Ekaterina Li Profile ImageWhat is it like to study on the renowned Full-Time MBA at Imperial? In this informative and humorous account, Full-Time MBA student, Ekaterina Li, gives an insight into her experiences on the Imperial MBA.

Ekaterina joins Imperial from Russia, following her role as a Business Analyst at AB InBev and six years at PwC Russia.

In the first part of her MBA Diary series, Ekaterina shares her musings on the first two weeks on the MBA including induction activities, high ropes and climbing towers, FitBit trackers and strolls in Hyde Park.

Day 5: Friday 7 September

We are mid-way through Induction and I have no idea how to describe it in one post. Today was our first away day as Full-Time MBA group, in a park outside London. We were asked to dress in sports clothes, so I expected some fun activities like ball games.

What I didn’t expect was rock climbing to a huge shaking pole (secured with safety equipment), standing on a 50x50cm platform five metres or so above the ground while you are hugging three other people and trying to lean back using each other’s weight. Nor did I expect walking on cables holding the rope while other team members pulled it tight to support you.

I almost forgot it was a Business School I am attending, but after each activity, the most marvellous thing happened. We were discussing our experiences in a business and teamwork context: what we did wrong as a team, how we could have prepared a strategy or allocated resources better so that we could be more successful at the task. Obviously, Business School is not only about accounting or innovative thinking during classes, but it’s about your development as a member of society (both in general and at work).

Ekaterina Li MBA Syndicate Group

You now can just come up to another person from your group you never really talked to before and ask ‘aren’t you cold?’ while he’s standing in shorts and weather is not so hot. He smiles and says ‘not that I have any intentions to admit it’. You laugh together and have an ice-breaking conversation. Then it becomes easier to do so with every following person and to build relationships from nothing, just by offering support – “Oh I was suffering yesterday during the excel workshop!” “I lived with it 12 hours a day while working as an auditor, I can help”. And you rise, enjoy and feel better. Well, because you are.

Day 10: Wednesday 12 September

The Universe is crying get back to the gym to me! All students on the Full-Time MBA received FitBit fitness trackers today. Okay, I’ve got it. Body Pump at 7:15 am tomorrow. The ultimate goal for the 74 students on the MBA is to cumulatively walk, run, swim etc. the distance to (and from) our destination for Global Experience Week at the end of April. Last year’s trip took place in Chile, but this year’s location has not been revealed.

Additionally, they gave us fancy red envelopes and a piece of paper to write our personal challenge for the coming year. I wrote: learn how to ride a bicycle and try to do a wheelie in Hyde Park. Then we closed and signed our names on them. Although I was already offered help by several people to achieve my challenge, it still doesn’t look promising!

Our presenters are so great I can’t stop thinking that it is what I would like to do – they basically make me fall in love with each and every one of them. I like they don’t make a big fat deal out of those three letters (i.e. MBA). They tell us at Imperial that we have opportunities. But we have to reach for them and grab them by ourselves.

Day 12: Friday 14 September

If you do life statistics, the number of days that suck would probably be more than the opposite – this is just how it works. Well, yesterday I had one of those opposites. And if you asked me what was the extraordinary thing that happened? I would say nothing.

Our Programme director, Dr Andreas Eisingerich, gave a quick but very insightful wrap-up for the induction fortnight. He spoke about a lot of useful things like having fun and using all the opportunities that we have here, but what I really started to think about was the part about quality vs. quantity of time. I think it happens so frequently that we waste time not because we don’t do something, but because we do it wrong or with the wrong reasons and attitude. At the end of it all, even small things can be huge if you felt good.

After the wrap-up, I headed to the bar with five people from syndicate group to have some beer (latte for me as I had Body Combat later). We spoke about an enormous amount of different things – some stupid and others not that stupid – about our similarities and differences. I learnt that rubbing fingers together to mean money is international, clicking your neck meaning booze is not and also God is less polite than gosh! We have only known each other for two weeks but there are no awkward pauses when we speak, rather it’s difficult to make each other stop talking, and that’s so great! We are from the UK, the US, India, Israel, Thailand and Russia, we have various work and personal experiences and we have other 68 members to contribute their value.

Swans in Hyde Park

Here, even with a crazy university schedule, stress about coming job search and an even crazier to-do list (I had to do mine in Excel with deadlines and categories, otherwise you can’t quite manage it). I also have sports and volleyball clubs starting in October among things I am already engaged with. There are also coming opportunities to volunteer teaching elders how to use digital devices, taking language lessons, thinking about start-ups, travelling and of course, exploring green and sunny (so far) London.

You are free to do whatever you want and whatever you like, and that’s priceless because it’s the best thing you can have in life. At the end of the day I was walking through Hyde Park to the gym, with the sun shining, swans diving, people jogging and cycling around me, grass green, music in my ears, mumbling songs to myself and almost dancing.

And I felt alive.

Days 13-14: Saturday-Sunday 15-16 September

In life, it usually works that you have boring weekdays (unless you are really lucky and have a job of your dreams) and very interesting weekends (unless you are really unlucky and work those too). In my current non-work position, it’s just the opposite. While we have a lot of happenings on weekdays, weekends are spent studying multiplied by reading (unless I have a friend visiting). But, isn’t it great when you have time for studying? I mean actual studying – not like when you were 19 chatting to friends with your left hand, eating a McDonald’s cheeseburger right and not really caring about your microeconomics (or engineering, linguistics, corporate law, anatomy) book open in front of you.

Now when you’re studying and see that the ‘who’s online’ section on the online learning platform, The Hub, is not empty – which means someone else is also suffering from attempts to understand that last chapter of pre-reading – it drives you even further: to know you actually have your cohort. Some girls on the MBA love shopping, speak about their boyfriends and said they memorised me by my shoes, but also, they are extremely interested in how depreciation accumulates and the ways for long-term cost-cutting. Boys will discuss that someone’s smelling in a bus because of the heat, but they are also interested in how cash flow works and create regression analysis models. And it’s great to know we’re doing our best to be smart and knowledgeable, but we stay human.

Imperial Full-Time MBA Group