Rodrigues financed some of her MBA with bitcoin. She spoke with FIND MBA about this novel mode of financing.
Can you tell me a little about your background?
I'm from Sao Paolo, Brazil, and worked five years in a management consultancy company; it was my first and only professional experience. I worked in very different segments there, from health to security to education. My bachelor degree was in public policy management, which was quite different. And then I decided to come to Berlin to pursue my MBA basically because I felt my learning curve was going down in consultancy; at some point, I know I'd seen a lot, and wanted to get to the next point of my career. And one way to do it was an MBA. It was always one of my biggest personal dreams, to study abroad, so I decided to go for it. ESMT Berlin was a good choice for me, especially for in terms of money for value.
How did you get around to the idea of paying your MBA tuition with bitcoin?
When I got accepted, I had to pay the first installment to confirm my enrollment. And so I started to look for my options: first I went to my bank in Brazil and asked them to provide me with a total for how much it would cost me to make the transfer. That would've been really too expensive because of the taxes, interest rates, and the fees. The real and euro were also so different, so I had to be really clever about how would I proceed with this. My second choice was using Transferwise, but I couldn't manage that because there's a limit to how much you can transfer per month, and I wouldn't be able to make it in two payments.
Then I remembered a friend of mine who really knew about bitcoin. I was checking the website of ESMT, and saw there that they accepted bitcoin, and I thought, ‘oh that might be something.' The friend helped me out with making the calculation, to see if it'd be expensive, how much it would cost, and it turned out cheaper with bitcoin. I saved about seven percent to eight percent—the fee was really low, it was just the fee to buy bitcoin. So I bought the bitcoins, and sent ESMT the payment the same day—it was super fast. I'd never used bitcoin before, and the experience was really interesting for me. Actually there was a little remaining value there—I bought a little more than I had to—and now it's increased since I bought. So I got to make some profit as well.
How did you consider risk when paying with bitcoin?
When I bought it, the value was increasing a lot. I was a little afraid of losing timing, but the whole process was so fast that it prevented me from really incurring any risk in value fluctuation. It was a little scary in that sense, but I figured if I could do it all in the same day, it wouldn't be a crazy change in value. Honestly I did it because I had a friend who really knew bitcoin well; if I was by myself I probably would've given up and paid the bank in the end.
I think a few other classmates paid with bitcoin as well, but it's not that common. Some other students they were like, ‘oh that's super interesting,' while I think others saw it but thought it would be too hard to open account and navigate the system. I think that's the main deterrent—that it's too complicated, and maybe too risky.
How did you finance your MBA?
I'm using a Prodigy loan to pay most of the tuition. But I also had a scholarship from ESMT that covers almost 30 percent of tuition—and for my personal expenses and first installment, around 4,000 euros, I used my own savings. I was saving specifically for this adventure.
I went with Prodigy because they had a good rate; my bank wasn't be able to get me a favorable one. Another thing concerning me was exchange rates—I was worried that it would increase, and that would kill me. So I decided to take the Prodigy loan in euros, thinking I'd be here after graduation. If I took a loan in Brazil, I'd have to pay there, and it would be a lot messier.
What would your financial planning advice be for MBA students?
Don't take all of your costs in a loan, because you have to pay it after all. I don't think I'm going to find a magical job right after graduation—maybe that's the misperception, that you graduate, you automatically have a job that pays you a lot of money, so you don't have to worry about it. That's something you have to be financially prepared for. Have a plan B, because it's not as magical as it sounds. In my case I also have some savings in Brazil that I didn't use, for emergencies. That's important as well. Try to make a good mix of your savings and loans, and be prepared with a plan B. You might not find your dream job right away.
In regards to bitcoin, I think the landscape has changed; I wouldn't recommend today, because it's going through a bad patch right now, the value is decreasing, so maybe the risk today is higher. I'd say if you don't have bitcoins today, don't do it. Or just try to learn more about it. Don't go ahead like I did, because I did—I think people should read more about it before buying it. That would be my advice with bitcoins.