Overwhelmed doesn’t come anywhere close to explaining the state I was in during the first few weeks of the full time MBA program. The hoard of demands from family and school left me with very little time for anything else, including sleep. Supposedly, I lied to myself that I could actually do it all. Sure enough, I started dropping some balls – forgetting to respond to phone calls from my family back in India, skipping meals, and one day I even microwaved watermelon by mistake!!
Life goes on while you’re in school. Many of my classmates have experienced at least one significant life event while in school, and yet, they still kept going. They dealt with the stress, both good and bad, and kept going. We’ve had babies born. Several people got married. Some lost their parents and other family members.
As much as you may try to prevent stress, you’re going to have to learn how to manage it as well. The demands of pursuing a full-time MBA are many. Balancing school, family and fun activities is no easy task. In fact, balancing the demands and managing your time requires sacrificing activities you once never thought of giving up. For me, this meant cutting back on my exercise routine. In order to stay healthy, and manage stress, you must think differently about how and when you train and, most importantly, be creative.
I started to understand the concept of work-life balance during the latter half of my first year in the MBA program. Work-life balance is not actually about mastering everything. It’s about prioritizing. There may not be enough time for everything, so get your priorities right and don’t beat yourself up if you don’t accomplish every single task you’ve set out to do on a given day. Stay positive and be thankful that you have got the opportunity to get back to school – B-School – one thing many people in the world go without. It may seem overwhelming at times, but remember that other people have gone through the same thing you are, and they have succeeded! You will too!
Take those much-needed breaks. Give yourself time to collect yourself when you need it the most, so you can recharge yourself and look at things with a fresh perspective. Be active. Pick up some fun sports. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle helps relieve stress and you’ll find that the more you get out and exercise, the easier work and school will seem.
Add some life to your days, not days to your life!! Don’t forget to enjoy life. Don’t get bogged down by nuisances of the demands of your academic life. Take time to experience the world around you and appreciate your relationships in life. Don’t forget to squeeze in the things that you are passionate about, that make life worth living into your schedule.
In addition, I’ve realized that the MBA experience becomes less about making the highest grades, and is more about connecting with a diverse set of people, advancing your career, personal development, and developing your passion. Taking some of the pressure off of me to perfect every assignment was helpful in achieving that balance. Although, this is a challenging phase in my life, going through the MBA program is an experience worth living, and it gets better and easier with time.

-Neha Bareja, Penn State Smeal MBA ’15

The end of Module 3 not only meant the happiness of getting through one more session of intense studies, but it also meant that the week ahead was exciting due to our global immersion trip. This year Lima, Johannesburg, Shanghai and San Francisco got voted by the class as the favourite places to explore during the global immersion.

Since I had previously worked in South Asia and China, I wanted to explore the companies in the famous Silicon Valley, hence I chose to go to San Francisco for my global immersion. The week started out badly as our flight got delayed due to inclement weather caused by heavy snow, but we managed to reach SFO just in time for the immersion to start. During the whole week, multiple company visits were scheduled to give us a good insight into some of the leading global companies as well as some very innovative but comparatively smaller companies.

During the visits to campuses of companies like Facebook and Google, I was amazed by the types of facilities that the employees could enjoy while working. This was something I could never have imagined to be a part of the work place especially coming from a heavy engineering & manufacturing companies based out of Asia. For me the campus was more fun than work, but the amount and quality of work the employees are able to put in is just amazing and their huge number of innovative products are a testimony to it.

We also visited some of the smaller companies like Kali and Kinetic Revolutions. While KALI is a helmet and protective gear manufacturing company, something I did not expect to find in the Silicon Valley, Kinetic Revolutions is a prosthetic device manufacturing company. The business models of both these companies was unique and I found it amazing how innovative they are in their product design to marketing and supply chain management. We also visited a winery called Burrell School Winery in the Napa Valley, which houses about 1200 wineries. I had no idea how challenging a winery business could be as the winery had to deal with product variations, manufacturing process control, marketing challenges, environmental effects, all within an intensely competitive market.

