Taking Care of Yourself

Moving to another country isn’t easy. Even if you speak the language, there’s a new city and culture to learn as you leave your old life behind. You’ll get a room but it won’t be home, not yet. No art on the walls, no books you’ve had forever, a different view out the window. Now, moving is exciting, don’t get me wrong! Everyone talks about the fun parts or the big challenges (visa, housing, etc), but it can be stressful in 1000 little ways.

In case it wasn’t clear, I moved to Dublin for the Smurfit MBA – in fact, I had never been to Ireland! Oh, I’d travelled before, but I was still nervous even with my friends promising I’d love it (they were right, btw). I wasn’t dealing with a language barrier (more or less, good luck pronouncing Irish place names), but everything else was totally new. And it was exciting! It’s something I wanted to do since I was a kid, but it’s also much easier said than done.

qb-pic-1Welcome to Ireland, have some rain

Anxiety kicked in even before I moved, and the best solution I’ve found is to make a plan and make it detailed. If you don’t know something, look it up! Absolutely reach out to the Smurfit admissions/international office, but don’t forget other sources of information. Someone’s moved from your country to Ireland, is there a forum post on it? Check out your State Department’s website or your local Irish Consulate, especially for esoteric questions! Maybe your doctor can help with meds/vaccination/etc planning. Have previous students dealt with your issues before? Is there stuff to eat here that fits your diet? Are there accommodations for your disability? Will you fit in and be accepted, especially if you’re not a majority demographic? And on and on.

The benefit of planning is that when (not if!) the unexpected happens, you’ll already have knowledge and resources you can draw on. But I won’t lie, it can be overwhelming at times, and it’s that overwhelming I want to help you with.

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You said it, random Dublin trashcan

I don’t know your situation, but I can tell you this: if you’re moving to another country, by yourself, to spend a year with 30 other students, be busy as all hell, and face the job market on the other side, you are officially a badass. And, since badasses can hear hard truths, I’ll say this: you won’t survive on willpower alone.

An MBA in another country is a stressful, busy, hectic, and anxiety-inducing endeavour as much as it is a fun, exciting, amazing, and novel one! When everything is crazy, PLEASE remember to take care of yourself. You cannot face the day on an empty stomach, with little sleep, if you’re off your meds, skipping exercise, ignoring your routine, or any other way you practice self care.

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Team brunch is self care, right?


If you are someone who loves people, do not make the mistake I did and stay in your room all week before classes – get out, go downtown, go walk around a park! It’ll likely be summer when you get here, take advantage while it lasts! You don’t even have to talk to anyone, being around other people will lift your spirits. If you recharge away from people, take the time to get your room just the way you like it – put that art on the wall, get a duvet that’s extra comfy, rearrange your room, and afterwards go for a quiet walk somewhere green. While you build your support network here, don’t forget everyone back home who said they’d help you out. Yeah, there will likely be some serious time differences, but that’s the beauty of texting or snapchat: people can catch up anytime! Asking someone to talk if you’re feeling down isn’t weakness, it’s strength. <3

Above all, don’t forget – you’re in a new place and isn’t it awesome?? Why not find ways to make the most of it! Miss your pet? Maybe there’s a dog park or cat cafe around. Miss someone’s home cooking? I’m sure there’s a hole-in-the-wall family restaurant just waiting for you to sit down and chat with the server over something delicious. Bummed out by the grey weather? Make a point to get outside, even if just for a bit, every day – the sun still shines through the clouds (PS: if you’re not used to dark grey winters, get yourself a full-spectrum lamp. “Seasonal Affective Disorder” is real).

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     After the storm you get rainbows – cliche, but true (seen after hurricane lorenzo)

I’ve only been here 2 months and already this program is a roller coaster. I’ve been happy, I’ve been stressed, I’ve stayed in my room eating pizza and I’ve gone out and found a new bar with new friends in old rain. But that’s the whole point, isn’t it? We don’t ride roller coasters because they’re tame, we ride them because fear turns into exhilaration and fun.

