Written by Tapan Gupta
You must be wondering why a two-week orientation? What will I learn? Well, I thought the same when I was a month away from a new journey. I may or may not remember every day of my economics lectures, but I clearly remember every single day of orientation. It feels like it happened just last week. The best part – no stressful classes! Only fun activities, like a BBQ party, soccer match and Frisbee game. There’s also sessions with the MBA Office members and guest speakers, including one with alumni working in big multi-national companies.
What value did you get out of attending orientation?
The orientation session was imperative before the intensive MBA courses began. Most courses required us to work on assignments, homework, and projects in groups. I had a wonderful group based on the MBTI assessment; this was my group for the entire first semester. If you know your group members well, it becomes very easy to complete tasks that demand a lot of time commitment and skills from your team members.
During the first year of the MBA program, I worked with students from many countries such as Singapore, Canada, Bulgaria, Columbia, India, Ukraine, Mexico, France, and so on. It was very important for me to understand how people from different cultures behave and what they expect from others. A few sessions during the orientation focused on just this aspect. During both the International and the Full Time Orientation, there were speakers who themselves were immigrants in Canada and they shared their experiences working with people from different countries. I learned that knowing your stuff isn’t sufficient. It is necessary to communicate it well to the other person who is from a totally different background and culture. So, I would say the most valuable learning for me from the orientation was ‘How to lead groups and work with people from diverse backgrounds’.
What activities take place during orientation?
Orientation is full of fun activities. During the Full Time Orientation, almost every day you have different people at your table. The first thing you do in the morning is introduce yourself to the people at your table. Every day you have to tell something new and interesting about yourself that you haven’t told anyone yet. By the end of the orientation, I started to run out of interesting things about me. However, this pushes you to think more about yourself. That is what orientation is all about. It is about ‘You’. You will be asked multiple times about what you want to do in future and why. A lot of activities involve introspection. However, each activity is different from the other. The MBA office has very interesting and creative ways to make you to think about yourself. Some of you will surprisingly turn out to be superb artists. Trust me. It will be a vibrant experience. Some of the activities will include meeting alumni for mock interviews, a short case competition, and a BBQ party.
During the International Orientation, you will play an indoor game whose duration will not be longer than a soccer match. But you will learn the names of all the international students and an adjective to describe each of them. Sounds hard, but you really will! Other than that, you will also learn the basics of effective writing which will help you in writing reflection papers (which is important in the MBA program) during the Fall and Winter semesters.
What surprised you the most about orientation when you attended?
I was surprised by the way the whole orientation was organized and the way the MBA office helped new students who had so many doubts about their career and the MBA program in general. It was an intense two-week activity. But the MBA office had planned it so well that everything seemed so smooth. They took care that you sat with different people every day during the Full Time orientation so that you got to know all the students well. If we had any questions about the program, the MBA office members would always help us out. We could also ask them for separate sessions in case we needed career advice.
From what I had heard from my friends back home, their B schools did not pay such attention to students. Hence, the kind demeanor of everybody in the MBA office pleasantly surprised me. The way the orientation was managed, I have to say that a ‘Management’ degree can have no better start than this.
What was your favorite memory from orientation?
For me, Monday, August 24, 2015, was the most memorable day. We had the MBTI session and all the students were split into groups (4-5 students per group) with different personality types. I didn’t know that the people I was sharing the table with, would turn out to be my best buddies, even though we had absolutely different personalities. They made my MBA experience amazing. We still always hang out together.
What advice would you have for an incoming student attending orientation?
Be ready for the roller coaster ride. It is going to be so much fun. You will be under pressure sometimes. Stress might overpower you. However, the good thing is that you will learn to manage stress. You will learn how to prioritize things in life. That is basically what managers do in corporations. You will also make a lot of friends for life.
If you love to meet people, this is the place for you. If you feel shy talking to people, do not worry. You will get enough networking opportunities at the U of A. As you were during the MBA admission interview, just be yourself; enjoy life and come prepared with a motto for yourself. You will be asked for a one-liner that describes you. See you soon in Edmonton.