When I reach the end of something, I tend to pause and look for meaning in my actions. Often this means questioning my motivation, evaluating goals reached or even second-guessing myself.

As term four at the Australian Graduate School of Management passed I kept closing different chapters of my life in Sydney. True, there is still at least one term to look forward to but the core classes are finished, many of my peers are on exchange trips and now it is time to wrap up with the last of our electives and look for jobs.

All that closure – and the inevitable end to my awesome time in Australia – has led me to analyse my MBA experience and has given me the ultimate answer: it turns out that the true motivator behind my MBA was fear. Better yet, the main by-
product of the programme was conquering my fears.

Most schools ask their applicants why they wish to do an MBA. Many cite career change, personal development or a number of other stock responses to gain admission.

I am no exception. But a year later I can admit that while all the above reasons were true, fear was the underlying force. I dare say that I am not alone and there are others who experienced a similar situation.

Before my MBA I was confident in my own skin. But when employers did not storm through my door, I became unsure of myself and realised that I needed to market myself more.

I thought I simply was not good enough professionally and had to do something to improve my qualifications. Contributing to my fragile state of mind was a slew of personal crises. My world seemed to be crumbling around me; my confidence lost, I sought a solution.

Australia and AGSM matched my fear-driven criteria. Great school, far-away country, many new people dramatically different from Americans – perfect. More-over, receiving a Rotary International scholarship for oversees studies and being accepted by a top-rated MBA programme was an instant ego boost and an effective kick-start to my fear-
banishing campaign.

The past 12 months in ­Sydney have been unlike anything I expected. I conquered more fears than I care to admit. AGSM created a comfortable, supportive environment to allow me to try those things I was not comfortable with.

The word “finance” used to terrify me. A year later, financial statements are no longer a foreign language (note to my professors: I did not say I was fluent! I’m just conversational . . . ).

Coming from a political science background, I found most of the concepts in the MBA new, scary and intimidating. The core was a good start to my business education, but the electives I completed really made me comfortable with a range of subjects. Strategic human resources brought to light many issues such as forced ranking or reverse discrimination in the workplace, while customer analysis helped me understand the intricacies of the science and psychology behind marketing. Negotiations and strategy was probably my favourite elective as it let me put myself in many different shoes and try out negotiation tactics I would not risk testing in the “real world”. It also made me more confident and more realistic about others’ motivations.

Although I have experience with small business, one of the scariest things is still the notion of starting something on my own. The theoretical knowledge I gained through my courses was helpful, but practical experience was key in conquering this fear. As part of my entrepreneurship class I worked with a team to create a business plan for a potentially revolutionary cancer drug. And, throughout the year I watched my classmates develop ideas and saw how, with planning and a strong team, these things can be accomplished.

Another of my fears was that of letting someone down. But, as my class’s events co-ordinator, I planned dozens of events, including our class ball and many parties. Each time the results were great and there is nothing more rewarding than pulling off one success after another. Conquering these fears through the environment at AGSM has led to a personal transformation and I feel ready for what life throws at me next.

As a result of living “Down Under” I am more laid back, less materialistic and I appreciate far more everything I already have. Australians live life to the full and seem conscious of what is important to them individually. I have learnt I should apply the Australian “no worries” mantra and live each day without regret.

Being at AGSM was a good investment in my career; being in Sydney was a good investment in my life.

I think that studying for an MBA forces you outside your comfort zone. You are bombarded by so much new information that you are compelled to expand your thinking capacity. The MBA makes a confident leader out of you – whether you like it or not. The MBA makes you conquer your fears.

I have one term remaining at AGSM. Although some students have had their jobs secure for months now, those of us who are more marketing-oriented are just starting the process of seeking employment. With several job interviews lined up and the Australian summer a significant distraction, it is hard to focus on my remaining electives. The course is not over, but I feel I have accomplished so much that my investment has already been worthwhile.

The new first year students are now flooding the building and making AGSM their own. Many are already frustrated with the workload and are wondering if they have what it takes. The process repeats itself once more.

I hope they realise just how lucky they are to have the opportunity to go through this transformation.

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