New Year’s Resolutions… 2021!

“Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.” Earl Nightingale

Resolutions are overrated, and we all know it. Even if you enjoy making lofty goals for the new year, simply declaring a resolution is not the same as making a plan to get there. But you know what? You don’t have to do that, either. This year, make a resolution that is small and simple.

The view over a roof gable of a snow-covered suburban street under a grey sky
The view from self-isolation

After the year of 2020, we still do not know what 2021 will bring. Over our Christmas break, I took a lot of time to reflect. This time last year I was in Fiji, sunning myself and not a care in the world. Fast forward a year, I am 1/3 through my MBA, life as we know it consists of endless amounts of Zoom calls, social distance walks and standing out in the cold drinking coffee. If you had said that to me last January, in the sunny Islands of Fiji, I would have laughed. I am certainly not laughing now. I have grown accustomed to staying connected with friends while keeping my distance. 

In line with my attempts to be healthy, be more motivated to do those home workouts and not roll my eyes at another Zoom session, my new years resolution is to be more connected. With a new MBA trimester, I have new teammates in my study group to get to know, and I am curious to work with different individuals and to learn from them and establish new connections. Yes to networking with new people, as MBA students, new people are encouraged and recommended; but also yes to being more connected with those around me. 

Having isolated due to COVID for a daunting 14 days over the Christmas, I do admit the time passes. Days are all one, and as I finish isolation I honestly am surprised how fast it went. Not saying you’ll get your life accomplishments completed, nor will you learn a language. But the quarantine gave me time to reconnect with myself, friends, family and some of my MBA colleagues.

I was so grateful and overwhelmed by the calls, texts and kind gestures of food dropped off to my house. The kindness, generosity from old friends, new friends (MBA colleagues) and family members was incredible. This year I aim to make time to call those I love, make more of an effort to get to know my MBA colleagues (coffee zooms!) and be more present with the people in my life. 

A rainbow through a blue sky over a suburban street with yellow houses, green lawns and hedges
A brighter, warmer perspective

I’m leaving my personal isolation for a society-wide one: everything is closed and we should be restricting our movements for the better of everyone, particularly our healthcare staff. What can we do?

Use the time as it passes. Make that coffee date on zoom, get our your calendars and book it in. Thinking of making a phone call, pick up the phone and make the call. Even a text message can make a huge difference to the person receiving it.Be it a dream, a catch up, a networking meeting or a check in. The time will pass by and hopefully we will be out of lock down soon, so do it now. The time will pass, as will restrictions and lockdowns, and hopefully in a few months we will be able to have a physical coffee chat in the warmth!

Catriona Brady, FTMBA Class of 2021

MBA Open Event: 30 January

Four images in block, clockwise from Top Left: MBA Open Event/January 30th; Photo of UCD Smurfit main building; UCD Smurfit School Logo; Photo of young people in Common Room.

The globally-ranked Smurfit MBA provides an unequalled opportunity to unlock and develop your leadership potential, accelerate your career and build your global network. On Saturday 30th January 2021,  UCD Smurfit School will host a unique virtual event for prospective MBA participants. The MBA Open Event is an opportunity for you to gain a real insight into the UCD Smurfit MBA. 

  • Date:  Saturday 30th January 2021
  • Time:  9.30am – 12pm (local Irish Time)

Attendees will have the chance to learn about our MBA Programme options including the new Modular Executive MBA, attend an MBA taste lecture and join an MBA Thought Leadership Session. Our Admissions team will give guidance on how to complete your application and outline the range of MBA Scholarships available. If you are considering an MBA, then this is an opportunity not to be missed. 

See a schedule, meet the speakers, and register here: 

The Importance of MBA Triage: Lessons from a Healthcare Perspective

“You can do anything, but not everything” (David Allen) was a quote I used to see regularly when working in Toronto hospitals. It was meant to inspire serenity and perspective. The ENTJ in me thought  differently. If I could do anything, then surely I could do everything?  Full disclosure here, I subscribe to the Ernest Gallo  philosophy of “we don’t want most of the business, we want all of it”.  

“You can do anything, but not everything.” The key words missing at the end of that sentence, for me, are: “at once”.

The author at work.

