Calah McQuarters, MBA'23 headshot

Calah McQuarters, MBA’23

This past Wednesday I submitted my last paper to complete my first semester of graduate school around 11:30 pm (yes, I procrastinated). After pressing “submit”, an overwhelming feeling of nausea came over me. Partially because I was second guessing if I listed all of my sources in the bibliography, but partially because while I had been clawing my way to the finish line of the semester since Thanksgiving, I didn’t expect it to come so soon. I hear more and more these days how it feels like time is always flying. Hours are turning into minutes and minutes to seconds. As I sit 4 months removed from when I first arrived in Waltham, I can certainly say it feels like I just got here yesterday. But now that readings and assignments are on pause until the new year, I want to take time to reflect on my learning experience during my first semester at Heller.

When I first began thinking about going to school for an MBA, my excitement was matched by my fear. Not having come from a business background, I didn’t know if I had the expertise needed to know the material I was going to school to study for. Turns out, I was right. Of course I didn’t! In my first class of the semester, Financial Reporting and Analysis, I arrived early, sat in the front, and listened earnestly to the professor, understanding 99% of what she was explaining. I left feeling on top of the world, ready to breeze through my time at Heller. Fast forward to my second class, Economic Analysis for Managers, I repeated the same process. I arrived early, sat in the front, and listened earnestly to the professor. Except this time, I promise she was speaking an entirely different language. By no fault of her own, no matter how many times she explained the material, the neuro pathways in my brain refused to allow the new information in front of me to sink in. I left that class, called my mother, and said plainly, “I think I’m dumb”, laughing but really wanting to cry. Over the next hour, my mother and I broke down that statement and I came to the realization that I in fact wasn’t dumb, I just didn’t know this new thing I never studied before. Now, you might be reading this thinking, “duh Calah! Of course you’re not going to know what you’ve never learned before”. But honestly, somewhere in the time between being accepted into graduate school and actually starting graduate school, I created this unrealistic expectation of knowing all I needed to know before I learned it. This semester reminded me that it is okay not to know everything (it’s actually unrealistic). Instead of obsessing over what I didn’t know in the beginning, I chose to be intentional and diligent about learning over time so I could be a little wiser in the end. I read, studied, worked with classmates, and talked to professors to ensure I was gaining all I could. It’s funny to remember that call, especially now that I understand the time value of money (look at me using econ terms 😉 ). But I am grateful for the patience and grace I offered myself then and in many more moments along this semester. To anyone thinking about applying to something you’ve never done or learned before, do it! The process may be scary and there will likely be moments you feel a little dumb, but what you learn and gain in the end is always so worth it! It has been for me. 

I would be remiss if I didn’t take a couple of lines to acknowledge a source of so much laughter and happiness during my first semester: my cohort. I am grateful for the experiences shared, heartfelt moments had, friendships formed, and events planned (shoutout to the Boston Commons crew) thus far. And I am so excited to continue to grow together and make more memories over the next year. 

One semester down, three more to go.