Sep 04, 2023

Unmasking The Reality: My Pandemic-Stricken International MBA Journey

Preethi Abraham   GMP 2022

People considered me a wizkid. Science and Mathematics were subjects that always intrigued me. I knew from the very beginning that I wanted to pursue engineering, Electronics and Telecommunication seemed like the ideal course for me since it would give me an opportunity to grow my skill set in computers too.

I did my undergrad from Dwarkadas J. Sanghvi College of Engineering, Mumbai. As planned, most of my subjects revolved around the programme – signals, processings, radio frequencies, etc. I also had slightly different, programming-related subjects like Java, and C++ as they are deemed important. This is when I discovered my interest in computer science, catapulting me towards a master’s programme in something which is business-oriented and technical too at the same time.

I knew what I wanted, and went for it!

Usually, graduates choose to work and gain a few years of work experience before going for their master’s. However, I knew I wanted to study first, have all my degrees in hand, and then work. Business Analytics seemed like the best option!

I also wanted to go to the United States for my master’s – because I have always felt that the quality and the education system there is robust in every way. Another reason was that once you have a degree from a university in the United States, opportunities around the world open up for you as the degree is valid across the globe and not just in that very country. Lastly, you will find people from all over the world, in the United States, which is true for other countries as well, but only to that extent. The USA has a diverse population and fusion of various cultures. It’s exciting to coexist harmoniously with friends from all over the world, from various backgrounds and beliefs. So, I was crystal clear about going overseas for my further studies specifically to the U.S.A., and was already preparing for the entrance during my undergraduate itself.

Not one, but two!!

As per the plan, I applied and did get admission to several universities in the US.

While preparing, applying, and getting shortlisted in universities, I learned about the Global Management Programme being offered by SPJIMR. Although cracking the admissions was no cakewalk.

Not one, but two!

While applying directly for your master’s at business schools in the US, there is no “interview process”. It’s rather simple – you apply, submit your Statement of Purpose and Letter of Recommendation and you are shortlisted/ selected based on your application with this top B-school in India that I was fortunate to be a part of – cracking SPJIMR’s admissions was just level one, I was also required to prepare for the partner B-school’s interview. So, first, one must ensure that you clear the GMP interview, then go through the interview process for Brandeis International Business School US (in my case), or whichever B-school you choose.

Selfies to Screenshots

Selfies to Screenshots

Our sessions started and then the pandemic struck. We moved from on campus to online classes. Life as we knew changed overnight. In-person conversations became video calls, textbooks became pdfs, and classrooms were replaced with laptop screens. The first semester was completely online, classes, group work, everything. Group projects and collaborations are a lot of fun with little work happening at the last minute, but since we had not met anyone ever, the lack of familiarity made the projects so boring and monotonous. Selfies were replaced by screenshots. I spent half my time checking with my classmates if I was audible, and the rest of the time was arguing over who gets to speak first. We were all cooped up at home, and the feeling of being trapped affected my batchmates to quite an extent.


It was scary to see seemingly healthy individuals engulfed with anxiety, deteriorating mentally, struggling with the ill health of family members. People were losing their fight against covid and all of us were anxious and felt helpless. I realised the fear, anxiety, and paranoia had consumed me so much that I did not appreciate my “mom-cooked” meals, the rent-free accommodation I had been living in, the constant love and affection from my parents who sanitised all my impulse buys from Amazon so that I wouldn’t have to dirty my hands.

I realised that I had worked extremely hard to fall prey to mental illnesses. Practising gratitude for whatever I have, and make the most of wherever I am is what helped me keep sane. I kept myself busy and positive by reading books, watching TV shows, and most importantly – keeping myself away from negative news, even if that meant spending less time on social media. All I hoped and prayed was for everything to go back to normal ASAP! There was still a lot of uncertainty as we were unsure when the travel restrictions would be lifted and we would be at the partner school.

Things slowly started to change for the better, the number of cases reduced and we were finally where we were supposed to be! We were adapting to the new “normal”. Masks – a must, stores partially opened, and the streets were deserted. The world was taking baby steps, and I stood there waiting impatiently to hustle! I wanted to be on campus, meet new people, make new friends, experience a new culture, attend lectures, brainstorm, get an on-campus job, and travel. This is not what I had signed up for!! I yearned for all this and deep down I was disturbed, a little lonely and missed home too.

The culture at Brandeis was so welcoming and warm!! One could be involved in numerous activities on campus. It was a welcome change and I made the most of it. Within the first few weeks, I managed to get my first on-campus job as a peer mentor, and then as a student assistant – which gave me the opportunity to interact and network both with students, as well as with professors. Teaching methodology in the U.S. differs greatly from India. Professors in the United States have a lot of control over the grades, however, at the same time, your grades are not solely dependent on your presentation, group work and exam scores, but on various other factors as well. Universities and educational institutions follow immersive learning strategies, and believe in “hands-on training” and learning practically through live projects, and classroom participation. Group projects require constant interaction and collaboration with people from diverse cultures, this helps you to learn about your subject and also about people in general.

I worked as a Teaching Assistant for three courses and being part of the Office of Academic Affairs was an enriching opportunity! I was immensely grateful to have received the Kate Goldfield Community Leadership Award for my involvement in several such roles at Brandeis. It was an absolute honour to work as a Research Assistant for the Dean’s Office and the Ph.D. Review Committee.

Hard work always pays off

Finding a job in a foreign country is hard. “Campus placements” or “ Placement cell”, do not exist in American schools. YOU are responsible for yourself! So, the onus is on you to go all out, interact with people, and get yourself a job! The companies are inclined towards recruiting Americans or citizen. Since I was a fresher with no work experience at all, it was harder for me, since companies prefer candidates with at least 1-2 years of experience. I did everything I could – I reached out to my professors, GMP and Brandeis alumni, and industry people on LinkedIn and built my connections. Of course, I applied to a gazillion jobs at the same time. I faced rejections one after the other which was depressing, so it’s extremely important to remain positive and be occupied throughout the process, upskills if you must. My internship as a data analyst started during my third semester at Clean Tech Open- NECEC in Boston, and I continued my job hunt at the same time. Right after my graduation, I was offered a job as an Analyst at Analysis Group in Los Angeles (currently working here). It’s exciting to explore a new city (LA) after Boston.

Hard work always pays off

Handle all kinds of situations, graciously!

I was an engineer and had absolutely no idea of what management studies entailed. I was clueless about hardcore management subjects like marketing, finance, operations etc. But SPJIMR’s GMP ensured a solid foundation in all such subjects, within a span of 6 months. I did not instantly understand all subjects at once, but yes, GMP familiarised me with them, and so, I got the hang of all those concepts easily when they were taught at Brandeis. It basically set me up for the complexities, yet to come. The initial 6 months in India were not easy either, but rather the toughest since they had to mentally train the students to handle all kinds of situations graciously, which in my opinion is one of the most important skills to have.

I can’t recommend SPJIMR enough to the management aspirants, especially to the ones looking to move overseas. SPJIMR’s Global Management Programme is a dream! Pursuing a master’s degree from a foreign university via this programme would even prove to be more economical than doing it directly from there.

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