As I built my surgical career, my various roles often had me working 140 hours per week (including overnight calls). My pagers and phones rang incessantly with jobs to be done. Every department’s request was urgent. Everyone higher up in the organisation bestowed advice about the dangers of slipping up. Something had to give: I had to learn how to triage. 

The word triage itself derives from the French word “trier”, and was originally applied to a  process of sorting, probably around 1792, by Baron Dominique Jean Larrey, Surgeon  in Chief to Napoleon’s Imperial Guard. The original triage systems were based on prioritizing mass-casualty patients in battlefield settings into immediate, urgent, and non-urgent.  With the development of organised medical systems in the western world, the late 19th/early  20th century witnessed the emergence of triage within overcrowded emergency departments in  the US, UK, and Europe. Triage at this time consisted of a brief clinical assessment that determined the time and sequence in which the  patient should be seen, using their limited resources. Modern emergency departments must juggle the issues of increasing demand, increasing  financial pressures, staff limitations, burnout, technological and medical advancement, and an  ability to save the lives of patients who previously would not have survived. Emergency services now use  a modified traffic light system, adaptable to different patient cohorts  (children; elderly; surgical; cancer; psychiatric), for triage:  

Green: Low risk. Non-urgent 
Amber: Moderate risk. Semi-urgent 
Red: High risk. Urgent/Critical 
Black: Nothing can be done. Comfort measures only

As I progressed through my surgical career, I quickly adapted to triaging each job I was given. Those jobs that could wait–even for a  couple of hours–would do so. You live in your very own Maslow’s hierarchy, but the needs are external, not internal. Getting two calls for critical tasks such as an urgent call to theatre, and to the emergency department at the same time? Nightmare.

I found quickly that good quality communication, and the development of a strong professional network whom I could call on in a crisis worked well. I did my homework on not just the medical staff, but nursing, administrative staff, porters, office staff, cleaners, telephone operators, and even canteen staff. You take the time to get to know people, and let them get to know you, and suddenly, everything seems a little more cohesive, more efficient, and more tolerable. Also no harm in having your favourite panini and coffee pre-made while you whizz past the canteen on yet another important job. When it comes to urgent tasks, you will invariably fail on some. But how you make people around you feel? That stuff sticks. People. Matter. 

You will note that I haven’t mentioned the importance of trying to juggle a family life as well. My wife spent much of those years in a role akin to a single parent, holding down her own job and studies. My life could be summed up using a modified version of Porter’s Five Forces

Developing a system of triage, good communication skills, and (to borrow a phrase from Norma  O’Callaghan) a personal “board of directors”, saved me from failure and burnout. 

Thus it is with  the MBA. It is an intensive program by  any standard, and having prior exposure to covered topics does not grant immunity. With assignments, and reading, and presentations, and exams, and potentially even day jobs, the  concept of triage is as relevant to this endeavour as it is to any branch of medicine/surgery. 

Our direct resources in this case are limited, and include time, freshness, vigour, communication, and  motivation. One needs to apply these as required, and to risk-stratify assignments and tasks.

Here we move from the Napoleonic wars at the start of the blog to Comrade Napoleon in the George Orwell novel Animal Farm: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than  others”. There are only so many hours in the day, only so many brain cells available at one time, only so far your “favour network” can stretch.

Do I take bloods on the imminent surgical patient, or the strictly timed bloods on the transplant ward at the other end of the hospital? Sounds easy, get the patient to theatre, and get a telling off from the transplant consultant. What about leaving the operating theatre mid-operation to deal with an emergency that no-one else can deal with? What do you say to each family? You may consider this to be a systems issue, and perhaps it is, but the important thing is to be able to live in the grey. To quickly make decisions that need to be made, and accept the consequences.   

Some things can and must wait, and indeed sometimes there’s nothing that can be done.  You must control the controlables, accept that there are things  that you cannot control, and develop communication networks to help to try to bridge the gulf  between the two. Remember: You can do anything, but not everything at once.

Fardod O’Kelly, EMBA Class of 2022

Outside the Comfort Zone

If you told me two years ago that I would be a full-time MBA student at Smurfit, I would have said you were crazy. Sure, I’d been tinkering with the idea of an MBA for some time, but I have also thought about who I would mention in my thank you speech should I ever win an Oscar. There is a big difference between thinking and doing.

