Other than the technical skills learned during the MBA, graduates have said that the experience in itself was the most enriching aspect of the MBA. The connections created with fellow classmates are unbeatable and learning and engaging beyond the classroom is crucial. There are three key things that add value to your MBA.
One: extra curricular activities. They are great for releasing stress, learning new hobbies and students can also apply the principles learned in class.
Two: engage with faculty and staff. Students can expand their insights to topics learned in the classroom and it can bring opportunities to apply the knowledge gained in practical situations.
Three: school spirit. When the school hosts an annual intercultural fest, be sure to be a part of it. Represent your country and learn more about your classmates’ culture. In a business sense, cultural awareness will make you more adaptable to new environments and better at managing and working with a diverse team.
One: Get out
Join student clubs or create new ones. Students usually organize sports, such as football, tennis and swimming. Sports keep you healthy, help clear your thoughts, release endorphins and generally make you feel better. Even more so, if you are able to practice outside, breathing fresh air and connecting brings further health benefits. Other clubs include clubs chess and poker, where students can put into practice their statistics skills.
As time passes, you identify common interests with other students and promote them through student clubs to compliment the curriculum. Fortunately, students have diverse motivations, which increases the number of clubs. For example, last year, a group of students formed the Diversity Club (LID) since they identified a lack of women in leadership positions in the corporate world. Their objective is to use a business approach to promote equal opportunity that in the future can include other groups that are under-represented in the corporate world.
If you are curious about what being an entrepreneur is about, you can join the Entrepreneurship Club. The Club has hosted seminars with regional entrepreneurs to showcase lessons learned. To strengthen and formalize the current volunteering initiatives, currents students are setting up the Corporate Social Responsibility Club. The activities include probono consulting to SME’s in the surrounding community and for second year students to tutor first year students.
INCAE’s professors are highly prepared, more than 90% have PhD’s and all of them continue to do consultancies, which keeps them connected to the business world. Students should reach out to professors that specialize in a topic of interest to ask for career advice and insight. One student for example, obtained guidance from a professor to do his summer internship at a startup. The student who is interested in learning more about the entrepreneurial ecosystem, was able to gain experience and connect with the new generation of social entrepreneurs. Part of his work will contribute to establish a co-working and networking space for social entrepreneurs.
Another group of students, under the guidance of a professor and researcher, realized a pro bono consultancy at a local hospital. This professor has a good relationship with the hospital and therefore the students were able to carry out the project. The end result was the development of a protocol for students and professors interested realizing in similar strategic consultancies to follow.
Three: Share cultures
INCAE unites nationalities interested in learning about Latin America. Once a year students host a three-day cultural event, the Panamericano, where students present their countries through traditional costumes, food, activities and business-related seminars. They seek out sponsorship, guest speakers, bands for the last night’s concert and organize the cultural fair. They invite not only foreign relation representatives but also the surrounding community to strengthen ties.
The funds raised during the Panamericano are designated for two activities: for a graduation event and for a fund. Last year’s graduating class, donated part of their earnings for gym equipment at a local primary school. Moreover, students are also aiming to create a scholarship fund for future students.
The MBA will be two of the most intense years of your life. Make sure to have a balance in your life between books, sports, health, friends and other interests. It will be challenging but students who make an effort to have a balance, have better grades and enjoy their masters the most. I spoke to one graduate who said she went to bed at 10pm, while her classmates stayed up until 1am, woke up to exercise before class and started a student club. She was also one of the top grades of her class.