Thursday, 27 June 2013

Life changing ? Plenary Week for Distance Learning students at Royal Holloway

This story will no doubt bring a wee tear to my fellow MBA seminar group member, Nicky, who like many of you is an avid reader - but never makes any comments.  HINT, hint !
It's plenary week starting on Monday - one of the busiest weeks of my year.  But also one of the best.  This year we are welcoming 107 students who are truly amazing.  Why ?  Because not only do most of them have full time career jobs, many are parents, all are high energy individuals - but they choose to invest in their business education by following a University of London MSc or MBA in international management.  Hats off to you all !!  I know just how hard it is to do, having studied both my masters degrees whilst working full time.

Graduation Albert and Elena
Sometimes plenary week is more than just making friends with a group of talented individuals from around the world.  Sometimes you get quite a lot more than you bargained for !
I hand over to Elena (pictured on the left, with Albert) who writes in her own words:

"When the idea of getting a British degree popped into my mind, I only wanted to enhance my academic background. If someone told me that I’d go to the graduation ceremony with a ring on my finger, I’d probably reply“uh-huh, of course”. But this is exactly what I will do in two weeks and my husband will be in the audience."

"I did my MBA in Royal Holloway, University of London. The programme required all international students to come twice to the university grounds for plenary sessions. After months of seeing only books and laptop screens for my education, meeting fellow students from around the world was incomparably great. My first plenary session happened nearly three years ago and I clearly remember one lecture on international strategy: there was a question from the lecturer, I said something and suddenly another guy from the audience spoke up to disagree with me. “How nice of him,” was my sour thought. When his name showed up in my group for the second plenary, when we had a group project, I prepared myself for the worst."

"We had five days to do the group project. On the first day, he turned out to be a great guy with a great sense of humour. On the second day, I had a funny feeling in my stomach when I looked at him. On the third day, the funny feeling changed to goosebumps down my spine when I’d catch his eyes on me. On the fourth day, other people were asking me if anything was going on between me and him. On the fifth day, I felt despaired knowing that our group project was over and we were going back to our homes in different countries. On the sixth day, we were officially together."

Albert and Elena met a distance learning plenary study weeks at Egham

"No other thing but distance shows how serious the two are about each other. You either grow apart, unable and / or unwilling to keep the relationship going, or you understand that you want it so much that you will move the mountains to be together. Especially when the two of you are still the students of Royal Holloway! Then again, my now husband lived in Rome then, so there was a time when we prepared for the exams in his home, with beautiful Italian wines and food. I had the best exam marks afterwards."

"I lost count of how many assignments I wrote on the planes that were taking me to and from him, but I will always remember how I was editing my dissertation on the way to New York - it was our first vacation together: he, being a more organized student, had finished his and was sleeping like nobody’s business, while I was zealously recalculating brand equity parameters in turbulence."

"An MBA with Distinction feels so much better when there’s a beloved person to share the experience with - all the sleepless nights over books and all the nerves before the exams, all the “I can’t take this anymore's”, but also all the joys of seeing the exam marks and all the pride of watching each other wearing a robe for graduation."

"What did I get as a result of my studies? Much more than I wanted when I applied - and it’s my own little family."
Reach for the tissues Nicky !