SEMESTER SERIES: CHARLENE THOMAS – CAMPING WITH GOIZUETA

If you’re anything like me, you have a core group of people, they’re awesome, and expanding beyond that group not only seems generally unnecessary, but relatively exhausting and slightly (sometimes extremely) terrifying.

That was part of the reason why I chose to attend Emory initially. It’s a small program as far as business schools go (there are 179 of us incoming this year, which I am pretty sure is the smallest class of any top school) and the idea of that made the thought of transitioning from DC life to Atlanta life slightly more manageable. Not so entirely overwhelming. With less people it will be easier to meet people, right? That was pretty much my rationale.

Before I get too far into this, I do want to explain that I actually am a huge people-person. I’m pretty much always convinced I’m hearing ghosts or monsters around the corner when I’m forced to be completely alone for too long, and I really like to laugh. So it wasn’t about hoping to go to a business school that allowed me to be a hermit. It’s just that…I don’t know. I’m 25 years old. I’ve made high school friends for life and college friends for life and colleague friends for life, so I do feel pretty established in the relationship department. How old can you honestly be and still be making best friends for life?

I don’t know, exactly, but I have started to realize that that answer is ‘older than 25.’

Even though, initially, I thought Emory’s size would be the reason behind any meaningful relationships I was able to build, I honestly believe now that that’s not it. They’ve got something really special going at this school – something in the air or the water or the beer, or something – that makes Emory a community unlike any that I’ve ever been a part of.

It starts on the first day of orientation. You show up and you have one relatable faculty member after another relatable faculty member get in front of the class and be so…relatable. Honest and open and (a lot of times) hysterical. Cool, even. So that stereotype of the old guy professor in the tweed and who giggles when you suffer over advanced equations? Yeah, that’s squashed immediately.

And throughout that first day, their conversational nature is addictive. And we all started doing it – talking to each other. About anything, really. I had a conversation about tacos on the first day of school, no joke. And it doesn’t feel fake or like you’re trying because this is Goizueta, and this is what people do. We talk to each other.

You spend a full four hours going over the personality assessment they have you take over the summer, and suddenly you realize that they don’t just want you to know each other. They also really, really want you to know yourself. It’s crazy going as deep as they go with you on who you are. It’s an experience full of denial, for a lot of people. But it’s good for you, and Emory knows it.

And once you’ve started to know yourself and your classmates and it’s meshing like that dinner you tried to throw together using just the leftovers and spices in the cabinet (you’re in grad school, after all) then comes the trial of all trials.

You go camping-actual camping, that someone like me hasn’t done since elementary school, when being in girl scouts seemed somewhat mandatory from an emotional perspective. No, I was not excited about it. But did I do it? Yes. And am I glad I did? Absolutely yes. And would I do it again? Hell yes! (If it was forced upon me in order to graduate, or something, but you get where I’m going.)

Your time in the woods with your classmates pushes you out of your comfort zone, yes, but it’s supposed to. And maybe you kind of roll your eyes at the idea of another team building excursion, because you’ve only done, like, eight million of those since being old enough to sit in a circle for story time. Trust me when I say this one is different. Again, maybe because GBS is busy spiking the water and air and beer with feel-good feelings, but trust me when I say that this one is different.

You climb things. Really, really tall things. And you cheer each other on because their success is yours. Their growth is your growth. Their hesitations are resolvable by you. That’s what it’s all really about, at the end of the day. That you’re a unit here and you’re a unit in class and one day you’ll be back in the working world without proximity to keep you close. But you’re still a unit, and you have to remember to act like it.

Those are the kind of feelings you get while you’re on this campus, and it doesn’t even feel cheesy while you’re here because it’s not. Do you know – no, really – how hard it is for a feeling like that to not feel cheesy? But the water or the air (or the beer) at Goizueta makes it feel right.

First block is underway now, and it’s just as hard and time-consuming as everybody has told you it will be. I’ll get through it, though, with my unit.

More again soon!

XO Charlene