Navigating through my MBA at 20 years old

By: Katelyn Godoy
Photo of students standing in a group
Students in the Family Business Club with faculty director Daniel Van Der Vliet (far left)

By Aradhana Rai Gupta, MBA ’18

I visited Cornell in February, two months before getting admitted into the Johnson school. My father and I were visiting universities in America, and Cornell seemed like the perfect fit for me. After visiting the sunny (but chilly) busy life of Chicago, I was fairly disappointed when I entered a dark and gloomy Ithaca, New York. But something about the community just felt right. And here I am, two years after my MBA, not wanting this experience to end.

Entering Johnson at the age of 20, I was apprehensive of being labeled the ‘baby of the class.’ But I was amazed at how my classmates treated me with the same respect and love as they did any another student. I walked into this experience with one goal: All I have to do is learn and gather as much knowledge as I can from this diverse set of people, who I slowly started calling friends.

When you first begin your coursework, you are placed into a core team, which becomes your own little cheerleading squad for the next two years. The energy around Sage Hall motivates you to not only work hard to achieve your personal goals but also help others achieve theirs.

I have summed up my learnings from the Cornell MBA experience in 3Cs.

1. Challenge

In his popular Managerial Decision Making class, Professor Jay Russo said something that stuck with me: “Just show up!” The Johnson MBA encourages you to challenge yourself in ways you never thought would be possible. From the 48-hour Integrative Case Challenge during the core semester to coaching first years during recruitment season, you are expected to get out of your comfort zone and think on your feet. I also got the opportunity to TA two classes and teach my peers who were 10–12 years older than I was. As daunting as this may sound, Russo’s advice always comes handy—all you have to do is show up.

2. Community

One has to experience the Johnson MBA to truly appreciate the sense of community that the school instills in its students. Being an international student, I found this to be the most rewarding part of my experience. It starts with the orientation week where you meet your peers and prepare yourselves for the next two years. You go through all of it together—core semester, Sage plague, recruitment season, immersions, and treks. When I look back, I see how all of it clicks together, and I realize that I’m part of something truly special.

3. Contribute

The tradition of second-year students paying it forward is innate to the Johnson DNA. The second-year students organize the Johnson Outdoor Experience for the first years, cheer them on after exams, and get pizza after the integrative case. These small things make the Johnson community very tight knit. Having much less work experience, I always felt I was absorbing more than I could give. The opportunities present at Johnson made me realize that contribution can be made in many ways such as thoughtful class participation, involvement in student run clubs like the Family Business Club, and entrepreneurial pursuits inside and outside of Johnson.

Looking back on all of this, I can say with full conviction that the Johnson experience has empowered me by making me part of a community whose sum is much stronger than its individual parts. There are many reasons to be at Johnson—from the academic program to the faculty and staff. However, the students and the camaraderie at Sage Hall is what differentiates Johnson. I have felt the Johnson spirit alive in Sage Hall every day, and I am sure all the alums and incoming students feel it, too, once they are part of the Johnson community.

Link to learn more about Johnson's Two-Year MBA program in Ithaca

About Aradhana Rai Gupta, Two-Year MBA ’18

Headshot of Aradhana Rai Gupta

Aradhana will be joining her family business in India after graduating with an MBA. She was born and raised in Delhi, India and attended St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University where she studied economics. She is a third-generation member of her 58-year-old electrical manufacturing goods family business. She has previously interned with EY and Cambridge University.