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Back to School

Current MBAs let us know what it’s like to give education a second try

Ditching a well paid job, moving across continents, studying hard for admissions exams, and forking out for course fees are all common sacrifices made by prospective MBAs. Unsurprisingly, the move from office to classroom can come as a bit of a shock.

The opportunity to relive college days is undoubtedly alluring. You get to meet people from a huge variety of cultural backgrounds, and an MBA can add real personal worth, if taken for the right reasons.

Ready to take the leap? BusinessBecause has interviewed MBAs who have made that same decision, and found out what it’s really like to go back to school.

Sean Seong-uk Kim, who is studying for an International MBA at IE Business School, took a break from engineering in South Korea.

I knew it was the right time when I decided to pursue an MBA degree. As an engineering manager in LG group in South Korea, I had finished my most important projects and needed a break. I majored in Electrical Engineering & Computer Science, and worked in the engineering field, so wanted to learn the language of business to broaden my managerial prospects.

South Korean conglomerates such as Samsung, LG, and Hyundai want to open or broaden their business market in Latin America, so I chose to come to IE business school to make the most of this trend.

As an MBA candidate, I'm satisfied with the quality of the program, class diversity, and the prominent professors. 2 out of 5 terms are passing away, and I already have three full time jobs from Seoul based global companies. So far, so good!

Life in Madrid is quite different from those cities I lived in Asia before such as Singapore, Seoul, and Tokyo. I'm really enjoying the cultural differences.

Studying for an MBA at HEC Paris, Shipra Baranwal is loving the opportunity to get back in the classroom.

The transition from a full time working environment to full time study has pretty much been a rollercoaster ride.

After 6 years of living and breathing in the stressful corporate work environment, I was hoping to take some time off for myself, whilst also gaining value. I did find hitting the books again after such a long period of time difficult, but I really enjoy the way the curriculum is divided.

The case studies and group work that we do in HEC, while rigorous, really push me to think outside of conventional thinking patterns. Also, I am able to relate what I learn to some concepts which I have alreasy been exposed to pre-MBA, for example in areas of Marketing and Operations Management.

Another great skill that I am developing is the ability to work with different people from various work backgrounds. In the last six months I have had the opportunity to work with participants from over twenty nationalities. I am learning the real dynamics of teamwork from this global class environment, and – just to re-emphasize! – I am loving it.

To sum up – the MBA has been a welcome break, and while the curriculum is hectic and stressful at times, for me it has so far been an introspective journey. I have been able to dedicate a lot of time to myself, learn about my own strengths and motivations in life, and to plan ahead for the future.

Rohan Surana’s INSEAD MBA is a time for career reflection and introspection.

Attending a business school is always a welcome break from your work environment -- no client commitments, deadlines or recurring status update meetings. As you start meeting fellow classmates, it's always interesting to hear the different backgrounds students come from and their motivation to pursue their career paths.

I think it gives you the much needed inspiration to introspect and evaluate your career choice so far, and to analyse the fit between your aspirations and future career trajectory.

Although the financial sacrifices are a tough decision to make, Abhishek Sharma is enjoying the career break his MBA at AGSM is allowing him to take.

Education is always a good idea in principle, but can be challenging to cope with, especially when you leave your comfort zone. I was certainly not an exception in experiencing this when I decided to pursue my MBA post professional experience.

In five and half years of a great career at one of the leading semiconductor firms, STMicroelectronics Pvt. Ltd., I saw myself growing at a faster rate than my peers with two quick promotions. A diverse range of complex and fast moving international challenges during my stint at STMicroelectronics provided me strong business acumen. The insights into the working of the organisation were priceless.

Despite being the Best Performer in my group for two consecutive years, I felt something was missing. With every new business insight I gained, I became increasingly eager to delve more deeply into the mechanism of the company. It was the time for me to go to basics and connect all the dots through an MBA!

I am glad that AGSM MBA is meeting all my expectations – so far, so good. However, the transition back to school – especially after really enjoying my time in work, and losing a “well-earning hand” – could be a scary ride. I had to weigh the pros of having an MBA from a reputed and illustrious institution against the cons of losing the well settled job. As a self motivated, goal oriented and highly dedicated electronics engineer, I took the plunge.

My transition back to school has been rewarding so far. Not only am I able to understand many of the things I always wondered about, but I’ve also had the chance to broaden my horizons, and hence am now more open to a broad variety of challenges. However, believe me, it’s always a bad feeling to stop seeing regular pay checks! When there is always a cash flow “out” with no source of cash flow “in”, there could be a huge financial imbalance.

However, an MBA is a tool to “cash” opportunities in the future. The experience, until the time money starts flowing “in”, can either be a welcome break or a daunting experience. I believe if you take decisions carefully, the experience will definitely be rewarding. I am happy that I selected the right MBA for myself, and that’s the reason that I am enjoying every second of my education.

I am looking forward to reaping the results of my MBA with full enthusiasm once I finish my course in April next year!

Our verdict?

The buzz-phrase from our MBAs seems to be ‘welcome break’: after a few years of hard work in a corporate environment, a full-time MBA gives much needed breathing space to really think about career motivations, and to establish some long term goals.

It may seem a contradiction to state that going ‘Back to School’ can seem like a holiday – particularly as an MBA is such enormously hard work – but these MBAs seem to feel that their studies will reinvigorate them with enthusiasm for the workplace.

Read more about the reasons people head to business school in the Why MBA section


Tuesday 28th August 2012, 09.34 (UTC)


terrifying photo

Friday 31st August 2012, 11.49 (UTC)


Thank you for this information. From the interviews, it seems that after 5 to 6 years of hard work, the 7th year is the appropriate timing to take some time off. And it's important to be courageous and having a clear purpose. Again, interesting publication.

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