Soak it up like a teabag!

First year MBA students are like teabags. Wait, wait, hear me out on this one. Just the way a teabag is suddenly plunged into a cup of hot water, first year MBA students plunge head first into the grad school life. If you’re a tea drinker, and you prefer a strong cup like me every morning, you know that the teabag must be dipped several times for the minuscule tea leaves to release their aroma and for the tea to take on a strong color and taste. Similarly, first year MBA students splash around challenging situations like adjusting to a new lifestyle in a new city, getting back to the grind of homework, mid-terms and exams, making new friends, and the toughest of them all, recruiting. But just as the tea emerges strong and resilient, so do first years. That was us last year.

My husband and I are originally from Pakistan and coming to the U.S. was a journey in itself – the year-long admission process, the visa process, packing our bags with as many spices as we could (no, I’m kidding) and even finding an apartment in a city we hadn’t heard of before. The school year began, and we were both extremely excited. We knew this was a wonderful opportunity which many people don’t get, and we wanted to make the best of it. He was excited about taking all sorts of classes, joining numerous student clubs and meeting all his classmates. I was excited about his excitement. And about immersing myself in the American culture. So, we would dress up nicely and troop off to the countless socials the school held at the beginning of the year. We talked to people and learned about professions that don’t even exist back home. We learned about food and sports and hobbies and we shared our food, our sports and our hobbies.

The first month passed by in a haze of Facebook friend invites and fixing up IKEA furniture. My husband became busier with school and I discovered friends in the city. As any international student would tell you, the first few months are a melody of emotions. We are happy about the new opportunities, but we are also worried about keeping finances in check. We are thrilled about having new experiences, making new friends and learning about the American culture, but we are also missing our families back home. We are confused at the grocery store, trying to convert from kilogram to pounds, but we are reminding ourselves of the time difference from home and making a mental note of when to make the WhatsApp call to our parents. We are aghast that coriander is so expensive, pleased that we can now use Amazon to get anything delivered to our doorstep, and disappointed that our fitness levels are nowhere close to many Americans’. Of course, the crescendo of school work load just adds some stress into the chorus.

As October started fading into November, we saw our very first fall (and our very first snow as well!). It was beautiful. Then we learned about Thanksgiving and the amazing Black Friday sales. We spent a true American holiday enjoying great food, hanging out with friends (being sans familia) and searching for great deals online. In those moments, enjoying “friendsgiving”, going through Best Buy’s website for sales on electronic items, huddled in our woolly sweaters, without even realizing it, we had settled in. Again, as any international student would tell you, it’s a tough journey adjusting to so many changes at once, but that’s what we love: being able to immerse ourselves in a new culture (you know, soaking it up like a teabag), while still holding on to our own.

Faaria Ahmad | MBA 2018 Partner
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