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We’re cheering you on, you got this <3



QB Quinones-Bangs, Full-Time MBA 2019 – 2020

Whack-A-Mole

I remember saying to one of my classmates on the Tuesday of the second week “I can’t believe that I’ve only known you for eight days!”. Many of the MBA graduates I had spoken to before I started in August had told me about the close bonds formed with MBA classmates, but the speed at which it happened still took me by surprise. We’re into our sixth week now and we laugh and joke with each other like childhood friends.

But the introductory weeks are well and truly over now and while we’ve settled into our study groups, I’m starting to realise that the MBA is like a year-long game of whack-a-mole, but with projects, exams and adventures instead of moles. The GNAM week is just one week away, our first exams loom the following week and master plans for the MBA clubs are firing left and right.

GNAM will see our class disperse to universities across the world, attending one-week courses in fellow Global Network business schools. I’m delighted to be going to Berkeley, while classmates are heading to destinations including Yale, Shanghai, Berlin and Madrid. Though I don’t think I’ll be alone in bringing my books along for financial reporting and economics in preparation for our exams in the following week! The MBA clubs are off to a flying start and plans are afoot for events from golf to rugby to entrepreneurship talks.

There is so much opportunity in the MBA programme and even now, just six weeks in, while there’s no doubt that the marathon has well and truly begun and sleep is a distant memory, the prospect of learning so much, with so many wonderful people over the next 11 months is an exciting prospect.

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Grace Bergin, Full Time MBA 2019-2020

 

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed and Something Blue

These are the four objects that a bride is traditionally supposed to carry on her wedding day to bring good luck. Whilst an MBA is not yet considered one of the seven sacraments, the lucky 31 entrants to this year’s full-time programme certainly felt some wedding style jitters as they took the obligatory selfie by the front doors on the first day “back to school.” This was a solemn commitment that we were making for better or worse until August 2020 do us part.

Stretching the analogy, a bit further:

Something old   – It has been a number of years since most classmates left full time studies. The first couple of weeks saw the muscle memories slowly return – mounting assignments, stacks of readings and missed deadlines all came flooding back. From a personal point of view the greatest difference between the MBA and previous studies was quickly revealed as a focus and reliance on group work – more in tune with real world. As a result, I can now look forward to the fact that I won’t be consuming the €70 of fresher’s week Supermacs vouchers in isolation.

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                                                         Foundation Week with Orangeworks

Something new – in a wedding sense, this refers to optimism for the future and is apt to the MBA programme. Very quickly during the ice-breaking sessions of Foundation week, we found that there was a huge spread of skills and backgrounds throughout the class. Interesting people with interesting backgrounds. This was a key draw to the programme from a personal point of view and is a unique opportunity to work across cultures and disciplines.  Group think isn’t an option when the group is comprised of such a spread of folks.

Something borrowed – this symbolises borrowed happiness – whilst perhaps too romantic a notion to place on course material such as “Financial Reporting”, it does capture that as full-time students we’ve hit pause on careers to sit back and take stock with the goal of being unleashed in 12 months wiser, more efficient and more impactful.

Something blue – this can only refer to Dublin. 5-in-a-row Dublin as our international classmates quickly learned in Coppers. For close on 50% of the class, this is the first time to immerse themselves in one of the great cities of Europe. A city that has given Joyce & Guinness to the world.  As we learned during Business economics it also gave the double Irish tax treatment to the world prompting the ire of a multiple of acronyms including CCTB and BEPS.

Unlike most great weddings, our reception was held in Bray Bowling alley and it was a BYOB affair. Chat and warm beer were flowing in equal measures and it was clear that the initial goals of the program had been achieved. A disparate group had bonded and was looking forward to the year ahead. The honeymoon is over and the feared MBA stone is on the horizon.

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                                                                                                 Class Night Out 

Martin Naughton, FT MBA 19-20

 

Céad Míle Fáilte!

Just three weeks ago I was sitting in a flight, travelling half way across the globe leaving the security of everything familiar and friendly. Choosing to do an MBA is definitely a huge step both for your professional and personal growth. This decision making can be exhausting, exasperating and confusing. It was the same for me a year ago, and these are the words I lived by; ‘Go as far as you can see; when you get there you’ll be able to see farther’. Getting into UCD Smurfit was nothing short of a dream and every day since my induction week makes me proud of the decision I took.

