Networking is like a Game of Ping Pong, Literally

When you’re a graduate student at The Fuqua School of Business, even the fortune cookie that you get with your Chinese takeout food gives you the same advice — “attend receptions, send emails and make yourself memorable.” It’s a concept that we’ve heard over and over again as we learned about professional networking, which was my biggest cultural shock as a student trying to get accustomed to the American way of things.

mms students play ping pong

Playing ping ping with my classmate Chris.

There are a hundred resources, books, and mentors teaching us how to network correctly, but it’s meaningless if you don’t enjoy it. The idea of networking seemed a little awkward to me at first, but there came an interesting twist in the story when one of my favorite things to do in school — playing ping pong (table tennis) — turned into an incredible way for me to meet new people and make new friends.

The ping pong table at Fuqua is almost always occupied, often with 3 – 4 enamored onlookers huddled nearby. Legend has it that the table wasn’t always a part of the business school, and while an old, used table appeared about two years ago, the summer of 2013 saw better days with the addition of a brand new ping pong table and paddles. I began playing to de-stress in the evening with my friend Chris, and the game has now become an indispensable part of my daily schedule. It also affords us bragging rights when we meet students from other graduate schools!

mms students

I got to know Chris and others over friendly games of ping pong.

While the competition can sometimes get intense, the games always end the same way — with a friendly handshake. The relationships I have built over this game surprise me at times. I not only made good friends in my program, but even with the first- and second-year Daytime MBA students.

At the ping pong table, I met people who want to work in the same firms as I do, who readily share tips on their job search process, and folks who have experience in the industry that I want to enter who always have a few words of wisdom. I even met some who went to my high school and undergrad in India! Truly, it’s a small world, and there’s no telling what you might learn during a simple game of ping pong.

The pace of graduate school can be overwhelming, so let’s un-complicate some things. Play a game with a stranger, raise a toast to your victory or theirs, and walk away from the table adding one new person to your life. LinkedIn is great. But it just doesn’t match up to a good game of ping pong.

Ashima Sehgal

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MMS, Class of 2014. Find out more about me...

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Fuqua’s Got Talent: A Different Side of Business School

When one thinks of business school, suits, recruiting, and stressful late-night study sessions frequently come to mind. It is a place where accomplished individuals from all over the world gather to learn, grow, and establish a foundation for their respective futures. As such, it can be quite hectic. Searching for a job, juggling classes, team assignments, recruiting and networking events, club and extracurricular activities, all the while maintaining some semblance of a social life, can be daunting at best. So when something fun and non-business related, like a talent show, comes along, it’s like a breath of fresh air. Something I can participate in that is fun, exciting, and has nothing to do with my professional life? Heck yeah!

I first heard of Fuqua’s Got Talent when I applied to Duke. A quick google search pulls up blogs and YouTube videos from previous years, and it is clear that there are (and have been) a multitude of talented individuals at Fuqua. After seeing the videos and accounts of Fuqua’s Got Talent (and Fuqua Idol), I knew that I wanted to be a part of it, even before I came to Fuqua. So when the opportunity came around to participate in Fuqua’s Got Talent, I seized it. I am a singer, so I decided to sing and play the ukulele for my act. A group of MMS classmates decided to do an Indian dance as well, and since I love to dance, too (I can’t say no to Bhangra!) it was a no-brainer for me to join them. I was very happy that I could represent both California and Pakistan (I’m ethnically Pakistani, but born and raised in California) at the same time. So, I was down for 2 performances in the show.

mms student

Performing in Fuqua’s Got Talent.

Show Time!

Fuqua’s Got Talent fell on the Friday of one of the worst weeks in the Fall Term 2. We had multiple assignments, a group presentation, and 2 midterms. In the midst of all of this, my dance partners (Palak, Sarah, Mitalee, Brea, Zeel (see a blog with her perspective of the event), and Nazeela) and I set aside time after team meetings to practice the dance late at night. Fellow blogger Palak was the choreographer and teacher, and we all followed her amazing example. Practices were physically exhausting, but we were dedicated to making it work. The day of the talent show, we started with our Corporate Finance midterm, followed by our group company presentation for Business Communications class. After the presentation, I rushed to dress rehearsal with the girls. I did a mic check for my individual performance with the uke, and afterwards went to Fuqua Friday to watch the international fashion show. Karen Nyawera, one of my good friends in the MMS program, was modeling traditional African garb, and I had to cheer her on! After the fashion show, I rushed to the changing room where we got ready, and then headed to the show.

As we entered the auditorium, the excitement was palpable. The lineup was amazing: the show included a variety of talented Fuquans performing unique talents. We started off with an Indian folk dance (2 MBAs did this one), followed by a fantastic violin performance over dub step. I was the third person on stage, and as I got up there, I was greeted with supportive cheers. I performed one of my favorite songs: ”I’m Yours’” by Jason Mraz. I was quite nervous, because although I’ve been singing with the ukulele for a couple of years, this was my first time performing with it on stage. My anxiety went away as soon as I started playing, and lost myself in the song. The audience was extremely receptive and excited. My favorite part was seeing Russ Morgan (our Daytime MBA and MMS Dean) in the judge’s seat clapping to the song. Before I knew it, it was over and we were on to the next act!

With my dance group and Dean Russ Morgan.

With my dance group and Dean Russ Morgan.

I missed the next 2 acts because I ran to the changing room (yet again!) to get into my dance costume. I changed into leggings, a leotard, and Indian skirt, and Palak expertly folded and pinned the matching scarf, called a dupatta, onto my shoulder. With that, we entered the auditorium in time to catch the performance before us: an acoustic version of ”Hit Me Baby One More Time.” Yes, you heard right. An acoustic version of Britney Spears’ song, performed by a guy. But more on that later. After the applause, it was time for us to get on stage. Although we had practiced on this same stage numerous times, it was completely different walking up there with the spotlight on us. We all took our places, and the music began. As we performed, I could feel the excitement of everyone performing and watching. We had so much fun! We threw our hearts into the dance, and it showed. By the final pose, we were all so out of breath, but it was so much fun. Being up on the stage with my classmates, and sharing a bond that was completely different from anything that could be taught in a classroom, was an incredibly memorable experience.

Connecting Outside of Class

Fuqua’s Got Talent was more than just a place to showcase our talents. It was an opportunity for business students and faculty to come together in a fun environment and learn about different arts and cultures. It was a way to explore interests outside of our professional and academic lives, while at the same time see different sides of our classmates. For me, it was an event that made me appreciate how multi-faceted we all are, and how amazing Fuqua really is. To be at a top notch business school and have this much talent? It’s pretty fantastic.

Not only did Fuqua’s Got Talent give us the opportunity to see a completely different side of our peers, but it also gave us a chance to showcase our talent and show what we’ve got! Since the MMS program is both young and small, sometimes it can be difficult to be heard in comparison to the rest of Fuqua. This was the first year that Fuqua’s Got Talent had 2 performances from the MMS program. And guess what? My dance group got runner up! I’m sure you’re wondering who won. Deservedly, it was Ryan Fawcett’s acoustic version of ”Hit Me Baby One More Time.’ Go watch the video, and you’ll see what I mean.

All in all, despite the crazy busyness of that week, I am so happy that I participated in Fuqua’s Got Talent. It is one of the experiences that I will always remember. It definitely brought me closer to my classmates and to the rest of Fuqua. I was able to share a different side of myself with the school, and to see a unique side of people that I had never before expected. Sharing in that experience will connect us in a way that case studies could never do, although those are indeed very important, too. :-)

Danya Akbar

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MMS, Class of 2014. Find out more about me...

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The Brand Challenge Mission

Recently, my fellow MMSers and I were given the opportunity to participate in the MBA Marketing Club’s Brand Challenge. The annual event is a fun and collaborative competition where teams of students develop creative strategies to market an assigned product against its corresponding brands. Though it is a competition, it is not your average marketing competition. Teams get very creative and dress up in their product, have product tastings, and even conduct challenges like karaoke! Teams present their product and their respective creativity to fellow students at Fuqua Friday, and a team of judges (faculty) come around and decide who the winners will be for the different categories. Categories included an overall winner, execution, creativity, and popularity.

mms and mba students

My Brand Challenge team included MMS classmates and 2 Cross Continent MBA students.

In teams of 4 – 6 students, we were assigned to a product, which we had to market against a competitor product. My team specifically was a very special team. First off, we were a group of 4 MMSers, and in addition, we also had 2 Cross Continent MBA team members. The organizers of the Brand Challenge had extra students who were interested in joining teams, so we volunteered to have 2 Cross Continent students join our team for a chance to network and collaborate with them. Secondly, our product was the Old El Paso® Stand ‘n Stuff Taco Shells (or so we thought!). General Mills directly sponsored our product in the Brand Challenge and as such, we were also assigned to the competitor product — Mission taco shells.

As a team, we came up with a strategy to market our product strongly against the competitor’s. We came up with an activity for the Brand Challenge called “The One-Handed Taco Challenge: Mission Impossible.” We planned to have participants use one hand to stuff their taco with lettuce, salsa, and beef, and then eat it as fast as they could. In addition, we decided to also have a taste testing with taco shell pieces. We were well prepared and anticipated the execution of our strategy to run smoothly.

However, the night before the Brand Challenge, we received our actual product, which ended up being the Old El Paso® Stand ‘n Stuff Soft Taco Tortillas! Well, there went our taste testing idea! We had to come up with an alternative strategy, and quickly. Our “Mission Impossible” challenge was still relevant so we continued with that, but we had to come up with something else as well to wow the judges. In the end, we decided to highlight the soft tortilla’s strength to withstand sogginess by floating the tortilla in a bowl of water. This was a great portrayal of how the tortilla wouldn’t get soggy for a long period of time if there were wet ingredients, such as salsa, in it.

We dodged a bullet! Our strategy ended up being extremely successful, and all of our participants in the “Mission Impossible” challenge were just as excited as we were. The judges were extremely impressed with our floating tortilla and one-handed taco challenge. My team won first place for execution! We won $150 for our team to enjoy a nice dinner, or outing of our choice.

The Brand Challenge was a great experience, and I definitely recommend it to any creative person, whether you’re interested in marketing or not. It is a great chance to get creative and come up with innovative ways to market a product. And who knows, you may end up winning!

Palak Bavishi

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An American Roadtrip

Coming to America, I knew that Thanksgiving was a festive tradition that brought families together to show appreciation for the freedom and liberties they enjoyed. Many international MMS students were invited to celebrate the holiday with American classmates and their families. As good as this sounds, especially the delicious, perfectly grilled stuffed turkey, I made other plans. We had a few days off from school because of the holiday, and I didn’t want to waste the opportunity to do some traveling. So along with a few other MMSers, we put a twist on Thanksgiving and made a 4-hour roadtrip to one of America’s most historic cities: Charleston, South Carolina.

horse-drawn carriage

Horse-drawn carriages share King Street with cars in historic, downtown Charleston.

Welcome to Charleston

One of the first things we did in Charleston was take a guided horse-drawn carriage tour around the city center. It felt like we were transported back in time to the 18th century colonial era. We went around the historical areas, and the city has done an immaculate job at maintaining the traditional colonial architecture. The tour guide also did a great job putting things in perspective for us, describing the history behind the city and even pointing out the finer details such as cannonball dents in houses that were created during the Civil War. Today, many of the houses around the city center are owned by wealthy families and used as summerhouses.

Rainbow Row: A historic and colorful street in Charleston.

Rainbow Row is a colorful and quaint historic street.

Learning some American History

Another significant chapter in Charleston’s history was its service as a major slave port during the transatlantic slave trade with almost half of all the slaves from Africa going though Charleston. There are a number of plantations that used to rely on slave labor that have been converted into museums and are open on weekdays to the public. Sadly, these are closed during public holidays, but I would highly recommend visiting one of these as it provides a rare glimpse into American socio-cultural history.

folly beach

A beautiful, sunny day on Folly Beach.

Charleston is also home to several pristine beaches and to wrap up the trip, we took the opportunity to visit one of the more popular ones, Folly Beach. As I walked down the beach, I looked out to the Atlantic Ocean and imagined English settlers reaching the beautiful shores. I suddenly realized why the English decided to settle here — it’s an irresistible location.

While we didn’t get the opportunity to sit down for a traditional American Thanksgiving meal, we did use the holiday weekend to learn more about America’s colonial roots. And without the colonists or pilgrims, I guess there would be no Thanksgiving…

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Give the Admissions Process Your Best — Don’t Let Doubts Overcome You

I was sitting in accounting class, listening to the lecture on accounts receivable, and during the break I heard all the different languages around me: Chinese, Korean, and Hindi. I suddenly realized how awesome it is for all of us to be gathered here at Fuqua.

A year ago, I was in Moscow and it was cold outside. I was sitting in my room searching for master’s programs in the USA and trying to study for the GMAT. I was really excited about the opportunity to study abroad, but at the same time, I was starting to feel really overwhelmed. At some point I considered giving up and thought about waiting a year to apply to US business schools. I knew that I might regret that decision, so I sucked it up and decided to push through.

Honestly, I was stressed out. Now, looking back, I think that I should have been more confident in myself. Of course you never know how things will turn out, but at the end of the day, I believe everything happens for a reason. In speaking with my classmates about their experiences, I realized that we had all felt the same way. It was very intimidating for many international students to apply to US schools.

When I found the MMS: FOB program at The Fuqua School of Business, my first thought was: “Will I be a good fit? Am I good enough for this top-tier business school?” My answer was “No,” at first. I researched the school, the area, and the people by looking at the website and by reading this blog. I became more and more confident that Fuqua was where I wanted to be — I wanted to become part of the Fuqua Family. So, I put my intimidation and my insecurity aside and I gave Fuqua a shot — my best shot. I had a strong feeling that Fuqua was where I should be, and one year later, here I am! Maybe some of you feel the same way that I did a year ago. Several of my classmates did, and agreed to share their experiences and feelings, too.

mms studentKonstantin Belchuk, Russia:
“A year ago I was taking the GMAT. I remember that I was doing everything else on autopilot. I did not realize till my plane landed in Durham that I might be studying in the USA at a world-class business school. A year ago, I can’t say that I was frustrated, but in the back of my mind I was not fully confident about getting in.”

mms studentJennifer Hong, China: “I was extremely overwhelmed a year ago this time. I was taking 5 advanced courses and was preparing for the GMAT. I made up my mind to pursue a master’s degree in the US to broaden my spectrum and enhance my global mindset. But I had to give up the opportunity to be admitted to a master’s program in China, which was extremely risky. I used to ask myself whether I made the right choice to study abroad. But after I got an interview invitation and then an admission notice from Fuqua, it turned out that I should have been more confident about my application.”

mms studentJimmy Choi, Korea:
“I decided to apply to the MMS program because I felt that I wasn’t fully prepared to get a job I really wanted. I talked to two of my college and high-school friends that graduated from MMS and learned that it was the ideal program for me. I was confident that I had something to offer to the program but still afraid of not being accepted, because at that point it was the only school I applied to. A lot of things were happening at the same time: my finals, senior paper and job interviews — it was quite overwhelming. But I knew that I needed to go for my goals and now being here, I don’t have any regrets. I am happy that I got admitted, and so far I really enjoy the diversity of this program, the people, and the team spirit.”

These experiences show that it is normal to feel some insecurity and to be overwhelmed at times during the application process. Despite these feelings, what I want to stress is that it is extremely important to give it your best and go through the process to the end. Later in life, you will regret more of the things you didn’t do than the things that you tried. So my advice to prospective students is to be yourself, look for all the unique things that you can offer, and even if you are not 100% confident — go for it anyway! Give Fuqua a shot if you think it could be the school for you!

Just imagine, in a year from now, where could you be?

Kate Kim

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MMS, Class of 2014. Find out more about me...

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An Absence Makes the Bonds Stronger

I have to say, business school is hard.

After 3 months of intense learning and work, everyone was desperately looking for a break. So the moment we finished exams for Fall Term 1, people raced to the airport! It was interesting to see Facebook filled with my friends’ statuses about either being at the airport or on the way to the airport.

The past few months were so fulfilling that everyone seemed content as they left Durham for fall break and to celebrate Thanksgiving. I heard multiple comments about how quickly the time went by, and that it feels like some recent events actually happened a very long time ago. For example, I still remember our Economics Professor Tracy Lewis saying that 45 minutes of class in business school equals a whole week for undergrad students. In just 2 hours, he actually covered all of the content from my previous economics class that had taken a whole academic year to go through. The same goes for other Fuqua courses.

The program’s diversity was also perfectly illustrated during fall break — our differences aren’t just apparent in class. I could basically draw a map of the United States just based on the locations that my 112 classmates traveled to during the break. Classmates went snowboarding up north, visited the beach down south, some visited Universal Studios, and some tasted Boston’s best lobster. Fall break wasn’t about getting away from Durham, though, it was also about going to visit family and friends, to catch up, have fun, and even get engaged! Congratulations are in order for our dear fellow blogger Samantha Cibelli, on the great news of her engagement, and we all wish her a happy and fulfilling life! My fall break seemed a little geeky, studying for the CFA exam, but I still did a lot of catching-up with friends, finally got my visa and travel plans sorted out for winter break, and discovered quite a few brunch and coffee places.

Fall break was an opportunity for us to recharge, take a break, and fill up on energy to get us through even more awesomeness that Fuqua has yet to offer. Looking at all the great photos from my friends and listening to all the great stories that we couldn’t wait to share with each other, I felt such a family-like connection. It’s amazing how the MMS program has bonded us over the past few months, and we are increasingly making it a family filled with laughter, warmth, and care. And when you get that powerful support, somehow you know that no matter how hard or tough business school gets, you’ll always have your friends there for you. I guess that’s the power of Team Fuqua.

Zhi "Frank" Li

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My 25 Random Things

Recently, Fuqua’s Admissions team instituted a question in the application that asks for 25 random things about applicants. From quirks and passions to hopes and fears, be yourself and let your personality shine through when answering this new MMS essay question. The essay is a great opportunity for you to illustrate who you are as an individual, and highlight unique things about yourself, in a non-traditional manner. To give you a better idea of how you might consider responding to the essay, here are my 25 random things:

  1. I am a huge fitness junkie and am always up for an outdoor adventure.
  2. Coffee is my drink of choice. I’m always up for trying new local brews and blends.
  3. I am not a morning person. The only way I wake up is to my iPhone’s car horn alarm. So, early morning classes are sometimes a struggle.
  4. I don’t have cable, but I love Netflix. “Mad Men” and “American Horror Story” are my go-to shows.
  5. I recently got into mountain climbing. Duke’s Wilson Gym has an awesome rock-climbing wall, and I’m also excited to get outside and trek up Mt. Mitchell in N.C. in the near future.
  6. I am a huge music fan. Music can solve all of my problems and make studying for exams go by so much quicker. Pandora internet radio station Summer Hits of the ‘90s is my go-to station.
  7. I can’t wait to be a father one day. I absolutely love kids.
  8. Following graduation, I want to be a proud dog owner. A chocolate Labrador retriever is my top choice. Nothing would make me happier than daily runs with my pooch.
  9. Education is so important to me. It really does transform today’s students into tomorrow’s leaders. With that, I love talking with young students about college and their future ambitions.
  10. I live my life around a quote from “Batman Begins” — in the film, Bruce Wayne says: “It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.”
  11. I eat so many apples. I could most definitely eat one for every meal.
  12. I used to be an avid alto saxophone player. I love open-microphone jazz improvisation.
  13. I am guilty of people watching. I literally can sit for hours and just look around.
  14. I love Greek yogurt. Throw in some fresh fruit, and I am good to go!
  15. I want to get my motorcycle license one day. I dream of owning a Harley-Davidson one day.
  16. I am a huge beer connoisseur. I love trying new flavors and local breweries. By far, my favorite Durham brewery is Fullsteam. Their sweet potato lager is the bomb and a definite must-try.
  17. I literally love hearing about peoples’ unique stories, and I actively seek out interesting people. Whether it’s someone I meet on the bus or at a social gathering, I often feel inspired when I hear their stories.
  18. I have yet to travel outside of the United States, so I am making it a goal to expand my horizons following my time at Fuqua. Sydney, Australia, is on the top of my radar, so I am hoping to travel “down-under!”
  19. I think I’ve bought way too much Duke apparel. Oh well, GO BLUE DEVILS!
  20. I love browsing homemade videos on YouTube. Whether funny, impactful, or entertaining, I love seeing what people have to offer.
  21. I’m not much of a reader, but I can often be found reading The New York Times or Huffington Post.
  22. I hate clothing shopping; however, I enjoy grocery shopping for some odd reason.
  23. Whatever type of car I purchase in the future, it will have a Duke license plate frame!
  24. I tend to fall asleep at very inconvenient times, which sometimes has its perks. However, I fell asleep and missed out on a cultural event with some fellow Fuquans. After that, I’m hoping to stop making this tendency a reoccurrence.
  25. I love doing the Cupid Shuffle. With friends from my hometown, Cleveland, Ohio, to outings with MMS classmates in Durham, I always want to do “The Cupid.” So, if you are ever out with me, expect to partake!
Brandon Benzin

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MMS, Class of 2014. Find out more about me...

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Discovering Fuqua’s Diversity through International Events

mms student

Guest blogger Zeel Shah carves a pumpkin for the first time.

After two really short but busy terms in the MMS: FOB program at Fuqua, we got a much-needed fall break. After the surge of on-campus recruiting, the mad frenzy of classes, company information sessions, networking, job applications, and interviews, getting a week off was just what we needed. We returned to Fuqua refreshed, and energized for the cultural events that awaited us.

Fuqua and Duke welcomed us back from fall break with the festivities of Halloween and Diwali, the Indian festival of lights. The MMS Connoisseurs Club organized a Halloween Party for the class, and MMSers turned up dressed in really interesting costumes. My classmates were dressed up as robots and jellyfish while others emulated famous personalities such as Steve Jobs and Amy Winehouse.

mms students in costume

Dressed like Blue Devils for Halloween.

One of my classmates (and a blogger), Palak, and I dressed up as Blue Devils in the true spirit of the beginning of the basketball season. I was overjoyed to carve my very first pumpkin! Celebrating this very American festival with my MMS classmates brought me a lot closer to them, and I could feel the sense of family that exists within the program.

After I learned more about American culture and customs by celebrating Halloween, it was my turn to share some of my cultural traditions since Diwali was up next! The festival of lights is India’s most widely celebrated festival. Diwali was the theme for the Fuqua Friday that week! There was great Indian food and many students dressed in traditional Indian outfits.

The DJ played Bollywood music during Fuqua Friday and in no time everyone was dancing. I really enjoyed teaching my friends from Korea, America, Africa, and China some Bollywood moves. They enjoyed themselves so much that they all came to the Bollywood party afterwards. INDUS, Fuqua’s South Asian Business Club, organized the Bollywood party to celebrate the festival.

students at diwali festival

Celebrating Diwali at Fuqua.

Fuqua’s Global Week

The cultural exchange that was encouraged by the two fall holidays was escalated to a new level with what followed — Fuqua’s Global Week. The week was a huge cultural event and each day included various activities that celebrated the plethora of cultures represented at Fuqua. From food tastings to international movie screenings, to a display of clothing from various countries during a fashion show, it was a truly global experience. The week culminated in the Fuqua’s Got Talent show, an annual competition organized by the International Business Club. Six of my classmates and I performed together, which was great fun. See a video of our performance! Our group was very diverse, and included some friends who had enjoyed learning Indian dances during Diwali. We danced to a medley of Indian folk and Bollywood songs, and were the first runners up in the contest! Other performances included Korean pop, as well as American pop and rock.

mms student dancers

In costume with my dance group for Fuqua’s Got Talent.

In the past few weeks, I learned so much about the different cultures, foods, dances, and other traditions of my classmates, and I feel like I now know my classmates so much better. It’s wonderful to be in an environment that’s so open and receptive. After Fuqua’s Got Talent, everyone wanted to learn Bollywood dances. I am going to have a good time teaching my classmates some moves! Being in a program that is so culturally diverse teaches us much more than just accounting and finance. I think I am now a more aware citizen of the world, and have a better appreciation for different cultures.

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There’s a First Time for Everything at Duke

If you’re a “How I Met Your Mother” enthusiast like me, you’ll remember one of the golden rules — “new is always better.” As someone who lived in the same city for all her life, and was working 60-hour weeks, it was becoming a bit of a challenge for me to break the routine and try new things — things that were remarkably different. But coming to Duke changes your life in more ways than you can imagine. Whether it’s entering a new building on campus, seeing a wedding in the Duke Chapel, or even trying a new restaurant with friends — I’m constantly doing new things, and the “firsts” never cease! Here are a few of my favorite and significant “firsts!”