The visit gave me exposure to wide variety of businesses with large and small firms in different sectors. The business models and culture at each of these companies were unique and driven by the challenges that they faced in their field. A very insightful trip came to an end in a week’s time and it was definitely one of the very good experiences in the MBA program so far.

-Varun Tiwari, Penn State Smeal MBA ’16

It is very essential to be Market Ready when you join an MBA program. What does it mean to be Market Ready? It means that one should have his or her resume in a marketable condition and one should be ready with the answers to at least the common interview questions.
MBA program can get very hectic from day one and it is absolutely essential that students do not lose focus on the most important reason for pursuing an MBA degree and that is to find a good job. It can become a little difficult for a lot of students especially internationals to manage various activities such as classes, team meetings, assignments, assistantships and so on during the first module of the MBA program. Hence a significant amount of time needs to be invested on resumes, cover letters and behavioral questions, well before starting classes.
The Career Services team at Smeal does a very good job by coordinating these activities with the incoming class way before the 1st year session starts. Students are assigned a career coach before the start of the academic program. It is absolutely essential for students to work with the Career Services team and submit their resumes before the deadline mainly because of two reasons. First of all since there are a lot of students in the incoming class who submit their resumes and you don’t want to be the last one to get yours reviewed. Additionally, a resume is a continuous working document and it is absolutely essential that you go through as many review iterations as possible before the start of the hiring season so that your resume becomes a stable document and can be customized as per the job requirement.
To conclude, my advice to the incoming class at Smeal is to become market ready as soon as possible by working closely with the Career Service team.

– Rahul Ramteke, Penn State Smeal MBA ’16

First of all, I want to express my greatest respect for those who accompany MBA students during their two years program. There are a lot of fun activities and of course many difficulties especially for international students’ family and partners. I just want to share a little bit about my experience with my family.

Due to my wife’s F2 visa issue, my wife and my two-year old son came to Happy Valley during Thanksgiving break when the winter was still young here. After five hours drive from John F. Kennedy international airport, they were both beat but very excited about the snow scene in State College. After settling them down in the following two days, I had to get back to prepare for the module two finals. It is extremely busy before “finals” week of each module in the MBA program, especially module two. One unexpected obstacle was my son’s jet lag. As he was too young to manage his own sleeping cycle, it took longer and was harder for him to overcome the jet lag. Furthermore, late November in State College was a little bit too cold for them to fit it, especially since they came directly from a city where it seldom snowed all year round. Thanks to my wife’s understanding and support, I managed to get through the final week. For those who plan to start an MBA journey with your family or partners, especially international students, my first advice would be building understanding with your family and partner since their support means much more than you could imagine. For those who haven’t gone though a winter as cold as -10 degrees centigrade, my lesson is arriving in the summer. The summer in happy valley is really pleasant and is an excellent “cooling down” period. And with your family you could enjoy the most beautiful fall in valley. Gradually you can get used to the weather. Smeal’s Lion Partner association is best way for MBA and their family to fit in, too. Hopefully we can hang out with them more.

-Hao Wang, Penn State Smeal MBA ’16

I have received a lot of favors from everyone I met at Smeal in the first four months of my MBA journey. People here are eager to give a hand. Sometimes, all you have to do is to ask. Here I wish to share a couple of stories. I lost my name tent somehow and had no idea where I could get a new one. So I made a simple version by writing my name on a piece of white paper. This lasted for a while. But it didn’t look as professional. One day I decided to get rid of this handwritten name tent and turned to Sandy who is known as “Sanypedia” in our program. All I wanted was maybe Sandy could send me a format or something so that I could print it out by myself. With her symbolic bright smile, Sandy gave me a new printed name tent with my name on it in just two minutes.

