Four corners: MBA students from around the world talk about their first term

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The Independent Online

AUSTRALIA

Former engineer and project manager Daniel Westerman, 28, began a 16-month MBA at Melbourne Business School in September.

My idea was to use the MBA to move from engineering to a more business-related field but now, with one term under my belt, I am not sure where it is leading me. The amount I have learnt has exceeded my expectations. It is just amazing.

I expected it to be a lot of hard work but the amount and volume of work is incredible. I thought it would be about 60 hours a week, but it's more like 80. You just cannot afford to miss a day or not do a report because you will be behind - I had hoped to be able to go outside my core material, to go into the library and look at extra books, but have not been able to do that.

Looking back, I could have done more preparation although, to be honest, there is only so much you can do. We were even sent an e-mail telling us not to do too much pre-study, but I think having a bit more accounting knowledge might have made it easier.

It's nice being a student again, and it hasn't taken as long as I thought it might to adjust back into student life. I have not had time to get too involved in any sports or student clubs, although I have joined the student council.

My advice? Get a good study group of like-minded people, read a good business newspaper everyday and then think about how you would apply the concepts you are learning.

THE UK

Alice Macnab, 42, a former documentation manager for a software firm, started a one-year MBA at Leeds University Business School in September

People tell you it is very, very intensive but until you are faced with it you do not realise quite how hard it is. We have three hours of lectures and three hours of seminars and classes a day and then a layer of research on top of that. Basically, the rest of my life is on hold while I do this.

We did not get our reading list until two weeks before the course started. But I did look at some of the maths tests the international students had to do and spent a few days honing my skills on those.

In my work environment I was just using spreadsheets and rattling stuff out and not looking hard at the numbers. So, on reflection, a little more numeracy before I started could have been helpful.

I'm enjoying being a student again, being able to pop into the union bar and shop. I had hoped to be able to see some bands but just have not had the time.

My advice? Read a good business newspaper and do not be daunted by the size of the task ahead, just try and keep up.

It is worth keeping a diary and noting down your experiences as the course progresses.

Don't be surprised if you have a crisis of confidence at about week six or seven, a lot of people do. Also, find someone who was on the course previously and get as much from them as you can.

INDIA

IT engineer Dhyanesh Shah, 23, started a two-year MBA at the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad in June.

We only do core modules in the first year so there have been a lot of quantitative subjects, such as economics, marketing, finance, managerial accountancy, HR and process management. After the first year I can specialise.

I knew I could manage the workload, but it is gruelling. It is extremely busy, but not just because of the academic side. If I was just doing the coursework I could probably get eight hours sleep a night, but there are so many extra-curricular activities, research and business festivals and business plan contests. There is also a lot of sport - I've been playing table tennis, snooker and cricket.

What I did not expect was the lifestyle that goes with being a student. I have not lived in a dormitory before and all of a sudden you are with all these other first-year students. But it has been a really good experience. There is a really strong bond now; it is almost like a family. There is so much to learn just from being here.

In India, an MBA opens up avenues into almost any sector. I am hoping to use mine to go into consultancy and then, longer term, to start my own business.

My advice is not to try to prepare too much; it is going to be rigorous irrespective of what you have prepared.

THE US

Former Wall Street trader Cliff Dank, 28, relocated from the east to the west coast in September to start an MBA at Haas Business School at the University of California, Berkeley.

It has exceeded my expectations. I had an idea of what I was getting into in terms of academic rigour but I had no idea in terms of the sort of peers I would be with and the level of interaction.

Every week is different. This has probably been the busiest, most stressful, most confusing semester - I reckon I have had about half an hour of free time a day. There is a real sense of accomplishment at having completed it.

No matter what you think, you will probably be exactly the same student you once were. I reverted to my old study habits within a week. But it is great to know that your main responsibility is learning and to be able to go back into a theoretical environment.

My advice? Try and get as many things, like housing or a car, set up in advance, as once you've started you will not have time and it'll be stressful.

The business school is there to support you and make sure you succeed - if you do the work you will pass.

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