Lauder Student Profile: Kartik Das, ’19

Kartik Das, ’19 is a student in the joint Wharton MBA and Lauder MA programs. At Lauder, he is a member of the South Asia, Middle East, and North Africa Program of Concentration with Hindi as his target language. Kartik shares a bit about his experience in the Lauder program so far.

What are some key reasons you chose the Lauder joint degree program vs. just Wharton-only or Penn Law-only?

Having grown up, lived, and been educated across India, Malaysia, the UK, Dubai and USA and having traveled to over 35 countries covering six continents, either on work or with my family on holidays, I have, over a period of time and these journeys, been deeply impacted by the stark economic and infrastructural differences I have seen across developing and developed nations. I have learned to appreciate varying geographical contours, cultures, heritages, customs, cuisines, and lifestyles. I was always keen to pursue a career dedicated to impacting the environment and its people.

The Lauder program promises a rich global exposure in business and international studies, while the Wharton MBA offers proficiency in specific subjects and the building of holistic skills, relevant to any organization or nature of business. The joint degree combination is therefore a natural next step, with the potential to shape me on my chosen path, into a more well-rounded individual.

What are some highlights of your Lauder experience so far?

Lauder has been a perfect partner for the more subjective and quantitative Wharton MBA program. Interacting, traveling, and studying with the carefully handpicked Lauder gene pool which comes from almost all corners of the world has in itself been a wonderful learning experience.

I am part of various student-led groups, attending off-site team building events at Valley Forge, becoming a Perry World House Fellow, part of a highly driven Global Knowledge Lab research team that has already received some funding, and also privileged to be part of a select group to visit Israel this March. This has made me try hard to balance life across through a whirlwind of activity. We have our own designated cohorts, our exclusive Lauder memorabilia, fun-filled barbecues and endless birthday bashes (almost a community activity). It has been a roller coaster ride and time has flown! The Thanksgiving break that took a large group of us to Colombia, worked as a balm after a rigorous study term, bringing with it, its own life experience. The Lauder experience has been truly surreal. It is a small group of intellectually gifted and talented individuals who have become a family away from home, promising rewarding lifelong relationships!

What was your summer immersion like? Where did you go and how was your time spent?

Our Summer Immersion was across Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Mumbai, Delhi and Varanasi.

We visited the UAE during the religious month of Ramadan so there were certain cultural restrictions. The contrast between the two Emirates of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, was palpable. Abu Dhabi is has a strong emphasis on Islamic cultural elements, showcased through museums, mosques, architecture and learning centers. Our visit to the Grand mosque Abu Dhabi and the grand Iftar later that evening in traditional UAE style was truly unique. In Dubai, one could see the Emirates’ bias towards commerce and its focused attempt to put forth the face of a modern Islamic monarchy with its grand view of the Old Souk and the new modern malls. Dubai has been a nation with foresight, balancing tradition with modernism and making it a tourist destination not dependent on Oil resources alone, to boost its economy, unlike its immediate neighbors. The pace of infrastructure buildup we witnessed, in Dubai was also monumental; visits to Sheikh Zayed Road, and views from the Burj Khalifa, gave us a sense of Dubai’s grand vision. 

Our second immersion was in my home country, India. I saw India with a completely different lens. Mumbai’s ultra – rich Bollywood (India’s Hollywood) and glamor, happily co-existed with its poverty stricken but resilient underbelly of slums. We had some deep and meaningful conversations on the importance of business learning in the cultural and economic historical settings of the region. Another unique interaction was with Mumbai’s almost cultish “Dabbawalas”(Boxed meals ‘tiffin’ supply chain system) where they gave us an insight into how they have such a high accuracy rate of meal delivery by a string of humans, that is shockingly efficient despite the tedious ‘non-mechanized’ nature of  food packet collection and individualized delivery.

Our Delhi leg was longer, peppered with highly rigorous academic work entrusted to us by our two professors. From traveling the metros and the rickshaws, making it in time to the rigorous 9 am (sharp) classes far away from home was challenging during the scorching summer. The tour of the legendary Lutyen’s Delhi, a visit to the Rashtrapati Bhavan (official residence of the President of India), driving down the Rajpath, past India Gate and two magnificent Anglican and Catholic cathedrals, was a glorious walk through India’s colonial past. The Summer Immersion was an unforgettable experience and journey!   

Can you describe your typical day as a Wharton/Lauder or Penn Law/Lauder student?

This one is really tough. Studies late into the night don’t make me a morning person. With my hands full with activity of social, student welfare and academic nature, I am constantly juggling with time.  I’m on the cluster council committee, SAS governing council, as well as on the GAPSA forum, which deals very closely with student academic, activities and welfare. However, my day is a mix, and I have chosen not to miss out on the rich fare on offer; so, for me its just about getting ready to hit the day of activities running. The day is peppered with interesting “lunch and learn” information sessions, Lauder and Wharton core and elective classes, language lessons, evening club meet-ups (ranging from policy club debate evenings and trivia, innovation and design ideas exchange club, to fun Asian ramen meal get togethers), dinner and pub hangouts with friends, and stretch activities such as dance studio! I also try play my favorite racket sport, and continue to relax with my music, sports, forum activities and blog writings, research and e-reading whenever I can. The dual course can be exacting, but there is nothing that discipline, commitment and focus that can’t help you ‘tight rope walk’ it !

What advice would you give to someone considering the Lauder program?

I agree with ALL the second-year students. Read up on what the program is all about and see if it really is a fit for you. It’s rigorous, demanding and highly competitive. With each of your peers being so talented it adds to the drive to keep pushing new boundaries. On the flip side, all this effort is worth it if you want to belong to a true community. Lauderites are fiercely affectionate, helpful, and close-knit and if you enjoy working in silos then this is not the place for you. For me, this is what I wanted and I am glad I chose this joint degree program over other equally competitive ones.