The Weekend MBA Experience at Imperial College Business School
Guest post by Nina Lynn.
Nina is a WMBA candidate at Imperial College Business School. Originally from the US, she started her MBA journey in April 2020 in the UK, where she’s been located since November 2014. Nina’s professional background is in shipping and oil products, and she is currently a Customer Success Manager at SaaS subsidiary of a multinational shipping company.
Starting the Journey
When it came to applying to MBA programs, for me it was a matter of when, rather than if! I’ve known since undergrad that I would want to pursue an MBA but needed to find the right time. Having been in London since November 2014 and with no plans to go anywhere else anytime soon, I began the hunt for the right program fit back in about 2016 but seemed to find every excuse not to apply. Fast forward to July 2019, during a turbulent time both personally and professionally, an email from Imperial arrived in my inbox about sending CVs for a fast-track admissions day. It seemed like a sign, and the rest is history!
I’m hoping to use the MBA to gain a foundational set of skills to handle and assess a broad range of situations, as I felt slightly narrowed in my career in shipping and oil products. I was also interested in taking courses that I was not able to in undergrads, like Corporate Finance and Marketing, and expanding my network to learn from a professionally and culturally diverse cohort of students. I chose Imperial as I was looking to stay in the UK preferably London, and study part-time as I didn’t quite have enough experience for EMBA programs. Imperial was also attractive because of its strong reputation across several areas in addition to business, such as science/medicine and technology as well as its strong faculty and culturally and professionally diverse students.
Lendwise really made my MBA goals possible by closing my funding gap and was the most convenient option for an international student. I had some other options but they didn’t offer the same ease as a Lendwise student loan. The team has also been nothing but helpful during the process as well!
To Zoom or Not to Zoom?
Once funding was secured and induction week approached, the reality of my MBA was not what I anticipated in light of COVID-19. Initially, I was hesitant to proceed with the program in April 2020 after the university announced it would be moving to online delivery via Zoom. I know I learn most efficiently in a classroom and was uncertain if I could be as productive at home. Was there any harm in deferring for one year? However, I quickly realized that in my professional life, I interacted with people remotely on a daily basis and that this would be an opportunity to develop a further skill set in operating under such unusual conditions.
One of the main challenges of multi-modal learning was of course the distractions at home. I think we believe we can multitask more at home, and this was only amplified by the fact that we were all working from home as well. However, I think studying (while doing everything else at home) requires laser focus and constant discipline. There was consolation in the fact that everyone else was having the same struggles, and the Imperial professors and programme team were excellent in providing as much support as possible.
Once we were permitted on campus, it was an exciting and strange experience to see each other in person but be limited by social distancing guidelines and masks. As excited as I was to be in the classroom, I really felt that everyone who was virtual missed out on both the socially distanced socializing and the dynamic of being in a live lecture. Our professors’ copilots adjusted to their roles and did their best to switch cameras on and off, zoom in and out, pass microphones, and manage the range of inputs for content sharing as well as involve those remote students. After a great on-campus experience, I was worried that my projected remote weekends in November and December were going to be disappointing in comparison. However, I can say that I was pleasantly surprised and found that being a virtual part of a live lecture can be just as engaging.
Making It All Work
Whether in lockdown at home or not, studying and working concurrently has been an unexpected challenge; I thought it was going to be a breeze. I think everything – stress, boredom, tendencies to spread oneself too thin – is augmented while we’re at home, and it takes ruthless discipline to stay on track and also know when to take a break. If I’ve learned anything about myself during this experience, it’s that you cannot pour from an empty cup. You cannot continuously drain yourself expecting to be at the top of your game. Although it may seem like nothing, working an extra hour will add up. Don’t always assume that staying up until all hours to finish your studying is the only way to get things done. On several occasions, I have learned it’s better to take care of myself than it is to slave away at the textbooks!
Also remember, you do not have to do this alone. Chances are you have a syndicate group that you’re studying with, your partners/flatmates, friends and family (although probably virtually these days), and colleagues, who would be more than happy to help. One of my biggest hurdles has been accepting help from others which I have resisted in the past.
My actual MBA experience has not at all resembled what I anticipated, and has taken a lot more willpower and energy than imagined. However, just about halfway through my program and I am so happy I continued with the program as planned in spite of the pandemic. I think myself and my cohort will be more resilient because of it!
Read more about postgraduate student experiences.