An important part of the MBA program is not just the participants, it is their partners and families. Suhani Arora shares her experiences from the perspective of an MBA partner.
We have been in the midst of an Indian Summer in Lausanne. The trees are a riot of colour, and the clear blue skies and unseasonable warmth make for a pleasant interlude before the city slowly succumbs to winter’s icy grasp.
It is a season of transition, and as such, this seems to be a good time to reflect on a truly remarkable year.
Until now, this blog has rightfully focused on the varied experiences of the IMD MBA Participants. At this point, I’d like to give you a sense of how the “other halves” live.
In many ways, the partners inhabit the margins of the all-encompassing MBA experience. We have a ringside view of the key events – right from the initial whirlwind of classes and group work to the anxiety-ridden search for jobs – but we also have the luxury of distance. For the MBAs, we often serve as a bridge to the “real” world; sustaining links to family and friends, providing perspective (and comfort) at difficult moments, and dealing with the minutiae of everyday life.
While we largely play a supporting role in the MBA journey, it’s easy to forget that we are also the protagonists of our own individual journeys this year.
And what a journey it has been.
For me, this has been a year of exhilarating experiences. Among other things, I’ve built a full life in a new city, navigated the awkwardness of learning a new language (before you ask, it’s still a work in progress), coached speakers for TEDxLausanne, ambled through the vineyards of Lavaux and Burgundy, discovered popular and little-known Swiss sights, hiked around blue mountain lakes, and explored several of the magnificent cities of Europe. I’ve made lifelong friends, regained a sense of balance in my life, tapped into a community of support, and found meaningful work that aligns perfectly with my values.
It wasn’t always an easy ride. At the beginning of our time in Lausanne, I felt an overwhelming anxiety about what lay in store. I detested the idea of being a “trailing spouse.” But the shoe seemed to fit – I had just quit an all-consuming job to follow my husband to a new country, with no real sense of direction or clarity on what I would do with my time.
Unexpectedly, however, with each passing day, each new friendship, and each tentative step outside my comfort zone, the apprehensions began to melt away as I embraced the experience in its entirety.
Later in the year, there were several moments of uncertainty and nagging doubts about what the future would hold. During these tense moments, I always found solace on the placid shores of Lake Geneva – taking in the breathtaking views and observing the lake’s still depths helped me focus on the here and now. Over many such visits, I was able to stop obsessing about the future and truly live in the present. For me, these moments of peace and reflection are among this year’s most cherished gifts.
At the beginning of the year the MBA participants embarked on a transformative journey. Over the past few months, they’ve learned a great deal about the world, about each other and about themselves. They’ve learned to lead, to work in teams and across cultures, and to tackle complex challenges.
As partners, we’ve learned similar lessons, albeit in very different ways. We’ve truly “walked the talk,” developing life skills, learning to deal with ambiguity, and putting our knowledge to the test in a myriad of real-world situations. And while the pace of our learning hasn’t been quite as relentless, our lessons are no less valuable.
Our time in Lausanne is drawing to a close. A few weeks from now, we will gather with family and friends to honour the hard work and accomplishments of the IMD MBA class. In this season of transition, the graduation festivities mark the end of one chapter and the beginning of a new one. And as we watch the ceremony with pride, I hope we will all take a moment to celebrate our own unique transformations.