Business Schools

Not Exactly a Vacation


"What I've found most surprising is that the graduates I spoke to prior to school seemed to (in)conveniently omit their thoughts on academics"

Well, one year effectively down at UCLA's Anderson School of Management (Anderson full-time MBA profile) (we're on the quarter system, so as I write this, I still have about two weeks before finals), one more left to go. Reading the preceding sentence certainly feels strange; I can't believe a year has flown by so quickly, and also, it's hard to fathom that there's only one more trip around the sun left. So I suppose it's time to reflect on the year that was. All in all, business school has largely lived up to my expectations and then some. But what were those expectations? Well, to be perfectly honest, the vast majority of MBAs I spoke to prior to school stressed how much fun they had during their two years. To some extent, then, I was imagining a bit of a vacation from the real world. And business school has undoubtedly been that to a certain degree. For instance, since arriving in Los Angeles, I've been on school-associated trips to Israel, New York, Sundance, Japan, and Cannes. I'll even be studying abroad in Melbourne, Australia, for the fall quarter of next year (more on that in a bit). I'm fairly certain that these opportunities would not have arisen had it not been for business school. So is business school fun? Absolutely. My valued sources were indeed correct on that front. In retrospect, however, what I've found most surprising is that the graduates I spoke to prior to school seemed to (in)conveniently omit their thoughts on academics. Perhaps I should have pressed them harder on the subject, but hey, I was caught up in their descriptions of the best two years of their lives. My full vision of business school, then, was essentially a series of ridiculous trips to fanciful places with amazing people (see above) with a little bit of academics sprinkled in for some flavoring. While the vacation-from-reality component of business school exists, there was also ridiculous amounts of often unfanciful work with said amazing people. Am I complaining about having to do school work? Absolutely not. I'd have to be pretty deluded to pursue an MBA and think that there wouldn't be any studying involved. I'm mainly expressing, as I have written before, that the program is more rigorous than I anticipated. But that's a good thing. I'm firmly convinced that no one ever grows as a person without some sort of struggle. And of course, it all balances out, and you realize the effort on that paper or presentation was worth it when you find yourself sipping champagne on a yacht at a party in Cannes. And I suppose there's also the intrinsic satisfaction derived from having learned something and made oneself a better-rounded person. Yeah. There is that too. An Abundance of Unicorns

But those were the expectations. What about the general impressions and lessons learned after year one? Well, I came to business school from the creative end of media and entertainment. A good writer and communicator was a dime a dozen in my previous life. Finding someone with exceptional business acumen and quantitative skills, on the other hand, was like discovering a unicorn. As a result, I am consistently impressed with the people I encounter here at Anderson, as they possess an abundance of these attributes. They humble me and help me realize how much I have to learn and, at the same time, how much I already have learned this year. Conversely, these individuals haven't exactly encountered someone like me, either. The skills I wield—what I consider routine and simple—impress them. So while my classmates humble me, there's also a bit of an ego boost to offset it, and in the end, a truly exceptional and nonjudgmental exchange of knowledge occurs. As for the classes that required all this work, I'm fairly happy with all of them. The vast majority of the material was new to me, so I was eager to take it all in. However, even I noticed a little too much overlap between material in Marketing I and II and Financial Markets and Corporate Finance. It does appear, though, that the administration saw it, too, and a slightly altered core curriculum will begin next year to solve those issues. What's in store for the immediate future, then? I will take the skills I've learned in class and from my classmates and employ them this summer at Fox Broadcasting in their Audience Intelligence & Research Strategy department, where I will compile Nielsen ratings data and generate reports and analysis utilizing said data. After that, as I alluded to earlier, I'm heading off to Melbourne, Australia, for a quarter of study abroad. I never went abroad during my undergrad days and have regretted it ever since. When I learned that the opportunity had not escaped me completely, I simply had to jump on it. So I look forward to writing about those experiences for you come next year. Beyond that, upon my return from Down Under, I expect to pursue course work that will both hone the new skills I've learned over the past year, as well as explore more in depth the issues affecting the entertainment industry I desire to return to come summer 2011.

Jonathan Stern is enrolled in the full-time MBA program at the University of California at Los Angeles' Anderson School of Business with an expected graduation of 2011. Earning his undergraduate degree in U.S. history at Columbia University in 2003, Stern was laid off from his journalism job at MTV Radio in December 2008 while he was already in the process of applying to graduate business school.

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