A journey into the unknown

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Staring down at the ground 30 feet below, made me feel dizzy….What had I got myself into?

Climbing a giant ladder during MIT Sloan’s orientation week was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life, requiring a great deal of trust, optimism and teamwork. My heart was pounding wildly because I knew that my “life” lay in the hands of five teammates supporting me from below. I had to go out of my comfort zone, overcome my fear of heights and failure.

Throughout the rest of the orientation week, I gained a deeper sense of the MIT Sloan culture – collaboration, excellence and curiosity. Each of the 390-strong MBA class of 2009 students, hailing from 65 countries, had remarkable achievements and personal stories and are eager for innovation, the challenge to try something unconventional.

Months before coming to Boston, while on a summer language programme, I met some of my future classmates in Beijing. Alumni from all over the world contacted new students and I received advice from Filipinos in the US and Switzerland.

On the other hand, I was positively overwhelmed – the Sloan MBA programme is a little like drinking from a fire hose – there are so many opportunities, clubs and activities. I’m thrilled about my new journey, but I am also vexed about what I should pursue and how I can maximize the experience.

For me, as an international student, the Sloan MBA programme represents a life transformation – I left my job and family and flew 8,500 miles to a city without any relatives or close friends. Despite the uncertainty of this giant leap, I know I have made the right decision and look forward to making MIT Sloan my new “home.”

As a child it was instilled in me that education was a privilege, not a right. I grew up in the Philippine’s second poorest region of Albay, as a third-generation Chinese immigrant. My parents emphasised that education was the only “inheritance” they could provide. My father, who had not finished college himself was my maths tutor and my mother, a nurse, my English teacher.

At a young age, I learned that education bridges the social divide between the rich and the poor and is the great equaliser of opportunities. I studied at high school in Manila where I learned that a good education, strong will and fortitude are critical to succeed in life.

Enrolling in one of the leading universities in the Philippines expanded my world view. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would enter one of Ateneo de Manila University’s premier programmes offered only to the top 10 per cent of students. In 2004, I graduated the youngest in my class, with an honorable mention and I realised that dreams are within the reach of people who are willing to work hard for them. Ethnicity or social status is not as important as making the most of every opportunity – in the global arena, every individual plays on a level field.

On graduation I became a business analyst. My work provided me with an international framework, sharpened my analytical skills and strategic thinking and allowed me to preview business models and economies in Africa, the Americas, Asia and Europe in industries such as coal-mining, insurance, financial services and manufacturing.

Within two years, I was promoted to associate. I felt priviliged to work in a multi-cultural environment with people from different disciplines – from rocket scientists to philosophers. I have never unlearned and learned so much in my life! I was forced out of my ”shell,” adopting the good qualities of others, while retaining my cultural identity.

My long-term goal is to become an entrepreneur in Asia and to create jobs by reviving the manufacturing and services industries in the Philippines, where, currently, only one out of every 10 citizens is employed. The Philippines has vast natural resources which can be developed into niche industries given sufficient capital, the right technology and sustainable management.

My medium term goal is to shift to a career in banking or corporate finance. I want to acquire hands-on experience of global markets, understand the valuation of a successful company and raise capital to start my own company in the Philippines.

An MIT Sloan MBA is not an alternative, but the clear, logical choice for me. Sloan complements my learning style through balanced teaching methods, collaborative culture and small class size.

The school’s unique blend of entrepreneurship and innovation and strong reputation in Asia will provide me with the training and credibility for my future goals. The freedom to take subjects across schools will allow me to explore different areas of interest such as health sciences, supply-chain management and architecture.

I love the beautiful campus, the vibrant New England culture and the rich scenery offered by the city. A Sloan MBA will provide me with deep functional expertise through its strong entrepreneurial focus and international scope – from the mix of students and world-class professors, to the global content of the curriculum such as the Global Entrepreneurship Laboratory.

The intimate, hands-on learning experience and close access to industry leaders will give me the tools needed by today’s manager. Likewise, the interaction between MIT - the “Mecca” of innovation - and Sloan creates synergies in business models, methods of organisation and leadership-enhancement of its students. I am already reflecting on how the worldwide Sloan alumni network will open new doors, help advance my career and establish key business contacts.

I do not believe in success by entitlement – one should not allow fear to limit what one can do in life. For the future, I seek not only a better life, but progress for my country and brighter hope for independent, self-made individuals such as myself.

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