What does the MBA student experience look like?

The first week of an MBA program is the start of a long personal and professional journey. But what normally happens in that first week, and why is it so important? We hear from the MBA Program Manager at WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management to learn more about the first week of an MBA, as well as the overall MBA student experience.

In short

The first week of an MBA starts with a bang

What do you think the first week of an MBA program normally entails? 

Perhaps a gentle round of coffee introductions, then a couple of taster classes to ease you into the program. Maybe you’ll even have a day or two off. The real work will start in a few weeks, after all.

Well, not quite. At WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management in Düsseldorf, MBA students are thrown straight into the program. You’ll have the chance to meet your classmates, but what follows is an intense week of business challenges and team-building exercises. Jessica von Tresckow, MBA Program Manager at WHU, outlines the opening weeks of the program.

“To kick off your MBA program you will have an orientation to get to know your classmates for the first time all together. Of course, you’ll learn some of the basic structures and features of the program as well,” she says. “Directly after the program starts you will participate in the Future Leaders Fundraising Challenge. You will work in teams to face a different challenge every day. The ideas you contribute and funds you raise during the week will benefit children’s rights organizations.” (00:22)

It sounds like a lot to take in, particularly when 87% of the WHU MBA cohort are international students. But as we’ll learn, this is the type of challenge which ensures WHU MBA graduates leave the program not just as better businesspeople, but better people.

Specializations, networking, and personal development

Jessica says that the program structure soon starts to settle down after the hectic opening week. The school’s priority is to strengthen your knowledge of business fundamentals before specializing in a number of different business-related subjects.

“After your first week, including settling down in Düsseldorf, the first courses will solidify and advance your knowledge base. These cover a variety of subjects, including economics, finance, and marketing,” she explains. “In the second half of your program, you’ll be able to individually select courses that enable you to pursue the specific skills you desire to achieve.” (01:14)

The knowledge you’ll gain from an MBA is an important part of any program, but Prof. Dr. Martin Fassnacht, WHU’s MBA Academic Director, says it’s just one element of what is a multifaceted program.

“The WHU MBA program is about three facets: firstly knowledge, secondly networking and team building and thirdly, inspirations for a professional and private life,” he says. (01:36)

The chance to create lifelong memories

As the program progresses, you’ll have the chance to complete further modules in the United States, India, and China. These all represent great opportunities to expand your knowledge of foreign markets, but they’re also a chance to create some unforgettable experiences with your mates. It’s all part of the professional and personal development that Prof. Dr. Martin Fassnacht alluded to.

“Not only will you have the opportunity to take a look at the international business environment, complete a customized program at our esteemed partner universities and develop your cross-cultural communication abilities, but you will also be spending quality time and having unique experiences with your fellow classmates,” Jessica explains. (02:14)

David Rafalaski, who was part of WHU’s Full-Time MBA Class of 2020, is enthusiastic about the benefits of those international modules. He believes they gave him the international experience and global knowledge he needed to thrive in his current role as a consultant at Roland Berger.

 “The international modules broadened my mindset. As a business leader you need to understand different cultures, cultural differences, and global issues in this context,” he explains. (02:46)

The truth that underpins your MBA journey

By the end of your time at WHU, you will have gone through a whirlwind 12 months of learning new skills, trying new things, and meeting new people. But graduation is only the beginning of your journey. Jessica says that your WHU MBA experience will stay with you for the rest of your life.

“This will also be a new beginning for you, as you take the knowledge, network and skills you have developed to advance your personal and professional goals,” she says. (03:50)

Sayalee Shende, part of the Full-Time MBA Class of 2018, agrees. She explains how the connections she formed in her time at WHU have remained with her to this day – and likely will long into the future.

“I’m still a very active member of the WHU community, whether it’s about career sessions or alumni interactions. I’m also in touch with people from my classes and with the current students through these alumni initiatives. I think the community is very strong. Some of the friends I continue to have today are also from this initiative, and so it happens to be very close to my heart,” she reflects. (04:00)

From the very first week of an MBA, you’re starting your journey of personal and professional development. You should look upon an MBA as a chance to further your career, of course, but don’t overlook the personal benefits it provides. An MBA is an opportunity to go on both of these journeys – and come out of them a better-rounded person.

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