Accepted.com is continuing a blog series featuring interviews with current MBA students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top MBA programs. We hope to offer you a candid picture of student life, and what you should consider as you prepare your MBA application.
Here’s a talk with Akansh Khurana, a London Business School student from India who is taking in every aspect of his b-school experience – not just the educational element, but the wealth of opportunities that London as a city has to offer as well. Thank you Akansh for sharing your thoughts with us!
Accepted: First, can you tell us a little about yourself – where are you from? What and where did you study as an undergraduate and when did you graduate?
Akansh: I am from India and was born and brought up in the northern part of the country. After high school, I moved down south to do my B.Tech. in Computer Science from IIIT-Hyderabad. After completing my under-graduation in 2006, I worked at Bain & Company for over five years out of the Delhi (India) and Boston (US) offices.
Currently, I am in the first year at London Business School.
Accepted: Why did you decide to attend London Business School? Which other programs were you considering and what tipped the scales to favor London?
Akansh: Many of my colleagues at Bain went to global business schools. This gave me the opportunity to speak to them and develop deep insights about the programmes at their respective schools. Before starting my application process, I had shortlisted my top four schools, which included London Business School.
There were several reasons that helped London Business School standout for me. Firstly, I was looking at the MBA as a platform to build a “real” global network. London Business School’s unique student profile – with strong regional and professional diversity – is unmatched. Secondly, I wanted to be in a city that offers opportunities to learn, and grow outside the campus as well. Of all the leading global business schools, London Business School offers the best location – right in the center of London city. And finally, I was looking for a strong brand name. The school has earned its brand and respect in a much shorter time frame as compared to any other renowned business school.
HBS, Wharton and Stanford GSB were the other programs I applied to – but in the end, London Business School offered me the best balance across all the three parameters that were most important to me.
Accepted: How does the European location contribute to your post-MBA goals? Have your career goals changed since you’ve begun your studies?
Akansh: I had limited exposure to the European region before starting my MBA. The school offers me a variety of opportunities (through clubs, career services, lectures and social get-togethers) to help develop sound insights about the region, and learn the successes and failures of the organizations here. Given the current EU crisis, there’s a lot of action in the region and so much to learn and discover. In this globalized world, it is extremely important to understand global businesses, apply learning from across the world, and build international relationships.
I came with an objective to strengthen my career across three dimensions – consulting, private equity and technology. The school’s elective offerings, career services team and alumni have all helped me develop across these dimensions.
Accepted: Had you ever lived or traveled abroad before now? How are you adapting to life in a foreign country? Are there cultural differences that are hard to get used to?
Akansh: Before starting my MBA, I worked and stayed in the US outside my home country. I had experienced cultural differences then, but being a London Business School student is different. I had never seen such a variety of cultures and backgrounds. Obviously, it’s hard to align with every single personality and culture. But the best part is that the school puts in a lot of effort to help us learn the act and importance of working in multi-cultural teams.
As an example, the school organizes “Away Day” as a part of our orientation period. During this one day outing, multi-cultural teams collaborate and compete on several group activities. The day is designed to teach us important lessons about working in diverse teams. On similar lines, we’ve also attended sessions to have candid peer discussions on preferences, expectations and stereotypes across nationalities. Such initiatives help us become aware of and accept cultures and personalities that we would otherwise find difficult to relate to.
To ensure that every student does get an international experience and exposure, the school assigns us in groups of 6-7 students – we call these as study groups. Study groups are comprised of students from different nationalities and professional experience. All the group assignments in the first year are required to be done in our respective study groups.
Personally, attending social get-togethers, working on group assignments in study groups, and being open to experimenting new things (cuisines, places, and destinations) are key ways of adapting to life in London.
Accepted: Had you visited the campus before deciding to attend?
Akansh: I did not visit the campus before deciding to attend. But I attended school information sessions in India, and spoke to a large number of my colleagues and friends who are alumni of London Business School. I managed to answer most of my questions through these interactions.
Accepted: What are some of your favorite and least favorite things about living in London? Can you recommend a cozy place to study or hang out with friends near campus?
Akansh: The best part about living in London is the variety of things it has to offer – from theatre to symphony, from proximity to Edinburgh to easy access to France, the Alps and the whole of Europe, from sports to art, and from academic education to the world’s leading organizations. London is a complete world in itself.
But all of this comes with a price – London is an expensive city to stay in, and one has to budget accordingly. I’ve already started to exceed my monthly budget by 10% or so. In the long scheme of things, the experience I get in return of spending this money is completely worth it, and that is why I ensure I do not compromise on experimenting with new things.
My favorite place to hang out near campus is Regents Park during the sunny days, and Edgware Road – noted for its distinct Middle Eastern cuisine and late-night bars and shisha cafes – during evenings. I like studying on the sixth floor at Taunton – it is quiet and offers a great city view.
Accepted: What’s your favorite class so far?
Akansh: It is hard to choose any one class. The professors at London Business School use a variety of teaching methods – role plays, case studies, as well as lecture style, and I’ve enjoyed and understood the use of each of those methods. I’ve enjoyed learning Corporate Finance from Anna Pavlova, General Management from Brandon Lee, Operations Management from Kamalini Ramdas, and Economics from Joao Montez.
But my favorite lectures so far have been in Accounting – I absolutely loved the energy and expertise of Oktay Urcan during my Basic Accounting lecture, and the sense of humor, practical examples, and thoroughness of Shiva in Financial Statement Analysis. Oktay and Shiva are the only reason why I am interested in Accounting at the first place.
Accepted: Do you have a job or internship lined up for the summer? If so, what role did London Business School play in helping you secure that position?
Akansh: The internship process for my batch has just started, and I am working on my applications these days. The school is doing everything in its ability to offer students a platform to learn about and offer a plethora of roles and brands.
I know people who’ve already secured internship offers – particularly in finance – by proactively networking with the school alumni and attending the student-led treks to Asian countries. A large number of students are currently interviewing on campus with the leading consulting firms. Industry recruitment evenings are being held, networking events are being organized, one-to-one career coaching sessions are being offered, and mock interviews are being conducted to help the students learn the technical as well as the soft skills aspect of the interviews.
What I’ve found most helpful is the opportunity to work on part-time projects in London. A lot of students are looking to switch careers, and being in central London helps these students find relevant projects during the first and the second terms. Many people leverage this part-time experience and exposure to find full-time summer internships in areas and sectors of their interest.
Accepted: Do you have any advice for some of our applicants who will be applying to London Business School?
Akansh: Make sure you get a feel of the London Business School student community. Talk to as many people as you need. At the end of the day, the experience is all about those sitting next to you in class. So make sure you find out all about those people.
And most importantly, remember that you will not only be applying to a great school, but also to a great city – do not underestimate the opportunities, the exposure, and the interactions you could get in London.
Please visit our London Business School Zone for more London-specific advice. For complete, soup-to-nuts guidance on the MBA admissions process, please purchase Linda Abraham’s new book, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools – now available in paperback and Kindle editions!