Even to the naturally introverted like me, being in a purely virtual world for a full-time MBA program is not ideal. In the past, whenever I imagined myself at business school, I imagined late nights in case rooms with teammates, strolls around campus to take a break from assignments, and traveling the country to interview with my top target companies. While I don’t necessarily miss the stress associated with travel for a high-stakes, in-person interview, I do miss the feeling of connection that comes across (at least to me) only in developing strong in-person relationships with classmates.
That being said, I’ve also accepted that there isn’t much that I can do in the current climate and have decided to make the most of it. For anyone else who might be feeling similarly distant during this time of virtual learning, my action plan is below.
Step 1: Attend the socials.
One Thursday a month, MBAA hosts a themed virtual social for first- and second-year and dual-degree MBA students, to give us a chance to socialize and talk outside of the virtual classroom. My Term A workload significantly impacted the number of socials I could attend, but I’ve made a point to attend as many as I can in Term B. The creative themes have varied from an Escape Room to a Diwali celebration.
Step 2: Take advantage of small talk opportunities.
Even in a virtual world, there is so much to do and it’s tempting to spend only the amount of time needed for a group project before moving on to the next thing. However, within those group meetings are also opportunities to get to know classmates. Last Sunday, I spent 30 minutes extra on a Zoom group meeting as the conversation had shifted to internship search and target companies. From that, I learned not only more about my group members on a personal level, but also the origins of some of the strengths that had been super beneficial to the group.
Step 3: Get involved.
This is something I was told even before the semester went virtual. Going to club events, attending meetings and overall being involved in making MBA life fun for our cohort give me a sense of belonging and purpose.
While ideally, I would be meeting my cohort in-person, I’ll be trying to make the most of this virtual environment until we’re able to meet safely in-person.
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About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business
The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, specialty master's, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.