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An international MBA perspective: Columbia University and FOMO in New York City

Piotr Bielaczyc - October 06, 2014

It’s time to introduce you to our new Columbia MBA student blogger. Piotr is posting his experiences from the Columbia campus in New York City.

Columbia MBA looks at FOMO in NYC

Looking for specific tips from Piotr? Check out these posts:

FOMO in New York City You may think you're busy as you prepare for your MBA experience, but this MBA shows us just how much happens from the minute you set foot on campus.

Winter in the city The pace never slows in NYC - even when winter begins to sting. Still, the international excursions make it easier to bear. 

Meet Piotr

Piotr Bielaczyc
Piotr Bielaczyc

Columbia 2016 MBA Candidate

Polish national, most recently living and working in Poland

Where did you work before you started your MBA?

I was working in large strategic consultancy, on projects both in Poland and abroad (over the course of last three years, I have professionally visited Australia, Kuwait and Chile). My main industry focus is heavy industries – mining (iron and copper), oil and gas, energy and smelting, among others.

What made you want to get an MBA, and attend Columbia Business School in particular?

There are a couple of angles to it: 

  • First of all I am a sponsored consultant, and this is the way for me to get to the next level in my company. 
  • Secondly, every friend I have that pursued an MBA described it as wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime experience. 
  • Thirdly, I want to keep on exploring opportunities, options, and industries to make sure I am doing the thing that I am excited about the most.

I had actually been admitted to three business schools and had very tough decision to make. In the end, strong financial and entrepreneurial programs at Columbia Business School, the Ivy League brand, the New York City advantage and basically the cultural fit made me pick Columbia. And at this point in time, I believe it was the best decision I have pursued in my life!

What are you most excited about and most nervous about for your MBA?

I am most excited about the amount of things I am learning – both professionally and socially. I am excited, but also surprised. Coming from top strategic consultancy, I thought the majority of material, concepts and workshops would be redundant and repetitive for me. Nothing could be more wrong. I have already learned multiple concepts and developed further – much more than I could expect to in a couple of weeks.

In terms of being nervous, I guess I will not be original. Because of the location of Columbia, students are just bombed with opportunities, workshops, events, lectures with world leaders and everyone has so-called FOMO. The fear of missing out; fear of missing or having to miss something very important or significant because of other responsibilities and commitments.

What would you like to do following your MBA? Do you think you’ll return to your home country?

I actually don’t know yet. I don’t know which country, industry or function I will work in. Over next two years I want to explore all the things I am interested in, yet I don’t have any experience with (i.e. finance, entrepreneurship, high-tech), and after that make my decision. 

Of course, my default option for now remains a come-back to Poland to my employer that sponsors me to assume a higher position.

What kind of funding obstacles did you face, and how did Prodigy Finance help?

I was sponsored by my employer in terms of tuition equivalent, but still had to cover living expenses, which are very large in New York City. Prodigy Finance along with my family funds have helped me finance these expenses.

What are you missing the most about your previous country of residence, now that you’re in USA?

I am missing the most my family, friends and my home. I am very attached to my homeland and my relatives so such long separation is painful.

A Columbia MBA experiences FOMO in New York City

December 23, 2014

When I first came to New York City to start my MBA program at the end of summer, I thought I was coming for a 2-year vacation. Of course, I knew the rigors of Ivy League business program. But, it just did not seem too scary compared with my 80-hour-per-week, intensive job in Management Consulting. 

 I thought I would have plenty of free time to pursue multiple private passions and interests that had been sidelined over the course of the last three years. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Very quickly, I learned the true meaning of a widely used expression on the B-school campus: FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out.

Starting from the Day 1 of Orientation (a two-week boot camp introduction to the business school life), I was busier than I have ever been in my life. Our schedules were filled from dusk till dawn with leadership and ethics courses, integration activities and games, and social events in the evening. I was hardly able to find time to call my parents or friends in Poland. And things were just about to speed up.

After the beginning of the semester in September, we had to add additional very important, yet time-consuming elements on top of our academic and social commitments – club involvement and career activities. 

 The variety of social, professional and sports clubs offered by Columbia Business School is simply overwhelming. And, I couldn’t make up my mind, so I signed up for many of them. However, I only really got involved in the Energy club, finance related clubs ( Investment banking, PE/VC clubs), Rugby Club and a Wine Society.

Columbia Business School career services is comprehensive

In terms of career services, Columbia’s offering is even more comprehensive. Multiple workshops and lectures changed the way I viewed my career and the variety of coaches and advisers you can meet with is just incredible. 