This time last year, I was approaching a decade of working in journalism: a decade of demanding work, difficult stories, rotating shift work and tight deadlines. Like all milestones, the end of that decade prompted some introspection. I was forced to ask myself some tough questions–which I knew would have complicated answers. I was confident in my work, but also, I realised, I was comfortable. And comfort is the enemy of progress.

Over the locked-down summer, I wrapped up seven years of my day job at, and fully immersed myself in the business school application process. To my absolute joy, I received a generous scholarship given to one female candidate across the Full-Time and Executive MBAs. It remains one of the proudest achievements in my life and gave me a vote of confidence that perhaps I had yet to find in myself–a sign that I was doing the right thing.

By September, I was officially a student again. The last time I was a student, I was 21 finishing a Master’s in International Journalism. Things look different this time around: I’m older; I’m wiser; I’m a remote student. Before Level 4 and 5 restrictions forced universities to implement a virtual delivery, we were given two precious weeks of time on the Smurfit campus. It was the closest thing to normal I have experienced all year.

As my colleagues have attested in their earlier blogs, those first two weeks of in-person classes were priceless. It laid the foundation for friendships, allowed a more nuanced understanding of lecturers, gave us time to navigate the campus, and we also got a free hoodie.

I’ll be honest: anyone who says Zoom is just as good as the real thing is lying to you. But if there is anything this year has taught us, it is that there are so many things beyond our control, and this is just one of them. This year has been a life lesson in letting go of the unimportant things and focusing on the big picture. And for me, having an MBA plays a starring role in that picture.

In September, my world suddenly became much bigger. Within weeks of matriculating, I was connecting to IE Business School in Madrid as part of the GNAM programme for a week-long crash course focusing on Europe’s economic recovery after Covid. Instead of debating and celebrating after lectures with tapas and Rioja in the Spanish capital, I was joining from my home office/box room. This semester, I’m working in a study group in which one classmate is still at home in India. I have developed friendships with people whom I haven’t seen in person for more than two months. My world has opened up more than ever before and it’s all happening from a small room in my small house.

Now that I’m nearly three months into the MBA, I realise I have never once been comfortable. Every day, I am challenged – by the curriculum, by lecturers, by my classmates, by coronavirus (!) – and that perpetual cycle of learning and development is one I had always been chasing before now. Can I pick just one highlight so far? No. But I can say that this is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Caitlin McBride, FTMBA Class of 2021

Chaos, Creativity, & Connection

In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity‘  
— Sun-Tzu 

How has have been this year for you? For me, it’s great, pretty good or awesome, depending on the day. I have a habit of looking on the bright side of life. Although this year has been challenging, I’m reverting to that positive-outlook habit and I realize how rewarding it has been in terms of learning.  

So, what did we learn?  

1. Superheroes are real. Avengers might wear capes in the Marvel Universe, but in reality, they wear scrubs as frontline workers have quite literally saved our lives during the pandemic.  

2. Priorities change. We’ve spent so long in the rat race that we forgot about the importance of our health and most of us are learning new ways to stay physically and mentally strong in quarantine.  

3. Family can make your day or drive you crazy.  

4. 2020 is not the best year if you’re a travel blogger, but it is a year for hope. 

As I’m writing this, we just learned that Kamala Harris has become the first female Vice President of the United States, an inspiration for many young girls across the globe for many generations to come. I write this from Raipur, India, where I have been connected to global events – including undertaking my MBA at UCD Smurfit. 

The UCD Smurfit MBA gave me an opportunity to meet and interact with 36 talented individuals from very diverse backgrounds. Originally, I had planned to join my class in September, then another lockdown hit my locale, so it was pushed to October. Then, Ireland was placed in Level 5 restrictions. Now, it’s November and I will be connecting to Ireland virtually from India for the foreseeable future.  

Even though I have worked with global virtual teams for many years, and I know how difficult it can be to build trust among your team members–especially when you have not met them in person–nothing prepares you for long-term virtual collaboration for an ever-changing curriculum across time zones.  

Thanks to Caitlin McBride, Thomas McNamara and Fernando Muller for agreeing to post a photo of us together on LinkedIn.

