Asia School of Business

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How Hiking Is Like Preparing for an MBA


Rinjani is an active volcano also known as ‘Child of the Sea’, with a caldera on top which is partially filled by Segara Anak crater. Standing at 3726 metres above sea level, it is also Indonesia’s second highest peak. Those who have hiked up this peak will know the unspeakable joy of seeing this beauty up where it belongs. I can now say that I’ve scaled up and down this notoriously difficult mountain, and made it back to tell you my experience. To sum up the entire trekking experience in one sentence: It is not for the faint-hearted.

Here are some lessons learnt about this hike which will hopefully prepare me for my upcoming 20-month journey with Asia School of Business for an MBA:

Do something which will scare you every now and then.

Adapted from Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote, “Do one thing every day that scares you,” I’m a firm believer of challenging myself to do something every now and then which will terrify and scare the living daylights out of me. This hike did exactly that. While it was my own decision to hike this mountain, reading one hiking blog after another only made me ‘fear’ it even more. Every blog I read described it as the ‘most physically and mentally challenging hike’ you will ever do.

Like they say: if it scares you, it might be a good thing to try. Coming from a background in law, pursuing an MBA is a terrifying thing to do. It means saying goodbye (for now) to everything I know and am familiar with in litigation, legal jargon and court rooms. Saying yes to an MBA means opening myself up to the unknown, where I would have to familiarise myself with subjects like Math, Finance, Economics and Business Administration.

Don’t look too far ahead, concentrate on what is before you.

Runners and hikers know this best: it is imperative to look at your own two feet and watch your every step, instead of focusing too far ahead of you. This was especially true during the 2 a.m. hike up from Pelawangan II to the summit of Mount Rinjani. My heart would quicken when I looked too far ahead and saw the summit, which looked like it was close but never close enough.

I foresee the days as an MBA student, where all I may be asking myself is if I’m there yet, in reference to the finishing line at the end of the 20-month program. Having spoken to some of my seniors, I’ve been told that it will be a challenging and uphill climb just like Mount Rinjani — but thankfully, not utterly impossible. A line from the hike that I hope will keep me going through the tough times ahead will be, “Sarah, keep going – just one foot after the other.”

Trust your guide.

Jus Fardy, the guide, has hiked Mount Rinjani more than 100 times over the course of his “career” as a mountain guide. I trusted him completely for direction, safety, good meals, hiking tips and motivation. Similarly, as my future classmates and I will be the second class to ever graduate from ASB, we have learnt (and are continuing to learn) how to trust our school and its faculty and staff. Although ASB is a start-up business school, we are in very good hands because, as our Dean Charles Fine has stated: “[ASB is] a very well-endowed start-up… We have two very successful and mature parents [Bank Negara and MIT Sloan].”

Since receiving our acceptance letters we have been in constant contact with ASB staff and faculty. They have worked very hard to ensure a smooth transition for us and we have been assured that our Dean and Professors are always readily available and are personally invested in our growth. The students in ASB’s inaugural Class of 2018 have also been an immense help to us, creating a buddy system between their class and ours to assist us with any of our queries or for advice.

You are stronger than you think.

This hike brought many challenges along the way. But there was no time to dwell on my muscles that were aching, lungs that were constantly gasping for air and legs that were screaming for rest. Every part of my body hurt, and yet I felt amazing. The hike made me go on a deep (albeit short) journey of reflection and self-discovery. There truly was something magical about scaling a mountain: it helped me redefine my purpose, realign my compass and set myself a clearer goal for the coming months ahead.

Hiking is largely a mind-over-matter battle. I just had to keep telling myself that something amazing is just around the corner and that it’s going to be worth it. And with that, I found that I was stronger than I thought. Hiking brings out the perseverance in me because I want to come out of it stronger and better, a value that I wish to carry with me into business school.

It doesn’t matter how slow you go, as long as you don’t stop.

Prior to putting in an application for the MBA program, I raised quite a few queries and concerns to both my seniors and the staff, feeling unsure if I was cut out for business school. Now that I’ve made the commitment to pursue it, this will be my solid reminder: “You. Just. Don’t. Quit.” Having met some of my incredibly talented and wildly passionate classmates, there is a certain level of intimidation from seeing how extraordinary they are.

Despite my fear of being unable to catch up, I just have to remind myself to follow my own pace and not to quit because, slowly but surely, I will get to where I want to be. When I finally reached the summit of Mount Rinjani the first thing I thought to myself was that this was physically and mentally the most challenging thing I’ve done thus far in my life. Immediately after that came, “What’s next?”

ASB, I’m ready for you.