Opulent Travel: The hidden cost of an MBA education

Bloomberg wrote an article on a somewhat unspoken but not hidden topic in business school: opulent travel. In the article, the author highlighted a number of student-organized trips that ended up in various social media circles to rather exotic and lavish locations, ranging from Dubai, Thailand, to a secluded island (via charter plane) off the island of Columbia. Bloomberg gathered some data on who spends the most on “non-essentials” and the Big three (Stanford, Wharton, HBS) took the top 3 spots.



While some of this can be chalked up to fun, bonding and traveling the world, some other motives include networking and building long-term relationships. As one HBS student noted, his group of people that I’m in school with right now, in 10 years are going to be the next CEOs, It’s investing in more than just knowing the names, but knowing the story behind them.”


It’s important to remember this: while these trips certainly happen and occur across many MBA programs, this does not mean all students partake in them. On one hand, I think this is a positive thing, as it means that if you are not interested in this kind of lifestyle you can find other opportunities. On the flipside, it underscores the unspoken social class and power constructs that exist in business school – the reality of this is that there is a significant population (not majority, but worth noting) of MBA students who have quite a bit of money.




While this is not a bad thing, it can create a discrepancy in the kinds of experiences that students have within MBA programs, not to mention, unintentionally cause students to feel social pressures to fit in to spend money they don’t have or have to borrow to go on these opulent trips. (Note: Many students elect to study abroad while in business school. While this is a bit of a self-serving comment as I studied abroad for a month in South America, I’d consider the majority of people who choose to study abroad in a separate camp than those who choose to go to Tahoe and Park City every weekend)



I think the MBA is such a personal experience that I’m not in any place to tell someone what they should or shouldn’t do or how they should spend their time. However, I would say that traveling, both in a drive to Carolina beaches as well as through South America has enabled me to build some incredible relationships with people who I hope to remain friends with throughout the rest of my life.



The one area that I do try to pay attention to is trying to make my trips as inclusive as possible. Many of us come from varying financial backgrounds, so I try to find commonalities or apply the least common denominator when going on some of these trips. Unfortunately I haven’t been to an island off of Columbia, but I’ve gotten to seem some great places and develop some great friendships, so I’m happy with my choices.