However, the best part of my MBA so far has been my MBA team. All four of us belong to completely different backgrounds and have varied experiences from which we can learn. One thing we all have in common though is empathy and a mutual respect for each other.

Back in September, which feels like a lifetime ago, we were first up to present. At the time, Smurfit lectures were still being held in person and my virtual attendance meant we had to get creative. I created a video for my part of the presentation and my team showcased it during the presentation. 

Working with my MBA group, I have learned that as a team you can practically achieve anything you want and we might be the most organized group in our cohort (although I am biased!).  

The lecturers at Smurfit have been amazing during this period of transition. Even though we are in a difficult situation, they have done well in delivering lectures remotely and making their session interactive. In just two months, I have learned a lot about different themes ranging from finance, strategy, marketing, economics to marketing.  

An MBA is never about reading from books but is always about sharing experiences and learning from those experiences. Right now, this is the most unique experience anyone can offer me. In just two months, I have learned so much about team collaboration and bonding.  

By the time I am done with all this chaos I will be ready for the next opportunity, or maybe in the midst of this chaos I will get my next opportunity. 

Bhupendra Sahu, FTMBA Class of 2021

A Yale Unveil

Last year around this time I was out on seas sailing on a ship with the thought of pursuing an MBA. Squeezing time out of the busy routines on board, I remember digging deep into Smurfit blog and reading Richard Morris’ piece on his experience of GNAM at Yale! A year later, I couldn’t be any more excited to have got a chance to go through the same experience. Smurfit school is a part of GNAM – Global Network for Advanced Management.

Along with 5 other classmates, I was  fortunate enough to virtually attend a module on ‘Behavioral Science of Management’ at Yale School of Management. On Monday morning we started with a session by Professor Nathan Novemsky on ‘Aggregating Opinions and Group Decision Making’. The insightful session’s key takeaway: When eliciting information from a group of people, it is important to make sure that:
1. There is diversity.
2. There is independence.
3. There is an incentive and opportunity for all knowledgeable people to contribute (all information is extracted).

Tuesday’s session, hosted by Professor Gal Zauberman, revolved around the concept of how companies use perks and novelties to improve consumer experiences. Remember seeing chocolate in the hotel room, which uplifts the mood almost instantly? Yes, Gal spoke about it in great detail and kept us hooked. The following afternoon Professor Zoë Chance’s lecture on ‘Key to Influence and Persuasion’ glued us all to the screen. Zoë talked about the time when she worked for Mattel (think Barbies) to understand the behavior of kids playing with Barbie dolls and how consumer behavior is important to make business decisions. 

Professor Zoë Chance leads students in a session on Influence and Persuasion–with Team UCD Smurfit highlighted in Red

On Wednesday and Thursday, we had super engaging lectures delivered by Professor Shane Fredrick and Professor Nick Barberies. Prof. Shane’s lecture kickstarted with the classic ‘bat and ball question’: if a baseball bat and a ball cost $1.10 together, and the bat costs $1.00 more than the ball, how much does the ball cost? Prof. Nick then weaved the trick question to ‘Dual Systems and Choice Architecture’ and elaborated about the subject in great detail. On the other hand, Prof. Nick’s session focused on behavioral finance; in particular, on applications of cognitive psychology to understanding investor trading behavior and the pricing of financial assets. 

Amidst all these lectures, Yale’s team included a fun element: a trivia games session that served as a good platform to network with participants from other schools.

The highlight of Yale’s GNAM was the session on Friday by Professor Daylian Cain on ‘Negotiating Mindsets’. When it is all about price (win vs. lose), how aggressive should you be in negotiations? When should you stop pushing for more? The group of participants was divided into buyers and sellers, and both parties had to close a deal on a wooden bench for a certain price. I was matched up by participants from UC Berkeley and IE Business School and it was a fun 10 min negotiation. $1200 settlement for polished wood isn’t so bad (at least for a seller)–is it? Prof. Cain collected data of various offers and counteroffers, turned the data into infographics, and detailed on what we can learn from the personalized patterns of concessions. Oh yes! By the end of the class, we did learn to negotiate like a pro.