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First Morning of MBA Foundation Week 

Three weeks have passed in a blur, starting off with a welcome lunch for international students, followed by the hectic induction week. We had sessions on Finance, Data Analytics, Persuasive Writing, Leading Cross Cultural teams to name a very few.  Each giving us insight into what would be in store for us in the coming year. Every session is a testament to the globally diverse international experience that the Smurfit  MBA is going to be. We also had several interactive group sessions such as the Die Trainers Business simulation and Orangeworks Peak Performance that got us networking with the rest of the class as well as the Executive MBA class. At the end of week one we had progressed to friends from just classmates.

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MBA Welcome Reception

Diversity and international experience are not just mere words here. In less than a month of joining the MBA program we are already gearing up for the GNAM week where we get to spend a week in a  prestigious university of our choice. We get to choose from international universities like Yale, ESMT – Berlin, IE – Spain, University of California Berkeley,  Fudan University – China etc. We are already looking forward to the two international consulting projects that are coming up in 2020. Apart from this, every single classmate of mine comes with their own unique background. We have the whole palette from medics to engineers to musicians. It just translates to thirty more sources of corporate experience, information and perspective to go with from our distinguished faculty.

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Night Out  with Classmates

Putting aside all the academic and career aspects, Ireland is one of the most beautiful places in the world. And there is so much to explore and experience here. So my suggestion to everyone, keep a list of the places you want to see and make use of the sunny days (which I’ve been told is not going to last much longer).

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Scenic Views of the Irish Coastline

Sreelakshmy Koonath, Full Time MBA 2019-2020

 

The Final Hurdle

EAT, SLEEP, HURDLE, REPEAT! Four words that come to mind when I reflect on the relentless yet rewarding cycle of the last two semesters. However, here we stand in semester three, the end is now in sight and the MBA blinkers are beginning to come off. The full time cohort has recently commenced our final hurdle – our capstone project. The landscape has changed suddenly and dramatically. We are now out of the confines of the Smurfit campus. The lecture halls, library and the MBA suite have since been replaced with the architecture of the “real world”. This is the time when we get to put into practice all the learning that took place over the previous two semesters. Strategy, marketing, finance, economics, accounting, operations etc. have all come into play in the thinking that goes into our final assignment.

This time in the “real world” coincides aptly with the class trying to determine/finalise our future careers. The next six weeks will undoubtedly fly by as quickly as the previous ten months. Where will we all find ourselves in September when the next round of eager “newbies” commence their MBA journey? When I look back on the photograph below, taken at the MBA ball last September, celebrating with the outgoing class the finale of their MBA experience, the people in the snapshot barely knew each other. In that moment, we had no idea how quickly we would bond as a class and become a strong support network for each other.

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When I returned to Dublin last July, after eight years abroad experiencing all the world outside of Ireland had to offer, I looked forward to settling back into Dublin life, rekindling old friendships, spending time with family and partaking in impromptu adventures at the weekends. However, this all-consuming, immersive learning experience quickly surrounded me like a new blanket and everything else soon took second place.

Now, at the final hurdle, we can finally exhale and reflect on the multitude of activities that took place since we first trooped through the timber frame, arched portal of Carysfort Avenue to greet the smiley, fresh faces of our new cohort. Since then, we muddled through the multitude of academic material, attended glamorous black-tie balls,  jetsetted off on class trips around the world and partook in the many clubs and societies (including the off-the-books, Thursday night “Integration Club”). We shared the high and lows, the early mornings and the sleepless nights, the cups of coffee, glasses of wine and the pints of Guinness.  Our new family. Our new friends. Our new advisors. And in some ways, our new competitors!

We learned at an incredible rate, about the big, bad world of business and the hidden-deep-inside understandings about ourselves. We appreciated the skills and expertise of others and the little surprises that happen along the way – like scoring a try at your first rugby training session!. We got tired and frustrated and we needed good people around us to listen and support us through. People are what make the MBA go round. No one can prepare you in advance, for what is like to do an MBA programme. You need to live it to appreciate it.

