Doing an MBA is a dream to many. It takes years (at least for me) of toiling, tears and struggle to get an admission, and it comes with a financial cost. There are rewarding fruits that lie at the end of such a journey: immense learning, a strong network, uncountable memories and life-long friendships. The whole city of Cambridge is yours: It has the classrooms where you learn, corridors where you make friends, formal halls where you party in a grand-grand way (yes, grand is twice!), the Cambridge colleges which make you believe you live in Hogwarts, and the streets and the buildings where you immerse yourselves completely.
Halfway into my programme, the Corona-virus pandemic that currently forces us to stay indoors started showing its colours. Like everything else, University buildings were shut, and classes moved online to ensure that studies were not impacted. I flew home to India. This is not what I thought I would get in 2020, the year my MBA will finish. I was sad, in shock and upset.
But there was nobody to blame, time stops for no one, and there is no time to sulk. My Cambridge MBA class has shown its true spirit by supporting each other from afar – from the Class President delivering chocolates and flowers to students in Cambridge, to a friend who organised virtual ‘Formals’ for the class, to another class mate who initiated an inspiring Leadership Series, to yet another arranging peer-to-peer learning sessions. We truly have stuck through thick and thin as a class and a community.
Soon our classes began (live, with recorded versions available too) and you could see the effort put in by our professors – be it pre-session materials, engaging students in discussions during the live class, or summarising all the details and key discussions in post-class mails. Recently we were also allowed to take up to four more Electives to keep our continued learning. It would be inaccurate to say that despite all these efforts the experience is equivalent to our normal classroom teaching, but it would be equally unfair to say that the teaching has been compromised given the unprecedented times we are in. There is a worldwide loss and sadly everyone right now is facing it, in some way or other and with no exceptions.
Some have suggested that universities and business schools provide refunds to students, but you really can’t put a price on experience: the memories you create with friends, the strolls you have on King’s Parade, the excursions next to the River Cam. These life-affirming episodes will always be part of all of us, wherever we may be now or in the future.
Covid-19 has been a surprise – certainly not a good one. Not only did none of us anticipate it, but the scale of the global crisis is unprecedented in our lifetimes. It would be unrealistic to think my Cambridge MBA experience would be unaffected while everything else in our lives has changed in myriad ways. Tough times could lie ahead, given the economic impact of the pandemic on job opportunities. But these extraordinary times have taught us resilience and that we can still sail through as long as we are sailing through “together” – the Cambridge MBA way. We are in it together!