Who turned on the work? I have to admit, until a couple weeks ago, I felt pretty good about MBA academics. Because I was one of the few undergrads anal enough to read every single page of assigned reading on time (usually early), the 25-pages a night of case reading seemed like a breeze. Sure, I had to analyze some facts. I had to parse relevant information from the hordes of exhibits. And yes, answering the accompanying questions seemed to help. But really, what were a couple flimsy packets of material compared to massive psychology textbooks and the Penguin Classics? I had so little work that I bought a novel to keep me occupied on the train-ride back to Boston after Columbus Day weekend. What was all the first-year-fuss about?
I was so naive. The past two weeks have felt like centuries. Not only did the cases become lengthier and denser, but there were just so many of them. The TOM midterm came and went in a haze of bottlenecks, throughput times and decoupled buffers. All of a sudden we had more group projects than classes. One minute, I was trying unsuccessfully to navigate my way through the sub-artic with my sectionmates. (Please remind me how to use an inner tube as a slingshot when I’m stranded in the wilderness). The next minute, I was huddled in a Spangler conference room assembling wires, LEDs and capacitors on a breadboard for TOM. Boy, do I miss greeting cards.
My whole personality was dissected in every group debriefing. I began to wonder how I even made it this far.
To top it off, every company I’d ever heard of descended on campus like Samantha from Sex and the City on a potential mate. Pepsi, General Mills, Sprint, Bertelsmann, L’Oreal, Kraft. So much for that potential career change I’d been debating. It took all my free time just to visit the jobs that remotely related to my past experience. Not to mention all the time it took to revamp my suddenly inadequate, poorly formatted resume.
Not only did the work and recruiting kick in simultaneously, but my section social life exploded in a burst of activity. Girls night, boys night, brunches, dinner with the old section, dinner with other new sections, drinks at John Harvard’s, intramurals, pre-Priscilla Ball parties. Whoever thought business school was somehow a more advanced educational experience was sorely mistaken. As I looked at the digital photo of myself clad in a red boa and fishnets, surrounded by guys in drag, I wondered what on earth I was doing with my twenties.
Adding all this to my “old” list of priorities (working out, staying in touch with friends, maintaining a long-distance relationship, doing laundry, paying bills) was enough to cause my very first panic attack. How on earth could I pull this off? How could I survive two whole years? What if I never spoke in class again? When was I supposed to sleep? And why can’t I understand bond math?
My main consolation at this point is that, unlike my friends at Columbia Business School, we rarely have to turn anything in. And I guess I didn’t actually fail the TOM midterm. And I finally did my laundry. But you know, class of 2002, we first-years could’ve used a little warning.