Letter to the Incoming Student: 5 Lessons That Shaped My Fuqua Experience

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It seems like only yesterday that I landed in the U.S., fresh off the figurative boat. Two years later, I am graduating from Fuqua, a different person. Below, I have provided some of the more helpful lessons I learned during my time at Fuqua. I hope they are useful for an incoming student, or anyone else ready to embark on this transformative experience.

1. Embrace Discomfort​


At Fuqua, I learned to become comfortable with discomfort. This started at the Orientation, during a team-building activity that involved a high ropes course at the Triangle Training Center. There I was, afraid of heights, in a strange country and feeling like a fish out of water. Seeing the fear on my face and my trembling hands, our guide told me I need not climb the rope course. I did it anyway.

This experience became a metaphor for my time at Fuqua. I leaned into my fear and continuously volunteered for roles that forced me out of my comfort zone, precisely because they were scary. These choices led me on a transformational leadership journey, during which I faced fear and felt challenged every step of the way, but through which I experienced growth and increased resilience.

Taking on the high ropes course at Triangle Training Center during orientation.

Me (right) and a classmate on the ropes course at Triangle Training Center, August 2022

2. Expect Change​


Fuqua will change you in expected and unexpected ways. One change I experienced was in my verbal communication. I was considered a fast-talker in Nigeria, and I often felt like my speech was unintelligible during my first month here. This caused me to go through a spell of quietness in team settings, which was broken by my incredible C-LEAD team members, who reached out and made me feel heard. Now I am a more confident speaker who enunciates better.

I have also changed in other ways, including my ability to connect with people from different cultures and my self-awareness. These changes occurred silently without any apparent effort — from the classroom experience to the recruiting experience and the extracurriculars, I found myself feeling increased confidence, authenticity and self-awareness. Fuqua will change you, don’t fight it.

3. Build Deliberate Connections​


The Daytime MBA program is rigorous. It is easy for one to become lost in the weeds and only befriend people within their immediate circle, but they would be doing themselves a disservice. Fuqua is full of brilliant students and staff members alike, who have lived inspiring lives and with whom it would be a privilege to connect. Engage them. This can be difficult, particularly for someone introverted and socially anxious like I used to be. But it is necessary.

I learned to reach out to people I found interesting, grab a coffee or lunch and talk. I stopped worrying about awkwardness because everyone feels some level of discomfort, and everyone wants to feel valued and included.

4. Say “Yes”​


This led me to some of my more interesting travel experiences, enabling connections with practical strangers, without which my Fuqua experience would not be complete. Opportunities abound in Fuqua, reach out and grab them. Though, I suggest doing so discriminately so you don’t become overwhelmed.

Traveling with a few of my MBA classmates, taking photos in front of a historic landmark.

My classmates and I (far left) visiting the Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru, India, March 2024

5. Don’t Lose Yourself


It is easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of school and forget who you are, what you value, and why you came to Fuqua. It happened to me. I realized what had happened but could not find my way back until I started bi-weekly therapy sessions with the Duke CAPS service.

I also found other activities helpful for staying grounded, such as my service on the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) committee, fellowship with the Fuqua/Coach K Center on Leadership & Ethics (COLE), and engagement with incoming African students.

Like the elephant in the story of the blind men and the elephant, Fuqua is different things to different people. For me, it was a training ground, the perfect landing spot for an anxious foreigner who had never lived so far away from home. For someone else, it might be something different. But one thing common to all our experiences of Fuqua is a feeling of growth. Fuqua, through its focus on decency and its system for rewarding the portrayal of selected values, makes us all want to do more and be more.

The post Letter to the Incoming Student: 5 Lessons That Shaped My Fuqua Experience appeared first on Duke Daytime MBA Student Blog.

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