We bid adieu to our mates from all parts of the globe on the following evening. It had been an experience full to the brim with loads of opportunities to network, learn, engage, and negotiate better. We Smurfiteers did make the most of it even though it was held virtually!

Naman Kumar, FT MBA 2020-2021

Life is What You Make It

We have had a bit of a rough go as of late and, quite frankly, things are not looking up as we round out 2020. A global pandemic is once again forcing us into our homes, cutting us off from the people and things that we hold dear. Brexit threatens to destabilize the Eurozone, both economically and otherwise. The outcome of the United States’ presidential election could change so many things in regards to how the free Western world lives its life. Yet in all of this, there are still amazing things about the time that we are living through.

Twelve Hours and Five Minutes is a LOT of Zoom.

After yet another day on Zoom, this time for GNAM week, I decided to take a bicycle ride down to the strand in Sandymount. I have found that, whenever possible, sitting for a while by the ocean acts as a sort of reset button. I am able to check out from being constantly connected and process all of the input that is relentlessly being thrown my way. As I set my bicycle down and found a bench to call home for a few moments, a rainbow appeared over Dublin Bay. I took a picture, reflected on what was in front of me and realized this: There are opportunities wherever you look; it is up to you to see them.

Rainbow over Dublin Bay & the Poolbeg Chimneys

Through all of the chatter and noise in this unprecedented time, there are a plethora of opportunities to seek beauty, spark curiosity, and connect with the people around us. We are in a beautiful, historic city with so much to offer, even if we are not able to take advantage of everything at the present time. The Smurfit campus is a stone’s throw away from both a global city centre and the Dublin mountains. We are a short, relatively inexpensive airplane ride away from the entirety of Western Europe. Most importantly, we are now connected with 36 other people who are from a diverse set of backgrounds, from around the globe. It is easy to look at the negative regarding our current situation, but the reality is that there will be a post-COVID era. We will all go back to work, the pub, and whatever else we feel like getting ourselves into.

Fall colours and low stone walls along Dublin’s Ailesbury Road

And that is exactly where we all need to focus as the days get shorter and the temperature falls. When things open up for good, what restaurants do you want to try? What things around town are you going to do? Who do you want to go out for drinks with? Where are you going to book your summer holiday? A time when we can laugh together seems so far off into the future, but it actually isn’t. By the end of this lockdown, we will be at Christmas. After that, straight into the spring semester, and before you realize, it will be Easter. 

Students sitting in the sunshine outside a bright red pub, back in simpler days.

We have the opportunity to leverage this experience to our benefit, no matter what the external circumstances are surrounding the experience. It is going to be up to us to find the ways in which we can best do that; we just might have to look a bit harder.

Andrew Hodnicki, FTMBA Class of 2021

Virtual Connectivity, the New Handshakes

As a member of the UCD Smurfit FTMBA class, I am part of a cohort of 37 brilliant individuals who have all come here with the same ambition: to build a wonderful network of smart, talented, and inquisitive leaders for the future, who will challenge each other intellectually at every step of this MBA journey. Many of us left our home countries for the opportunity to network in-person with others from all over the world. Unfortunately, we could not foresee the momentum in which things went from classroom to Zoom calls. In the midst of the pandemic environment, the Irish government has put new restrictions in place and classes went completely online, taking away the opportunity to connect with my colleagues in person, which is one of the major learning curves I wanted to experience while at Smurfit. 

However, we believe that this time of isolation brings a unique opportunity to grow together as a community, to find meaningful activities to partake in, and to ultimately come out stronger.  Some of us decided to make the best of what we have. Thanks to a few, we were able to coordinate a mini bowling session and also go on a day-hike around the Howth cliff. These get togethers were the most blissful moments in the initial course of my life in Dublin. 

The Howth Cliff Walk: Special thanks to the Irish Weather for favouring us with a sunny day

Now here I am, halfway through my GNAM week with IE business school, Spain. In typical years, The Global Network for Advanced Management provides each MBA candidate from 32 Business Schools to come under one roof and experience world-class facilities and engage in riveting discussions. While most schools offered conventional subjects, I found IE’s approach to discuss COVID’s impact on Europe and its re-emergence more captivating, especially it is by no exaggeration the hottest topic in the planet right now. 

