I am writing this blog post on a flight from London to Copenhagen. That’s one of the advantages of being a student again – the hard work of studying and stressing about exams is paid off by having a half-term – when you can take some time off, unwind and reflect on what you’ve learned in the past months (and prepare for the next term of course!). As one can probably imagine – when you give up your successful job and start studying again – there’s quite a lot to reflect upon. So, how does it really feel like to be a student again?
1. You turn back time
In the words of Henry Ford, ‘Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young’. When you join a School (=Business School here and further in this blog post) again, you are turning back time by exposing yourself to the new knowledge. MBA might not necessarily be designed to give you a totally new profession from scratch but what it definitely is just right for is expanding your knowledge, challenging your existing perceptions, getting you to un-learn ineffective stuff and focus on works best, while crafting your soft skills and expanding your horizons and giving you new prospectives.
The way studying works at Imperial College Business School is that the programme is split in a few ‘Cores’ (lectures on major subjects such as micro- and macroeconomics, accounting, corporate finance and company evaluation, leadership, change management, corporate ethics (which, led by Charlie Donovan, contrary to popular misinterpretation of the course as some boring set of rules to follow, leads you to exploring mindfulness, meditation and gets you to reflect on moral choices) and others. If, like me, you come from a non-financial background (having been working in marketing communications and digital for 9 years, my exposure to accounting and corporate finance was limited), you probably will need to study twice as hard compared to those with relevant background – sacrifice your free time, social outings and really dig into the subject. Often mistakenly perceived as courses that do not require much attention, accounting, corporate finance, company evaluation, financing business and operations management in fact are one of the most useful subjects to spend time on, especially if your ambitions include getting a senior role in an organisation after your MBA. The ‘Cores’ are then followed by electives (taking place in late spring) that you pick and choose according to your priorities and interests. While at the beginning you might find this intense schedule quite overwhelming, you quickly learn to prioritise, be as effective as you can and suddenly discover your creative out-of-the-box thinking that help you manage it just fine.
2. You push your limits and work hard
If you thought that working towards tight deadlines at work or dealing with a difficult client was tough – time to raise the bar. A typical full-time MBA day includes lectures from 9 am to 5 pm, followed by group meetings, working on assignments, digging down Harvard Business Review case studies (in the words of my fellow student Katy – ‘Harvard Business Review case studies: why say something in 1 page if you can do it in 20 pages’), attending school events with high profile speakers and networking evenings, as well as planning your next career moves. Maybe going to the gym (which to be fair is amazing and it’s annual membership fee is £35) and sleeping (if you have time, too). Oh, and remember when you were a student in your early twenties or so – you sometimes were going to a library? Great – you will rediscover the school’s library not only as a great source of knowledge stored in all shapes and forms, but also a way of escapism from big world out there that will let you focus on the studies and do the readings in a quiet comfortable environment (Imperial College Central library in South Kensington in fact works 24/7 with a break only on Friday night).
3. You craft your career
With dedicated career consultants, companies’ events on campus, mentoring programme (pilot launched tis year), career team trainings and workshops and many more – you have all the support you need to reflect on your experience, discuss your career aspirations and build a clear plan that will help you achieve your career goals by the time you finish the MBA. You should not expect however to be ‘placed’ into a job – the business school provides all the tools ad support you need, and it’s up to you to make the best use of them to arrive at the desired result.
4. You make new friends
If for some reason you disconnected with your school friends (or didn’t make any – really, though?), this is your second chance to make new life-time friends. My MBA cohort are amazing people from all over the world – China, Brazil, USA, Canada, Argentina, Russia, Japan, Armenia, Thailand, UK, Switzerland and many more. When you spend most time of the day with your class – there are lots of opportunities for bonding and getting to know each other better. Not only you are getting invaluable prospective on life and business from people from different cultures, you also have an incredible opportunity to share knowledge benefiting from all the different professional backgrounds people come from. (And you can learn quite a few words in, for example, Japanese! ‘Zehi’ – ‘why not’ in Japanese!)
5. You party like it’s 1999
Even with the busy MBA schedule, going for a drink after school is often one of the most effective ways to…Well, it just happens! Luckily, you don’t have to look far to find a good place. Union Bar, h-bar and Eastside on campus are MBA’s favourites, with The Queen’s Arms pub around the corner from the College address being the top choices. And when it’s the end of the next ‘core’ or end of exams – celebrations start the moment you hand in your test paper and leave the room.
6. You do something you haven’t done before
They say if you always do what you’ve always done then you will always have what you’ve always had. (Or, in the words of Albert Einstein, ‘Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results’.) At Imperial College there are over 300 clubs and societies – where you can become a volunteer, learn a new language, start fencing, archery, badminton… You name it! Choose as many as you ant – in my personal experience, you have to be very determined to keep attending the societies, as the main studies’ pressure at the Business School is quite high.
7. You reinvent London on a budget
And generally plan your finance better. According to various calculations, your opportunity cost is over £100K during the year you are doing a full-time MBA (you are not earning a salary, you are paying tuition fees and rent as well as spending money on food – and you do not really have any income to rely on). This means that you suddenly become an expert of London’s hidden gems (cafe in V&A museum nearby is an unforgettable experience, and they offer 10% discount to Imperial students – see next point), take note of places that provide student discounts (hello Gap, TopShop and Fernandez and Wells!), use student travel card (£81.50 for 1-2 zones monthly instead of full-fare of £120.60), if you moved to London from abroad you might rent a room in a student accommodation and generally watch your budget. A very useful skill of effective financial management that you can apply in real-life environment in a company. 😉
In my personal experience, getting on an MBA at Imperial College Business School has been one of the best decisions I have made recently. MBA is an enriching experience that lets you try new things, risk, and experiment! Business School provides a safe environment for pushing your borders, and you should definitely go for it. I hope it paints a picture – if you have any questions though – please feel free to post them in the comment section below and I will be happy to answer!