My adventure at Stanford began on Saturday, Sep 5th, after an exhausting flight from London to San Francisco via Dublin. The past week has been one of the most electrifying and intense of my life. I still feel overwhelmed by the huge amount of required admin and settling-in tasks on the one side, and energized by the first social events, the official welcome to the MBA and the first academic challenges. I keep often wondering whether I am imagining everything, while biking across the stunningly beautiful campus… and well, no, it is all real!
I am living in a quad apartment in the amazing Munger Graduate Residence. My bedroom is absolutely huge, around 40 square metres, with private bathroom. All furniture and appliances are new, the room is clean and silent, and the common rooms — living room and kitchen — are also spacious and well organized. My three housemates (I won’t name names, but I can name nationalities: France, Peru and USA) are extremely nice and collaborative, so I couldn’t be happier with the accommodation.
My first week was spent predominantly on three types of tasks — not including keeping in touch on a regular basis with my girlfriend in London, and on a less regular basis with my family in Italy. The time difference is really hard, but my loved ones across the pond are doing their best to communicate with me, and I feel very supported!
Admin and Settling In
This part was way more demanding than I anticipated, in terms of time and energies required. In no particular order I had to:
- unpack my three baggages (and I am still to receive five boxes from London);
- buy some basic groceries and home products to get me started (i.e. several trips to Walmart, Target and WholeFoods);
- open a bank account;
- buy a US sim card with data plan;
- hand in several documents for required vaccination and medical insurance;
- attend a mandatory workshop on my Visa status, with even more papers required;
- buy and register a bike;
- connect all my devices to Stanford tech system (wi-fi, printers, etc.);
- obtain my Stanford ID Card.
I am sure I am forgetting at least a handful on things, but this list should give you an idea. It was a LOT of work, especially trying to figure out where/how to properly do many of the above tasks. Anyway, the good news is that I am 95% done. I am considering obtaining a California Driving License, but that can wait for at least a few months – I am very happy with my bike for the time being!
The pre-start (technically the MBA starts tomorrow) has also been steeper than I thought, especially trying to find the time between so many admin tasks. This week I had to prepare:
- a case for an optional workshop on the Case Method, which turned out to be a truly excellent session. I now feel more confident in approaching the first real case discussion in about ten days;
- two placement exams, out of a maximum of four offered to each student. Passing a placement exam allows you to be enrolled in an Advanced Course, which is more engaging for students who master the basics of a certain subject. I decided to take the exams for Data Analysis & Decision Making ( = Statistics and Probability) and Optimization & Simulation Modeling (= modeling linear optimization problems in Excel). I am super interested in what is taught at the Advanced level so I hope to do well next week!
- a large number of readings for the first and only course in Week Zero, Managing Groups and Teams, which is a one-week experiential course. Not really sure what to expect on this one, but the first sensation in being a student again after so much time is that 7 years of work experience really make a difference. In undergraduate I would have simply gone through the material almost mechanically; this time, whilst reading this papers on team composition, dynamics and challenges, I had so many situations in mind from my time at Universal Music.
In a few words: there is ALWAYS something going on! An invitation to dinner, drinks, a session on start-ups, a study group, etc. I decided to kick FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) of the way on Tuesday night, where I had dinner planned with my lovely classmates from the Tanzania trip. I canceled it at the last minute because I was literally exhausted from all of the above, and still jet lagged.
Two big learnings of Arrival Week have been:
- strive to find the right balance between socializing and making time for myself, in order to maximize my energies (especially being an introvert), make the most of any social/academic situation, and also find time to reflect on what is going on — which is exactly what I am doing on this post;
- think very critically about the way I am allocating my time. For instance, yesterday I found myself painstakingly going through a chapter of a book we have to read for the course next week. I realized I was spending too much time on the material, which is mandatory for the course but on which I am not going to be directly tested, so I (unnaturally) forced myself to skim through the chapter more rapidly, understand the key points and move on.
There have been so many social events this week, and although this trend will slightly decrease once the academic/recruiting pressure builds on, my hunch tells me that I will still be bombarded with invitations for the next 2 years…. so I will keep reminding myself to constantly apply the two points mentioned above! The most peculiar event was a “tailgate” (I had to google the term when I received the invitation) before the Stanford Cardinal football match. Welcome to America!
The most touching moment of the week was the formal welcome to the MBA, on Friday morning. I won’t share any details about what happened, but I had shivers down my spine and I felt so privileged to be sitting there with my ~400 classmates. With privilege always comes responsibility, so I will do my absolute best to make these amazing two years count. For my career, my life, and the impact that I hope my actions will have from 2017 onwards.
Week Zero, here we go!