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Why We Both Chose emlyon: Meet the Couple Studying an MBA Together

lyon emlyon business school

Taking the plunge to go to business school is a big decision. More often than not you’ll move to a new city or country, leave your job, and in many instances leave your family behind so you can embark on your next educational endeavor.

But that’s not how Maria and Jonathan’s MBA story evolved. The Colombian couple chose to attend emlyon business school this fall together – with both students deciding now was the right time for them, and that studying together would also mean they could keep their family unit together.

Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic has meant emlyon decided to postpone the MBA academic year until January 2021, but we still caught up with Maria and Jonathan to find out what business school as a family unit means to them.

Why we’re both studying at emlyon

Maria and Jonathan emlyon coupleThere are a lot of factors to take into account when choosing the right business school and MBA program.

Maria and Jonathan (pictured) are both entrepreneurs, and through their research they found that emlyon’s MBA program was very focused on entrepreneurship – something the couple really liked.

Maria also admits that herself and Jonathan don’t believe in long distance relationships, a driving factor that helped them decide now was the right time to earn their MBA together.

She said: “We always wanted to do an MBA and we fell in love with Lyon when we visited last year.

“We applied to three or four schools, and we said if one accepted both of us, that would be the one we chose.

“We want to be together; we want to go through this big experience together; we know we can be a big support for each other.

“He's my best friend, and I'm his, so it's a great opportunity and experience. We are already a family; we believe families belong together.”

Expanding our horizons

Jonathan and Maria come from quite different industry backgrounds. Jonathan is from the energy sector, and Maria’s background is the beauty industry and luxury.

Maria would like to remain in the same industry – and she thinks France is a great place for it – whereas Jonathan is looking for a bit of change.

He said: “I have been working in the oil and gas industry for nine years. I’m currently the Director of Operations for our oil and gas service company, and I want to reshape my career. I want to advance my career in a different direction in operations and even a different industry.

“I think the program really fits. I think the industry is always growing, so it’s important to upgrade our skills and keep up with the needs of the job market. And I think it's better to do it together, because we can support each other.”

How emlyon is keeping students involved during the pandemic

Although emlyon has postponed its MBA start date to January, that doesn’t mean the business school has forgotten about its students.

Students recently had their first intro session, met the program director, and were also introduced to a couple of professors from the program.

Maria said: “Nobody was prepared for this last year. We didn’t know when we accepted that a pandemic was coming, and neither did they, so I think they approached the problem correctly and were thinking about the students.”

Although France opened up a few months ago, emlyon was well aware most of its MBA students would be international, and so they made changes to the structure of the program so no one would miss out.

Maria said: “They decided to postpone the intake until 2021, which I think was the right approach. They've done webinars to keep us up to date about what they decide to do.

“We have a recruiter communicating with us, so, in case you have any questions, you can book a meeting with her.”

Emlyon will also be offering free courses in the upcoming months until December, enabling students to brush up on business skills or even take French classes before MBA classes begin. Maria said: “emlyon took the time and came up with the right approach. It wasn't easy for anybody, but we are all happy with the result.”

This international aspect to emlyon’s program was actually one of the key factors behind Maria and Jonathan choosing the school.

Maria said: “I think they created a really great program that will be a match for a lot of students. They don't just want French students; they want an international cohort. A lot of professors are from different backgrounds, nationalities, and cultures, and I think that helps international students feel comfortable.”

Diversity is key on an MBA program, as meeting new people from diverse backgrounds is what business is all about.

Maria said: “We asked recruiters and researched schools – what was diversity like within the cohort, the percentage of other nationalities from the MBA country, the ratio of men and women.”

Emlyon’s MBA cohorts boasts 40 percent women with over 130 nationalities represented – from a multitude of cultures, industries and backgrounds. Maria said: “That was really important to us, and I'm sure I'm speaking for many people.”

Making the most of quarantine

Maria admits it’s been a very anxious time in the run up to the start of their MBA. The pandemic started two months before they needed to sort visas, look for an apartment, and move across continents.

She said: “We’d talked to our jobs, sorted our finances, thought about our apartment, what we were going to do with our apartment in Columbia, we had talked to our friends – everybody knew we were leaving, and then this happens.”

But it isn’t all doom and gloom. Maria and Jonathan have made the most of their quarantine in Colombia – starting French classes and have even bought a dog to accompany them on their MBA adventure. Maria said: “We managed to have our lives back, even if there was a pandemic and our big plan was postponed, but I think that's a good way of looking at it.”

Although it’s been a bumpy ride, are they still looking forward to the program?

Maria said: “Definitely. We're very excited to have an MBA and about the outcomes, because we both want to step up in our careers.

“It's going to be an experience, not only for the MBA, but for experiencing the process together. I think as a family, it's a really huge project we're about to get into.”

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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