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Sitting in our last class of term, a lecture on sustainability and part of our ‘Business, Government and Society’ course, I was feeling confused by how quickly the first year flew by. Before the lecture our stream had gathered on the sunny front lawn for a celebratory picnic to mark the last time we would ever all sit in a lecture theatre together. Little did we know that this particular class was going to be even more memorable than we had anticipated.

We did wonder as we walked through the Sainsbury building on our way to the lecture theatre – what all the security presence was for. As the lecturer, Andrew Scott, Professor of Economics, wrapped up the first half of class, he finally shared details of the guest speaker who had been scheduled for the end of the lecture. Well, I won’t keep you in suspense any longer – it was none other than His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales! Or Prince Charles, son of the Queen, father of Princes William and Harry, and grandfather of George and Charlotte, as he is also known.

The Prince of Wales began by asking us whether we had covered sustainability as part of our course. It’s not every day you have the opportunity to talk with the Royal Family! So I put up my hand and explained that as well as our Business, Government and Society course, we had also covered a case on The Body Shop.

His Royal Highness went on to talk about The Prince’s Accounting for Sustainability Project (A4S), an organisation he set up over a decade ago to get the finance, accounting and investor community to support a real shift towards a sustainable economy. He expressed his concern that “we talk about the human economy in isolation from the natural economy” and stressed that we have to “encourage business to think more long term”. He asked us whether we had heard about the circular economy, which is something that I actually only found out about since starting the MBA, through the very interesting Schmidt-MacArthur Fellowship which was promoted on campus last term.

The Prince of Wales went on to speak to a gathering of deans and programme directors from leading business schools, hosted on campus, to promote accounting for sustainability in their MBA and research programmes.

The timing was fitting, a day before the School’s Society.Economy.Environment Summit , which  addressed he future of sustainable business with nearly 100 attendees and high-profile speakers from organisations such as Marks & Spencer and GlaxoSmithKline, as well as A4S. I co-organised the event so I hope you’ll forgive the plug!

All in all it was an incredible high to end the first year on, and campus was buzzing with excitement all afternoon, fuelled by countless student selfies taken with the Prince in the background as he left campus.

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I’m back! I know, I know, it’s been a few weeks – but two posts in one term are better than none at all, I suppose, when there are so many things pulling you in different directions (term 2 has been as busy as term 1, but in very different ways – more on that later). It’s fitting to consider my blog posting frequency because this one is all about balance – juggling the many competing demands of the MBA and managing your stress levels. In my last entry I mentioned that I wanted to share three things that surprised me about the MBA experience with you, and this is the second one.

Lesson #2 – You don’t have to be stressed out – but it’s worth pushing yourself outside your comfort zone

Before the MBA I worried that particularly the first term would be horrendously stressful and exhausting. I had visions of study group sessions locked in stuffy seminar rooms hunched over Excel models at 3am (ok, I got that from those books I mentioned in my last post – must be what US business schools are like ;) …). Actually, it was a lot less stressful than I thought it would be. Yes, it was very busy, but you can control how busy, to some extent. You have to decide what to prioritise, and to remember, as my boyfriend likes to say, that ‘perfect is the enemy of good’. Of course you probably have to do that in your job too, but the all-encompassing nature of the MBA means that it’s even more crucial.

I think a lot of people, spurred on by the FOMO I mentioned in my first post, signed up to anything and everything and then ended up insanely busy. I probably made the opposite mistake. I was very careful to only commit to the few things I definitely wanted to do (and some that, after some agonising, I decided were also worth my time). In a way, I limited myself – only doing what I thought would improve my career prospects (such as being on the Industry Club committee), help me make friends and stay fit (e.g. joining the Women’s Touch Rugby team) or would keep me on top of my studies (going to many a Corporate Finance tutorial, sometimes even forsaking the free drinks at Sundowners to do so). This meant I was a lot less stressed than many, but on the other hand I think I didn’t really stretch myself or try new things. And I think those two elements are a lot of what makes the MBA an amazing experience.

So this term my resolution was to sign up for a few more things, get involved with activities that simply looked fun or interesting, and enjoy the process a bit more, rather than just focusing on the end goal of getting a a great post-MBA job or passing my exams. And I must say it has been an even more enjoyable term because of it. I competed in the Nespresso Sustainability Challenge, consulted for a Fairtrade coffee social enterprise as part of the Impact Consulting team, am helping create the first LBS MBA cookbook, danced Flamenco at Tattoo, will be competing in the inter-stream football tournament this coming Saturday and went to a whole bunch of interesting events, from design thinking with Professor Julian Birkinshaw to the ‘TEDx factor’ student auditions for the upcoming TEDx LBS. It’s been busy, but it’s been great fun.

Now term 2 is nearly over – and four exams are coming up next weekend (yes, exams on weekends are one of the joys/quirks of LBS MBA life) followed by Spring break with its many treks around the world. I for one will be heading to Thailand and Cambodia for some well-deserved rest and sunshine – so you may have to wait until next term for lesson 3. We’ll see, maybe I’ll log on from the beach…

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Sooo …. I’d planned to blog last term. Once a month or so. How hard can it be, I figured. Won’t take long to type out a few stream of consciousness thoughts. Errr … yeah. Here we are, my first blog post – two weeks into term 2!

What happened? First term of the MBA, that’s what happened. It was hectic, it was fun, and in many ways it wasn’t what I had expected. In December, a second year asked me what had surprised me about the MBA, and it made me think. Quite a few things had surprised me, which in turn surprised me some more – because I know London Business School very well. I worked here for 6 years before my MBA, and my boyfriend started the EMBA a year before me (you can check out his blog here). I’d spoken to plenty of students, perused this blog, and even read some books written by MBAs from other schools (yeah I know, I’m a geek). So I thought I knew exactly what was in store. But I still learnt quite a few things, so I thought I’d share them here.

Lesson #1 – You will doubt yourself, but that’s ok

I thought I knew exactly what I wanted to do career-wise (consumer goods/retail), what treks I wanted to go on (Japan) and what activities I wanted to get involved in (touch rugby). But as everyone will tell you, the MBA makes you question things. Should I try consulting? Maybe I want to work in pharma? Was I right not to buy a ticket for Snow Trek? Do I go to the Corporate Finance tutorial or to Sundowners tonight?

Of course, it’s all wrapped up with the ever-present FOMO (fear of missing out). There are just so many interesting, fun, challenging, career-prospect-improving things to choose from, and I, for one, need sleep – but even if you didn’t, you still wouldn’t physically be able to do even a tenth of everything on offer.

Because I had it all planned out, I didn’t think the FOMO would get me, but it did – and the times I found the toughest last term were probably when I had to make difficult choices about what to get involved in. Because your time is so limited, you’re always trying to make sure that you’re going to the club event that will give you the best networking opportunities, or the trek that will be the most fun, and so on. Trying to figure out what to spend your time on can be tough – juggling academic, social, club and career activities with making time for friends and family is not easy. But of course, it’s a luxury to have so many things on offer. And I think it’s worth trying things you hadn’t planned to do, or thought you’d ever be interested in. When else will you have that opportunity?

This brings me onto my second lesson – but since I’m not the most succinct person, and I know you don’t want to read a huge long blog post in one go, I’ll cover the rest in my next post. Time to write some cover letters and applications (the joys of term 2 – more on that in future posts!).

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