First Year Life at IESE – the Unspoken Truth

When I was offered an opportunity to blog about my IESE MBA experience, I immediately started making a mental list of all of my learnings and achievements thus far including my decision to go to IESE, my journey to Barcelona, my impression of virtual classes, my feelings about being on campus and the list goes on.

I have plenty of positive stories to share, and for those first-year students who are reading this, I am sure you all have similar positive first-hand experiences.

But upon reflection, I feel that it is also important to point out the obstacles that comes with embarking on an MBA journey, in a foreign country and in the midst of a global health crisis and the reality is, it hasn’t been all that easy.

One of the main reasons why us students decide to press pause on our current careers and invest the next two years in an MBA is because we want to change the trajectory of our lives. But let’s admit it, that’s just a fancy way of saying, we don’t really know what we want to do with the rest of our lives (which is perfectly okay, by the way) and that’s how we found ourselves here. When you throw a global health crisis into the mix, the risk of catching Covid-19, the possibility of having to go back into lock down and doing classes online, the social restrictions that has been imposed on us, the real possibility of having to wear a mask throughout the entire MBA experience and only seeing half of your MBA colleagues’ faces, and more importantly, the impact that this pandemic has had on the economy and the uncertainty of finding a job in the future, this pressure weighs on many of our shoulders.

Then there is the obvious challenge of finding the right balance between case work, navigating through all the career forums, spending hours virtually networking (Zoom fatigue is a real thing!) and not to mention trying to manage every human’s basic needs such as exercising, eating and sleeping.

And let us not forget that a lot of us left our families, friends, husbands, wives, and children back at home. Whilst there is no argument that living and studying in Barcelona is one of the major attractions of going to IESE, the truth is, with the travel restrictions imposed across many countries, the chances of us being able to see our loved ones for Christmas remains uncertain.

However, as I reflect over the last two months of my journey it is obvious to me that I would not change any of the decisions that I have made.

As part of the Communications course, I stood up in front of an audience of over 100 MBA students and professors to speak about the discrimination I faced growing up in Australia as a young Vietnamese Australian. The positive reaction from my speech inspired me to take up the role as a First Year Director of the Diversity & Inclusion Committee, where I can continue to raise awareness on topical issues such as racism, ageism and sexism. I am also honored to have been given the opportunity to promote and foster my passion for creativity and entrepreneurship as a First Year Director of the Start-Up & Entrepreneurship Club.

Over the past two months, I have laughed, I have cried, I have danced, I have overslept, I have under slept, I have been annoyed, I have been impressed, I have fallen down (literally, those slippery IESE stairs!) and gotten back up again and I still wake up every morning feeling blessed that I am here in Barcelona, surrounded by a diverse community that has accepted me for who I am. More importantly, I am on steep learning curve and would not have it any other way.

Wherever you are in your MBA journey, whether you are thinking of applying, whether you have started first year like me, or whether you are in second year and deep in search of that next full time role, I would like to take this opportunity to remind you that life is short and we only get one chance at it. I encourage you all to embrace the uncertainty that we are all facing right now and seize each day with an open mind and an open heart.

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Athena Lam View more

MBA Class of 2022

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