Reflections on the First 40 Days
Aneta Gasiewska ’21 shares her thoughts on a packed first month in the MBA program at Yale SOM.
It’s mid-September, exactly 40 days from the start of the academic year. At this point my class is past the Orientation Week, an intensive leadership course, three weeks of full-time classes, a series of career development workshops and company presentations, a number of networking events, a sequence of club kick-off meetings, one exam, and… am I forgetting anything? For sure—it is almost impossible to keep track of everything going on at the Yale School of Management.
As a joint-degree student, I had started my program at Yale School of Public Health at the beginning of July. I had a quiet expectation that by the time our classes at Yale SOM kicked off, I would already be settled and the transition to the business school would go smoothly. Come mid-August, I quickly revised this assumption. As soon as 350 new classmates arrived in New Haven and the orientation week started, things started moving at an incredible pace. The FOMO (fear of missing out) was real.
Our first class was a one-week intensive leadership course: Managing Groups and Teams. A mix of theory and practice, the course is designed to introduce us to the dynamics related to forming, leading, and working in teams. Each topic would be discussed in the classroom setting, as well as put into practice—our newly assigned learning teams had to confront a set of seemingly straightforward tasks. Wondering how difficult it is for MBA students to assemble a Lego man in 30 minutes? It definitely doesn’t sound that hard, but we soon discovered we’re also incredibly efficient in realizing negative synergies, particularly when roles are not clearly defined and team norms are not established yet. Over that week probably each group saw a DNF score at least once.
But whatever happened in that first week of class, it worked. Halfway through the first term, my learning team is definitely much more efficient. We’re working together, dividing tasks, and sharing experiences, and we also really enjoy spending time together. This is very handy, because this fall may actually be the busiest period of my life.
The fall term at SOM focuses on the core courses from the integrated curriculum. Designed to provide an introduction to management and bring everyone on the same page, these classes are also far from being just lectures—with a number of cases, exercises, and hands-on projects, they immediately bring the concepts and frameworks discussed to life. One thing that never ceases to amaze me is that no matter how unusual or niche a topic is, there is always someone in class who has first-hand experience in the area. The diversity of experiences and perspectives makes in-class discussion super interesting, and the conversations often continue once the class is over.
If there is one thing I struggle with during my first term at SOM, it is definitely the question, “How do I choose among all the opportunities available at the SOM and at Yale and still have a private life?” The number of clubs, activities, conferences, events, speaker panels, and sports organizations is incredible, and there is some social gathering somewhere at any given point in time. Now I see why prior to business school my friends advised me to set my goals before even starting classes, and use them as a compass to make my choices. This helps, but I still would be interested in a Time-Turner kind of device.
Looking back at the last one and a half months, I cannot believe how fast the time has passed. It seems like it was just yesterday when I was sitting in Zhang Auditorium with all my new classmates, happy to start this new chapter, but also unsure how things would work. Seeing how this group of strangers is turning into a close-knit, extremely supportive, and inspiring community assures me I’m in the right place. I’m really excited for the next two years.