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Life as an MBA HCL student

Cape Town
  • June 05 2019
9 minutes to read

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Doctor Mawadda Cassiem-Majal is a second year MBA student specialising in the Health Care Leadership Stream. In this blog she shares her MBA journey, with a focus on orientation week. Read more

“My first instinct was to get up and run, but I managed to calm myself and remained seated.”

“I opened myself up to the new experience, met new people and I was very surprised to find out there were many people who felt the same way I did.” “Orientation Week was the start of many friendships.”

My MBA HCL Journey – Orientation Week

Reminiscing on orientation week, it seems like such a long time ago. Thinking about it I still have mixed feelings. Feelings of excitement and happiness, but also feelings of fear and being overwhelmed.

My system was in shock from the vast amount of literature I was suppose to peruse over the December holidays, followed by an insane amount of quizzes, half of which was due on the first day of orientation week. However, as a doctor working in government, I was working the entire December and with working overtime as well, it left me with little free time to do all the reading and complete the quizzes. To this day, I am not entirely sure how I completed it all!

Day 1

The first day was mostly a blur, but I remember being divided into groups. My group was very diverse – engineers, chartered accountants, an IT specialist, a communication officer and a guy that used to design armoured vehicles but had just bought a farm. Different races, cultures, religions, personality types, ages and backgrounds. I felt out of my depth and throughout that first day, I kept asking myself, “What am I doing here?” and “How will I compete with all these people with their business backgrounds?’’ My first instinct was to get up and run, but I managed to calm myself and remained seated. During the course of that first day, we were introduced to Dr John Morrison. He was our mentor and we were encouraged to make an appointment with him should we think we weren’t coping. I thought to myself, “I’m not coping” and I jotted down the email address of his secretary and waited for our break to email for an appointment.

Day 2

On the morning of our second day, I found myself in John’s office explaining to him that I just wasn’t coping. I didn’t think I was cut out to do the MBA and I was considering dropping out. He gave me an understanding nod and told me it is only day two – we haven’t even started classes yet. I should give it some time and not make hasty decisions. He told me that medical professionals often do well in the MBA, and even though I may struggle with the quantitative subjects, I may excel at other subjects. After further encouraging words from John I went back to class with a new found energy.

Rest of the week

Once I found myself worthy of being in the MBA class, I opened myself up to the experience and the learning. I met many new people and I was very surprised to find that many of them shared my fear of failure and not being good enough. It was an amazing experience meeting and getting to know people I would never have encountered other than in an MBA classroom. There was the potential to learn from every single person I met, as they were all experts in their field of work.

Orientation Week was the start of many friendships. Friendships that flourished over the last year. My only regret is not networking more during orientation week, leaving with only the numbers of my group mates and a handful of people. Had I made more connections during orientation week, those first few months could have been easier if I had MBA contacts as academic and social support. Orientation is the only time in your first year to get to know your group mates as well as your classmates in person and connections made here often lasts till the end of your MBA and beyond.

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