Life as an MBA student in times of a global crisis

July 1 2020
The coronavirus crisis has changed our lives drastically, also that of full-time MBA students Renan Schroeder and German Lai. They tell about the impact the crisis has on them, their reasons for pursuing an MBA in Europe, and their hope for the future.

Renan Schroeder_low-resRenan, originally from Brazil, did the final thesis for his bachelor’s in engineering in Germany previously, so Europe was not new to him. After quite some years working in an industrial environment, he realized that he was lacking knowledge in business administration, for instance financial management. “So, I decided to do an MBA to improve my business skills and to prepare myself for the next step in my career. I choose Amsterdam as there are a lot of job opportunities. Also, Nyenrode stood out for me because of the connections the university has with a lot of big companies; companies I would like to work for after finishing my MBA.”

Enhancing communication skills

German Lai_low-resTaiwanese student German had different reasons for enrolling at Nyenrode University: “I love culture and history, that’s why I wanted to study in Europe. During previous visits to Europe, I noticed that people in the Netherlands are more friendly than in other countries. So, I asked my friends in Taiwan about the best Dutch university to do an MBA. Nyenrode was mentioned often and after receiving more information I decided to choose this university.” German adds laughing: “But what really appealed to me was the Nyenrode castle, as I love culture and history.” German’s main goal for doing an MBA was to improve his communication skills in English to get more confidence. “My second goal was to build an international network. That is what you need if you want to change your career. I think doing an MBA is the easiest way to build a network, because of the many interactions with well-known companies and the dedicated Nyenrode alumni.

Change your mindset

And then there was the coronavirus outbreak. “Of course, a lot of things changed,” says Renan. “Considering that networking was my main goal, the crisis had a huge impact on that. The opportunities to get in contact with companies around Europa, an important part of the MBA for me, completely vanished. But after a while, I started to shift my focus to what do I have to do to finish my MBA and sucessfully return to the job market? I changed my mindset. A positive outcome of the online lessons is that we’re developing different digital communication skills, which in this changing world have now become essential.”

Crisis awareness

German: “MBA students come from a lot of different countries. Everyone has access to news in their own country. So, everybody had a different point of view on the virus. In my case, Taiwan immediately imposed strict regulations, so we didn’t have a big disaster.” German has experienced several disaster in his life. “When I was 12 years old, there was an earthquake in Taiwan. During my high school years there was the SARS outbreak and now, during my MBA, the coronavirus crisis.” Therefore, German has a lot of crisis awareness and wanted Nyenrode to take action. “I wrote a letter to the University about my experience in Taiwan.” The crisis also emphasized cultural differences: “My mother asked me to wear a face mask, but I said that I needed to respect the culture over here. On the other hand, going to the supermarket after the outbreak felt different for me as an Asian.”

Bringing hope for the future

For the module Organisational Leadership & Talent Management, organized by Prof. dr. Lidewey van der Sluis, German and Renan made a video. “We learned there are three phases after a disaster: first empathy to understand the problem, secondly hope so people can think of a better future and finally reconstruction after recovery and having created passion in people,” Renan explains. “In the video, we combined these three phases with Nyenrode’s three core values, namely Leadership, Entrepreneurship, and Stewardship. We proposed some ideas and actions of how we as expats in the Netherlands could help our friends and fellow MBA students to react to the crisis and recover our careers.”

German adds: “We are facing a new reality, for example with virtual classrooms. In the video, we wanted to show that we need and can accept new technology.” The students choose the material and music of the video carefully. “Everything has a meaning,” says German, who choose the images and music. “For example, the video starts with dancers on a stage, their body language is angry and full of energy. To deal with this crisis, we need to release our emotions. We also wanted to bring hope. That is why we incorporated Colour Symphony of the Light Festival in Eindhoven. Also, the lyrics of the music are about hope. In the end, with the video we want to increase crisis awareness and faith in the future. We can be more flexible if needed. And we can still have contact with family and friends.”

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