Like several other members of the incoming Cambridge EMBA cohort, I spent a lot of time wondering how grievously the admissions team erred in accepting me to the programme. At long last, the week-long Orientation arrived. I joined my new classmates for a tour of the University with a mix of excitement and anxiety about whether I would be able to keep up with the course content, to make friends or to otherwise prove myself worthy of such a legendary University. The experiences during the Orientation dispelled my concerns on the first two concerns; the third remains an open question.
On the first full day of Orientation, we learned the names of all 81 members of our class (truly) and we started asking for everyone’s reasons to pursue an EMBA at Cambridge, how far we all travelled for the experience*, and many of us wondered whether Cambridge made a mistake in admitting us (I now call this the “Conversation”).
That night, the EMBA programme organised a welcome dinner and drinks at King’s College. We enjoyed drinks on the manicured lawn overlooking the river, and gawked at the historic architecture as the sun set over the library. At that moment, I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude to be in such a magical space with such thoughtful, intelligent people. Next, we were swept into the dining hall, with wood-panelled walls and intricately-carved ceilings. After photographing everything in sight, we found our seats and ate dinner under the gaze of portraits created before my country was even born. Alumni were seated at each table to ensure that we all met someone who would share their EMBA experiences with us. I met a gracious lawyer from a Magic Circle firm who is likely far too busy to accept dinner invitations to meet EMBA students. I met the other students in my class who were joining the same college as me (Clare College). The “Conversation” continued.
Over the next week, we studied corporate finance, accounting, microeconomics, management and management science. We ate most of our meals in historic, Hogwarts-worthy dining halls. We explored Cambridge’s rich history and its many bars. A running club was born. Nicknames were earned**. We were enthralled in a game theory exercise that inspired passionate debates and conversations for days about business, human interaction, ethics and strategy. Through it all, the “Conversation” continued.
A week after we first met and began the “Conversation”, there was a reluctance to return to normal life. After immersing ourselves in the “Conversation” from early morning runs along the River Cam to 3am drinks, it’s over. I think we all accept now that we belong in this experience and that Cambridge was the right choice. Everyone seems excited about what the next 20 months will bring and I can’t help wonder where we will find ourselves at the end of the EMBA programme. Although we are on 81 different journeys, we have embraced this unique opportunity to share part of our own journeys with each other.
William Butler Yeats said that education is not the filling of a bucket but the lighting of a fire. It turns out he was only partially correct: the match has been lit but the bucket is overflowing after such an intense week. Over the next 20 months, I hope the EMBA 2016 cohort will prove itself worthy of Cambridge but I know we are going to enjoy the challenge.
*At a mere 10 hours, my flight from Houston was not the longest. Others traveled from Chile (20 hours), China and Azerbaijan. Everyone I met believed that an education at Cambridge would be worth repeating this journey 20 times over the course of the programme.
**Pursuant to the Chatham House Rules, nicknames and the circumstances surrounding their origins may not be disclosed herein.