The first seat of any day is inevitably the bike. Bikes are the connection between all the other seats in a typical Cambridge day. It never takes more than ten minutes* to get anywhere in Cambridge when you’ve got your bike.
Three or four days a week, after my bike, the next seat was in a rowing boat. Rowing meant an early start, not a personal strength, but it became one of the most rewarding experiences of my year. A complete novice in September, I quickly became addicted. There is an intangibly satisfying feeling of the boat carving through the water, eight people moving in synchronised motion. It was also a fantastic way to get involved with college life, not always easy with the MBA timetable! The Cambridge rowing year culminates in May Bumps, held in June – naturally. Bumps is a unique racing style – a frenzied chase with twenty boats at a time winding though the bends of the River Cam.
After putting the boat away and a hurried bike ride, sliding into a lecture seat at Judge required an immediate context change! Regardless of the material, Corporate Finance or Organisational Behaviour, there was always lively discussion in the lectures. The sharing of ‘war stories’ by the lecturers or classmates was a personal highlight for me. I’d love to elaborate further but ‘Chatham House’ rules apply here so I can’t. Given the diverse backgrounds of the class, early on it was tacitly established that there was no such thing stupid questions. As a group we realised that something which is obvious to an ex-consultant wasn’t obvious to a mechanical engineer or media director. Over the course of the year, there wasn’t a single career which proved to be the ‘best’ at all aspects of the MBA and those with specialist knowledge were quick to share.
While lectures introduced us to the material, it didn’t end there. We would then reconvene in smaller groups to try and actually use it. These study groups mixed us by nationality and occupation so healthy discussion was the norm. All this sitting together in small groups, working on a variety of assignments formed some tight bonds. At the end of the year people were still having group photos with their groups from September so important were these early connections. Plus the design of the business school meant there were also plenty of seats hidden away in nooks when some alone time was required as well.
A good day might end with a ‘recession session’ at DarBar (the bar inside Darwin College, an MBA haunt) sitting with some other MBAs, unpacking the day’s events over a very reasonably priced beverage! Then back on my trusty my bike to ride home to College through the absurdly picturesque town.
Brevity demands that I’ve skipped over many of the seats – eating in the College buttery, debates in the Union, formal halls with friends which added such colour to our year. Needless to say, deconstructing the complete (some would say all-consuming) experience of a Cambridge MBA can never convey how it really felt. It is now time to move onto my next seat, an internship in the President’s office of a real estate multinational in China – something I would have been unprepared to attempt nine short months ago.
*Results may vary