Business (MBA) Pre-Grad Intern Andrew Kelson
Coming into this semester I honestly wasn't expecting to gain any special knowledge about things I'll need to know for my future. I have two courses I'm taking 'pass/fail' in addition to this internship and the semester has been quite relaxing. But what I've gained from this experience is invaluable.
I spent the majority of my time during this internship shadowing my graduate student mentor. Being that I'm interested in getting an MBA, it was a unique experience to be able to walk step by step through the past few months with a first-semester MBA student. I was able to see how much time, teamwork, and mental toughness is needed to make through a first semester. I must be able to manage these three aspects of grad school in order to be successful.
First and foremost, the workload for grad school is unparalleled by anything a student has experienced prior to grad school. I've had a pretty intense undergraduate course load throughout my tenure here at UT, but I would have to take it up a few notches in order to insure graduate school success. I used to feel like professors assumed nothing else goes on in the lives of the students; when actually, grad students usually carry far more responsibilities in their personal lives than they've had in the past. I've met students who are married with children and others who have to manage working a full time job. Those responsibilities in addition to being a full-time student put strains on one's life. My mentor was the starting center for the UT football team. When it came to managing a full schedule I was able to see him manage it at his best.
His typical day would begin with him waking up for class after a long night of studying and doing coursework. For lunch he would usually meet with his MBA focus group, which was a team of other MBA students who he was assigned to in order to complete both individual and group tasks. In these meetings, they'd discuss problems the previous night's homework, go over upcoming group assignments for class, and study for upcoming exams. After this meeting he'd go to another class which was followed by football practice. After a football practice which lasted two and a half hours or so, he'd grab a quick bite to eat and get back to studying and doing coursework. Sleep was only determined by the amount of work he'd completed the night before. He was usually able to manage getting six hours at the most on nights where his work was efficient and three hours on nights where he struggled with a concept of had other distractions. It was tough enough for me to spend an entire day with my mentor and not get tired. I couldn't imagine adding in all of the coursework he was responsible for as well. This experience put in perspective what it truly takes for graduate students to accomplish their goals.
In regards to juggling a number of different activities and responsibilities at the same, I've learned a lot through monitoring the schedule of my grad school mentor. The one thing that connects all these activities is the mentality of a person who is determined and seeking involvement barring the obstacles it takes to do so. With the involvement of my graduate mentor in several extra-curricular activities it could have been easy for him to put one aside in order to focus fully on another. But he didn't decide to do so. The glue that held all of these activities together is organization and programming. My mentor was organized with all of his assignments and maintained awareness of when assignments we do. He was able to do this in spite of his involvement with several things and was able to do this at a high level. Programming is the other piece that held everything together for him. He took Sunday evenings to map out his schedule for the entire week and strictly followed that schedule in order to insure he accomplished each of the tasks at hand. Whenever anything unexpected came along I was able to watch him work his way through the problem. Through watching he and the other students in his group I was able to learn exactly what it takes to be a grad student.
I know I have talked more about my mentor than I have so much about myself. But I cannot express how strongly influenced I was by my mentor. This experience is won or lost based on the mentor. Everything I was looking to get out of this experience I received because my mentor exemplified the utmost characteristics of a graduate student. I was only looking to experience what it was like being a first semester graduate student in the MBA program here at UT. I expected to give negative feedback from my experience. Through working with my mentor I have learned not only about the MBA program here, but also about what it takes to be an organized businessman as well as someone pursues everything they wish in spite of the strains several tasks may put on you. This experience will be something I look back on throughout life when I need a reference of what it takes to succeed. I thank my grad school mentor and this program itself for providing this opportunity to me.