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a baker-holic, choc fanatic, dessert-freak.. yeah and i'm south asian :). A happy member of the Fuqua Class of 2011.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Preparing for Takeoff !!

So the way I see it, going (abroad) for an MBA is pretty much like a pilot preparing for takeoff. The feeling of nervousness, last minute butterflies in the stomach, excitement, restlessness... it's pretty much what I would expect a pilot to go through before a flight. Hm.. then again perhaps I wouldn't really want to be sitting on a plane where the pilot is feeling jittery and slightly nervous :D hehehe

See I always thought that the hardest part would be the MBA apps.. and so, when I completed those, was lucky enough to be admitted, I thought, wow this is it... now I can sit back and relax..welll... I just had a big laugh at myself for actually thinking this. For now, as the destination has suddenly become oh-so-clearer, I'm swamped with things to do, preparing to go abroad and much much more!

I don't know if domestic US students are going through all the paperwork, housing worries and preparation that international ones have to. Perhaps, perhaps not. You see, for an international student I guess the process is a bit longer as it's about relocating your stuff, belongings, thoughts, view on life, social network, support structure to a new place, a new country for 2 years. It's part of the process, the MBA journey - and that's also what makes it so exciting!

Here's a short list of to-do things that I guess would help international applicants (especially those for whom its going to be the first trip living in the US).

1) Branching out, Finding out: Once your'e admitted, and have decided to attend school x, start networking. Find out as much as you can about the school, the location, surrounding locations, airport, facilities available as you can. It's going to be a long process, so it would be best to start soon. In my case, I've started contacting current 1st year students, alumni, my MBA interviewer, International Housing staff, Facebook groups, other MBA applicants, and have really learnt quite a lot about Durham and Fuqua from them. The web can really be a great resource - I haven't ever been to Durham, North Carolina, and yet I have a great image of how I expect it to be from:
1) The University website
2) The town's official website - in my case, Durham's official website. Even got a free magazine from them about things to do, where to shop & dine in Durham! Cool :)
3) Facebook - ah, finally I like Facebook again! Here's why - by joining your school's MBA Class of 2011, or the International Student's Class of 2011 and so and so Facebook Group, you can sit wherever you are, and discuss housing, living and everything with mentors, future friends and other people in your situation.

2) Vying for Visa: This is probably one of the biggest headache's - visa. It's ok though, really. We're all in the same boat. We will all get it :) But it's good to speed up the process (if you can), figure out how long it's going to take you, and yes, always have a plan B.

3) Housing: Most business school's don't really have on-campus graduate housing. I may be wrong, but at least at Fuqua, 99% or so of the students live off-campus. So here are things you need to start figuring out right away: What kind of housing do you want - on campus or off campus? What locality? What location - do you want a family friendly housing or a party place? Do you want a single room or a roommate? When should you start booking in advance? How much rent are you willing to spend on the room / apartment? Will the housing have live-in facilities such as laundry, furnishing or will you need to do all this yourself? What kind of roommate do you want (if so)?

4) Immunisation Incentives: Make sure you get all your immunisations done. Fuqua's pretty good about this and has a whole list of immunisations required from international students on their Duke wbebsite. Check with your school in advance - if you're free, might as well get it done now.

5) Health care / health insurance: Needless to say, if you fall sick, you need to know where to go :) Sure the home-made remedies of chicken soup, Joshanda, or herbs could work for a flu. But in case it gets prolonged, you should be prepared.

6) Planning a budget and arranging for finances: Look at living expenses in detail. The universities usually provide an item by item estimated expense. See if your budget would allow for this. Else, figure out how you're going to manage it. If you intend on saving or living with spouse/kids, you need to make provisions beforehand.

7) Cell phone / connection: Decide which cell phone / connection to get. This is also an aspect where current students could help you out.

8) Computer Cruise: After browsing Fuqua's recommendations for computers, I just realised that my Mac may not be such a great option for Fuqua. Oh damn. Apparently, not all their softwares are Mac workable, or even workable for Windows installed in Mac. Figure out computer, laptop, internet options.

9) Transport tour - Decide what you're going to do about transport. Are you going to have a car? Are you going to rely on public transport or car pool? In this case, housing becomes important - perhaps you want to look at an apt near the bus routes / or parking spots.

10) Gearing up your Goals: Figure out what you want from your MBA - See once the MBA starts, you'll be too caught up to realise how it's heading. Decide in advance, what you want to get out of your MBA - for some it could be a job in Pvt equity, or Financial Services, for others it could be about the global exposure, for even others it could just be about networking, or making new friends. I'm sure we've all done this in detail for the actual MBA essays / apps, but hey, it doesn't hurt to re-visit the goals.

11) Pre-course work: Fuqua has a Math Software that we're all supposed to revise / refresh before school actually starts. Check with your school if there's something similar.

12) And finally.... RELAX!! This is the pre-best time of your life :P Quit work, resign, travel, do what makes you happy, enjoy the me-time, hang out with friends. You've done half the work (getting admitted) - now enjoy - you deserve it!

All the best, till my next post! and yes.... before I forget... a big Congrats to all fellow winners of the Clear Admit's BoB contest! Thank you Clear Admit, Judges and fellow voters for making this
Number 7 in the best of blogging applicant category and others!!


trystwithmba said...

Good list. I especially like #12 :-)

Omne said...

That's a good list of things to think about! Most of those apply to domestic applicants too

Adam A. said...

Hmmm, all very useful advice. I think I'm in love with you. See you at Fuqua!

Toxic Brit said...

Great list, as a foreign national this visa mess makes me want to go to europe...

Brit.Phd said...

Toxic Brit, I agree. Additionally, the US schools are all about brand-hype. Sure the "Ivy-League" schools have some valuable teachings, but bundle it in with a lot of nonsense.

Traditionally, the US schools' MBA progs are terrible at teaching soft-skills, and are mostly about financial metrics, whereas the European schools, especially INSEAD etc, are incredibly thorough and rounded. Unless you are looking to jumpy onto the US "salary-man" track, a US MBA is of little value lately. It is worth even less, if you are planning on working in Europe.

Why on earth, with so many amazing European schools that will yield higher esteem with European firms, so many Brits are flocking to the US, is baffling.

It is of no surprise, and quite telling, that a huge number of Americans are now going to EU schools, whereas Europeans, especially Brits, seem to be lagging behind in what a US MBA will get you.

With a drop of around 25% in revenue for Ivy League B-Schools, and an even higher drop for others, I'm sure that the US is glad to have so many British coming over, although the US Immigration rules don't yet show it.....

And, if you think the US profs are better, forget it! I've had three friends at Fuqua and Kenan-Flagler doing their PhD's, and they wanted to leave, as the Profs there were mostly prima-donnas, and offered little in the way of support. It's all about them and their desire to be published.

Good luck to those that want to come to the US, but besides the danger, (Durham is a gang capital, and an Indian PhD at Duke got followed, and murdered last year for his Ipod, he was 1/2 mile from campus,) you are basically paying more for less. The homogeneity here in the "culture" also means you leave having had less exposure to an innovative mind-set.