Almost nothing can match the glee of turning in the last exam before summer break… until you’ve been hit with a horrible cold that keeps you bed-ridden for the first days of summer! Indeed, by the time I scoped out the problems on the Advanced Corporate Finance final I was already nursing a sore throat, which only persisted through the test and into the summer celebrations. Sometimes grad school simply takes its toll. Thankfully I still had the opportunity to attend an optional field trip to San Antonio with students from my Urban Management class, a trip I had been looking forward to for weeks. In San Antonio we joined a City Council session, toured a newly developed campus that serves as a rehabilitation center for the homeless called Haven for Hope, and met Mayor Julian Castro. Mayor Castro is the youngest mayor in the United States (age 35) to preside over a Top 50 American city – definitely a politician to keep an eye on. The Mayor was very friendly and down-to-earth – we got to watch him in action at a press conference, which also reminded me of the power of good public speaking (something to keep working on in grad school). For those like me who are relatively new to Texas, San Antonio is 80 miles (hour and half) southwest of Austin, and makes for a good day trip if you can break away from Austin’s never-ending events and festivities.
And now, over a week since my last exam, I’m savoring the two weeks of my free time in Austin. Between the restaurants, taco stands, Lake Travis and Barton Springs I know the time will fly. I also need to figure out where I’ll be living next year, move my furniture and transfer all of my bills. But after surviving first semester (McCombs Core), a simple move within Austin won’t phase me!
While I’m only halfway through b-school, I thought I would share some of the facets of the MBA experience that took me by surprise. First: 1st-year Core is an intense experience, especially for those of us who are new to business school course work. The Core is composed of four, accelerated classes each quarter, which means by the end of first semester we’ve taken 8 finals, with several case studies, homework assignments and quizzes in between. I talked to several friends who needed at least a month to catch up on sleep after our winter finals. The Core classes are graded on a strict curve in which the bottom of the class (5-10%), guaranteed, will receive a C. While some b-schools have non-grade disclosure, McCombs does not, so one’s GPA is sometimes used as part of the evaluation criteria for on-campus recruiting. While there is a great amount of collaboration within the student body, in the end you’re competing directly against an incredibly bright, talented and experienced group of people on a regular basis.
Second: rejection is a normal part of the business school experience. There are countless ways to be involved at McCombs, but one must be elected or selected to serve as a club officer, become a Venture Fellow, Marketing Fellow, serve on MAC, serve on the Investment Fund, and so-on. Further, on-campus recruiting starts at the beginning of second semester, where many of the world’s top corporations swing through to check out the McCombs talent pool. Depending on one’s level of risk taking, rejection is bound to come in one form or another over these months. This is normal – even for the Super Stars of the MBA program.
As for this summer… I’ll soon be leaving Austin to spend two months in San Francisco, where I’ll be interning for Arup, an international design/consulting firm. I’m incredibly excited for this internship. Arup is similar to the company I worked for before business school, but I’ll now have the opportunity to work less in marketing, and more on the consulting, project-side of the business. I’ll be working on project finance for three projects – two of the projects are local infrastructure works with the City, and another project is related to the use of venture capital to fund sustainable, urban projects. While I did my fair share of on-campus recruiting, this internship was actually arranged through some off-campus networking, as well as good timing and a stroke of good luck. I’ll be living at home (in San Francisco) which is also a huge relief in terms of moving expenses and rent – it’s been almost ten years since I’ve lived back in the Bay Area! Goodbye frozen dinners, hello dim sum.
Overall I feel that I’m leaving for the summer with a very much improved set of skills than when I first sat down at orientation. I owe this completely to the quality of the McCombs MBA program, and of course, a lot of hard work! And, just as a blog post is only as good as its pictures, I’m following Kalin and Ryan’s example and posting some favorites from over the year.