MBA Journal: Looking Back, Looking Forward

You know that feeling when you're reading on a train, your eyes glancing over the newspaper headlines in front of you, and suddenly another train blows past yours so quickly it actually reverberates the train car, peeling you away from your reading to see the last bit of caboose disappear in a flash? That's about the speed at which the first year of the MBA at London Business School (London Full-Time MBA Profile) seems to have passed.A flash of memories in an instant—late nights studying in the library, captivating speeches at LBS's inaugural TEDx conference, the intense competition at this year's MBAT (MBA sports tournament) held at HEC Paris, a sea of people struggling to catch a glimpse of the Royal Wedding procession.Now we stand ready to dive off into the "real world," even if just for the summer.In a few short weeks, our class will scatter to all corners of the earth, from Cairo to Cupertino, to put some of this year's learning into practice during our summer internships.

Everyone's feeling a bit nostalgic this time of year, knowing that things will change significantly from here on out. Flexibility was a key factor in my choice to matriculate to LBS. The full-time MBA program offers three timelines—15, 18, and 21 months. Regardless of the length you choose to pursue, the first year consists of more than 15 core classes, from financial accounting to strategy to managing organizational behavior. Divided into five streams of around 80 students, we've all become quite close with our classmates during these 10-week core courses. It's hard to imagine we won't all be sitting through another term of courses together. While most students choose to pursue the standard 21-month program, others pursue the fast track, which means these next two weeks may be the last time I see a few of my classmates on campus. Others will be completing a second internship during the autumn term, only to return to campus in January to complete their final elective credits. Others still, including myself, will take the opportunity to experience an international exchange at one of 30 partner schools during either the autumn or spring terms. Having finished the core courses, we're now free to shape the second year in any way we see fit, completing the MBA in a personalized manner.

To be frank, although I am saddened by the social transition about to take place, I am thrilled to be done with the program's core classes. The academic highlights of the MBA here are found almost entirely in the electives—one will find an obvious difference in the quality of teaching between junior faculty in the core courses and the more seasoned professors guiding the electives. I had the pleasure of enrolling in two electives as a first year student, and I will enter the second year anticipating the many available electives. I look forward to the flexibility and the opportunity to choose my own path based on my own schedule, interests, and career goals.

Struggle With Clarity

I like to think the first year at LBS has a significant impact on your character, no matter your background or experience. By the end of the year, we are (hopefully) wiser, more tactful, and more culturally sensitive incarnations of our previous selves. One might think we'd also have a little more clarity on our lives and career goals, having started the MBA with an open mind and now narrowed our focus while progressing through the courses. Interestingly, though, the process feels less like a funnel and more like the circuitous path of one of those old wooden labyrinths you played with as a kid, trying to steer your marble to the finish line.

Do I have more clarity? Yes and no. I started the MBA with the goal of broadening my breadth of general business knowledge, increasing my network, and making the jump from a world of small companies and startups to the world of big guns. Having secured an internship at one of said big guns (so big, in fact, I am actually not allowed to divulge the name in publication), I am really looking forward to testing the waters this summer. I only hope that three months is enough of a taste of the corporate infrastructure to decide whether to pursue a full-time job in this setting. And, despite the massive student debt, I am more convinced than ever that remuneration is not at the top of my priority list, but rather that the cultural fit with the organization and the people with whom I'll work should take precedence.

On a student-led trek to Silicon Valley earlier this year, I had the pleasure of attending a chat with Google's chief financial officer, Patrick Pichette. What struck me most from his talk was his emphasis on staying balanced. When making the move to Mountain View to take the financial reins of the search giant, he actually mapped out a 10-mile radius from the campus in which to find his new home so that he would always be able to bicycle to work. This emphasis on balance, I am convinced, leads us to be happier, more productive, and more fulfilled human beings, and I'll continue to search for my equilibrium and harmony in the second year of this program as well as in my life post-MBA.

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