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Regardless of the duration – whether you take a two-year or a one-year MBA program – the B-school pressure sets in from the very first day, and doesn’t really lighten till at least the end of the first year!
Here’s what you need to know.
The first few weeks are going to be overwhelming. For me, it felt like being thrown in this huge tank with gushing water pouring in, leaving me gasping for breath as I got drenched in the flow. It. Was. Information. Overload!
I still marvel at how I survived the first year in Barcelona.
Want to know how I did? Read on.
I have put together a few points that helped me. I hope they can help you too.
The first week is a flood of information.
There would be welcome information guiding you on which office is responsible for which service; the courses and “minimum requirement” expectations (which are anything but minimal); career services; and the list goes on.
All these are happening while you are trying to get used to your new team-mates and section mates.
My top tip?
Though you will have copies of these materials, you’ll most likely not open most of these documents in the future so take snapshots of the presentations with your phone. You can then easily sort your records by dates to recover what you need.
Also, having a small jotter where you could quickly write down key information helps (again, dating them helps to index the information so you know how far back to search).
If you are an international student doing an MBA in Europe, your MBA program will likely come with a side serving of ‘learn a different language’.
Getting accustomed to the city and new language won’t happen overnight.
It helps to arrive at least 1 – 2 weeks before school starts so you can tackle issues like accommodation and residence permits (if you require one) on time.
If you have been out of the school system for a long time like I was, it helps to know that you could focus all your attention on the academics rather than juggle it with administrative issues. This includes getting all the software installations you need from the school before the start of the course too.
This is cliché advice but cannot be over-emphasized.
Surrounded by superstars, it’s easy for one to feel that you must have all the answers, otherwise you’re not meant to be there.
This is not true.
The career services, MBA & admissions offices are all aware that they pile on too much information at orientation week, so do not hesitate to go and ask them for clarification.
It’s less costly than making the mistake and eventually going back for help.
If your school has a buddy system that pairs you up with a 2nd year, take advantage of that and get a head-start. Save your energy for discovering things on your own for when it’s strictly necessary. Schedule meetings with the professors to go over topics you do not understand.
You’ll be grateful you took this advice sooner than later:
Don’t try to be a superstar just because everyone else is trying to be one.
Every activity will be super-important and super-interesting. Career recruitment, academics, fun, etc – all are valid and necessary.
But unless you have bi-location skills, you have to choose one.
You must master the art of JOMO (joy of missing out) so you do not become overly anxious or sad over missed events.
Be happy with the choices you make (and these should be in line with your main objective – job or networking or academics, etc). If you have access to information shared on the missed events, all the better. If not, then don’t stress over the losses. Sooner or later, everyone will have a chance to fill you in on a missed event.
The first year passes in a flash. It is a blur of activities, classes, projects, career treks and interviews.
You could get so engrossed in these, living day to day that you forget one of the primary purposes – to build the relationships of a lifetime.
The MBA for international students is about much more than just academics.
This is your opportunity to make friends from every sector possible and – if you are in a school like mine (IESE) – to have friends from over 55 countries in the world.
You do not know where the future will place you and you may need one of these people’s help, so forge relationships that will last. Even in the first year.
Especially in the first year! One of the best pieces of advice I received from a professor was that the MBA prize is not at the end, it’s in the journey day by day.
So make sure you savor those precious moments between frustrations, that you smile or laugh in class. Therein lies the memories of the MBA that will stay with you forever.
Have fun and all the very best!
Ready for an MBA at IESE Business School?
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