test

B-School Partners Share Their Challenges

It’s that time of year again when first semesters have started at a lot of the top business schools worldwide. B-schools are infamous for their all-consuming environments. Hand in hand with that, come the relationship road bumps that constantly take place in B-schoolers’ and B-school partners’ lives.

Adapted from the book by Mona Bijjani, The Unofficial Guide To B-School Partner Life

As new B-school partners enter the B-school bubble, others are reflecting on their first year while in their second, and multiple others have long completed it. What better way to understand how to handle and thrive in the  partner experience other than from people who’ve been there and understand what it’s all about? From London Business School and INSEAD to Harvard Business School and Wharton, eight B-school partners share their tips on surviving and thriving the experience, as well as their biggest challenges, below.

Leticia Seder, INSEAD Partner: 

Top tip(s) on surviving and enjoying the experience:

You need to understand that the big change is not only in your B-schooler’s life as they have started B-school, but also in yours! Take the time to do what pleases you in that time. You can study something new, improve an ability and/or develop a project in any area. You will probably be surrounded by very interesting people too, so get to know them whilst you are there.

Biggest challenge(s):

Be patient when your partner is busy. Busy can even mean just hanging out with friends – this is a very important part of the B-school experience! Also, always try to see the good side of things, enjoy the experience and be part of it – grow together with your B-schooler.

Berthe Macaron, London Business School Partner: 

Top tip(s) on surviving and enjoying the experience:

I think surviving comes as a mandatory option when you are a B-school partner! I mean what else can you do? What other choice do you have? So while you are at it, why not enjoy it! Celebrate! The best thing is that you get to take part in all the celebrations without doing any homework. Celebrate every end of a course, every beginning if you want, every A+, every project, and before you know it, you will find yourself attending the graduation ceremony!

Biggest challenge(s):

Being a B-school partner makes you feel like you are paying for goods you didn’t buy. You give up your family time for his/her study time, you mess up your schedule for his/her, you take charge of all daily life tasks and obligations because he/she dropped them for a group project or an exam… The truth is that although the MBA is his/her dream, as a partner, you are part of that dream. Don’t forget that! You dream it and live it together.

Elizabeth Helen McCurdy, Harvard Business School Partner:

Top tip(s) on surviving and enjoying the experience:

Get involved with as many clubs/groups as possible! The sooner you start meeting people, the easier it will be. If you can create your own social circle you won’t feel like you are missing out as much. Attend as many class/section/batch events as possible. Put yourself out there, even if it’s uncomfortable. Let go of the small stuff. Not everyone is going to like you and that’s ok. Onward and upward!

Biggest challenge(s):

My biggest challenge may present differently than those of other MBA partners as we have a 3 year old. It’s hard moving away from your family and friends. They say it takes a tribe to raise a child and mine was hundreds of miles away. The first few months of school were brutal. My husband was off attending fancy dinners, school functions at downtown bars and parties without me. I would go when we could find childcare but that was rare. I had no friends, family or social life! Being in that situation for the first time and not knowing when it would get better was hard for us. Alex wanted to include me but it was hard. Now we have sitters we trust, I have made life long friends and I have my own life outside of him. That is so important.

Sacha Romary, INSEAD Partner:

Top tip(s) on surviving and enjoying the experience:

Get involved! Hang out on campus, go to events with your partner, and be active in the school community. The MBA experience is academic, but also social and an excellent opportunity to further your career through networking as well. It is also a very demanding time for your partner so the more involved in the experience, the better your relationship will be throughout the program.

Biggest challenge(s):

Mine was pretty much becoming a single parent for the entire time. My husband was so occupied with the academic and social parts of his MBA that my partner in parenting pretty much disappeared. I know that this was hard on him to be away from us so much as well, but I adjusted to my new rhythm with my son and we bonded because of it. Meeting up with other partner mothers was a huge support to us as well!

Moe Nsouli, IE Partner: 

Top tip(s) on surviving and enjoying the experience:

  • I think that this time away from each other is an opportunity for you to develop yourself, just like your partner is developing his/her self. Focus on getting that promotion or completing that project, etc….
  • It’s also good to attend the pre-program get-togethers!
  • My biggest tip is to enable your partner to make the most of the MBA experience (socializing, traveling, etc) and try to be a part of it as well even if you only visit occasionally (join trips, meet his/her new friends).

Biggest challenge(s):

  • I find it a bit tough to enjoy having a long distance relationship. But as I said, I am focusing on different parts of my life, and we will soon be together again!

Alejandra Leon Sariñana, INSEAD Partner: 

Top tip(s) on surviving and enjoying the experience:

Your B-schooler wants to make the most of this time, and so you should too! Take advantage of the network opportunities and get involved with other B-school partners.

Biggest challenge(s):

Honestly, your B-schooler becomes a 5-year-old while he’s at B-school: you need to take care of him and every task that used to be shared by both of you. Have patience though, it’s only a temporary change. If you aren’t working, you should fill your day with activities and events with friends or with other partners, so you don’t miss your B-schooler too much. It will all be over much sooner than you think!

Abbey Vuillet, Wharton MBA Partner:

Top tip(s) on surviving and enjoying the experience:

  • To get involved and take advantage of the perks of Wharton as a Partner too! I’m looking forward to being active in the Partners club as well as other clubs offered like French, Wine, & Marketing Clubs.
  • Make sure to have a shared calendar for upcoming events, there are so many activities!

Biggest challenge(s):

Since we are just getting started, I would say my biggest challenge thus far is saving money! In the beginning it’s really overwhelming on deciding what trips and activities we will participate in and they all sound so fun! We still need to sit down and decide our top trips for the year. I already know that these two years will fly by, so we both want to make the most of this opportunity!

Mona Bijjani, INSEAD Partner: 

Top tip(s) on surviving and enjoying the experience:

My biggest tip is to bet on yourself. Take this time to invest in different aspects of your life that you could not previously due to lack of time. Remember what you used to like to do when you were younger and reconnect to that part of you. Alternatively, seek new ideas/sectors for which you can join a project to expand your thinking. You can also look to advance in skill sets that you are interested in or that you can benefit from later in your life.  You will thank yourself later!

Biggest challenge(s):

I find that my biggest challenge for me was in my first steps. The first step onto campus, the first step socializing, the first step in exploring my wants/needs, the first step in giving my year purpose. But once I showed up every day and started participating in different ways, the magic happened. It all came naturally after that.

Author Mona Bijjani

Mona Bijjani is a Singapore-based author, entrepreneur and an INSEAD MBA candidate. A true third culture kid, she was born in Saudi Arabia, grew up in Lebanon, and has since lived in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. Her book, The Unofficial Guide to Business School Partner Life, is the first book to be created in this niche genre, a cross between Success Self-Help and Business Education. Tech-geek, forever student and former INSEAD Partner, Mona is also a facilitator, developing several workshops and online courses, which you can find at designyourlife.thinkific.com.

DON’T MISS: LETTER TO MY YOUNGER ‘PRE-MBA PARTNER’ SELF or A CHECK LIST FOR B-SCHOOL PARTNERS