The Stern Community: The Only Thing I Wish Would Never “Change”

Jeet Khilnani is an MBA2, specializing in strategy and leadership & change management. Prior to Stern, Jeet worked at Nomura in a corporate finance role, and Deloitte in an audit role. This summer, Jeet interned at Boston Consulting Group (BCG) as a Summer Consultant and will be continuing to work at the firm post graduation, in New York City. Additionally, Jeet is the Co-President of Outclass (Stern’s LGBTQ+ organization), and a VP of Stern Student Government, Management Consulting Association, Graduate Finance Association, and South Asian Business Association at Stern.

From the time I committed to attending Stern, the one thing that I kept wondering about (rather, worrying about) was the community at Stern. Being an international student who has never lived in the US before, I had heard a lot – that New York City is the big, bad concrete jungle, that people would do anything to get to their goals, and there really isn’t much of a community at a big city school like Stern. I’m sure quite a few of you reading this would’ve also heard / believe the same about Stern / NYC.

Diversity of the Class

As a result of these thoughts, I came into the city with a lot of questions about who my classmates were going to be, what it was going to be like working with them, how competition will bring out the best and worst in us, and more. But I couldn’t have been more wrong. Within a few days of being at Stern, I saw my classmates were every bit as incredible as they seemed in the first Zoom meeting we had. Nobody was just ‘playing’ nice, but they were genuinely incredible human beings. I think it’s because we all, no matter where we come from, left stable jobs and took on some risk to go to business school and take the plunge towards a new career. We all came in with some amount of anxiety, some amount of imposter syndrome and some amount of being awestruck that we’re in New York City. The outcome of all that is a large, diverse community of kind, inclusive, intelligent people who would travel significant lengths to help you succeed.

Building Relationships

My first few friends were ones who I’d met at Zoom over a virtual admitted students happy hour, where week after week we had new icebreakers and fun games. It felt surreal to be meeting people again in the Fall of 2021, after a rather rough year and a half spent largely in confinement and solitude thanks to COVID. But the connection was instant – we were all so happy to meet each other (finally!) and begin this incredible journey of two years, one that would for all practical purposes transform our lives.

We also were put into study groups of 5-6 people by the school to work on our “Group Pick Six”, an assignment due before LAUNCH. It was a great way to meet my study group, break the ice with them and work on an interesting assignment together. I think getting six pictures from six individuals can be an interesting way to set up group dynamics – Does each one get to pick one? How do we deal with overlaps? What do we want to say as a team? We had a lot of fun in one hour and found out six common attributes we all shared, for example, we all love adventure!

Our LAUNCH Group’s Pick 6

As school began, we had LAUNCH- which was simply one whole week of awesome. One of my life’s most treasured moments was the dinner at Ellis Island, sitting on a table with seven other students I’d never met before, looking at the Manhattan skyline and not being able to believe that all this was real. We all shared that same emotion I guess, and I walked away with one “core memory” (Inside Out reference) and seven new friends. As school progressed, I met more and more people and my friends list kept growing.

Friendships Strengthened through Ups & Downs

Of course, it’s never all just fun and games. That never results in the strongest community in my opinion. And soon enough, our test stood in front of us – recruiting. We all got busy, running from one corporate event to another, one coffee chat after another and a social gathering seemed like the last thing on anyone’s mind. Yet, you could feel the power of the Stern community because despite not having met for days/weeks on end, I felt supported. If I missed an event, my friends would share their notes with me. If there was an assignment due and I was busy, someone else in my project team did the heavy lifting for me, if I was sick (and I did get COVID in week 1 of classes), someone dropped off food at my doorstep. 

As Fall progressed, things got even more intense. The weather got colder, but our community grew warmer. Through the holidays, the rejections, the interview prep and the interview season, we stood by each other – sharing resources, questions, case practice, advice and sometimes just holding your hand or giving you a hug. I clearly remember the night before a big final round interview, I was freaking out – I sent a text to a dear friend (also recruiting) and they immediately called me back. We spoke for twenty minutes, they made sure I was calm and wouldn’t do anything to hurt my chances the next day. Right after my interview, I got a call again to check if everything was okay. To me, that gesture alone defines the community at Stern.

Today, I feel like an integral part of the Stern community, and Sternies are an indispensable part of my life. I don’t know what I would do without them, and I couldn’t be more grateful for each and every one of them.

Yes, we’re in New York. Yes, it’s competitive (duh!). Yes, it’s intense. But, we are Stern. We get through it, together. Always have, always will.