by Plamen Todorov, MiF Part-time 2021
The Christmas break is over and the quiet holiday time gave me a chance to reflect on my first several months at LBS as a Masters in Finance (MiF) part-time student, commuting from Germany and juggling between my high-intensity full-time job, LBS studies, and family commitments as a husband and father of a 1-year old son. What follows below are 7 key takeaways that anyone in a similar situation to mine considering part-time MiF should keep in mind.
1. You are unlikely to be an outlier
Before starting the MiF programme and meeting my classmates, I thought I would be one of the maximum 2-3 individuals commuting from continental Europe. Come the first day of the programme, I quickly realised this couldn’t be far from the truth. Almost 20% of my class of 75 turned out to be commuting from various countries across continental Europe, including Germany, Switzerland, France, Denmark, Belgium, Finland, Spain, Netherlands and Italy. The world, and Europe in particular, does seem to have shrunk!
2. Planning logistics is key
Inevitably, commuting from continental Europe is related to some extra costs that London-based students do not face. Regardless of whether you are a sponsored or self-financed student, you are likely to face some budget restrictions. Thankfully, LBS makes it easy for you to plan long-term and keep those commuting costs at a minimum. Already months before the start of the MiF programme, I got my lecture plan for the full Year 1, allowing me to get some real bargains by booking my flights and accommodation well in advance.
3. Keep a flexible approach to studying
The reality of commuting is that you will spend a considerable amount of time on the road. Whereas in the past, I needed a quiet room to focus and study, I quickly realised I needed to use my commute efficiently if I were to stand a chance of succeeding in the programme. I bought a pair of noise-cancelling headphones and created a playlist of favourite songs that I kept listening to. Over time, I conditioned myself to remain focused and be able to study almost anywhere and anytime, as long as my laptop is with me, my headphones are on and my favorite tunes are playing.
4. Technology helps you breach the distance…
The study group is a central aspect of LBS students’ life and your academic success crucially depends on how well your study group functions. This can be quite challenging though when, like in my case, your study group is comprised of 6 people spread across 3 countries and 2 time zones. Thankfully, my teammates and I have been on the same page when it comes to technology and have embraced everything that helps us breach the distance between us. Time scheduling, communication, conference calls, file sharing and editing – almost everything we do is online and that helps us coordinate and meet the (oftentimes) tight deadlines we face.
5. …but face-to-face contact remains crucial
There is so much about LBS that goes beyond academics and yet all of it boils down to building those friendships and relationships that will support you well after graduation. Part-time MiF students face some challenges in this respect simply because we have less time to spend on campus. Being a commuter raises this challenge further and everyone tackles this issue in a unique way. Personally, I try to be flexible and get the most of my limited time on campus – making sure I connect with those of my classmates, with whom we have developed close friendships, but also taking every opportunity to meet new people and expand my network.
6. Securing support from your family is a must
I am fortunate enough to have a wife, who is a professional recruiter with a very clear understanding of the value that the LBS MiF degree has to offer. Nevertheless, this makes it no easier for her when I set off for London and leave her alone with our 1-year-old son. Doing the part-time MiF is indeed taxing for us students, but it is equally challenging for the people surrounding us who need to deal with our physical absence and, at times, emotional exhaustion. I am a strong believer that you cannot succeed as a part-time MiF student unless you have strong support from your significant ones. So, even before you apply to LBS, I urge you to have a conversation with your loved ones and make sure they fully understand the meaning of a part-time MiF and the level of commitment it requires.
7. Do not forget to rest
Being a part-time student, it is all too easy to get engulfed in the neverending slew of work, assignments and deadlines. I suffered from this a few years ago when I was working and studying for my CFA exams, and I hardly took any days off. Having learned my lesson, I approached the part-time MiF in a much more structured way. At the very start of the programme, I clearly communicated to everyone that I am not going to work or study on Sundays as these days are reserved for my family. 6 months down the road, I think this was one of my best calls – not only do I rest, recharge my batteries and spend precious time with my family but I am also motivated and disciplined to become ever more efficient and squeeze all the work, projects and assignments into 6 days of the week.
Difficult as they have been at times, my first couple of months at LBS have been an amazing experience of personal growth and pride of being part of this amazing institution and community. If you are in a similar situation to me and consider applying to LBS, keep in mind the above points and remember that if I can make it, you can make it too.