With travel restrictions and strict regulations preventing WHU MBA students from socializing and networking in person, how can the students reach out and connect from their homes? What can those students around the world do to feel connected to their peers located in Europe? To combat this, WHU MBA students from the new and existing cohorts are hosting a series of online events, encouraging deeper conversations and connections in a more relaxed and informal setting. We caught up with some of the hosts to find out how these events bring the MBA experience to life and bring them closer together as an international community.
Traditionally during the first week of the WHU MBA Program, incoming students mix with enrolled students during the weeklong leadership task, the Future Leaders Fundraising Challenge at WHU Campus Düsseldorf. This gives them a chance to network and quickly form close friendships, however with the event implemented in a digital format for the first time and due to the intensive nature of the challenge, many students felt they still had not been able to socialize in the way they might have hoped. “The Future Leaders Fundraising Challenge is a great integration event; however we mixed only within our working groups and with professors often involved, so of course you have to be more professional. This social initiative was a perfect way to bond,” says Full-Time MBA student Marina Ferreira, who is currently attending lectures from her family home in Brazil.
Hosting a games night including an online trivia quiz and charades, Marina comments that getting to know her peers digitally has in some ways, been more beneficial than in person. “Perhaps if we were attending classes on campus, I would sit with the people I know or stay with my friendship group. But by connecting online, I have spoken to more people in the cohort and I feel like we are a close-knit group already because of it.”
“I wanted to break the ice with a TGIF event,” adds Full-Time MBA student Ariel Peña Ocando. “I thought a great way to start would be relaxing and drinking a beer together. When I started the MBA program last year, I felt a strong sense of support and collaboration from the rest of my cohort. Simple events like this really help to keep those values alive. It also helps me to feel less isolated – I’m an international student with no family in Germany, so to hear about other people’s experiences helps me to feel more connected.”
Another student who recently joined the WHU MBA program from abroad is Maria Treyvas, who attends lectures from her home in Moscow, Russia. “I chose to host an alumni insights event. It was fascinating to find out about different industries and perspectives, but it still felt relaxed and informal. Many of the alumni revealed their personal experiences and about how they grew with the program.” These particular events allow WHU MBA alumni to explain in more detail their current careers, how they use skills they learned during the MBA in their field of work while answering specific questions on their industries and the companies they work for.
One of the reasons Maria joined the WHU MBA Program was the networking culture, choosing to finally take a leap and experience living abroad whilst considering her next career step. “In Russia, we have ten years of school and then five years of university. In my fourth year, I started working and then committed to the job full time, so I never really had time to consider what I would do next. I decided to stop and make a change and gain some international experience while I have no responsibilities holding me back. This is my year for personal growth.” As for how connected she feels to the MBA community while in Russia, “it feels like a long-distance date” she smiles. “Before, I felt a little lost as nothing had changed, but now I recognize faces and I feel like I’m part of a community as we chat online all the time. I can’t wait to meet everyone in person.”