Grad Life: My First Year at Sloan Led Me Around The World

by Jennifer Ballen MBA '17 on September 15, 2016 · 0 comments

in Grad Life, Management, Student Life

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Jennifer Ballen, MBA Sloan candidate, and classmates in Panama.

It was Admit Weekend II, through conversations with current students, when I first learned of the Sloan Pre-Functions, “a non-educational trip to get to know some of your classmates.” No work? Just travel? Meet new people before even attending class? Check, check, check. Later that month I received an email from MIT advertising the Pre-Functions. I signed up for the Panama trip within five minutes.

Little did I know that signing up for this trip would shape my entire business school experience.

Panama to Cape Cod, And Everything In-Between

My trip to Panama was fun. More importantly, incredibly deep friendships were formed, friendships that will exist long after graduation.

While I had signed up for the trip quickly, I soon experienced what one might call Buyer’s Remorse. Could I really afford to travel when I wasn’t making any money? Prior to Sloan, I had worked on Wall Street and was seeking (and still am) a less lucrative, but hopefully more rewarding, career in sustainability. How could I possibly justify going on a trip with people I didn’t even know? Would there be future “better” trips I should save for instead?

I voiced my slight stress about the monetary pressures of the education as well as my expensive traveling habits to a second-year friend. I will never forget his response: “Just do it. The one thing I regret about business school is not traveling more.”

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Ballen and classmates on a trip to Cape Cod.

No regrets is a motto I adhere to strongly. I knew he was right. But a year full of travel and adventures with fellow MBA students allowed me to see just how right he was.

It is rare that one has the same exact vacation schedule as hundreds of amazing, like-minded yet entirely different, people. This is the beauty of the full-time MBA program. After Panama, I traveled to Cape Cod, Istanbul, Cartagena, Breckenridge, Newport, Japan, and Israel. Many of these trips were taken with people that had been in Panama. In Israel, I stayed with the family of an Israeli classmate, a truly unique experience. That same classmate had met my own family in Boston over Thanksgiving. My deepest bonds at Sloan have been formed through traveling.

This past Labor Day weekend, the crew returned to Cape Cod for the second time since we had started Sloan.

A Full Circle: Leading the Mykonos Pre-F(X)

I had a strong urge to lead my own Pre-F(x). I wanted to help others have the same amazing experience and form deep friendships just as I had in Panama. I submitted a proposal for a trip to Mykonos, Greece, (a personal favorite) and my friend and fellow 2017 MBA student, Arthur Sheyn, and I began planning a trip for 20 Sloanies to go to Greece. Planning a trip in a different country for 20 people I had never met was a novel experience. I was just guessing what people would want to do, knowing full well that the backgrounds and ages of the people on the trip would be varied. The trip was a huge success (success measured by safety, happiness, and the friendships formed) and the thank you’s were overwhelming. But the gratification was even greater than I had ever imagined. Observing the comfort level of the MBAs on the trip increase throughout the week and being part of creating new friendships was incredible. The Mykonos crew is still hanging out even though we are back on campus, and I am so happy to have been part of another amazing Pre-F(x) experience.

Thank You, MIT Sloan

While I have always appreciated the value of traveling and the personal growth that occurs from visiting or living in places that are uncomfortable or foreign, my time thus far at MIT Sloan has truly solidified and enhanced this notion. I am so grateful to be obtaining my MBA at MIT for so many reasons, but one of the immense benefits that will never go my resume—yet might in fact be the most important to me—are the friendships and experiences I have been able to create through MBA travel.

Grad Life blog posts offer insights from current MIT graduate students twice a month on Slice of MIT.

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