One year ago, I wouldn’t have guessed how life would change for me. The COVID-19 uncertainty took the world by storm, collapsed businesses, broke the economy, snatched away lives and forced millions out of a livelihood.
Yet, a year later, we are on a path to recovery, taking an oath to build a stronger and better future, walking towards the light. From one Spring to another, life is looking up. My journey from India to Paris to be a part of the ESCP in the Fall of 2020 has been an experience of a lifetime.
The new normal
As the pandemic hit the world hard, students were not spared either. From visa troubles and uncertain travels to adapting to online classes, they faced a range of challenges that were daunting. Overcoming the possibility of not being able to join my cohort on time, regularly modifying the travel plans which were uncertain due to flight restrictions and embracing the “new normal” by joining the MBA in International Management class of 2021 online, despite inadequacies, we sailed through, anyway. And, what an overwhelming and enriching six months have they been! My determination to be a part of the 2021 MBA batch has taught me to overcome self-doubt, trust the road ahead and enjoy my ride all the way.
From our dilemma to be able to join the program, as I fast-forward a few months, we can say that more than determination, our resilience has made us reach a milestone – we have successfully completed the first half of the much-coveted program by withstanding all the difficulties posed by the pandemic. Faced with stressful circumstances, as our diverse group first met on the tranquil campus in Paris, we resolved to turn the challenges into our success stories.
To progress, we adapted to the changes, as creative and dedicated batchmates came together to hold each other to enhance our perspectives and gain knowledge. It wasn’t easy in the initial phases, though. Like the rest, students, too, were left feeling helpless and confused. We knew it wasn’t the best of times. Midway through, I can very well say that there was a lot that was learnt under these special circumstances.
As David BIRCHER from the Paris track puts it, “only a special type of person decides to invest their energy, money, and intellect in an MBA during COVID. Lucky for me, that meant I met some of the smartest, kindest, and most driven people over the last 6 months. The camaraderie created a single group where people could ask for help, celebrate one another, be vulnerable, and advocate for our personal and collective needs. That’s such a valuable experience.”
A strong multicultural community
From organizing group activities and racing to complete assignments, to fostering a bond with one another inside and outside the classroom, from setting up interest groups for workout and studying the stock market to discussing movies and music, our feeling of togetherness kept the spirit high. Reeling under the duress of the pandemic, some managed to undertake a few short outings with others in the cohort following the COVID-19 protocol which recharged our minds and soothed the frayed nerves. Away from the confinement of our rooms during the lockdown, while missing our family back at home, the vacations strengthened our friendship.
On any given class day, one might feel exhausted to be engaged in conversations in multiple active social networking groups, but the learning, exchange of ideas and understanding opinions while gaining experience made the journey worthwhile. Even the group chats gave us valuable tips that assisted in our learning.
“My time in London was great, despite lockdown and Covid related restrictions. Our cohort kept always a very friendly and positive attitude, which allowed for a welcoming environment that was essential to overcome the difficulties of being in a new city by ourselves. Our two class representatives, Lucas and Roberto, were awesome, constantly thinking of ways to make the group stronger, listening to our needs and finding ways for us all to have a great learning experience,” added Camila OBERST of the London track.
With the aim of seeing the dreams shape into reality, many small groups were seen participating to various innovative projects, competitions and initiating own start-ups from ideation to feasibility with the support and inputs from the cohort. All of this led to a strong believe in this cohort, standing strong without missing out on opportunities to gain maximum from each other.
“The thing about our cohort in Paris was that we recognized each other’s struggles and stood by one another – just like family. This sense of solidarity miles away from home, especially amidst a pandemic, was extremely endearing. During my initial days in Paris, I was struggling with some administrative issues, but many classmates so easily offered me help despite not even knowing me too well. Later, some batch mates helped me study difficult subjects, some enabled me to explore and realize my potential and some even offered me a warm cup of tea when I was homesick. When you have such a genuine crew backing you up, what can this VUCA world even have on you! #ParisOGCrew for life!” said an overjoyed Meghna MALIK from the Paris track.
“For me, like most others, this MBA was a brand-new opportunity to get out of my comfort zone and have new experiences. In Turin, we were a group of individuals from all corners of the world, trying to make sense of the world and make individual growth, under incredibly challenging circumstances. Despite all our challenges, the strength and resilience of our cohort enabled us to move forward – together and stronger. We made significant growth as professionals by collaborating as a team and networking with professionals from different sectors, countries and industries,” pointed out Luca DEMARIA of the Turin track.
“When I set out to do my MBA, I wanted to grow my network and meet exciting new people. That’s exactly what this MBA offered me, and so much more. Not only did I build a new professional network during my first semester in London, but I also made myself some friends that I know are going to last for a lifetime! As we were studying under a challenging context imposed by COVID-19, it was important for us as a cohort to create and maintain a positive working environment. All of us together enabled each other, looked out for one another and made sure we were all in this together. And that made a world of a difference!” Roberto KUSTERMANN from the London track said.
As I embark on the second phase of my MBA journey, I could say the international diversity and the high spirits of the cohort was something to learn from each other and will be life-long cherished.