AdmitMBA360 Blog formerly Journey to my MBA

Journey to my MBA

Monday, July 10, 2006

Tuck Grad sharing her experience

Leela Damm: Drawer Full of Memories
A Tuck grad looks back at the fun, the life lessons, the classes, and the T-shirts that mark two years she wouldn't trade for anything

Leela Damm
Dartmouth (Tuck)
Class of 2006

I'm in the process of aggressively cleaning house, literally and metaphorically, as I prepare to graduate, pack up my life, and enter my next wave of activity. Today is “Streamline your Wardrobe Day”, and it's also the day I realize I have a drawer full of T-shirts that do a pretty neat job of recapping my time at Tuck.I mentally lay them out in chronological order, beginning with Admitted Students Weekend 2004 (a collector's item) and the Math Camp T-shirt (“The week of how, not why.”) First year is commemorated by the “Sox Fan by Birth. Yankee Hater by Choice” shirt that Shawn Hoy and Darin Souza had made during the Sox World Series run; a slew of garments from investment banks for which I no longer have any desire to work; and the Tuck Events set, including Diversity Conference, Business Sustainability Conference, and Run for the Kids.

From second year, I have the City Year South Africa shirt honoring my international field study; my limited edition “Brown Brothers” T-shirt from the Beer Pong tourney; my custom-made “Flip Cup Champion” shirt that wins the prize for most endearing Valentine's Day gift of all time; and no less than three different shirts from the Duke MBA Games, including a team shirt that nicknames me “Feisty.” Sentimentalist that I am, I'll probably hang onto every last one—except the banking shirts, which will come in handy when I need cleaning rags at the end of the month.

LUCKY ESCAPE. For this, my final journal entry, I was asked to “recap the entire B-school experience, to look back at both first and second year.” Wow. That's a tall order for a 1,000-word column, not to mention a sobering one for someone who's still in denial about the fact they're making me graduate and drift back to reality—although the four-month hiatus between leaving Hanover and starting my job will certainly help soften the blow. (How much do you hate me right now?)

Let me see—where to begin? Well, I suppose I can start by confirming that this journey was entirely worth it. Way back when I applied to school, I momentarily toyed with the idea of doing an executive MBA on weekends while continuing to work full-time. Although I can only speak from my own biased single-with-no-kids experience, I feel I had a lucky escape.

I'm sure I would have learned many of the same tools and concepts through a part-time program, and no doubt I would have drunk considerably less keg beer—but I would also have lost out on two of the most incredible years of my life. I shudder at the thought of not being a member of Tuck's Class of 2006. I can't imagine not having submerged myself in this extraordinary culture at this unspoiled location, not having access to the tightest alumni network imaginable, not being inspired by the set of people with whom I've had the privilege to interact as a result of clawing my way into Tuck.

DISORIENTATION WEEK. While graduating from a Top Ten B-school certainly means reentering the working world with an enlightened viewpoint, an attention-getting résumé, and a stronger set of business skills, what I'll treasure more than anything is the Tuck network. It's a good thing we aren't required to make an “I'd like to thank the Academy”-type speech at graduation recognizing all the people that have made the experience so incredible; I'd be up there for days.

At the time of writing, I still have a week of classes to go and a further week in which a slew of projects and papers are due, followed by 10 days of relaxation and celebration with my classmates. There's a certain symmetry built into the Tuck experience: when we arrive as first years we have a week of orientation. Then right before graduation, we have a week of disorientation, a packed schedule of events ranging from whitewater rafting in Maine to one last spring formal to a weekend in Nantucket.

I feel sorry for all those people at other, bigger schools who have already graduated; we lucky Tuckies are still in Hanover at arguably the most beautiful time of year, golfing, hiking, running, throwing porch parties and end-of-year celebrations. I'm not ashamed to confess that I'm clinging on to every last shred of my time here, growing increasingly nostalgic for something that hasn't even ended, and I know I'm not alone.

BIG-PICTURE THINKING. In some ways, two years at school doesn't seem long enough. I recently advised a couple of first years on elective choices for next year and it dawned on me how many great classes I had missed out on during second year. There aren't enough hours in the week to take advantage of this amazing academic buffet. Ironically, after two years of wading through thought-provoking readings and endless hours of stimulating classroom discussion, I am more acutely aware than ever of how much I have left to learn.

I should also say, however, that thanks to Tuck I am more determined to keep learning, and to use my knowledge to make a difference. The Ethics in Action elective I'm currently wrapping up has been particularly effective at making me ponder bigger-picture questions, as has my involvement with local non-profit issues through Tuck's Allwin Initiative for Corporate Citizenship.

While these two years have zipped by far too quickly, I acknowledge that it's time to move on. Those loans apparently won't repay themselves. In any case, there are simply too many exciting things around the corner for me to dwell here any longer. My summer itinerary, bookended by the weddings of classmates in Bangalore and the Hague, gives me the chance to spend 10 weeks in India and Europe, catching up with family and retracing my roots.

AWAITING THE SEQUEL. While this great learning experience is still fresh in my head I want to take a little more time to reflect on who I am, what I want out of life, and how I plan to achieve it. I came to business school expecting to learn; I didn't realize I would learn so much about myself in the process.

After Labor Day I'll be moving to San Francisco, settling in, getting acquainted with the left coast and prepping myself for my next rip-roaring adventure as a consultant at Bain & Company. If this was a Hollywood blockbuster it would be tough for me to envision a more perfect ending. The quest has been a scintillating nail-biter, and the conclusion is highly satisfying in its own right, yet leaves the door open for an action-packed sequel. In summary, right now, I feel like the luckiest gal-protagonist on the planet.


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