After months of waiting, chatting with future classmates via Slack, and MBA Math-ing to prepare for the coursework, beginning of the first term finally arrived! Orientation and the first residency in Durham was a remarkable fever dream that didn’t quite feel real—although the resulting increase in LinkedIn connections and team project assignments suggested that it was. 

As you consider your future life in the first term of the Global Executive MBA program, here are a few things to keep in mind so that you’ll be better prepared for success:

Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

Whether you’re already three hours deep into an accounting case at 1:00 a.m. or find yourself halfway up a rock wall during team building at Triangle Training Center, you’re are going to be (way) out of your comfort zone at some point during the first residency. At times, it can be frustrating, especially since most of us rely on our expertise to function and thrive in our day-to-day work lives. But how often are we allowed to make, and more importantly, learn from, mistakes? Hardly ever! So take advantage of the opportunity to struggle—it’s even more rewarding when you finally figure it out.

a dozen students pose for a photo in front a the climbing wall at Triangle Training Center during the first term residency

After conquering the climbing wall at Triangle Training Center

You’re on a Team for a Reason

If you’ve already applied to or are even just considering a Duke MBA, you probably know that Team Fuqua is the school’s secret sauce. And no, it’s not just some well-executed branding on the website. Upon arrival, you are expected to collaborate with, learn from, and lean on your teammates. They are from all over the world, have varying viewpoints, vastly different personalities, and unique superpowers—which is exactly why they are on your team. While you may be the type to rush in and take charge (guilty as charged), it is far better to figure out where you fit among your teammates and how you can learn from one another. Take stock in the people around you, trust that they have amazing qualities that you don’t, and make some friends in the process!

five students posing for a photo, teammates beginning in the first term

My team through the first two terms

Take Time to Smell the JB Duke Hotel Coffee, Work Out in Wilson Gym, or Whatever Keeps You Going

Let’s not sugarcoat it—the first residency is hard. You’ve probably been out of school for at least a few years, and it takes time to embrace the novice mind and learn to study again. You’re also figuring out how to balance your life and responsibilities at home while trying to be fully present in the program. With so many hours of the day pre-scheduled, it is tempting to keep your head down and live task-to-task. But you are sharing this experience with dozens of fascinating people who also need to take a minute away from the stress! Find moments to breathe, socialize, and exercise—you’ll be so glad that you did.

*Bonus* Practical Pro-Tip

Read ahead. Seriously, just do it. Reading ahead of your assigned deadlines is a great way to practice work/life/school balance before you arrive on campus. Once at the JB Duke Hotel, there is barely any unscheduled time between your classes, guest speakers, Career Management Center meetings, team projects, and organized social events. The time saved by reading ahead means you’ll already be prepared and get an extra few precious hours of sleep (or a few precious glasses of wine at the hotel bar) while in residency. Present you may not love it, but future you will be eternally grateful.