In early November, with Covid-19 cases rising in the United Kingdom and around the world, the UK government announced a month-long lockdown to help curb the spread of the virus.
With the weather turning cold, days getting shorter, and coursework in full swing, this was unwelcome news, to say the least. Many of us felt flickers from the spring, a time when we were most isolated, forced to stay home, and felt especially disconnected from loved ones. We knew the changes, which forced all non-essential businesses to close and all but eliminated social gatherings, would be challenging. As the lockdown began though, and in typical MBA fashion, our cohort acted swiftly to set up ways for us all to stay connected and well during this time.
In the Zoom world classmates hosted morning HIIT workouts, yoga classes, meditation sits, and journaling sessions. Our Technology OBN (Oxford Business Network) hosted events and challenges in recognition of Movember and men’s mental health. Others hosted virtual cocktail-making classes and cooking competitions. Outdoors, our morning running group shifted from group runs to running in pairs to align with the UK’s new guidance. We also organized “Walk and Talks” where students could sign up for time slots throughout the week and be randomly assigned to another classmate for an hour walk.
Despite the shutdown, universities across the country actually stayed open during this time, which meant we were all able to continue to attend classes in person, use space at SBS to study, and gather safely with classmates in the dining room and café. Since September, many of us have been grateful to the SBS administration for their work to make the building safe and accessible to us. This includes faculty and staff taking turns coming to the school – or avoiding working in person at all – so more students can be there safely. Last month was no exception as the school remained a place for us to study, network, and learn at a time when we needed it more than ever.
Many still ask if this is the “right time” to get an MBA. We muse about it with each other as we take note of how our experience has been different than other cohorts. We reflect on it in response to questions asked by family and friends not in Oxford. We even write about it on this blog and discuss it with prospective MBAs. When I wrote my first post on the SBS blog in September, I talked about how before we even got to Oxford I believed our class was bonded in a unique way because we all chose to pursue an MBA during a pandemic. I now feel that more than ever. I’ve seen our cohort assemble and share their skills in creative ways to support each other. I’ve watched students work tirelessly to organize activities for “single-person households” even when they lived in a house with several classmates. And I’ve witnessed kindness, commitment, and authenticity in my classmates that all of our business leaders should have. It makes me hopeful.
If I’ve learned one thing, it is that there is no perfect solution to anything during this pandemic. And as the months pass and we find ourselves in our latest uncharted Covid-19 territory, we are continuously called to find new and even more creative ways to stay well, connected, and engaged. While it hasn’t been easy, watching our cohort’s efforts over the last several weeks makes me optimistic, both for the rest of our year together and for what we will all contribute to the world long after our time at Oxford.
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