With all the said, we now must not fall at the final hurdle. We need to land right where we want to be, with the ideal job – “winner all right”.

Lydia Collis, Full Time MBA 2018-2019

Vroooooming in Lisbon…!

As the second semester came to an end, the fact that our MBA days are numbered, loomed above us. Time has come for one of the most critical aspect of our course – the Capstone project to commence, in which we are assigned in groups to consult both emerging and established companies in some of the real-time challenges that these organisations are facing presently. The first leg of the Capstone project was kicked off at the picturesque Lisbon, Portugal, one of the most beautiful cities of Europe. Fortunately, I had opted not to take the module in the week before the Capstone, therefore, I had arrived at this beautiful country a week before our project start date. I took a host of road-trips across the southern (Algarve) and the northern part of the country (Douro Valley, Porto, Braga etc.) before I joined my colleagues for a week in Lisbon. The entire team was put at up the very chic Sana Lisboa, which was close to the heart of the city and a walking distance to most of the major tourist trails.

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Me and my team of consultants (Ha! – we were working there, I swear..) were assigned to help GoCars – Lisbon, arrive at a go-to market strategy for new and probable destinations to expand into. The project had to be delivered in a strict timeline, therefore, the first three days were all hard work to assist the company by all tangible means. We believed that we were quite enterprising in coming up with a rank-based algorithm to help the organisation decide on new destinations, based on certain quantifiable metrics weighed along with finer qualitative factors. The company head was very interested in our suggestions and so were our module coordinator. But, the best part of this entire routine was driving around the tourist trails of Lisbon, in business attires, in a funnily enough yellow-coloured, two-seater GPS-enabled vehicle. The company were kind enough to offer us free test drive of their product and we made sure that we enjoyed our ride to the fullest and also being the centre of attraction to tourists, while we vroomed past them in our loud motorised cars. All in all, a satisfied beginning to our Capstone endeavours. Now back to Dublin for the next round.

Arnab Roy (FT MBA ’19)

I can’t believe it’s almost over!

I have to admit, I have mixed feelings about my last 10 months in Ireland and mostly about the MBA. I’ve had amazing experiences and of course others that I wouldn’t want a repeat of. The silver lining here is the lessons and memories. What I’m certain of though is that I am not the same person that landed in Dublin, August of last year. I am definitely a much more sophisticated version of myself.

I was fortunate to be awarded the Mwangi MBA Scholarship which is awarded to one Kenyan woman in business. The scholarship is in honour of Ms Catherine Mwangi (former Kenyan ambassador to Ireland) who lost her son – an only child – in a terrorist attack. To turn something so tragic into something that changes people’s lives is amazing. It wasn’t easy jumping through the hoops to get the scholarship but definitely well worth it. I am glad that I took on the challenge and will forever be grateful for the opportunity because it has been life-changing.

These are my highlights for the last 10 months so far, I’ll let you decide if they’re good or bad:

  1. Irish weather

No amount of research could prepare you for the weather in Ireland. You’d think that after climbing numerous mountains I’d understand what extreme weather meant. There are days where it felt like there were all four seasons in one day. My Irish classmates talk about four seasons. Maybe they meant the hotel. I know what I have experienced is rain, wind and clouds with a little sprinkle of sunshine once in a while. I am yet to experience summer despite the fact that this is the end of June. However, it would be unfair not to mention how much I enjoyed the beautiful colours of fall. Irish weather has taught me to always be prepared.

  1. Groups

I have been in nine (maybe more) groups since I started this journey. At the beginning, nothing prepares you for this especially if you land in a group of six. It is a crash course on the fine art of managing people. I love how it breaks the tendency of working in silos and experiencing first hand how effective team work really is.

3. Diversity

Prior to the MBA I had lived and worked in India and Nigeria. Additionally, I had done a bit of travel and therefore thought that I had this thing called diversity figured out. I quickly discovered that there was more to learn. The MBA class is filled with people from so many walks of life; a paediatrician, vets, engineers, an architect, business owners and as if that’s not enough, throw in seven other nationalities. My favourite part was watching people struggle to pronounce my preferred name ‘Shitandi’!

