Tuesday, November 9, 2010


I had an interesting conversation the other day. And then another one. And then another one.

It’s been a month since I started my MBA at London Business School, and if I had to describe the experience so far in one word, it would be “conversations.” Indeed, few nights have gone by without someone inviting me out for a “drink at the Windsor Pub” next to school. The focus is not drinking, but talking, whether about our studies, or lives, or the world, or just the weather (we’re in London after all).

In the classroom too, our courses are all about conversations; the 80 of us in my “stream” sit in U-shaped lecture halls, where it’s easy to see and respond to each other’s input, eye-to-eye. Because of these classroom dialogues, in just a few short weeks, our stream has already developed a clear rhythm in its interactions, and a distinctive personality.

Moreover, conversations here have been noticeably less purposeful than those I’ve encountered before. In the past, my conversations usually focused on offering and obtaining relevant information. For instance, when I was working in New York, the “Three Questions” people asked each other when they first met were: (1) “Where do you work?”; (2) “Where did you go to school?”; and (3) “Where (in NYC) do you live?” Then during the four years I lived in Beijing, expats also asked each other a set of three predictable questions, though different ones, namely: (1) “How long have you been in Beijing?”; (2) “How long are you staying here?”; and (3) “What do you do?” The answers to those questions helped figure out how you thought the other person might factor into your life; they were intentional.

But here at London Business School, surprisingly, I haven’t found a fixed set of “Three Questions” nor a structured set of answers. Because we’re such an international school, the first question tends to be “Where are you from?” But where the conversation goes from there is anyone’s guess. Today over lunch, for instance, the answers to “Where are you from?” set us off on conversations about the deregulation of Nigeria’s telecom market, and the violent post-partition history of Bangladesh. Later, at the pub before acting class tonight, a few of us tried to predict each other’s Myers-Briggs personality types, chatted about white-collar wages in Peru, and planned a class trip to a London Business School alum’s newly-opened burrito shop.

The MBA so far has been wonderful because these conversations have been so fascinating. If you would to chat more about the experience, Forte, or London Business School itself, feel free to drop me a line – I look forward to continuing the conversation.

Liz Aab

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