Background: On my flight back to New Delhi from Singapore, I begin reflecting on my just completed first semester at NUS.
Not very long back I had been part of the arduous process of preparing for exams, short-listing b-schools, filling applications and writing those ‘why MBA?’ essays. Though I was through with most of the MBA admission interviews, and had even been accepted in some of the schools that I had applied to, I particularly remember the uncharacteristically laidback afternoon in early April in office. This was the day I got an email with the subject — “Congratulations! You have been given an admission offer for NUS MBA (August 2011 intake)”. Unable to react, I glanced nervously around my workstation and then stared hard at the computer screen—a bit overwhelmed and too confused to open the mail. Asian b-schools were the focus area of my first year of application, and NUS was the top school (in terms of strategic fit) to which I had applied.
Well, I did finally open the mail, and it slowly sank in that I had made it to the prestigious NUS MBA program! Along with the happiness of getting admitted to NUS and the excitement of living in the vibrant Singapore, a sense of loss and nostalgia also crept in. The familiar office where I was sitting, the colleagues who were congratulating me on my admission and the cheerful cook at home would slowly drift away into a fondly remembered part of my past. Many of the contacts on my cell phone would become alpha-numeric links to fading faces. This awkward mix of feelings brought with it an element of anxiety.
I had spent a little over 8 years in New Delhi prior to joining the NUS B-school. Starting afresh in a foreign land meant packing the essentials of my current life in a few suitcases and heading towards another life. My experience of working with (and leading) a diversity of global teams notwithstanding, I knew quite well that this move was an important 'change'. It was certainly exciting to hop on to the global bandwagon of expatriates, but it required a well-thought out plan. I needed to embrace the move as a new and exciting opportunity. Only a positive attitude towards change would enable me to make my stay in a new country a comfortable and fruitful experience. I was once again going back to school and leading a ‘student life’: this was the most important change I had to adjust to.
The friendly and helpful staff at the MBA office and the Office of Student Affairs (OSA), and the wonderful people whom I met at the U-Town residential campus ensured that the first few days went well. The hectic MBA schedule and wonderful friends I made took care of the next four and a half months of the first semester.
My transition from manager to ‘student’ came with interesting sets of similarities or continuities: my professors replaced my bosses at office; project submissions and group reports replaced client deliverables; quizzes and exams replaced handling difficult client calls and ‘project-related fires’; and exam results replaced client feedback and appraisal results. But this transition also meant forgoing and forgetting a few things: the famous food-joints of Delhi, my friends from work, and the carefree—almost careless—lifestyle. I now had to learn to control expenses as a student (which becomes a bit difficult after one gets used to earning and spending somewhat unwisely). Surprisingly, of all things, I even missed the notoriously unpredictable Delhi weather!
During one of our mid-class breaks, I remember Professor Ravi Jain telling Gaurav and me, “Enjoy your days of student life, for most of you this is going to be the last academic endeavour and then begins a long period of corporate life.” As I look back at the various lectures, career talks, and networking sessions of last semester, the long nights I spent writing up reports and preparing presentations, the seemingly long walks to Archies, and the frequently frivolous yet extremely interesting discussions with friends in U-Town, I can say one thing: the first semester at NUS was anything but boring!
Devmanyu Singh (Indian)
Full-Time MBA student, Class of 2013