 4. Proby

Living on campus has its perks. You can wake up twenty minutes before a class and still make it to that class on time. Quick and easy commutes mean you don’t have to fight the elements to get to class. Best of all, the random lunches and dinners with classmates who live on campus. I have enjoyed delicious Indian dinners without paying a cent thanks to my very talented Indian housemates. A special mention to Carmela for the most glorious soup I have ever tasted in my life. Some of those meals shall never be forgotten.

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Proby Family

5. International trips

I’m still pinching myself because it’s hard to believe that in such a short amount of time I’ve travelled so much while doing an MBA. South America has never featured in my wildest dreams. The trip to Chile and Argentina was breath-taking. Apart from the profound lessons learnt during company visits, time spent with classmates allowed me to get to know people better. I spent time visiting vineyards, drinking very good wine, wandering around Santiago and Buenos Aires and best of all, I set my eyes on the Andes mountains. A few weeks ago, we spent a week in Lisbon working on consulting projects. Our group worked with an impressive start-up where we helped them put together a strategy to enter the Irish market. It was very satisfying seeing a happy client. Apart from the work, we enjoyed sightseeing and amazing seafood. Interestingly, I was one of the few people who didn’t like the famous custard tarts that Lisbon is known for.

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Wine tasting in Mendoza, Argentina

 6. Running in Blackrock Park

Sunrise in Ireland is both dramatic and beautiful especially in Blackrock park. Running in the park was my therapy during stressful times when there was so much to do and during dark cold winter days. I still don’t believe I went out for runs in 1-degree centigrade weather. There are probably more beautiful places in Ireland, but Blackrock park is my special place.

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Sunrise, Blackrock Park

 Milka Omukuba, Full Time MBA 2018-2019 

Georgetown Case Competition

Ciara, Colm, Ger, Swathi and I were delighted to be chosen to represent UCD Smurfit at this year’s IBM Georgetown case competition, which took place in Georgetown University, Washington DC. The competition involved developing an innovative digital strategy for FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency). FEMA is an agency of the United States Department of Homeland Security and its primary purpose is to coordinate the federal response to disasters that overwhelm local and state authorities such as hurricanes, floods and wildfires. We were able to use our diverse backgrounds from engineering, finance and medicine to formulate a solution that considered the needs of all relevant stakeholders including victims, governmental and non-governmental partners, and FEMA itself. Our solution centred on reducing complexity and increasing the speed of access to critical information on the FEMA website and app, as well as proposing virtual reality educational modules for emergency response staff.

In the run up to the competition we were fortunate to have a number of prep sessions with past students, faculty mentors and Paul Slattery, our coach in presentation skills. One of my main goals for my year in the FTMBA has been to work on improving my presentation skills and through the additional sessions we received from Paul in advance of the competition, I feel that my presentations have come on leaps and bounds!

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We flew to Washington on Thursday April 11th and checked into our hotel next to the historic Capitol Building. The competition began early on Friday morning and we arrived to the McDonough School of Business all set for a morning of final preparation before our afternoon presentation. Unfortunately, as we were the second to last group, we were unable to sit in on any of the other finalist’s presentations. The other competitors came from notable schools such as John Hopkins, Carnegie Mellon, Hong Kong University and Georgetown itself. We presented to a panel of 5 judges, all working for IBM and consulting with FEMA. We were thrown some tough questions at the end of the presentation but were happy with our performance overall. We had the chance to watch some presentations from a design challenge that had been happening concurrently before the case competition winners were announced. We were amazed when our team’s name was called as the first place winner! We were the first international team to ever win the competition! The competition was extremely well organised and provided a great opportunity to learn, to challenge ourselves and to mix with other MBA students.

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We were free then to relax and enjoy all the sites of Washington DC for the rest of the weekend! We whizzed around on electric scooters that are dotted all over the city and visited all the major landmarks along the National Mall, such as the Washington and Lincoln memorials, as well as the White House, Arlington cemetery, Capitol Hill and the Library of Congress. We also got to visit the Natural History museum, Air and Space museum and Hirshhorn modern art museum.

