GSE Student Spotlight: The Formula For Success From an Academic Star

Hard work, diverse interests, and a passion for economics are three elements that have been key in BSE student Toni Ahnert’s academic success.

A student in the Class of 2008 Msc in Economics program, Toni possesses an extensive background in economics, aspirations to continue his study in a PhD program, and involvement in a variety of hobbies and interests.

He graduated from the Msc in Economics at the University of Essex, and holds the school’s record for best examination result in the past decade. Adding to his accolades, he earned the best ever degree result in the Vordiplom in Business Administration and Economics at the University of Jena, where he completed his Bachelor’s degree.

While applying to graduate programs in economics last year, he took courses in Macro, Finance, and Quantitative Methods in the Msc and PhD program at Humboldt University Berlin. He eventually chose the BSE Msc in Economics because of it’s reputation, location, and quality.

The GSE Challenge

Toni’s experiences at the University of Essex and HU Berlin helped prepare him for the challenges of the BSE by, he says, “giving me the opportunity to take a wide variety of courses at a graduate level that prepared me for the level and – equally important – the pace of the GSE’s research-orientated courses”.

Says Toni of his academic achievements, “I always try to take my responsibilities seriously. I study continuously for the courses I’m taking”. As a result he has been able excel academically and to stay near the top of his programs.

So far, he says, the BSE has exceeded his expectations. “The courses have been intensive and rewarding,” he says. “Most core courses are offered twice, as a more theoretical and a more applied course. Thus students are able to choose what they need: a thorough, top-notch preparation for leading PhD programs or a more applied and practical course in preparation for the business world”.

Msc in Economics student Toni Ahnert in the UPF library

A Well-rounded Lifestyle

Despite his emphasis on academic performance, Toni stresses the utility of cultivating and maintaining a wide set of interests and hobbies outside of academia. “Although the work load in graduate school is tremendous, in my experience it is important to maintain some hobbies and non-economic activities in order not to get fully absorbed by your assignments and papers”.

For Toni, this has meant taking courses in politics, history and languages in addition to economics, playing volleyball, chess, and dancing- he has been performing for almost 6 years and has taught salsa and ballroom classes at beginner’s level.

In fact, a night out in a salsa bar, says Toni, “is the ultimate way to relax and wind off, likewise for sports. Although I’m a passionate economist, I think that having other academic interests or involvement in university committees, sport clubs and the like helps you to mature and develop as a person”.

Toni perusing the history section of the library

An International Community of Learning

Toni describes his experience at the BSE as “extremely positive”. He mentions the “very supportive” academic atmosphere at the GSE, emphasizing that there is a great deal of interaction and team work, both for problem set solving and exam preparation. “I’ve never felt my environment to be ‘competitive’ in a sense of not sharing papers, readings, and so on – as it is said to be in other top institutions”, he says.

The international makeup of the school- over 90% of the students come from outside Spain- also enriches his experience. 64% of the Class of 2008 come from European countries, and there are students from every continent. Toni’s fellow students were attracted not only to the academic reputation of the program and the possibility of working with renowned professors, but also to the city of Barcelona, which Toni admits “is a tremendously beautiful city with a lot of culture and a vibrant nightlife”.

Looking Ahead

After he graduates from the GSE in June 2008, Toni plans to pursue a PhD in Economics in Europe- perhaps at Universitat Pompeu Fabra, one of the reference doctoral programs of the BSE. He will likely specialize in topics related to Macroeconomics and intends to continue the extracurricular activities that he credits as an integral part of his success.

“All in all, I believe that education is more than a mere list of courses from your chosen field; rather, it includes the other subjects, languages, cultures, sports and activities in general that challenge the way one used to think about issues”.


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