From India to Durham: My MBA experience | TopMBA.com

From India to Durham: My MBA experience

By Niamh O

Updated April 21, 2021 Updated April 21, 2021

Harsh Pal Singh Vilkhu says, "The multi-cultural environment combined with world class teaching creates an impactful learning environment in the UK."

Undertaking an MBA programme requires a leap of faith, strength, and grit into the unknown – and that’s without also living and working through a global pandemic.

Harsh Pal Singh Vilkhu travelled from India to the UK to embark on his MBA studies as a full-time MBA candidate at Durham University Business School. However, COVID-19 meant he was then stuck in the UK, with teaching moving completely online.  

Harsh spoke with TopMBA about his studies so far, what it’s like being away from home to study remotely, and business in India. 

Why Durham?  

Harsh says Durham’s interesting MBA curriculum matched with his aspirations and goals – and has an excellent global reputation offering great value for money. 

He said: “The collegiate system at Durham is very unique, and I found it compelling. I knew I wanted to get into consultancy and Durham’s MBA has a dedicated consultancy pathway in its curriculum, which offered me the chance to build those skills.”

It was this combination of factors that drew Harsh to Durham, and he says the MBA is bringing out the best in him, and he looks forward to seeing how he develops his range of management skills even further as he completes his studies.

Virtual learning for an MBA 

Although the experience of his MBA is different to the in-person programme he anticipated before embarking on his MBA journey, Harsh says the quality of teaching hasn’t changed, with students taking part in live lectures and extensive class discussions with professors daily. 

He said: “What we are currently experiencing is something nobody has experienced. There is a silver lining in these times that the resilience we build will prepare us to face any adverse times in future.

“Of course, like everyone working during lockdown, our human nature does crave face-to-face settings in which we feel may feel more collaborative and coherent, but we are working well together with video links, virtual lessons and hybrid learning.”

Tech enables students to move to breakout rooms for group discussions, and return to the main room for wider discussions, sharing views and opinions with professors. 

But one major benefit of virtual learning according to Harsh is the business school can now have as many guest lecturers as it likes – which wasn’t feasible for travelling guest speakers before. 

Although Harsh admits online learning for the MBA has been a success, if he’d have known the programme would be undertaken virtually beforehand, would he have changed his mind? 

He said: “We can all think about hypothetical situations and what would have been the response. The fact is these are unprecedented times which demands an unprecedented response.

“Moving to virtual learning was the only option in these circumstances and we have to bear that with positive attitude. It helps that Durham had already established a proven track record in high quality virtual learning.”

Networking is always one of the most important takeaways MBA grads note from their time on a programme. Harsh acknowledges that although there have been few face-to -face interactions with classmates, relationships have still been built virtually as they work extensively on group tasks and assignments. 

He said: “We can connect with each other thereafter through other forms of social media too, keeping us all close. The differences will remain compared to more ideal times, but we are getting used to that. 

“As we are together in these difficult circumstances, sharing the same concerns and aspiring for the same types of goals, our relationships will have significant strength once we come out of this situation.” 

Comparing business in the UK and India 

During his professional life, Harsh says he’s experiences many moments whereby business ethics became more important in order to create personal and organisational success. 

He said: “Whilst there are many different views between industries and organisations on what constitutes proper business conduct which can make you act in different ways; the principles of business ethics are universal – and you can apply those in every business setting. 

“The difference is it takes more effort in certain situations to act ethically, and people are not always willing to make that extra effort. The best way to advocate is to keep practicing ethics in every situation and set the example for others.” 

When comparing the UK and India, we are aware that the UK has a highly developed economy compared to the developing economy in India. And according to Harsh, although the UK economy was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses are adapting to the effects of the pandemic – and our new circumstances – quickly.  

He said: “According to McKinsey’s report on trends for 2021, virtual operations will become the norm, and this is already happening with businesses across UK. 

“The same trend is now picking up pace in India too, but at a slower rate. However, the business landscape across both countries will evolve differently as we move out from this situation, as both economies are facing different challenges.  

“The development of vaccines has resulted in the restoration of confidence to some extent, but this change will be gradual – and more gradual for some than others.” 

Hopes for the future 

Harsh says the cohort is progressing well on the MBA programme – with classmates hoping to return to class soon once schools and other parts of society safely reopen.  

He said: “We will definitely fulfil what has been missed during previous months and will be excited to network with our classmates face-to-face.” 

Harsh believes MBA programmes are well-structured, focusing on the requirements of the business world, but he thinks this virtual/hybrid method of teaching is here to stay.  

He said: “We’ve seen that vibrant professors connect well with their students during virtual classes and their energy is contagious, which really helps students develop their curiosity in the study modules. 

“In the future I think we can combine the advantages of virtual learning with benefits of face-to-face teaching to create a new model that will be more effective, compared to earlier forms of teaching.” 

Harsh thinks it’s imperative that post-MBA goals align with your value system, strengths, as well as long-term career goals. He said: “I am eager to start my journey as a consultant post-MBA, because I like getting challenged by new situations and diverse projects.”  

“I think the Durham MBA will prepare me well for pursuing this role as, during the course, we are always engaged in analysing different business situations through which I can combine my learnings from my previous experience with the theoretical frameworks I am learning during the course.” 

Harsh thinks undertaking an MBA programme in the UK is an exciting and challenging, life-changing opportunity – and for prospective MBA students from India hoping to earn their MBA in the UK, Harsh offers some parting words of wisdom. 

He said: “It will bring the best out of you as well as enabling you to develop all the necessary management skills you desire. The multi-cultural environment combined with world class teaching creates an impactful learning environment in the UK, which I do not think I could have benefitted from at home to quite the same extent.” 

This article was originally published in April 2021 .

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Written by

Niamh is Deputy Head of Content at QS (TopMBA.com; topuniversities.com), creating and editing content for an international student audience. Having gained her journalism qualification at the Press Association, London and since written for different international publications, she's now enjoying telling the stories of students, alumni, faculty, entrepreneurs and organizations from across the globe.  

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