One the other hand, sometimes, people chase after you to support you. Yes, I am talking about my career services mentor Mike. For one career services assignment, I was supposed to submit my answers to behavioral questions. Somehow I missed the deadline, which was due to my bad time management skills. I remember just one day after the deadline, I got an email from Mike asking when could I submit my answers. If I didn’t show up in his office for more than two weeks, Mike would come to say Hi and invite me to talk with him. Sandy and Mike are not the only ones who are eager to help you to succeed. Thanks to their kindness and professional work, MBA life is much easier.

-Hao Wang, Penn State Smeal MBA ’16

On the 20th of February 2015, a team from Smeal College of Business took part in the 15th annual Wharton MBA Buyout Case Competition. The competition was organized by Wharton’s Private Equity & Venture Capital Club. It was held at the Penn Club of New York. Aissatou Nabe, Rahul Ramteke, Varun Tiwari, Kunal Saluja, and Naveen Raj formed the Smeal team that took part in the event.

Among the competing schools were Wharton (UPENN), University of Chicago (Booth), Oxford University (London), CUHK (Hong Kong), Duke University, Columbia University, and UC Berkeley. A total of 24 teams from 18 high-ranked schools participated in the competition.

The competing teams were tasked with developing a bid letter for a leveraged buyout of American Eagle Outfitters Inc. The teams then had to present their findings to a panel of judges. The judges were senior members of leading Private Equity & Investment Management firms. In the first round, 20 minute presentations were held in four different rooms (one room for each group). One team was selected from each group for the final round. The final round presentations took place in the Tarnopol room of the Penn Club of New York.

The Smeal team could not make it to the finals, but it was a fantastic learning experience for the first year Finance enthusiasts from Smeal.

-Naveen Raj, Penn State Smeal MBA ’16

Helping a start-up could be a very challenging task at times but definitely a rewarding one. As part of my APEX (Applied Professional Experience) project, I and four other second year MBA students helped a tech start-up based in State College. From this experience, my two key takeaways are:

1. Every MBA student should test her/his skills before graduating
2. Helping a Start-up is the best way to do that

APEX provided me an important opportunity to test my skills before I start my post MBA career. This experience perfectly complemented what I learned in class rooms and offered me a platform to connect the missing dots, and realize the areas that I was good at and the areas that I needed to work on before graduating. Based on this epiphany, I listed down a couple of areas and took some more elective courses to hone in my skills. In my view, this is the most valuable benefit of APEX.

I had never worked in a start-up environment before and being in that fluid situation helped me realize that the ability to work in ambiguous situations is what distinguishes great leaders from others. There is no other way to develop this skill but through hands-on experience.

-Ravi Bose, Penn State Smeal MBA ’15

Most incoming students might be probing what MBA School is like? I asked the same question roughly two years ago. Here is my MBA experience and hopefully you find this helpful.

–       Know what you want to achieve out of MBA School. You won’t have a lot of flexibility in the first 3 modules in the courses you select, but you will have 5 modules to take courses that interest and challenge you. Don’t settle for the “easy A” courses; challenge yourself by taking difficult courses in areas you are focusing on, and also on courses that will help you in the future even if those courses aren’t within your concentration. E.g. you may not concentrate in finance, but taking financial valuation course will definitely help you in whatever concentration you have.

–       Decide the industry and discipline you want to focus on. You can’t blindly come to MBA and try to figure out the industry and discipline you want after you get here. Make sure to have your top 20-30 companies in the industries of your choice. Not only this, try to include (if you can) the specific functions within your choice of field. E.g. don’t just say “I want to focus in finance” – this is too broad. Try to be more specific and select the area that interests you within finance.

–       Networking is an essential skill you need to have whether you like it or not. Networking literally begins in the orientation period. This will continue in the internship and full time job process. You will even continue networking after you get a full time job. So whether you are introvert or extrovert, just be good at networking and make it seem like natural. Like everything else, it is all about practice and it is okay if you aren’t good at it initially. You will improve as time goes by if you put in the effort.

