with all the Finance stuff, client-facing banking jobs have challenging interviews. They usually stress lots of things like teamwork, the structure of answers, extracurricular activities, etc.

Unfortunately, I believe I lacked enough experience and confidence when I did those interviews. I did not speak much Italian during that time and was still familiarizing myself with European culture. By speaking only English and other non-European languages, you already have a small disadvantage. Complemented by your lack of work permit there are a few obstacles to be faced. 

I was also not very confident about doing interviews in Canary Wharf when I visited London for the very first time in my life. However, I learned from the experience.

I did a wonderful Research Internship with the Chief Economist of the Dubai International Financial Center, worked as an analyst in the Investments & Retirement Division at Mercer Consulting, Milan, and finally worked as a Consultant / Territory Sales Executive with Western Union Italy.

On my last day of work at Western Union, I was interviewing a final round Interview with a major Investment Bank. A lot had changed in the Investment bank interview then and now. Firstly, the location is far from London. Secondly, the salaries offered to young analysts became less attractive. Thirdly, the an increasing demand for technology professionals for many Investment Banking positions.

How does Bocconi help you with your career?

The opportunities at DIFC and Mercer were through the university job portals. Bocconi has a job portal with interesting positions around the world published regularly.

Moreover, Bocconi has several internship programs at prestigious organizations like the UN, etc which can be a wonderful launching pad for your career although they may be unpaid.

I will recommend Bocconi as a wonderful investment as it opens a lot of doors for you. But after all, you can bring the horse to the water but you cannot make the horse drink the water.

Apart from the Finance program, students are doing International Management, Marketing, Innovation & technology management, etc. The university also has a Business school called SDA Bocconi which has 1 year MBA programs for more experienced students.  The benefit of this is that you have Professors from the SDA Bocconi school also teaching courses for the MSc finance students.

I remember a lot of really cool Professors at Bocconi. One day, we went to the computer lab to play a trading game. The entire lab became like a trading floor as we made option strategies in teams. That was one of the best Finance classes we had at Bocconi.

How do I manage my student budget and expenses in Milan?

Finding a part-time job in Milan can be challenging for Indian students. A few Indians I knew did some freelance projects in IT to make extra money. Without speaking Italian it would be difficult to do other small-time jobs.

Fortunately, Bocconi offers several scholarships which have reduced in amount in the past few years. Nonetheless, getting these scholarships would make studying in Boconi a very value-for-money deal.

There are Merit-based scholarships as well as need-based ones. If you can submit a top application early to Bocconi and are successful you may have a higher chance to avail of the Merit-based scholarship.

The Need-based scholarships on the other hand require documentation on family income, assets etc which need to be translated into Italian. Check for the ISU Bocconi scholarship.

If you receive this, you may even be offered a room to stay in the dormitories at a highly subsidized price. Alternatively, Bocconi offers subsidized meals, etc in the wonderful canteens within the campus.

As a Business University, the university campus is just a few buildings within the city. The dormitories are also located nearby. Even the Duomo is just 15 minutes away on walk.

Living in Italy: Cost of living in Milan as of 2015

  • Housing: 300-400 € for a shared room, 400-500+ for a single room. You may find better deals. Even the student dorm room could be available in the 300 € -400 range. Which makes it a great deal to choose the dorms if you qualify for subsidized rates. 
  • Groceries: 300 € a month should cover basic supermarket expenses.

Hence, monthly expenses are in the range of 800-1000 € for most Indian students.

What are the average requirements to get admitted to the program?

To get admitted to Bocconi MSc Finance, you would need a GMAT of around 700. Moreover, a very strong application with a cover letter, CV, certificates, etc is very important. I know people admitted even with lesser GMAT, but the guys with the Merit Scholarships had high GMAT scores.

It is very important to make some solid planning so that you make the best of your studies here. A friend of mine who arrived with me had his eyes set on Germany very early. He has been working there for several years now with big corporates.

One more friend worked with Vodafone India, so could easily get a job in Vodafone Italy. He has been working with Vodafone ever since.

Generalist or Specialist: career tips?

Sticking to one job can be very useful in your European career. Though everyone likes a generalist like me ( Mechanical Engineer, Economic Research, Investment Consulting, Financial Services Sales, Blogging, Programming in Financial Risk Management, AI/ML, Crypto, Web Development, etc), they would always prefer an expert with multiple years of work experience for an important job.

Being a generalist may help you get admitted to Bocconi, but everything else depends on how you can build your comparative advantage from there.

Conclusion:

The MSc in Finance at Bocconi University can push most Indian students way out of their comfort zone. But there is something therapeutic in embracing a little uncertainty as it drives you to discover new aspects of your personality. I found abundant time to focus on my learning in and outside the classrooms and hence, I very much recommend Bocconi to Indian students. I also advise students to think about their comparative advantage when they move to a foreign land. You may have to be good in your quantitative skills to compensate for your weaker interpersonal skills when you don’t speak a local European language very well.

Vineeth Naik

Liberal part time Blogger and full time Researcher with a broad range of experience, professionally and personally in Austria, Italy, UAE & India. Loves Finance, Business & Technology. Cares about society.

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Vineeth Naik

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