Monday, March 30, 2009

Another Friend's Advice

I went skiing with friends a couple weekends ago and one of my host's other guests was a Stanford GSB grad from the class of 2005.

During long rickety chairlifts up the mountain, GSB '05 told me about his various living arrangements--in Schwab his first year (which I can't do because my significant other will be with me), at a Lake Tahoe ski house with 24 of his nearest and dearest, and in a sweeping mansion with 7 or 8 other guys, which is passed down from class to class at the GSB.

We also talked about specific activities he enjoyed during his two years, including the Wine Circle, a global study trip to China that he organized, and the Board Fellows program, which matches students with local non-profit boards.

GSB '05 told me about his and his classmates' experiences serving on boards ranging from huge international organizations like American Red Cross to local charter schools. I had read a lot about the Board Fellows program during the application process because of my pre-MBA interest in service. I spent two years as a board and finance committee member for a homeless shelter and while I loved the organization (I started as a volunteer) and thought highly of my fellow board members, I never felt like I was able to contribute significantly. I gave money and involved other friends in the organization, but it's hard to rock the boat as the youngest member of a 20-person board (and hard to know if and how you want to rock to boat). Given that experience and the wealth of other activities at the GSB, I did not mention Board Fellows in "Essay B" (career aspirations, why Stanford) and am hesitant to sign up next year. Also, when I asked my new friend about hands-on community service opportunities (e.g., tutoring at-risk children, cleaning up a park), he said that he didn't know of any Stanford GSB student clubs that are focused on volunteering. Maybe I will try to fix that...

His best piece of advice was to figure out early what things are important to me--such as meeting everyone in my class, networking within the international community, playing golf, traveling extensively, whatever--and make sure that those personal priorities don't fall by the wayside because of more formal commitments, classwork and FOMO. He assured me that I would have an incredible experience either way, but that my time would lack richness that it would otherwise have from staying true to my personal goals.

Now I just have to figure out what my non-schoolwork/job priorities are. Current short list includes traveling, continuing to develop my relationship with my significant other, making new friends, and improving my listening skills.

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