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The trip was absolutely fantastic and I would encourage next year’s students to apply so Smurfit can defend the title next year! A big thank you to everyone in the school who helped us along the way!

Carla Peters, Full Time MBA 2018-2019 

 

Presenting4Success journey

On September 19th, Met Eireann issued a nationwide “status yellow” weather alert for Storm Ernesto. But, in boarding the “boat”, the weather was not our only challenge; what we would do on the day itself also turned out to be extremely challenging. In our Presenting4Success journey, we are glad that Mr Paul A. Slattery is the captain who is coaching us. This journey lets us learn—and experience—how to present perfectly, which is vital to achieving advancement for ourselves and our ideas. Trust me, it is not that easy!

Before we boarded, most of us were confused. What kind of journey would we experience during this day? The journey began at 9 am. After a light group training on presenting for success, six study groups began their first three-minute presentations. Although these three minutes had been rehearsed before, when standing in front of everyone, you still experience fear and anxiety. After each group presentation, three groups of students offered encouragement and comments on the stage. Feedback is a gift. This gave the team a better understanding of its strengths and weaknesses. Captain Paul also guided the students on visual, verbal and vocal communication and connection with the audience. The audience also benefited from listening to and evaluating the other teams’ presentations.

We were glad that the presentations had finally ended, but we were too naïve. In reality, there were more seven-minute presentations in the afternoon. It must be admitted that the improvements would have been impossible without implementing the new knowledge and skills we had gained from the three-minute presentations.

In this second presentation, we opened with CABA, supporting our body with materials, and closed with Mas. We had less than an hour to prepare the ideas for the team presentation. During the preparation, each team had to constantly move positions and rehearse with different instructors. Even though time was pressing, everyone was inspired to achieve their potential. In addition, the team cooperation was very harmonious, and each member of the team helped the others. During this time, I am very proud to say that our volume, inflection, eye contact and stance all improved.

In today’s Presenting4Success journey, we encountered four “waves”: how to prepare your message, how to develop it, how to deliver it and how to evaluate it. These “waves” have challenged us to step outside our comfort zone to learn the new techniques. I believe that with practice and team work, we will all become excellent skilled communicators.

Luzi Wen, FT MBA 2018/19

“What is this “work-life balance” you speak of?”

So we’re almost a month into the MBA year here at the Smurfit Business School. I can now see why the most common description from Smurfit alumni is “intense”! We’re straight into group work, assignments and classes. It feels a bit like running the wrong way up an escalator that speeds up as you near the top! If I’ve learned anything from my classmates over the last month, it’s that if any of us stumble, our classmates will be ready to pick us up and get us running again.

I was lucky enough to be awarded the “Achiever” scholarship for the year. This award is sponsored by NTR plc and covers the full course fee. Opportunities like that don’t come along often so I accepted before the college could change their mind! Like some of the other scholarships on offer, a solid GMAT score goes a long way towards selection. Anyone that has completed the GMAT knows that practice makes perfect, so I recommend prospective students should research the available scholarships early for the best possible chance to grab one.

As class reps, a priority for myself and Carmela Reyes is making sure that everyone finds the right balance between academics and everything else, so it has been great to be introduced to the MBA clubs and societies. The presenters unanimously agreed that the highlights of their MBA years were the club events. Their enthusiasm while presenting was infectious, whether on the panel discussions for the Entrepreneurship and Thought Leadership clubs or running a Dragon’s Den style event in the local school for the Social Outreach club. Then there is the annual trip to Danville, Virginia for the MBA Rugby World Cup. This sounds like a week of “networking” broken up by the occasional flash of sporting excellence. I intend to follow the advice I was given before the year: “Sign up for everything and you’ll somehow fit it all in”!

Myself and Carmela’s other responsibilities have been to help our classmates to settle into life at Smurfit and to facilitate communication between the class and the faculty. We had our first “Family meeting” this week (well, our first one not in the pub anyway) and I saw it as a resounding success. It’s early days, but we’re off to a great start. I can’t wait to see where the rest of the year takes us.

Colm Garrick, FT MBA 2018/19

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