On my first day at GNAM, I got introduced to the members of my team, who were connecting from Germany, China, Chile, Canada, and Turkey–that’s pretty much stretched across the map from east to west–and made it even more difficult for us to settle for a convenient time-slot to discuss after class. But that’s the challenge GNAM had to offer: to connect and develop a rapport with those brilliant individuals in the short stretch of time. 

Spanish Tortillas in the making – the IE GNAM Culinary Session

GNAM is not all about the classroom interactions; it offers an unique opportunity to understand and experience a new culture and connect on an emotional front. In one of the afternoon sessions, the current MBA students of IE went one step ahead to provide the international students with an opportunity to experience Spanish cuisine. We were invited to a Spanish cooking class on “how to make a Tortilla”, via Zoom. The whole event was carried out so gracefully by Calottina and Mikaela, that I was lip-smacking just looking at the finished dish over the video call. It gave me a platform to connect with the students in a more relaxed domain. We even had a virtual DJing and entrepreneurial talk event, from one of the IE Alumni. 

Although I am thoroughly enjoying this opportunity to connect with peers from different parts of the world, the mere thought of how the whole week would have turned out in person brings an ambivalent state of emotions. I could only wish if COVID had been just a conspiracy diegesis from a Tarantino movie, and I wish I was in Madrid now, sharing the class with them, enjoying the flamenco nights and munching through croquettes, while gazing over “Mercado de la cebada”. 

During this highly unprecedented moment in time, there is still so much to get excited about. These are difficult times we are facing, but I believe the power of our coterie can keep us in a positive frame of mind. Let’s all try to find more of our inner self and find happiness in these moments we are together. Let’s all travel, learn and evolve together, and be hopeful about the brighter times ahead. 

As the saying goes, 

“The greater your storm, the brighter your rainbow.”

Avinash Jayan, FTMBA class of 2021

Trust the Path

When I decided to come to Ireland for an MBA, I knew that I was in store for change. What I underestimated was how quickly I would adapt to a new country, university, and peers. The weeks have been busy, but each time I have made an effort to find time to explore something new in and around Dublin on a regular basis. Often-times these adventures include others from the cohort.

My first experience meeting my peers was grabbing coffee with fellow students that, like myself, had arrived early to give enough time to complete quarantine. I have to admit that heading to the coffee shop I was a bit intimidated. After all, I was still nervous that my background in urban planning would be a disadvantage–I felt sure the three students I would meet were more ‘natural’ fits for an MBA. To my surprise within half an hour we were sharing stories about odd work experiences, passions and hobbies, and making plans for the semester. I was relieved to find that everyone else had their own doubts about the process. 

Since then I have not only realised that the cohort is made of people with similar goals, but that everyone here has a wide range of unique experiences. In the past month I’ve shared new experiences, wine (even via Zoom), and a fair share of phone calls for advice and discussing future plans.

By far, the most important thing for me has been taking advantage of all that Dublin (and Ireland) has to offer. Whether meeting classmates for a well-spaced walk in the city, a quick run for food in Blackrock, or a solo bike ride to a new spot, the moments between classes are easily filled. 

The high point of my first 60 days in Ireland is the day-trip to Glendalough just before the semester started. Growing up in the infamously flat Midwestern US I don’t think I was exposed to a proper hike until I first visited New York State. Embracing the opportunity to push myself outside of my comfort zone I agreed to accompany my roommate to meet some friends for a hike.

I would have been content with the view at the base of the trail that took a short thirty minutes to reach. That was barely even the beginning. I am sure others that had done the walk before were not as impressed with how high we were – or that they could see the car park.

View of the lower lake
View of the lower lake

Pushing ahead – with intermittent pauses to attempt to locate ‘the spinc’. I started to draw analogies to the move to Ireland, the MBA, and what lies ahead over the next year and beyond. Even though I was unclear about the full extent of the walk, I trusted the process, and my hiking-partners for the day. The end result was the chance to see what I might achieve if I set out with an open mind, no particular expectations, and some encouragement and guidance along the way. In the end, I got to see the type of views I had only seen in photographs – with a few ruins sprinkled in to illustrate the importance and history of Glendalough.

