As Covid-19 Slams Their Country, Indian MBA Admits Try To Prepare For The Fall

Jukta Basu Mallik

‘I SAY A SHORT PRAYER EVERY DAY’

Jukta Basu Mallik, an MBA student at the Wharton School, has a different problem stemming from the coronavirus: The Kolkata native is already in the U.S., but because of travel restrictions, she hasn’t been home for nearly a year.

Mallik, who will intern this summer with consulting giant McKinsey, says she hasn’t seen her family or friends since joining Wharton in August 2020 — and that she recently learned of the Covid-linked deaths of two close friends.

“I actually traveled across the globe during a pandemic,” Mallik says. “It was quite challenging last year because the borders were closed and we had to write to the U.S. Embassy General in India to get an emergency appointment and travel in the midst of the pandemic. I’m supremely grateful that it actually did happen!

“I’m happy to be here, but haven’t been home for almost a year now and it hurts.”

She says the three biggest challenges she has faced as an international scholar have been the social isolation, the obstacles to job recruitment, and the difficulty accessing credit.

“In terms of social life, it’s a harrowing experience to sit over here, so many oceans away, and to see what’s happening at home — quite helpless,” she says. I lost two very close friends last week. I’m just hoping that the storm wears down. Like, every day when I sleep, I literally say a short prayer thanking God that there wasn’t any other bad news on that particular day.

The social life, from the perspective of loved ones I’ve left back home, or the loved ones over here, it’s been very challenging because of the pandemic. And that is a very critical thing which was weighing on our minds even when we were deciding whether to come or not, because India is so much about networking. I mean, I haven’t gone and done a proper MBA class ever so far. Literally, I’ve never gone to Huntsman Hall — we’ve just been having Zoom classes, which is tough. Thankfully because we were all here in Philadelphia we could at least get together in unofficial formats, meet in the park, grab coffee. But otherwise social life is definitely very impacted.”

‘THE NUMBER OF FOLKS THAT WE CAN BORROW FROM HAS ACTUALLY WHITTLED DOWN TO ZERO’

Mallik, a former product manager with Tata Group, has momentarily solved any job recruitment issues, having just begun her summer internship. A far more immediate concern is how two pay for school, complicated by the fact that she is also doing a joint MPA degree with Harvard’s Kennedy School.

“With the pandemic, the number of folks that we can borrow from has actually whittled down to zero,” she says, “and it’s literally putting our ability to complete our degrees in question. Beyond battling the emotional havoc from what is happening back home, I think the other biggest thing which has been on my mind is the struggle to get credit, because the three options that an international candidate has is in terms of Prodigy, Discover, and CORE Group. CORE Group and Discover have both decided to discontinue their education loans to international students; so, naturally, a true international scholar who doesn’t really have any family or loved ones over here is in a tough space, and Prodigy because of this pandemic is going through a very tough financial situation themselves. And they have been rejecting applications or taking over six months to process the loan.

“So literally I don’t know how to sponsor my degree — I literally don’t know where and how to arrange the finances to pay for my school year next year.”

SITUATION IN INDIA IS ‘REALLY BAD AND MENTALLY DISTURBING’

Megha Jose

Megha Jose, director of a financial services company in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, expects to join the Class of 2023 this fall at London Business School. She says the UK currently has carve-outs to allow Indian students to fly to London — but huge hurdles remain.

“What I know as of now is that, despite India being on the red list, students will be allowed to travel to the UK, provided they quarantine for 10 days in a dedicated institution,” Jose says, adding that while most VFS Global UK centers are open and processing non-tourist/transit visas, “since I’m from Coimbatore and the closest VFS center to me is closed (the one in Cochin), my biggest concern is traveling to Bangalore/Chennai for the visa appointment. Not only the lockdown, but the risk of contracting Covid is quite scary, so I’m really concerned about that. I don’t have my flights booked yet, but I’m thinking of booking a flexible ticket.”

The situation o the ground is “really bad and mentally disturbing,” she says.

“What you see on the news is not an exaggeration of what’s happening on the ground,” Jose says. “My family members have been affected. Many of my friends have lost family members and loved ones. I strongly believe this could have been avoided if concerned authorities had been more serious about a possible second wave and not been as complacent as they were. The situation is very dire and I really hope things get better soon.”

LBS has sent little official communication to admits, Jose says, besides telling them that they must attend orientation. She expects the school will wait to decide whether that will be in-person based on national coronavirus policy; the UK government is still targeting June for reopening the country.

“We haven’t been given any updates on attending classes remotely from India,” Jose says. “Even if classes are remote/hybrid, I plan on traveling to London and attending classes remotely from there, if required.”

DON’T MISS AS INDIA REELS UNDER COVID-19 WAVE, MBA CLASS OF 2023 ROLLS UP SLEEVES TO HELP and MORE B-SCHOOL STUDENTS JOIN THE EFFOR TO HELP A COVID-RAVAGED INDIA

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