An important part of the IMD community is represented by the families of the MBAs: partners, spouses, children, and this year quite a few dogs too.
There are 45 partners in total for 2020 – some have decided to stay behind and some have relocated to Lausanne for part or the whole 11 months of this intense program.
Conscious of the difficulties of relocating and transitioning, IMD offers an integration program that helps MBA spouses and partners settle in as quickly and as smoothly as possible. A part of it is dedicated to all things admin of course, but transitioning is not just about getting your permits and finding out how the washing machine rota works in your building (don’t ask, it’s a Swiss thing!!). For me, an alumna partner and now running the program, it is also about honouring the space between the life they left behind and the life they are building anew here in Lausanne.
Not an easy nor comfortable exercise when you land in a new country, when your MBA has been sucked in the vortex of accounting, finance, marketing, start-up projects etc. and you have to create your life, your routine, your support system and your community, from scratch.
First and foremost we need to build our own community – the partners are just as diverse as the MBA class, so how do we start to relate to each other without a common goal like getting an MBA? Nicola Winzenried, in a series of workshops, explains to us what culture is, the challenges of multicultural environments and how to relate to the Swiss!
Another important element is the language: to learn or not to learn French? With Lausanne being such an international city you don’t really need to. The question is: do you want to and how much time, effort and money are you willing to invest? We find out the answers with Irene Jarish from Nextoyou who with her hands-on methods, her next to you approach, teaches us the basics of French along with the basics of living in a new environment.
Part of many people’s structure of course is working – as portable and portfolio careers become more widespread, many take their work with them. Those that want to look at what the local market has to offer join IDCN, a volunteer organisation facilitating the integration of mobile employee partners, others have their own job-hunting strategies.
And then there is parenting. Lausanne is a very family-friendly city and with patience and perseverance, mostly patience, parents and children too find new structures and routines.
In this neutral zone of exploration, of gathering intel on the possibilities available, we are reminded by our yoga teacher Sarah Macdonald to take time to honour our bodies, to feel into this space of endings and new beginnings. After all, this is also an opportunity to explore, grow, challenge and learn more about ourselves, not just the new environment.
And little by little, the partners build their new lives – volleyball club and first match (won!), childcare sorted, playdates arranged, first interviews lined up, Dinner box delivered, studying routine organised, terrace garden planted, and the list goes on – as you can see on the post-its from our last workshop, where Ariane Wunderli helped us though Lego serious play to literally ‘build’ our year, an amazingly powerful tool to visualise plans and strategies and ultimately to bond our group while having fun!
For now though, the partner program takes a break, so go live Lausanne!