What they don’t teach you on the MBA

Today I will talk a bit on something that we could easily disregard at one point in this exciting and crazy journey that is an Insead MBA, and any MBA at the end of the day.

Coming to Insead you feel like the master of the universe, you feel there is nothing stopping you. You meet these incredible people, that think just like you, are at least as driven and open minded. You find a new home.

You go on, you go to career events, you interview with top investment banks, you get your dream internship/job; you go to class, you’re engaged, you ace the exams; you go to parties, you go to friends’ dinners, you feel amazing. This is your new home and it feels incredible. You’re the king of the world.

At the same time, you have left something. Your old home. You leave your old friends, good friends that helped you along your way, you leave hopes, plans and most importantly you leave your family.

I know that in December or January I was writing that ‘Letting go is not the hardest thing to do’… I stand corrected. As this fantastic experience carries on, you have idle moments, moments in which there are no waves of new experiences, no waves of new friends, no waves of fresh information… It’s just an empty beach waiting for the tide to return.

It’s the moments where you have flashbacks of your former life: the rich life, the friends you used to see, the coffees you used to go to, the parties you attended, the lunches and dinners that were so fulfilling and again most importantly the family that was around you. That special person who was beside you every day. These are not easy moments.

There is no business school programme on how to handle these far away relationships…

Sure, you might feel in control. You might think that even if you don’t reach out to a friend for several months they are still there. You might be right, but you may also be surprised that some have just moved on. You might also think that your significant other understands the constant surf you are going through, but you may find that they do not.

Coming to a top tier MBA, you need a lot of passion. You need so much passion just to get in. Writing those essays, making those applications, going through those tests, GMAT, TOEFL, talking to recommenders. It’s such a long and intense experience. You sometimes forget that those who love you feel excluded, feel left out from this tummult. they are shut out. You’re in your bubble. You’re in your own journey.

Coming to your dream MBA, these feelings only increase. You are so caught up that you barely make it through the daily calls or Skype and as the MBA rhythm accelerates the feeling that you are moving closer and closer to your dream path becomes ever more addictive: you lose control.

My organisational behaviour professor tested us on how focused we were on our MBA, our career and how focused on our relationships. The majority of us had spent 60-90 per cent of our energy in getting to the school, achieving the dream ┬ácareer: it was our moment to shine. However, his question still resounds in my head: “How do you think your loved one thought about getting only 10-30 per cent of your passion during this time?” I do not have an answer and I do not know if lesser focus would have meant not reaching an MBA programme or getting an internship, but what I do know is that your loved one are equally as important to your life success.

My advice to anyone planning on an MBA is do not under-estimate distance, don’t over-estimate people’s empathy toward your experience. Make sure you are there for the ones that matter for you, make sure you are there for your friends, make sure that you balance your new life with your old life.

Most importantly: be there for the ones you love, bring them in, cherish them, don’t take them for granted and go that extra mile whenever you have the opportunity to be together. You might be caught in your moment, you might feel that you are king of the world but it’s your loved ones at the end of the day that can make or break you. You might find this out the hard or the easy way, it’s up to you.

There is no recipe for avoiding those empty beach moments. They will come. Regardless of how happy, successful, accomplished you are: they will come. What you can do to make them less painful is cherish your ‘old’ relationships, nourish them, care for them. It’s what will make you a balanced and accomplished individual. It’s what will make your experience in the end a truly incredible journey.