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My First MBA Semester During the Coronavirus Pandemic: ESCP Business School & Trinity Business School

social distancing business school first-year MBA

Many MBA students have started their MBA journey under new circumstances – a far cry from the MBA experience they likely envisaged when they decided to take the plunge.

Although the experience may be different, participant dedication and desire to earn the qualification hasn’t faltered.

TopMBA caught up with some first-year MBA students to find out how their first semester is going during a pandemic.

Erika Valerie Ng Wong, first-year MBA student at ESCP Business School

Erika Wong, ESCP Business SchoolErika decided to pursue an MBA to pivot her career to be a sustainability manager and help businesses transform their operations to be more sustainable and circular from procurement, production, to shelf and waste management.

She said: “I also wanted to brush up on certain skills like accounting and finance, economics, statistics, and strategy so I can be an effective manager after the program.”

Erika and her cohort have taken classes via Blackboard since the semester began on August 31. She told us the sessions have been interesting, from regular classes to the two-day iLeap career seminar, as well as her induction seminar taking on a blended approach.

Since Erika and a classmate are on the London campus track, they had to quarantine for 14 days and so were unable to join the Paris face-to-face induction.

Erika said: “It was a different kind of experience since we had to work on a case study wherein some of our group mates were together in Paris, while both of us were joining the sessions online.

“It was pretty amazing to see how our professors and school administrators are adjusting to the situation. They were able to effectively facilitate the four-day workshop despite experiencing some technical difficulties and adjustments.”

Erika has since had her first day on campus, and she says it was great to finally meet classmates and professors.

She said things are definitely different to how she expected them to be with a lot of activities and classes online, bringing out a different learning model.

“Our MBA class is a mix of different nationalities and backgrounds so every interaction with them is always a new learning experience.

“We have amazing mentors that are helping us with our future path beyond ESCP. There is also an active alumni network that is helping us with our career development.” 

ESCP kept students informed about the pandemic and also implemented safety protocols – like initiating a one-way system and scheduling on campus to reduce student contact.

Erika said: “Having an assigned seat is helpful with contact tracing and being able to attend classes online is also a great addition. The professors have also adapted blended teaching which I think is pretty awesome.” 

Erika’s day to day activities vary. She could attend online classes via Blackboard, or squeeze in French classes via ESCP’s Speex platform.

Erika founded the newly minted Women in Leadership society with co-founders Camila and Jue, something she is reveling in organizing events for.

Over the next few months, she looks forward to getting to know peers and professors and developing her company consultancy project.

She said: “I am very happy that I got the project on renewable energy and sustainability, so I look forward to learning more about this field. I hope to meet more people and alumni that are doing sustainability and circular projects.”

Jess Murphy, first-year MBA student at Trinity Business School

Jess Murphy, Trinity Business SchoolJess has worked in marketing and managed national brands in the US for a few years now, and she believes Trinity College Dublin's global MBA program will help her make the leap to managing global brands.

However, she admits she’d abandoned a lot of her expectations because of the pandemic but told us leadership at Trinity has created a very optimistic tone this year – about the opportunity to study resilience and market complexities in real time.

She said: “I believe adversity has a way of bonding people so I think our cohort will come out of this more connected.”

Trinity is taking a hybrid approach with two lectures per week in person and all other lectures over Zoom.

Students undertake six three-hour lectures per week and meet once or twice a week for auxiliary career development opportunities. Jess said: “That’s approximately 22 hours per week in lectures and around 20 more hours spent studying, preparing for class, and working on group projects.”

Jess’s Saturdays are reserved for exploring Dublin, with the cohort usually getting together for a Zoom pub quiz or drink along the canal.

Jess said: “The start of the program has certainly been different than we pictured with orientation and classes delivered online, but everyone is making the most of it.

“Participation in classes is high, we still meet over Zoom after hours for study groups or group projects, and students take it upon themselves to network – whether it’s a virtual coffee or a Zoom pub quiz!”

She said she feels supported by the school, and although collective safety is at the forefront of decision making, Trinity also cares about the students’ experience.

She said: “When we meet in person, we are required to wear masks, stay at least two meters apart, and follow the clearly marked traffic flow in the building.

“There is hand sanitizer available and we sanitize our desks before we leave class. All of these measures are enforced by building staff so people really do respect them.”

Like many other first-year MBA students, Jess hopes her cohort can reconvene in person more regularly in the upcoming months – in and out of class. If not, she hopes classes continue to be interesting and everyone stays optimistic, flexible, and focused.

Would Jess recommend Trinity’s MBA program? Absolutely. She said: “The professors are accomplished, personable and keen on making academic theories tangible and usable in the real world.

“The students in my cohort are driven, intelligent, and have a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. And the structure of the program fosters collaboration – not competition – so we can all learn from each other.” 

Niamh Ollerton, Deputy Head of Content at QS
Written by Niamh Ollerton

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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