by Alexandra Heye, MiM2020
I am writing this post around two months after handing in my final submission for the MiM2020 programme, after having spent the past six months with my family back in Switzerland – spot the error. 2020 started off as a super promising year, but quickly turned into what no one would have imagined. My last vivid memory (and one of the best I have) on LBS campus is the Tattoo festival in the beginning of March – just a few days later, on-campus classes stopped, peers left for their home countries and zoom became the new normal… My main thoughts were revolving around things like “that’s it”, “the whole LBS experience has been cut to six months”, “the people I haven’t really had the chance to bond with will never become friends” and “I’ll never have the full academic benefit of the programme”. And that is when the true LBS spirit kicked in. But what do I mean by that?
1. Social perspective: virtual Sundowners, zoom lectures and keeping in touch
The thought of having hundreds of students sitting alone in their room (with a beer) and talking to their screen might seem odd at first. But there is nothing that connects more than sharing the same problems. While the real Sundowners at LBS are clearly the most amazing opportunity to meet people, you often found yourself talking to the same bunch of people that you were starting to grow closer to. However, being put into zoom breakout rooms with complete strangers forced everyone to move beyond their comfort zone and connect with people they might not have approached in the real-life setting. The same applied to the breakout rooms that were formed in the virtual lectures: especially in the electives, where students from different programmes are mixed. On top of that, I was almost surprised to find my peers and myself in such frequent contact (way beyond academic group meetings) and felt that despite us only spending six months together, some true and strong friendships had formed. LBS made us grow so close in this short time that even though I have not seen most of these friends in the past half a year, I am very confident that those friendships were formed to last!
2. Academic perspective: zoom lectures and broadening of offered courses
Clearly, the new virtual environment was not only a challenge to the students, but moreover to professors and faculty. I was extremely positively surprised by the pace at which schedules were changed, lecture content was adapted and teaching materials were shifted to all-online. My initial fear of not being able to grasp the full academic benefits of the programme, disappeared even faster than it came. While on-campus, professors have always been extremely approachable and supportive, it was fantastic so experience how much they cared even in the virtual setting. Despite them facing those new challenges themselves, their responsiveness to emails, their flexibility in terms of assessments and their sensitivity to students’ individual concerns and situations made this experience a very special one. Furthermore, LBS’s care for its students and its striving to offer the best possible experience was reflected in the broadening of offered courses. Since lectures had to be recorded, many courses were made available to the broader LBS community to watch, based on any interest that went beyond the core studies and chosen electives. For me personally, this enriched my academic experience to an extent I had never imagined.
3. Community perspective: from podcasts to webinars and initiatives
Finally, LBS would not be LBS if it did not create a sense of community across a global network. With student clubs and the Student Association providing a whole range of podcasts and webinars, we were not only able to expand our horizon and follow personal interests (even more than on-campus, given that everyone clearly had more time…). Moreover, joining these voluntary opportunities created a very special sense of community with people that not only originate in different countries and are brought together in London, but with people that are actually scattered across continents the very moment you interact with them. Taking it further, students set up various voluntary initiatives with the support of LBS to not only strengthen our internal community but also to give back to the ones surrounding us and most in need.
These are only a couple of examples that I personally felt really impacted my LBS experience and turned it into something extremely special and valuable – despite the unprecedented circumstances. For everyone considering to join LBS, let me assure you that if there are any positive things to extract from these challenging times, LBS and its strong community certainly have what it takes to do so!