You might be wondering how a marching band experience relates to a top MBA program like Fuqua. I was asking myself the same question when I received the offer call from the fantastic admissions team at Fuqua. Then, a couple of weeks into the program, I looked down after conquering the wall with Team Fuqua and saw the faces of my new, lifetime friends and family. I suddenly realized that it was all connected.

Being an international student was pretty challenging. I was 18 when I left China to attend Michigan State University all by myself. Like many other young, international students, I felt something was missing in my life, and that there was something that I should be looking for.

Then I stumbled into a Spartan Marching Band (SMB) practice. The way the band flowed as one intrigued me, and inspired me to try it out. I failed the first tryout because I wasn’t prepared, so I joined the campus band to improve my skills and sat on the sideline to watch and learn. After a year of learning and preparation, I won the audition on the second try and subsequently became the first Chinese member of the Spartan Marching Band since 1870.

During my time in the SMB, we got to play in the Rose Bowl and the Cotton Bowl, twice! It was a life-changing experience, but more importantly, it gave me lifetime friends and taught me what a team is. The band practiced every day for two hours, and I truly enjoyed every minute of it. We would play, practice, and improve together.

I’m a better person because I got to learn from the great people around me. Moreover, the bonds go beyond the practice field. I got to propose to my wife in front of my friends from the band and marry her with the blessings of our band friends.

The marching band also provided me with precious opportunities to give back to the community. I worked with artist Jennifer Wen Ma on the China Show, which promoted Chinese culture to the entire university. I worked with the Office of International Student Scholars to better welcome new international students to the U.S. and help them jumpstart their careers. All of these experiences would not have happened if I did not take that initial step to try out, fail, and then try again and succeed as a member of the band.

A man wearing a green jacket holding a trumpet; learned to value teams

Why am I saying all this? Because Team Fuqua is just like that and maybe some more. After being away from the university environment for five years, I missed that feeling of being a part of something greater than myself. Team Fuqua was the harbor for me when I needed it.

It all started with the most relaxed conversation with the amazing admissions team. I remember during a Zoom meeting with Meghan, we spent half of the time just chatting about my marching band experience, and I got too excited, so I ran to another room and grabbed my band jacket just to show it to her! After the meeting was over, my wife looked at me and asked, “You sure you were on a meeting?” I had previously never had such a great experience with an admissions team. They really want to know YOU as a person, more than just as an applicant.

The Team Fuqua spirit doesn’t stop with the admissions team either. It is everywhere at Fuqua. One day, during Fall Term 1, I was leaving a team room and bumped into a second-year student looking for an empty room. Instead of just entering the room, he stopped and said, “Thanks! You are a first-year, right? How are you doing so far?”

Totally out of the blue, I went with the conversation. After learning that I’m interested in recruiting for the technology industry, he said, “I interned at Google this past summer; let me know if I could help in any way!” I mean, where else in the world would this happen?!

So what makes Fuqua unique? Team Fuqua. It is not only a spirit, or a tradition, but it’s also a bond that bands us together, marching towards the same goal. Because a great team is always better than a group of great individuals.