Great friendships are not built over movies, music, or TV shows. Great friendships are built over shared empathy for similar problems…and sometimes pizza.
Following a Zoom event hosted by Fuqua for admitted students, my friends and I planned to host another one on a more casual note, to meet each other virtually and get to know the cohort a little better. The call went well, and we had another call, and then another, and then another, and then it became a trend. Every Sunday at 11:00 a.m. EST, we would log onto Zoom. I’d sit with my favorite personal pan pizza (A. because it’s convenient to have, and B., because I LOVE pizza!) and have a great time meeting everyone on Zoom.
COVID-19 started taking over and class morale developed an inversely proportional relationship with time at this juncture. By the end of March, COVID-19 was as real as the sun, and having a typical year at Fuqua became a distant reality. At this point, the Zoom calls turned from a channel of connecting and interacting to a support group.
My friends and I tried to reach out to new people every week, anyone who’s a part of the Master of Management Studies program (MMS), and we’d ask them to join us! And with time, the handful grew into a bunch, and the bunch grew into a community. The calls became a platform where we would solve problems together, from visa issues to housing questions, and as the bonds grew stronger, we let our walls down and shared life stories as well.
Sometimes, the calls would go on for six hours.
It was my birthday month and my newly found Fuqua family had sent me cakes and presents, and we celebrated over Zoom. The world was in lockdown. Mental health was a growing concern for many and yet people from Turkey, India, the U.S., Columbia, Serbia, and so many other countries tuned in precisely at midnight to celebrate! I even remember playing music over Zoom. We celebrated birthdays, talked about life, the universe, and everything. How did this happen? How did a bunch of people who I have never met become so close to each other? Your guess is as good as mine.
By now, a good number of people from our MMS program had tuned in at some point or another and it was almost time to meet on campus. The situation was worse for international students, as all embassies were closed all over the world. We shared information and resources and reached out to the right embassies at the right time, and most people who had joined us on Zoom were ultimately able to make it on campus before the start of the program. We used our Zoom network to plan out everything: find apartments, roommates, and even furniture.
A week before orientation, we had our last and final Zoom call, and during the following week, we actually met each other in person, in Durham. I can’t tell you how surreal it was. For the first time since February, I ordered a large pizza instead of a personal pan pizza. This time, everyone got a slice, and let me tell you, it was the best pizza I ever had. (It was a very small gathering and we followed all Duke’s safety protocols so we didn’t violate the Duke Compact!).
I heard that the incoming batch of students in the Class of 2022 had their very first Zoom call. They said they loved it.