What surprised me about Booth was how much fun it was. I knew everyone would be very smart, but I didn't know it would be such an invigorating place where I would really enjoy the people.
So many different individuals contributed to my learning in the program. I realized there was so much to learn, not only from the professors, but also from the classmates, study group members, the staff. If you have an open mind, you can see everything in the experience as a learning opportunity, if you're just open to realizing it.
The classroom is the show. It's where you hear ideas in the professors' own words, not just from the textbook (that they probably wrote). Coming to Booth, I knew the faculty would be amazing - clearly, they are world-class and even Nobel laureates - but what surprised me was what great teachers they are. These are famous people who have come up with revolutionary theories in their fields, and they're committed to teaching and helping you to learn. It is humbling. And they're so accessible - after class, during office hours, by email, Facebook, whatever - if you have the hours in the day to ask a question, there is always someone available to answer it.
Chicago Booth leaders are independent thinkers who are eager to explore all ideas. They're challenged and encouraged by different trains of thought and don't often accept the status quo. I think that comes from learning to think through problems and constantly asking yourself, "Why?" Easy answers are always challenged at Booth. A hunch is never good enough. You always have to back up your answers. If you identify one angle, you'll immediately be asked to take the next step and think, "OK, what else? How can I think about this in a different way? Have I considered all the other options?"
The program helps you develop an awareness that you might not always have the right answers. It makes you much more inquisitive and respectful - when you start to recognize what you don't know - including when a hunch can be wrong. You learn to question first before assuming. You realize, even if your hunch was right, that you can learn more by exploring why it could have been wrong, or why someone else's approach might have been as good, or even better. It's encouraged me to think through all aspects of a problem, bring in various points of view, and think through things in a more organized way. I believe I'm a better business leader as a result of this approach.
The fact that your cohort, from day one, includes students from campuses on two other continents creates a bond between you. It's something you just can't develop after one week of study together. You really get to know your international peers--how they solve business problems, their work habits, their talents--which not only expands your knowledge of other cultures, but forms the basis of many strong business relationships after graduation.
The decision to start at Booth is a difficult one, especially when you consider the financial and time commitment you're about to make. I believed when I started that it was going to be worth the investment, and that's been 100 percent true.