I can hardly believe that our Rochester experience ended already a fortnight ago. Just recently, I stood in the middle of the night on the verge of despair in front of an unpacked suitcase and tearfully cursed myself for ever having had the mindless idea to start this international EMBA program including a full month away from my family and my work.
Shortly thereafter, I found myself in Rochester, a city that owes its glorious university and recent history largely to Mr. Eastman, the creator of the Kodak empire, and to this day licks its wounds that Kodak has fallen low (and with it, the university’s financial security). But that is another story – and – the university still exists. Alongside prestigious chairs for optics, medicine or the “Eastman School of Music”, the “Simon Business School” is one of the most renowned providers of business and economics programs – such as our MBA, which it has been running together with the University of Bern for almost 30 years. In one month, we immersed ourselves in the three modules Strategic Marketing, IT & Strategy and Pricing and completed them entirely in the States.
Looking back, the four-week stay was multi-faceted and an experience I wouldn’t want to miss. The most important points?
My everyday life in Switzerland is colorful, varied and sometimes simply overloaded. Full-time job, relationship, family, hobbies, household and studies on top of it all. The nights are short and my mood is sometimes tense. In Rochester, it seemed to me as if the world suddenly stood still. Never before have I experienced such structured days and weeks. University and lectures, self-study and group work, sports, eating, sleeping, repeat. Suddenly I could focus on something. For these four weeks the content of my studies was in the foreground and there even remained time for me.
The study abroad part of the program catapulted me back into my student days. I never got bored – if I got lonely, there was always someone around to do something. Shopping trips and late-night talks with my roommate Tamara, a trip to Toronto and Niagara Falls over the long Labour Day weekend with Alain and Patrick, basketball matches at the hotel compound (You learn so much about people in a short game of basketball!), volleyball on the sandy beach of Lake Ontario, barbecues and cookouts together (what a feast we had thanks to our private culinary artist Patrick Vogel!), a Baseball- and a NFL-game (Buffalo Bills won!), trips to the Finger Lakes, brewery-tours, rooftop bars and going out till late (or early). Most of the class used the weekends for longer and shorter trips – probably few classes before have travelled as much as our class. New York City, Chicago, Toronto, Washington DC and even destinations such as the Bahamas or Mexico were flown to.
Yes, life in the States is different from our everyday life in Switzerland. I’ve never used a car so much (shopping, eating out, going to university – all unthinkable without a car. This really annoyed me). I’ve never eaten so much meat. And my pitiful attempts to reduce waste and plastic in Switzerland became a complete joke within days in view of the way Americans deal with disposable dishes, packaging and plastic utensils. But other things also stood out – the absolutely stress-free and inclusive atmosphere in clubs or bars, the openness of the people (from the hotel receptionist, to the students at the campus to the barkeeper) or the sometimes somewhat self-aggrandizing but thoroughly entertaining narrative style of the lectures by the American professors.
Social experiment – or a superlative class camp
Take a hotel apartment residence, populate it with an EMBA class of 22 very different characters, spice it up with group assignments, mix in moods ranging from euphoria to weariness, shake vigorously and observe. One thing is clear, this month welded us together as a class. Nothing was heard more during this time than the sentence: “Our class is just great.”
The best moment of this month? On 22 September, after three hours of waiting at JFK airport in New York, I was able to embrace my husband and children. Just in time for the end of the modules in Rochester, the autumn holidays began in Bern. What a week on the picturesque beaches of the Hamptons and then a week downtown NYC with 5 kids was like would require another blog post. Therefore, the summary in one word: Simply fantastic!