The first question you get from everyone (family, friends, recommenders, people on the streets, your old kindergarten teacher) the first time they see you after you have left for school is:

How is school?

A very interesting question for two reasons:

Firstly, there is a good chance that you don’t have a good answer for them.  I can’t speak for other programs as I only know the great MIT Sloan School of Management, but the general feeling is that the first semester of an MBA is an extremely intense exercise in how few hours you can sleep and how many times can you multiply your old level of productivity.  It’s a difficult juggling act of clubs, classes, and job searching that  drains you and  leaves you tired, sleep deprived, and walking around in some odd half-awake state.  Yet, for some odd reason, you find that you are having the time of your life.  You love it, despite your hatred.  So it becomes hard to express both of these conflicting emotions in one answer.

Secondly, you are forced to think about what you like.  It could just be me, but I hate vagueness.  I don’t like to answer questions with “good” or “OK” without some solid examples and details that I can elaborate on.  As a result, I need to think about why I am actually enjoying myself and why I love my program, so I don’t give the basic “well … it’s going aight”.

So, I sat and I thought.  I closed my eyes real real tight and pondered over what X factor existed to make a seemingly hard and draining situation so enjoyable.

If the title didn’t give it away … it was my classmates.

Simply stated, MIT has accumulated about 400 of the most interesting, smart, and diverse individuals in the world and put them into class with me.  I know it sounds rather “soft”, but I actually look forward to finding out about each one of my classmates, as their stories are always a bit eye opening.

From the banker who wants to work in health care in Africa, the New Yorker who spent 4 years in Hong Kong, to the Russian who still holds dear the USSR, its been fun.  The varied interests of people always opens me up to new things.  You can hear the passion of some people and the things they want to do in life, and it’s infectious.

I had heard about this many times over before starting school.  Schools go through a lot of trouble to assemble a diverse class mix that allows students to feed off each other in addition to their professors.  But … you hear stuff like this all the time.  Schools always claim about some unique trick they do to eek that extra bit of learning and education out of you.

Well for once … they backed it up.

So, I will end this with a simple “I appreciate my classmates.”  I appreciate all they have taught me, all the entertainment they have provided, and the stories they have given me.

Anyone looking into or considering an MBA program, get a feel for the people.  It’s only 2 years, but you will be surprised how much time you will spend interacting with your classmates.  While you can’t peer into the future to see how your classmates will be, every school has a “feel”.  Make sure it feels right …