 The most remarkable are Executives in Residence – CxO level professionals with 30+ years of experience willing to commit their time to advise MBA students. Columbia was able to build a group of 13 great, very successful executives providing advisory services on a regular basis – by far, more than any other top business school. 

 On top of that, CBS offers multiple presentations, lectures and workshops on various economic, business, ethical and even political topics, led by professionals from Wall Street. The School’s motto, “at the very center of business,” could not be more accurate.

After learning about all these endless opportunities, I have come to truly understand the fear of missing out. My calendar does not have a free spot from Monday through Friday between 9 AM and 9 PM. Moreover – in multiple slots (after class time), I have more than one activity in my calendar. I couldn’t make up my mind which one I would prefer at the moment I learned about them. 

 And, the social events have not slowed down, but rather picked up after Orientation. Just as examples, every week the Rugby Club organizes Rugby Happy Hour on Wednesday, and the Social Committee is organizing CBS Happy Hour every Thursday in the business school building. 

 As for the weekends, every student receives multiple invites for various parties, dinners or other social events. And, during last 3 months, I have learned about fun concepts like SantaCon (a.k.a. Bad Santas) and ugly sweater parties.

So how do you avoid FOMO and use your time in New York City in the most efficient way?

You have to realize (quite quickly) that you will have to compromise on many things and unfortunately miss out on many things because one day has only 24 hours. The easiest way to do that, is to set up strict priorities in terms of career, academics, social, sport and private commitments and start from there. Build your calendar according to your priorities and consider how each of the events will help you to achieve goals in each of categories.  

Still, it is a great learning – how to make trade-offs and manage your time efficiently - and one that will be valuable for your entire life. I am still learning how to juggle all those activities and put my calendar together, but, fortunately, I was able to overcome the initial overwhelming feelings. But, Fear Of Missing Out is still hidden somewhere in the back of my head.

Winter in the city

May 4, 2015

Returning to New York after Christmas was exciting for many reasons. There was a study trip to Hong Kong and Taiwan in China organized by Chazen Institute of Columbia Business School on the way. I had summer internship interviews scheduled two days after landing at JFK. There was the second semester of elective courses, some of which I have been really looking forward to taking. And, finally… the city itself. After spending four months living in New York, you really get used to the speed of life, energy, everyday struggle and everyday unknowns. And you start to miss it when in quieter, calmer locations for awhile.

The first thing that hit me after stepping outside JFK after landing was ice-cold wind. I had just spent a ten day trip to the Far East where I was running around in shorts and a T-Shirt, and it was unpleasant change. But the severity of this cold was much bigger than experienced in Poland this winter. It was very cold. I quickly grabbed a cab and headed to my apartment to prepare for my investment banking interviews.

It turned out that this weather was not a one-day anomaly and, we are facing most severe winter of last couple of years. My five-minute walk to the campus became a big challenge. Even totally wrapped up in heavy winter clothes, one could freeze off his face during this short trip.

The majority of February and March nothing much changed in this matter: lots of snow or very low temperature - and sometimes both. With this kind of weather, there is very little incentive to get out unless it’s absolutely necessary. Evenings out with friends, going to the cinema, Broadway shows, restaurants were brought to a minimum. This generated a significant time surplus that had to be utilized somehow. After all, I was in the city where you can do anything you desire, and everybody is struggling to use their time efficiently.

So I started going to gym - the one at school. Since I had to go to campus anyway, I could easily stay longer for a proper workout. I have also started following quite a strict diet since now I had time to prepare more of my meals. As a result, I got in much better shape and lost about 10 kg of weight throughout the winter.

I have also started working more intensively on my business idea. , I have come up with a second business idea and started working on both of them simultaneously. Columbia Business School and Lang Center for Entrepreneurship resources were very helpful in modifying and improving ideas as well as setting up a plan of action.

Soon it was March and time to study for midterms though the weather has not improved a bit. I had two exams and couple of final projects lined up in the first half of March. And the day after my last exam, I was leaving for spring break in Kenya – trip organized by African Business Club at Columbia Business School. I was surprised to learn that my last day before Kenya trip was sunny. I thought that it is great that spring finally arrived and that it will be warm and nice when I am back from spring break. I couldn't have been more wrong.

After 10 days in over 30 degree Celsius weather, when I returned from Kenya, on March 23rd – it was snowing again. When I returned home from the airport on that Monday morning, I packed my backpack for school and gym, and headed to campus. I thought to myself, resigned, “Will this winter ever end?” 

Ready for to take on the Columbia MBA challenge for yourself?

Prodigy Finance can help you with an international student loan to make your NYC business school dreams a reality. 

Prodigy Finance Ltd is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

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