This interview is the latest in an Accepted.com blog series featuring interviews with current MBA students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top MBA programs. And now for a chat with Kate Agnew, a student at MIT Sloan….
Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? What are your hobbies? Favorite TV show?
Kate: I was born and raised in Minnesota and lived there right up until I moved to Boston for business school. I went to Macalester College for my undergrad, where I studied mathematics and also got an environmental studies minor. Outside of school, I almost entirely allow myself to be consumed by TV and movies. I’m a big fan of superheroes and action movies as a whole, and watch most of the major hit TV shows. Scandal, Walking Dead, Criminal Minds, Longmire, Orange is the New Black, Arrow, and Covert Affairs just to name a few…
Accepted: Congrats on finishing your first year at MIT Sloan! What were some of the most challenging and rewarding parts of your first year of b-school? Is there anything that you would change?
Kate: Contrary to what some students like to tell perspective students, business school is really hard. I was only out of school for 3 years and still found it hard to jump back into the groove of things. I had little exposure to economics before, so I found that subject to be especially difficult. There is also always something to do, so prioritizing my time was hard but extremely important.
So far, the most rewarding experience has been participating in The Yarn, which is a monthly event at Sloan where select students share stories from their lives. It was one of the few times I really allowed myself to be vulnerable to such a large group of people in person. I was proud of myself for having the courage to do it, but was also really encouraged by the feedback I received from my peers afterwards. If my story can help even just one other person, it is all worth it. This is why I write as honestly as I do.
Accepted: I see that you’ve had the opportunity to travel a good deal this year. What have those experiences been like, and what have you learned?
Kate: One piece of advice I received my first week of orientation was to write down my 5 goals for business school and to use that when prioritizing my time. My goals were: travel internationally, explore the entertainment industry, decide between entertainment and consulting, engage in empowering women in business, and make strong social connections (in this order). Because of my goal to travel more, I have taken advantage of every travel opportunity that has presented itself.
First I went to Turkey. A small group of Sloan students spent a weekend in Istanbul during the fall, solely because flights were cheap (less than $500 round trip!). Turkey really allowed me to see that things outside of the US are not always as they seem. I was so surprised to find that the city was more… European… than what I expected when traveling to a country in the Middle East. It was also an experience that reminded me how unbelievably fortunate I am. I saw mothers of infants who fled from Syria and were living on the streets with their children. It was heartbreaking.
This Spring I enrolled in a class titled China Lab that allowed me to work on a small consulting project with a partner from MIT and two from Yunnan University. It was different from any other travel experience I’ve had in that it allowed me to see the business side of the country. Corruption is extremely prevalent there and it is concerning how many of the business decisions are made while people are completely intoxicated. Additionally, I saw literally hundreds of skyscrapers being built that still have no plans for tenants. It feels like an economy built on vaporware, or a false expectation of growth. China’s economy plays such a huge role globally and supports so much of the economy of the United States that these issues cannot be ignored.
Most recently I spent 10 days in Israel. On the way there, I had a 12 hour layover in Amsterdam and got to explore the city. It was my first time in a new country all alone and it was quite a liberating experience. I went to the Van Gogh museum and took more selfies than one should in a day.
Israel itself was surreal. In so many ways it is very similar to the United States, especially Tel Aviv where we went clubbing and shopping. I had the opportunity to visit their air force base as well, and it was inspiring to see how much pride everyone has for their country, in part because of their required military service. I seriously left wanting to join the Israeli Army, but I do have a tendency to be easily influenced. Later, we went ATVing about 100 yards from the Syrian “border” (it is really a cease-fire line) and even explored a building that used to be the Syrian Military Headquarters. All of a sudden everything I had read about online or heard on the news was right in front of me… I will definitely think differently of these events moving forward.
Accepted: Your blog covers a lot of topics- from b-school, to work, to more personal writing (and thoughts on the process of writing itself). I can tell you take writing seriously! How did you decide to blog about your experience? What have you gained from the experience?
Kate: Growing up, I felt very alone. I thought I was the only one who had a difficult childhood. Once I got older, I realized my past wasn’t all that unique. I began reading stories of other childhoods, books such as Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt and Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs. They provided me a lot of comfort. I saw that I could be successful and craft my own future; my past didn’t have to dictate who I would become. It also inspired me to begin writing. I figured that if some stories helped me growing up, potentially my stories could help others. The drive behind my writing is really helping others feel connected and less alone.
Additionally, writing has given me the opportunity to deeply reflect on things and to become more open and comfortable with who I am. There are still things about me that are unique, and I’ve been able to embrace these attributes rather than shy away from them. It is still a work in progress though.
Accepted: Can you share some advice to incoming first year students, to help make their adjustment to b-school easier? What do you wish you would’ve known when you were starting out?
Kate: Business school feels more like high school than it should. While in some ways this can be frustrating, it is also refreshing. Everyone has gone through high school and most cases college as well. By applying those same skills both socially and academically, b-school can feel more approachable. Your reputation will be extremely important, but don’t worry too much about what people think about petty things.
Accepted: Do you have any advice for our b-school applicant readers?
Kate: Deeply consider how business school will help you grow and why that growth is important for who you want to be. Because I’m interested in entertainment, b-school wasn’t a requirement for my career. However, I am a first generation college student and have spent a lot of time mentoring younger girls and encouraging them to seek higher education. I felt that having a master’s degree would enhance my ability to be a strong role model and giving back to the community is very important to me.
For one-on-one guidance on your b-school applications, please see our MBA Application Packages.
To read more about Kate’s b-school journey, please check out her blog, Kate’s a Cliche. Thank you Kate for sharing your story with us!
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