The Hardest Question

by Peter Szilvay on June 3, 2015

Peter Szilvay, an international graduate student at NU, blogs about his first semester as an MBA student.

I keep avoiding this question both unconsciously and consciously, and the situations where it might be asked. So far I managed quite well. But I guess it’s time to resign and grow up to the task. “How was your first semester at Niagara University?”

It took some time to figure out that in my case the question should be asked as: “What was your first semester at Niagara University?” Because it was not just a “how.” It was not just a way of completing otherwise well-known steps. It was not just a way of walking down a road along with some peers. As an international student, I first had to draw my map, build my road and engineer my vehicle, guided by the information my mentors gave me.

For me, during the first semester, it is impossible to separate the academic journey and my personal journey. A "brief" to-do list that I had to complete in the first months: select a phone plan, buy a phone, select a bank, open a bank account, get a debit card, get online banking, select a car, buy a car, learn to drive, take courses, take the road test, fail the road test, pass the road test, get a license, get a Social Security Card, get insurance, get a job on campus, work, blog, shop, socialize, cook, clean. Study. Study. Study.

I am glad to say that I made only one strategic mistake during this period: For the first five-week MBA session, I took three classes. It was partially unintentional, because I thought two of them would be semester-long courses but it turned out that only one of them was. I had obviously no idea of how American education operates in terms of workload. I soon faced that I got assigned to Mission: Impossible, but did not panic or die trying to accomplish everything. I tried to recognize my situation, prioritized and made sacrifices. It was a very important and useful exercise.

Speaking of learning, this leads us to the true answer of our main question. What was the first semester in graduate school at Niagara University like for me? Most importantly, it was all part of the bigger plan, created for me by Karma, Providence, the Universe or whatever you wish to call it. Personal development steps that I always wanted to take and, by the power of deep motivation, I arrived to them during this period. I improved a lot in personality, knowledge and skills. Some of these are visible for outsiders – like the courses that I took or my driver’s license – and a lot of them are small things, only visible for me. But the point is life gives us these personalized improvement steps. This is the only true road that was built in front of us, while the rest is just the scenery.

How about Niagara University itself? It is hard to stay neutral about it because I have a very positive opinion. The level of active help, kindness and attention that the staff is constantly giving us is incredible! I have never experienced anything similar in Hungary. I love the personal care and communication. Although I was constantly running, the staff never failed to be there when I needed them. I hope it stays this way and, of course, I am looking forward to the next semester.

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