I vividly remember the first time I stepped into the beautiful surroundings of the IIM-A Campus – the spectacular buildings and green areas were a sharp contrast to the more hectic Indian city life outside the campus. It was raining heavily and although I was finally happy to arrive at my destination, it was a bit overwhelming to find my way to the student activity office and subsequently my dorm room, while getting soaked completely (Scandinavians are not used to the monsoons).
I had arrived in Mumbai five days earlier along with two Danish friends, full of expectations about the upcoming semester. I had a dream about going to India for some years and had this foggy, romanticized idea of a country full of mystery and unlike anywhere I had ever been before. Of course I had heard about the darker side of the coin as well, namely the poverty, corruption and ubiquitous chaos in the streets, but none of this scared me off. I wanted to learn more about myself and the world around me, both the brighter and the darker side; in other words going on a real adventure where I could get a chance to get outside my comfort zone and live out as many clichés about westerners going to India as possible. I chose IIM-A because I also wanted to get an academic challenge studying at one of the best B-schools in the world, and give my business degree a different perspective. India did not disappoint: I had a lifetime of memorable experiences, starting with some great courses like ‘Family Business Dynamics’ with the inspiring Sunil Shah (and a couple of not so great courses, but I guess you can’t avoid that no matter which school you go to). I also got an opportunity to meet so many great people, perhaps, most importantly, my girlfriend Amelie. Writing about all my experiences would take forever, so as it often is in life I have to prioritize and choose. My experiences outside the walls of IIM-A were indeed both memorable and diverse; for instance, I partied in Goa, rode a camel in the deserts of Jaisalmer and I lived the life of a Buddhist monk for eleven days (just to name a few of them). But those other stories will have to wait for another time. What follows is therefore my account of a couple of the experiences I had inside the walls of the IIM-A campus.
What I liked the most about my stay in IIM-A was probably the campus and the life there. I was always in close proximity to my new-found friends, which gave a big room for improvisation and fun – I would often bump into people and then we would spontaneously decide on an activity, small or big. The architecture of the campus – I came to appreciate its serenity and peacefulness more and more with each day. My home was Dorm 21 (the best dorm if you ask me) and I really enjoyed every minute of it. One of the most memorable experiences there was probably the dorm-naming where I, along with my co-exchange students at a dorm, performed a rather… how should I put it … ‘interesting’ play about a young student and his struggles on campus (the rest of the story is confidential; including the ‘graceful’ dorm name I was given).
Another great experience on campus was the Tata Strategy Quotient competition I participated in along with four PGP students. Although it was a lot of hard work late at night in the campus library and also a quite frustrating process at times, it ended up being a great learning experience; both on a professional level since we got to know about the dairy industry in India, as well as on a cultural level as I got to work on an intense project with students with quite varied backgrounds from myself.
I have now started working full-time after graduating with my Master’s Degree last month and I realize that student life won’t come again, at least not in the same way as it materialized at IIM-A. Memories have a way of improving their appearance as time goes by, but even when I put on my pessimistic glasses, I can’t interpret my stay in India as anything less than magical. It’s one of life’s greatest clichés, but I suspect it’s exactly that because it’s true: Be sure to enjoy every minute of your student life at IIM-A. Even if it means the long dreadful hours spent studying for an exam or working on a project or the sleepless nights where the temperature hits above +30 degrees (OK, maybe not the last part, but you know what I mean). Make those magic moments with your classmates last. If you cannot see it now, you will agree with me once you have graduated and have started working. Not because life is bad on the other side of the looking glass, far from it. But it is perhaps more real than magical.
The IIM experience, if you take advantage of your stay to the fullest, is more magical than real.