When I initially heard the details for my three day EMBA orientation experience, I was more than a little skeptical. It was hard to imagine what could possibly fill three full (and I mean full) days that couldn’t be done in much less time. Not to mention, it’s difficult to think about disconnecting from your routine, taking time off of work, and being away from your family mid-week. By the end of the first day I knew I couldn’t have been more wrong.
There was truly not a moment of the orientation experience that wasn’t completely necessary and beneficial in countless ways. On a practical level, getting all of our accounts set up and ready to go helped us to be prepared for the weeks to come with the materials we will need and the ability to use the technology we are being given. We were able to experience our first class, led by a phenomenal instructor who managed to hold our attention for hours at a time and challenged us to think and discuss in ways I suspect most of us hadn’t had the opportunity to do in a long time. I think we could all have happily spent another three days just finishing some of the engaging conversations we started during this session.
Meeting other staff members we would be working with allowed us to put faces with names as well as get a sense of their style and expectations. We played “games” which forced us to think critically, taught us to rely on our own skillset and on our team mates, and gave us a taste of some of the things we are about to learn. Most of us went into these looking like deer in headlights, but finished with a newfound confidence in ourselves and our ability to tackle something new and grow from it. The opportunity to ask questions of alumni offered the chance to speak with our peers, and to understand that those who came before us were facing the same challenges we are staring at, and came out the other side stronger and better for it.
In addition to these many benefits, the single most important thing I gained from orientation was certainly getting to know my fellow students and faculty who I will be working with and relying heavily on for the next 17 months. Particularly for an online course, knowing the individuals you are about to embark on this journey with on a more personal level is incredibly important. It’s difficult to build trust or even to be comfortable with someone you have never met in person. Over the course of the three days we were given varied opportunities to get to know each other including the standard ice-breakers, being put in competitive situations, having in-depth discussions about morals and values, and socializing over dinner and drinks. By the end, even though three days is a short time to get to know anyone, I can say without doubt that I know these individuals better than I could have hoped. Because we were put through such a variety of situations we were sometimes stressed, often tired, a little bit nervous, and definitely excited. We experienced these emotions together which helped us to form a bond, and we had to learn quickly how to work closely with each other.
Orientation left me with an overwhelming sense of excitement, support, and the feeling that I am far more capable of accomplishing, and even excelling, at this challenge than I thought. What these three days reminded me over and over again is that I am not alone during this program, and that this is the beginning of something truly wonderful that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
Read more about the orientation experience: