Like many of you, I wrote about teamwork in my application essays. I lauded the merits of the Fuqua philosophy as guided by the Paired Principles (my personal favorite was, and remains “Supportive Ambition”) and my sincere desire to be engulfed in the Duke esprit de corps known as “Team Fuqua.” Yet, Team Fuqua felt more like a catchphrase accompanied by air quotes than a reality.

As I walked onto campus for the first day of Orientation, I admit to nervously hosting reservations about what that teamwork would actually look like in practice at a top 10 business school.

Turns out, it looks like this:

group photo of MBA Class

I know, I know…cheesy, right? Wrong. Mike Zhou, a second-year student I met at Blue Devil Weekend who remained a resource throughout the months leading up to Orientation, is at the front left. He made time in the midst of his Bain internship casework to fly back just to welcome our class of first-year students. And he’s not alone. Across the front of this image are second-years who traveled from across the world during their intensive summer internships—consulting, tech, marketing, social impact, you name it—to support and lead first-years in our acclimation and orientation to Fuqua. #TeamFuqua. And what you don’t see are the people behind the camera—deans Russ Morgan and Steve Misuraca, proudly taking a knee to help snap a shot of everyone.

And it also looks like this:

Fuqua's Winter Garden, filled with hundreds of new students chatting #TeamFuqua

A room filled with conversation and collective exuberance for one another, Fuqua, and our next two years together. Genuine get-to-know-you discourse and earnest initial networking built on an authentic desire to collaborate, to ask “How can I connect this person?” versus “How can I get connected?” #TeamFuqua. Funny enough, this moment was actually one of our Orientation “breaks” between group events. To steal a relevant quote from the movie When Harry Met Sally: “When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with someone, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”

Or how about this, some snaps of an Orientation cheer competition, with me crouched on the left leading the chants:

new students cheering loudly for their section during a competition #TeamFuqua

Insanity? Definitely. Outside some of my fellow first-years’ comfort zones? Without a doubt. Seeing yourself as more than an individual and working (shouting, singing, choreographing) together to move the team forward? Absolutely. And that’s what I see in these two photos—I see Section Six, my crew, my confidantes and classmates, a diverse team putting it all out there for each other (and for fun). #TeamFuqua

Oh, and this:

two dozen students in front of the Habitat home they were building #TeamFuqua

A day spent working in the Durham community with Habitat for Humanity. A day to remind us that Fuqua does not aim to create an insular, elite group of leaders for whom knowledge and improvements are only shared internally. A day to show us that Fuqua prioritizes community service and involvement, and a day to demonstrate our dedication to creating a collaborative team of consequential leaders who generate value externally as well. #TeamFuqua

As I said, walking into Orientation at Fuqua, I had fears that the reality would not match the written word. What I found was that this spirit of teamwork is not exaggerated, nor does it come at the expense of leadership or individuality. Rather, it positively permeates our everyday experience and reinforces that we can simultaneously learn to bring out the best in ourselves and others. And while I know I still have much to learn, my first few days at Orientation dispelled all concerns and reservations about the strength, importance, and existence of my newfound #TeamFuqua.

Kait with her 5 teammates and the Duke Blue Devil during orientation #TeamFuqua