Ruins at Glendalough
Ruins at Glendalough


View of the Upper and Lower Lakes
View of the Upper and Lower Lakes

Just one month into the MBA I am still figuring out what comes next. Over the next 11 months I have no doubt that my limits will be tested, and I’ll see what I can achieve under the right circumstances. I am also certain that my newfound peers will have the same experience, and that we’ll share a lot of moments now and after the MBA. For those who are sure this is the right step but who are worried they are a ‘good fit’, all I would say is to take the chance and keep an open mind and the result may surprise you. 

–Alexander McGrath, FTMBA Class of 2021

Eventually, everything will fall into place

Nearly this same day, same month, last year, I started my preparations for my first attempt at GMAT. I lived alone in a city miles away from family, which just added on to the overall pressure. On top of all of that, doing an MBA this year was extremely crucial: girls my age from India are supposed to be married by now, and I just could not back off from that fact. 

After slogging through office work for 9 hours a day, it was difficult to get in the habit of preparing for GMAT. I had just 2 months to attempt my exam. I finally gave my exam in October, just a week after my IELTS test, and had a decent score. The application process and submissions began soon. 

It was the 17th Feb. I kept on checking my phone all day, unsure whether I would receive  the acceptance offer from the university I was looking forward to. Felt like a bit of a waiting game. At around 1 PM IST an impossible prayer was answered, and an improbable dream had just come true. I jumped off my seat and danced a bit – I had received my first offer. So excited that I still don’t remember what the admission manager conveyed in that call after congratulating me! 

Later – given the upsetting situations due to strict lockdown in India – existing plans for celebrations, meetups, and farewell were rescinded. Amid the countrywide lockdown and travel bans, I could not meet my family before heading to Dublin. It had been more than a year since I met them last. COVID-19 had indeed rained over my parade! All this while visiting my parents was the only thing I was longing for. Although I held onto a ‘this too shall pass’ state of mind, it took me quite some time to come in terms with this unpleasantness. 

I spent the next few months vacillating over job resignation in such unprecedented times, applying for the visa, and finally packing my bags for my first ever international trip! There is always some thrill and terror about your first trip overseas, no matter how much you have traveled in your native country. After 22 hours of tiresome journey from India, 4 hours of wait at the airport, and multiple round trips of carrying my jumbo-sized luggage bags – with no helping hand amidst the pandemic- I somehow managed to land at the Smurfit Campus on 1st of September, panting and fighting for breath! I was eventually allotted a room at the residence on-campus. Now, with an intensive MBA foundation week kicking off the very next week and hardly a few days in hand to settle and accommodate, I had a hard time adjusting outside my comfort zones and maintaining a balance of emotions. New location, cultures, situations, cuisines, lifestyle and the most strenuous of all – coming back to that study-mode after a long gap!  

I finally decided to venture out with my brand-new flatmates and friends, to explore the beautiful campus of Smurfit, after completing our quarantine period. Getting to know each other to buy groceries, cooking together, picnicking in the Smurfit garden – all helped me pass this awkward phase smoothly. We had short trips to the breath-taking hills in Killiney, the vibrant Dublin City Center, and the picturesque BlackRock Sea viewpoint. The freedom felt so good!! 

With the current lockdown restrictions, studying virtually inside four walls is challenging. Coping up with the virtual ways of learning, grasping novel concepts, comprehending abundant case studies, balancing the sheets, assignments, attending virtual team meetings, recording presentations, Zoom-ing all day, networking, and what not – feeling a little overwhelmed and intimidated is also very natural. I am sure we all have had that feeling at some point in this journey so far. The pandemic has taken its toll on us. With no end in sight, the only thing to do is to adapt, continue to work and stay positive. Despite all this, life goes on and that also applies to my learning journey at the FTMBA program at UCD. 

Conveying my best wishes to all my talented cohort members and a million thanks to all faculty members who are effortlessly working to ensure that our learning never stops…
Conveying my best wishes to all my talented cohort members and a million thanks to all faculty members who are effortlessly working to ensure that our learning never stops…

‘Periods of adversity yield new habits of mind.’ COVID-19 has forced us to slow down and spend more time in personal reflection and coupled with a transformative MBA experience, it is highly possible to emerge stronger, wiser, and more resilient.

Advitiya Gupta, FTMBA class of 2021