Following up on my last post, I had a couple of months to spend after being accepted into the LBS EMBA programme. I spent these months doing two things.
One, I spread the news far and wide – to friends, relatives, and colleagues. I simply loved the sense of awe I would see in people’s reactions to the news. It reinforced my belief that this was a great programme to be a part of, and made me feel more confident of my decision to accept the offer.
Two, I had spent all of June in a nervous state, afraid to think about how life would be during and after the EMBA programme. I didn’t want to jinx it. Now, I allowed myself to slowly become more and more excited. As each development happened, be it a welcome email, an update of some sort or access to the portal, the reality dawned upon me that I was about to go back to school. I spent hours reading about LBS, London and Dubai. I explored the portal until there was nothing left to explore. I joined student groups online. I read discussion boards. The best part was, I enjoyed every bit of it.
Finally, the time came to depart for London. I was at the airport checking in my bags. The check-in attendant seemed disinterested, until she asked to see my UK Visa. She had never seen a student visitor visa before. She asked me, are you going for school? I replied in the affirmative. She then asked me why I was going only for a week. As I explained, I saw the same sense of awe in her too. “How cool!”, she exclaimed. She wanted to hear all about it. We had to end our conversation prematurely, as there were people in line.
Anyway, I got to London a couple of days before the first day of orientation. I wandered around the city on the first day. Though I had been to London four times before, I had always seen it through the eyes of a budget traveler. The neighborhoods around LBS were something new for me. I loved every bit of it. The second day, I wandered over to campus. At first, I was hesitant to enter. In India, random people just don’t get allowed to enter the campus of a university. You have to have an ID card or a very strong reason to be allowed inside. The gentleman at the reception smiled and asked me if he could help me. I told him I was looking for the EMBA registration desk, and he showed me where to go.
I walked over, smiling for no reason. As soon as one crosses the garden between the buildings, there is a wonderful sense of calm. No street noise whatsoever. I signed in, collected my iPad (which was completely unexpected) and hung around to talk to a few other people who were also signing in. Then I walked back to my hotel like a child who is just returning from a toy store, with my iPad in one hand and LBS welcome kit in another. I slept late, excited about the next day.
The first day of orientation was quite a bit to handle, even though it was only an evening. We had a wonderful speech by the Dean followed by welcome drinks. I remember standing in a corner, observing people. Everyone seemed like such a rock star. I felt a sudden pang of inferiority. Now I knew why they had welcome drinks. A glass of wine gave me the courage to socialise. I realized that everyone probably thought the same, and started talking to people. The discussions continued into the night at the hotel bar, and did so all week. It turned out to be one of my favorite things about orientation week.
Over the next few days, we had a series of interesting talks by various professors and alumni. Talks about school, career, life after LBS and what not. We also started our first modules, Leadership Skills and Understanding General Management. The professors were top-class and really knew their subjects well. I especially liked the fact that in spite of the research background, they were able to connect real life situations to what they were talking about in class. The examples came from diverse geographies, industries and experience levels and kept the discussions animated and engaging.
My agenda for the week was to talk and connect to as many people as possible, be it faculty, staff or students. I focused on those who were part of the London stream, simply because it would be a while until I got to see them again. “London or Dubai?” became the most frequently used phrase in my vocabulary for those few days.
At the end of the week, I was exhausted, excited, impressed and humbled. Exhausted, because I consistently chose socializing over sleeping. I was always one of the last few to leave the hotel bar after many interesting conversations. Excited, because the orientation week really set a tone for what lay ahead. I couldn’t wait to go to Dubai for the second module. Impressed, by the calibrof the staff, professors and classmates. I can safely say that I did not meet two people who had done the same thing prior to their EMBA. Humbled, because I was considered good enough to be part of this fantastic group of people. I thought I had achieved a great deal up to this point, but the stories I heard told me there was so much more that my classmates have achieved. Being one of the youngest in the class, I think it’s a good thing. I have the most to learn, and I will have the most time to apply what I learn.
The point that stood out the most for me was the complete lack of arrogance. LBS also did a good job of making it clear that being part of the EMBA program should not lead to a sense of entitlement. They didn’t need to, the class as a group seemed like some of the most down-to-earth people I have met. I go back home eagerly anticipating what lies in store during the next module. I just can’t wait!