Lost in Budapest: An MBA Experience In The Heart of Europe

So you cracked GMAT, wrote a killer SOP, got a call from the
university of your choice and feel like a million dollars. Or you just scraped
you way, slid between the cracks and somehow got in to the school of your
choice. Nevertheless, you feel like you are at the top of the hill- banner in
hand, a swift breeze blowing your hair, sun rising in the distance. Have you
had that feeling?

  • Admission letter – check
  • Flight tickets – check
  • Visa – check
  • Insurance – check
  • ……

But how do you prepare yourself for this rollercoaster ride of a
lifetime called the MBA?

More so if you choose to explore the untrodden path and venture
into the heart of Europe – alien language, alien culture, alien food…. You
think you are prepared, you think you have a plan but plans don’t always work
out. And when the proverbial $#!t does hit the fan, what do you do? When I
consider how my journey charted out, I feel that perhaps there was much more to
learn outside the classroom than inside. Perhaps it is not the MBA degree of
value but the entire MBA experience- your toils outside the classroom, constant
battle with life in a foreign land, adventures, love stories, fall ins and fall
outs. A whole lot of life lived in a year or two.

That being said, let’s get to the point. Here I intend to share my
trajectory and hope you can get something out of it – a life lesson, fun tips,
tricks, or just some entertainment. Everything may not be chronological but if
you have watched Memento then this should be “easy peasy lemon squeezy” for
you. Here goes…..

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and so
does one of four thousand miles. As I set off from Shillong I was insanely
calm, however it was quite unlike me as I usually worry the heck out of most
things especially if it meant “to go boldly where no Hari has gone before”.
Budapest had been just another city imprinted in my memory because of my
geography teacher’s insistence on the importance of memorizing the names of
capital cities of the world. A couple of cab rides, a train journey and an
uneventful flight later I was hovering over a beautiful city which looked just
like its own snapshot on Google maps. The anxiety I had felt while reading
blogs and browsing photos and websites about the city was somehow conspicuously
missing. The immigration and baggage claim were as stress-free as they could
possibly be. As I sat in the shuttle bus I could feel many eyes on me, perhaps
asking what this strange looking man was doing in Budapest; I was quite
prepared for this and tried really hard to eke out a smile on my reluctant lips
every time my eyes met those of a stranger’s.

glistening bridges and exquisite architecture warmly welcomed me as the bus
slowly crawled over the Szabadság híd (it’s also called the Liberty bridge, but
I had to put that in just because the image of you trying to pronounce and mess
it up is really funny) while people on bicycles zoomed by, a tourist jokingly
pointed his camera at the ladies sitting on the back seat and care-free people
sipped beer and enjoyed the view of the Danube lazily meandering through the
city. I knew this was going to be a starkly different experience as my only
frame of reference was the jostling hullabaloo of the Indian subcontinent.
However, the anxiety never really kicked in and I still somehow remained
maddeningly sane. Within minutes I was dropped right at the gate of the hostel
where my friends were already logged. My 30 odd kg luggage in tow I could only
imagine what awaited me. One thing I could be certain about was that it would
be an unforgettable experience; my beliefs would definitely be challenged,
sensibilities exposed, adjustments would be warranted- gastronomical,
linguistic, social and perhaps emotional. How does one prepare for such
challenges? Rather should I be asking CAN one prepare for such challenges?…..
To be continued…