Lost and Found in Budapest: A Management Student’s Experience

Management isn’t science. In fact, for the most part, it arguably isn’t at all. We look at a lot of things retrospectively – what Ford, Dell or Apple do right, and what Enron or Kodak do wrong. It is easy to analyse history but sticking your neck out on something disruptively new is an entirely different ball game. The same argument can be applied to one’s MBA endeavour.

Here I would like to quote Warren Christopher, who said, “One always wonders about roads not taken.” It was this thought that changed my life. People often ask me, why not an MBA from the US. The question brings a wry smile on my face and I just say “because the US is no Budapest”. I have never met a person who has visited and not fallen in love with the city. My friends often call Budapest “Paris meets India”, considering its grandeur and beauty on one hand and affordable living expenses on the other. The breathtaking view of the Parliament building on one side of the Danube and the Buda Hills on the other is an endearing sight. I fall in love with the city every time I walk home from work.

My love story with the city began when I landed in Budapest in the fag end of August. I found it warm, bright, picturesque, friendly and full of life. People seemed happy and thoroughly endorsed Thoreau’s idea – “to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life”. The entire downtown area of Budapest is a UNESCO world heritage site and eyes seldom stop wandering around the beauty of the architecture – Gothic, Renaissance, Turkish, Baroque, Romantic and Art Nouveau styles – adorning the streets. Cafes are bustling with life. Beer mugs and wine glasses clinking, air rich with the smell of coffee. A whiff of grilled chicken here, another of melted cheese there, stoking hunger and spicing up conversations. Lean left and you can hear a group of Englishmen talk passionately about football, lean right and listen to the love of food from a couple of Italians, seated right in front a multicultural group of musicians. Wherever you turn, Budapest appears like one giant melting pot of nationalities and culture. A short walk along the river is bound to bring you across people from every single continent (inhabited continent). A little inquisitiveness on your part opens up so many different perspectives.

No matter how diverse a business school claims to be, it can be so only to a certain extent. You meet people of different nationalities but also different backgrounds, with different drivers – social, economic, personal. In the process, perhaps you also get to learn about your future customers and market, their sensibilities, and motivations. The classroom learnings, therefore, can be seamlessly extended to the real world. In this regard, I was happy with my choice of school. It was a pleasant surprise; I certainly had not expected to be so lucky but sometimes life takes serendipitous turns.

I have lost count of how many times I have walked into a stranger’s house party just because a friend had a friend who knew someone who was invited. You bump into a boisterous lot who indulge you with a conversation on business, politics, and environment, or with whom you can chat about saving the world, or who engage you by talking about life, love and everything else under the sun. Make new friends and build everlasting connections. One life is not enough to learn and experience life. That is why the collective learning capacity of humans and sharing of experiential learning is the key to the evolution of the human society. And it is a beautiful experience. I am enjoying every bit of it.