Josephine Tan (MBA ’21) gives us her take on the RC year through her drawings.
I have always found it easier to express myself with drawings than with words. According to my mum, I picked up my first pen when I was two and I have been marking surfaces and getting my hands full of ink ever since. I draw when I’m happy, sad, lonely, embarrassed, angry, and excited and when I cannot find words to describe how I feel. Drawing allows me to share an unfiltered account of my emotions.
Upon arriving at HBS, I was faced with new experiences, which often resulted in an overwhelming range of emotions. I found it hard to express those emotions and so I turned to my sketchpad and started drawing. These illustrations soon found their way to my sectionmates and I found that there’s comfort, affirmation and validation in sharing, and it also helped me realise that I am not alone.
Class Participation in HBS: One of my biggest dreads in my first few months in HBS was class participation. Every time I put my hand up, my heart would start racing, my palms would get sweaty and I would stop paying attention to the discussion in class while trying to string my points together in my head. In my head, I always think I have 101 brilliant comments I can make, but when I do get called on, only 5% of them get translated into words.
MBA Kool Aid: Sometimes, I wonder if I’m drinking too much of the MBA Kool Aid. Am I paying so much for a Harvard MBA in order to be on a gilded highway to world-changing influence, fantastic wealth and possibly a lifetime of meaningful work? Then I quickly come to the realization that I’ve already paid my tuition fees and I’m in too deep to turn back now.
Crushed by Cases: Don’t tell me you’ve never felt this way in your first semester as an RC? I would go out for dinner with friends or start working on a creative project, only to have my Jiminy Cricket tell me, “You still have cases unread. Get started on it.” It felt like the cases would never end.
Participating in Classes: I Know Little About As someone with no Finance background, I struggled with FIN1. I wanted to learn Finance without the burden of participation grades. I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to contribute to a discussion when I had no clue what was going on most of the time. So, when I did make a comment in FIN1, I felt like an MVP, as if I’ve hit a home run and I could relax for the next couple of classes.
Overachiever’s Romance: If you have a partner, then you know that the HBS experience spills over to them, no matter whether they like it or not. My partner had to bear the brunt of my anxiety-ridden first term. I would come home from class and whine about how I have not spoken in FRC for 6 classes in a row or how my NPV was in the negative millions (which, by the way, happened a lot) and I had no idea how to fix it. But there were also days where we celebrated because I finally participated in FIN1. Needless to say, he found it extremely bizarre that, while there were so many pressing issues in life and in the world, my top priority was my participation grades. During a conversation one evening, he said to me jokingly, “Don’t worry if you can’t do Finance, I still love you like an overachiever loves participation grades.”
The Internship Search: No one tells you how much time and effort goes into the internship search or how to deal with the constant uncertainty of not knowing when the internship search will end. And if you’re pivoting geography, function or industry, then it really feels like someone has hung you out to dry.
It’s Okay to Not Have All the Answers: As we transition to remote online classes and practice social isolation, I am experiencing the uncertainty of adjusting to this weird new world order. But this time, I’m approaching it with a slightly different perspective. Just like the many cases we’ve read in classes, I think I’m okay not having all the answers.
Josephine Tan (MBA ’21) is from Section E. When she’s not scrambling to finish her case readings, she can be found drawing in her dorm room. You can find her works on instagram @so_jt.
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