An MBA in the middle of a pandemic? Sounds doable.

Updated: Dec 31, 2021

I first started thinking about getting an MBA at an international school towards the end of 2018 and began taking French classes again to brush up on my language skills. At this point, I was not sure if an MBA was the right next step for me or if it was necessary to pivot my career in a new direction, but I was interested in learning more. I went to information sessions for INSEAD and knew I found the right program - students from all over the world providing a truly global perspective, opportunity for travel at all times, and of course, stellar academics enabling a career pivot to strategy, VC, or almost any other career path. However, work still made the thought of adding one more thing to do onto my plate daunting. It was not until September 2019 I made a clear choice to pursue an MBA. Why then? I had attempted to work abroad but no path was proving to be fruitful without having an established network abroad, PLUS I finally figured out what I wanted to get out of my career. Making a career switch across continents is not all Eat, Pray, Love. It is mostly praying that a company will take a chance on you and sponsor a work visa if you do not already work at a company who has an international rotation program in place, and even those are generally highly competitive processes. Having an opportunity to earn an MBA and meet tons of people from around the world was the clear route. Balancing long work hours, managing health issues, studying for the GMAT, and writing essays was challenging, but ultimately, I finally knew what I was working towards.

The day I submitted my application was the first day of working from home for my company due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At first, people were mentioning this would only be a few weeks, maybe a couple months max, until Memorial Day. As the news cycles dragged on and the market plummeted, it was becoming more obvious that timeline was unlikely. I had my INSEAD alumni interviews via Zoom in April and was thankful to learn more about how alumni navigated the job search when graduating during times of uncertainty (2008 financial crisis and 2010 Euro crisis), which reassured me that if I gained admittance, I would continue to find my path after an MBA. I received admittance in May and by then, the pandemic appeared to be peaking. If this was peak, surely everything would be fine by January when classes would start? I was ecstatic that my hard work had paid off, and I was able to pursue my goals. There was still massive uncertainty about how an MBA would work in this environment if there was no vaccine, but I was in! I was so focused and elated about gaining admittance, I was hopeful that the COVID-19 pandemic would be under control by the time our January start date rolled around.

Clearly, now in November, the situation is not what we had hoped for back in May. France is back in lockdown mode, gatherings are limited, and Zoom classes are likely. Over the past months, I deliberated nonstop with myself over whether or not I should continue on this path or defer. While the MBA experience will not be close to what I had envisioned when starting the application process in 2019, this is the right time for me. I know what I want for my future, and why wait to start it? There have plenty of past life experiences showing me to take advantage of the present, and this is yet another example. Yes, there is disappointment that it will not be the same with large gatherings prohibited, learning how to make genuine connections over Zoom, and the ever-present question of what the job market will be like when I graduate. But what would my life look like if I did not pursue this? Would I be happy with my trajectory? I probably would find a way to be happy, but I would not be as joyful as I am about starting this next chapter. So throw every cliché in the book here: make lemonade out of lemons, find the silver lining, when one door closes another opens. They all mean the same thing - we must move on and create our own path forward. Will this path include another detour by having to change my flight for the seventh time in 3 months? Find out along with me at the end of November. Bonne chance à tous!

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