Our MBA journey: from a class to a family

By Andrew Jason Tan, current full-time SMU MBA student

Armed with a plane ticket and big dreams, I began my MBA journey. I signed up as a full-time student. This required me to leave the comfort of my home, my country, and my family. Consequently, everything I knew was reset as I landed in Singapore. I had to begin anew.

As I entered my new home, I realized I was alone and within a few days of coming here, I started to question why I decided to make this absurd journey. It was crazy! I left everything behind and all for what? And then, the SMU MBA journey began…

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The MBA was as promised. It combined both theory and practice. It gave us a wide view of business from Marketing to Accountancy to Strategy and to Economics. It was grueling yet rewarding. Day-in, day-out, my classmates and I toiled through the program. Each day was challenging, unique, and oddly enough, quite fun. There were days when even sleep was out of the question as we had deadlines to meet and papers to complete. But all-in-all, the SMU MBA encompassed what one would expect from an MBA course.

There’s more to an MBA than just beavering away at textbooks and papers though. In fact, I believe that the SMU MBA adds the most value with the opportunity to meet all sorts of interesting people. Mayhap, you can find a National Security Director, a Diamond Trader, a World Traveller, an Army Colonel, or even a Princeton Guy with 2 PhDs (a classmate, not a professor, mind you!). Each day represented an opportunity to meet someone and to expand my network. This continual process of chance encounters proved helpful to those of us seeking career switches, inspirational to those of us seeking to start our own businesses, and golden to all of us for seeking new opportunities.

Beyond the school, the classes, and the networking sessions, an MBA was really the last chance for me to go back to school and relive the “school life”. This reality is something that they don’t advertise and talk about much, but it is, arguably, the most fun thing one can do in the MBA. Adventures, parties, and trips — these are day-to-day happenings. You may miss one or two, but there will always be something that’s going on.

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To date, I’ve taken part in costume parties, Malaysian food trips, Bali diving sessions, paintball shootouts, crazy bubble bumps, and inter-school parties. On some nights, the activity of choice could be as simple as just enjoying a pleasant drink with friends. On others, it could be as crazy as chasing Mario as we desperately tried to score a goal.

With each passing moment, I realized that what started out as a solitary journey to earn this degree called an MBA quickly transformed into a journey with the class. The class became ever closer to one another as we conquered challenges and reached new heights. At some point, it became more than a class as it transcended to become a family. We watched out for one another, helped each other in times of need, and cried and laughed together. That initial feeling of being alone dissipated as I found myself in the warmth of this new family, an MBA family. All of sudden, this adventure that once seemed lonely, scary, and insurmountable became one that is fun, challenging, and life-changing — essentially what the SMU MBA is all about.

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