As a member of the UCD Smurfit FTMBA class, I am part of a cohort of 37 brilliant individuals who have all come here with the same ambition: to build a wonderful network of smart, talented, and inquisitive leaders for the future, who will challenge each other intellectually at every step of this MBA journey. Many of us left our home countries for the opportunity to network in-person with others from all over the world. Unfortunately, we could not foresee the momentum in which things went from classroom to Zoom calls. In the midst of the pandemic environment, the Irish government has put new restrictions in place and classes went completely online, taking away the opportunity to connect with my colleagues in person, which is one of the major learning curves I wanted to experience while at Smurfit.
However, we believe that this time of isolation brings a unique opportunity to grow together as a community, to find meaningful activities to partake in, and to ultimately come out stronger. Some of us decided to make the best of what we have. Thanks to a few, we were able to coordinate a mini bowling session and also go on a day-hike around the Howth cliff. These get togethers were the most blissful moments in the initial course of my life in Dublin.
Now here I am, halfway through my GNAM week with IE business school, Spain. In typical years, The Global Network for Advanced Management provides each MBA candidate from 32 Business Schools to come under one roof and experience world-class facilities and engage in riveting discussions. While most schools offered conventional subjects, I found IE’s approach to discuss COVID’s impact on Europe and its re-emergence more captivating, especially it is by no exaggeration the hottest topic in the planet right now.
On my first day at GNAM, I got introduced to the members of my team, who were connecting from Germany, China, Chile, Canada, and Turkey–that’s pretty much stretched across the map from east to west–and made it even more difficult for us to settle for a convenient time-slot to discuss after class. But that’s the challenge GNAM had to offer: to connect and develop a rapport with those brilliant individuals in the short stretch of time.
GNAM is not all about the classroom interactions; it offers an unique opportunity to understand and experience a new culture and connect on an emotional front. In one of the afternoon sessions, the current MBA students of IE went one step ahead to provide the international students with an opportunity to experience Spanish cuisine. We were invited to a Spanish cooking class on “how to make a Tortilla”, via Zoom. The whole event was carried out so gracefully by Calottina and Mikaela, that I was lip-smacking just looking at the finished dish over the video call. It gave me a platform to connect with the students in a more relaxed domain. We even had a virtual DJing and entrepreneurial talk event, from one of the IE Alumni.
Although I am thoroughly enjoying this opportunity to connect with peers from different parts of the world, the mere thought of how the whole week would have turned out in person brings an ambivalent state of emotions. I could only wish if COVID had been just a conspiracy diegesis from a Tarantino movie, and I wish I was in Madrid now, sharing the class with them, enjoying the flamenco nights and munching through croquettes, while gazing over “Mercado de la cebada”.
During this highly unprecedented moment in time, there is still so much to get excited about. These are difficult times we are facing, but I believe the power of our coterie can keep us in a positive frame of mind. Let’s all try to find more of our inner self and find happiness in these moments we are together. Let’s all travel, learn and evolve together, and be hopeful about the brighter times ahead.
As the saying goes,
“The greater your storm, the brighter your rainbow.”
—Avinash Jayan, FTMBA class of 2021