1. First Day in Durham

Durham is not New York, so you’ll be mighty disappointed if you expect to find Times Square here. But Durham wins you over pretty quickly with its own charm — thick forests, a beautiful and quaint downtown, and the feeling of community as you run into classmates in coffee shops and cafes. My first day in Durham was spent doing all the chores you’d expect — getting a cell phone connection from AT&T, buying groceries and other household items from Target, and unpacking. At the end of the day, as I headed out for dinner with my new classmates and stepped into a restaurant covered in Blue Devil flags and posters, we knew we had arrived, and it was a feeling like no other!

student apartment

My entry and kitchen may look empty, but I love having my own space.

2. First Apartment

For many international students like me, this may be the first time living away from home. Daunting as it is, there’s a certain measure of pride I feel when I return to my apartment after a long day. It’s my first apartment, and a place that’s home for at least the next year. Don’t obsess over what it’s missing — enjoy the freedom that an apartment gives you and get creative!

3. First Fuqua Friday

Fuqua Fridays are perhaps the one school tradition that’s closest to our hearts. It’s an evening we spend with people from all across Fuqua, and it’s a great way to kick off the weekend. Our first Fuqua Friday was held at Tyler’s Taproom in downtown Durham instead of school, which is the routine, and was an evening well spent, playing foosball and making new friends!

mms team

With my team, after completing our first successful project.

4. First Team Task

“Team Fuqua” is the phrase that captures most of what The Fuqua School of Business stands for. We are teamed with people with different interests, skills, and working preferences to work on academic assignments and other tasks. It’s a stepping-stone to build strong interpersonal skills, and foster the spirit of teamwork. Our first team task was to make a tower as high as possible with PVC pipes, which could support a book at its highest point. Having a civil engineer on the team really helped us build a strong base, and we really bonded as a team.

5. First Baseball Game

Understanding American sports is the first step towards learning American-style small talk. In our third week of school, the Durham Bulls (a minor league baseball team) were playing in downtown Durham, and we went to watch it together as a class. It took only about 30 minutes for me to begin to understand what was really going on. Whether you enjoy sports or just the food, there is no better way to soak up some American culture!

6. First Day at Fuqua

And the finale, the best of them all, was the first day at The Fuqua School of Business, being a part of the MMS: FOB Class of 2014. As they said, “You are here, that means you must have done something right!”

Ashima Sehgal

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My First American Halloween


During fall break, I went to Orlando with some classmates. Disney’s Magic Kingdom was decorated for Halloween.

It all started long before October 31. Already in the middle of September, when it was still hot as though summer wasn’t going to leave at all, I went for groceries and saw huge boxes filled with pumpkins. The sun was shining on them, and they were shimmering with the colors of autumn. At that moment, the realization of a big upcoming event came to me.

I’m from Russia, and there, Halloween is not a big thing, even though more and more young people are trying to celebrate it in their own way. Back in undergrad, I remember celebrating Halloween once — we all agreed to dress up, rented a house and it was fun, but the holiday started and ended during one evening.

halloween costumes

All dressed up for my first American Halloween party.

This year, I can say that I experienced my first real Halloween. It seemed like everyone was waiting for it to come. Just like in Tim Burton’s “Nightmare before Christmas,” with “trick-or-treat” candies and pumpkins in each store, and Halloween costumes. The feeling of a real Halloween filled me with excitement.

In addition to that, during my first fall break, 5 of us went on a trip to Orlando. We visited Disney’s Magic Kingdom and Universal Studios. Both theme parks had Halloween events. I can’t describe how amazing and fascinating  that experience was, especially Universal’s “Walking Dead” horror nights.

When I returned from this amazing trip, I was so overcome with excitement that I totally forgot about the most important part of Halloween — the costume! I wish I had some costume connected with Russia, but unfortunately I didn’t have anything. So I decided to be Little Red Riding Hood.

When I got to the MMS Halloween Party, I was really amazed by my classmates’ imagination and creativity with their costumes. There were costumes including Disney princesses, jellyfish, robots, and even sushi! It was a great party, and I would really like to thank the Connoisseur’s Club for organizing it, sponsored by the MMS Association. It was a lot of fun!

students in costumes

Classmates dressed as jellyfish and robots for Halloween — so creative!

Kate Kim

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