–       Try to be good at time management and prioritize things. You will have lots of opportunities and also lots of challenges – you can’t afford to do them all. You have to pass the tough first year courses and curriculum schedule, internships, full time job etc. On the other hand, you will have a once in a lifetime chance of meeting smart students from all over the world. You will have the perfect place to test your ideas and worldview. Try to take advantage of this unique opportunity and challenge your assumptions and inner beliefs.

–       In the end, MBA will go by so fast. So enjoy the challenge and moments that will stay lifetime with fellow students.

-Nahom Woldemariam, Penn State Smeal MBA ’15

As January came to a close, the WMBA traveled across Pennsylvania to visit Samsung America’s headquarters. The 4 hour drive to Ridgefield Park, NJ was worth it as the group was greeted in the lobby by enormous wall displays with welcome signs that scrolled through photos of each attendee. They were also greeted by Ms. Susan Kim, a Penn State alumna whose bubbly personality and explanations escorted the group throughout the visit.

After picking up visitor passes, the group was ushered up to the 9th floor to a conference room with a stunning view of New York City for the first speaker of the day, Christina Pantin, the VP of Public Relations. Ms. Pantin focused on the newest technology coming out of Samsung and lead a discussion on women leaders in the workplace, providing valuable insights and delivering meaningful quotes from other leaders throughout history.

The WMBA was then brought to Samsung’s Executive Conference Center to see all their latest technology used to pitch Samsung products to large-scale B2B customers. Among the innovations on display were Samsung’s 105” display, a classroom setup with interconnected tablets for the students and the teacher, and medical space with digital check-in and triage with way-finding signage. Being amongst the newest technology and upcoming developments was both inspiring and a valuable glance into the future of Samsung.

After a brief discussion with two Penn State Alums currently working with retail clients on technology marketing, the WMBA was treated to a glimpse of the future with Samsung’s Virtual Reality goggles. As each attendee tried on the goggles, they were treated to virtual tours of New York City, Iceland, Vienna, and other exotic locales.

The WMBA’s visit to Samsung’s headquarters was an informative look into the technology industry and the growth patterns of an international company which has made strong progress in the U.S. and gave a deeper insight into the role of  women at companies like Samsung.

-Lauren Rizzo, PSU Smeal MBA ’15

One of the first things prospective students notice on their visit to campus is that the Smeal MBA program a very small community. Class sizes around 80 people allow students to build a personal relationship with their peers and faculty, have one-on-one interactions with corporate recruiters, and have ample opportunity for leadership positions in the nine MBA student associations.

While the small program size has these advantages, some may wonder what the drawbacks are. Are there not enough opportunities from the existing associations? Will there be somebody that shares the same interests and hobbies I do? Will I have a chance to learn a new hobby? Is there a way I can stay in touch with my native culture?

These questions can all be answered by looking at Penn State University as a whole. With over 1000 student organizations, there is sure to be something for everybody! MBA students have access to these as part of the PSU student body. Despite having a schedule loaded with class, case-competitions, homework, and searching for a job, all students should take a look at what PSU has to offer to make the most of their two years on-campus.

Each year the program has teams participate in intramural sports like flag football, basketball, and wrestling. These IM sports bring together MBAs with the same hobby or passion and give a chance to build a closer friendship through competition. While most other teams are undergraduate students, MBAs have done quite well! MBAs won a championship in both basketball and wrestling.

If you enjoy participating in a native culture or come from an international background, there are over 70 cultural associations. From the Russian Student Society to the Indonesian Student Association, students from all over the globe can feel at-home in Happy Valley. These groups hold social events and likely organize celebrations around traditional holidays.

Even if you aren’t interested in sports or a specific culture, there are countless ways to participate in any hobby you have. There is an astronomy club, a brewing club, a cheese club (not to be confused with chess, but PSU has that too!), and a gaming association. The possibilities to learn something new are endless. Access to these activities is a wonderful part of going to Smeal, you just have to go find your favorite group!

-Scott Robbins, PSU Smeal MBA ’15

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