This blog was written prior to the Cross Continent MBA program merger with the Global Executive MBA program

Fuqua’s Cross Continent MBA program offers a perfect blend of study, work, and travel. You get to study in 5 different cities of the world, giving you the best setting to build your global awareness and grow your networks. As the Fuqua website will tell you, the format of this program is unique with 6 short, in-person residency sessions followed by longer distance learning periods. Approximately 40% of the teaching is done face-to-face. At the beginning of each term, there’s a reading period at home, and then you travel to one of the residency locations to meet for classes. It’s important to prepare for each residency so that you can then fully enjoy it and get the most out of it. Traveling to and then studying in cities including Shanghai, New Delhi, and St. Petersburg can be stressful.

Here are 5 tips that I’ve learned along the way that make the residencies more enjoyable for me:

1. Do the Reading

If there is one tip you should definitely adhere to, it’s this one. Do your pre-readings because the residences are fast-paced and there won’t be time to play catch-up!

The reading periods are about a week long, and occur at the beginning of each term, following the final exams from the previous term. Some consider these periods as a good time to relax post-exams, but it’s actually the only time available to read up on the work that you will be doing in the next term. You will receive a course pack with all the reading materials at least 2 weeks prior to the residency. This sounds like enough time to do the reading, but it’s not that simple when you just came out of a hectic term, and have other things to catch up on, or you just want to rest.

You have to remember that the majority of lectures require the readings to be completed prior to attending class, and in that class you’ll quickly get more homework, a quiz, case study, or other assignment. I have suffered from the “I’m lost” nightmare when attending a lecture focused on something I should have already read. Not to mention that some professors love to cold-call, and if you are one of those looking for the easy Class Participation marks, then you need to hit the ground running and come prepared to class!

After the residency, you head home and expand on the content that was just taught. Thus, it is crucial that you set the right foundation for the rest of the term’s lessons by doing all the pre-reading.

2. Pack Smart

Now that we got the mandatory stuff out of the way, let’s talk about technicalities of attending the global residencies. Cross Continent students journey through many multicultural societies, interesting geographies and various micro-climates and seasons. One of the biggest hurdles when travelling every two months is the idea of having to pack and unpack all the time, and feeling like you are living out of a suitcase. Well, you really are! So, pack smart!

To make things easier on myself, I created a packing checklist. Before each trip, I go through the checklist of things that I must carry with me. Passport – check! Laptop charger – check! Jacket – check!

To get a better idea of what to expect in each location, I often set up a widget on my laptop that displays the weather, time zone, and currency of the country I am going to visit. When you follow it for a few weeks, you pick up patterns in temperature that help you to choose the most suitable attire for the trip. Although, regardless of the season and climate, I always carry a jacket! Weather can be unpredictable, and it can get chilly in some of the hotels and classrooms.

  • Take a Tablet: When I started this program, one of my first investments was a tablet. All course materials are provided in print form, and a majority of it is also available in electronic versions. I download as much of it as possible onto my tablet. This saves a lot of room in my luggage and reduces the weight that I need to carry. It also keeps all my notes and files in one place that I can access during class (in silent mode of course!).
  • Stay Charged: Another neat gadget to invest in is a world travel adapter for charging your electronic devices safely. Most of the hotels we visit provide international power sockets, but there are some that do not, especially if you do additional travelling or stay in other hotels outside of the residency.
  • In Case of Emergencies: Also bring with you an International SOS card or details of what to do in an emergency.
  • Cash Flow: While most of the countries we visit have ATMs and kiosks to get cash, it is sometimes easier to get cash at home to take with you. I also own a MasterCard that lets me load multiple currencies on it, and it can be used as a multi-currency debit card. In addition, I always carry some local currency in cash for small purchases like cab rides, waiter tips, or McDonald’s.

3. Watch What You Eat

During residencies, you’ll go to places that offer unique cuisines, and my third tip is to watch what you eat!

food buffet
The buffet at the Thomas Center in Durham keeps us well-nourished.

If you are a vegetarian or have specific dietary needs, I recommend that you speak to the Cross Continent MBA program manager before-hand. This allows them to organize special meals for you during the residencies, since some meals are pre-planned and provided for us. There are also 3 or 4 per diem nights in each term, during which you can go out and try any restaurant and dining option that you want. It’s very tempting to try some new and exotic foods. I always carry with me some stomach medicines in case I eat a meal that doesn’t agree with me.

I might also add that you will never go hungry on these residencies! Lots of snacks and drinks are provided during class breaks, and the meals are very filling. Hotel gyms are a great way to keep you fit and active during the residency (if you can find time for exercise).

4. Plan Your Itinerary

All this talk about what to do when you are at the residency, but nothing about actually getting there! So, here’s tip number 4 — plan your itinerary!

Always book your flights in a way that suits your schedule and gives you some room to breathe (in case of delays/cancellations, etc.). Travel insurance is quite useful when transiting through busy airports, in case of lost baggage or flight delays. One of the first things that hit you when you land in a different time zone is jet lag. In some regions it will strike in the middle of the afternoon when you are trying to get your head around Financial Accounting. At other times, it will wake you up in the middle of the night and then make you fall asleep when it’s time to wake up. To help avoid this, I often arrive at residency locations a day or two early. This gives me time to get accustomed to the sleep cycle and to even explore the city.

I think it’s important to find some time to explore the cities. If your classmates are anything like mine, you will visit many other countries before and after the residencies. When we first started our Durham residency, we were a bunch of strangers with lots to do in very little time. As we got to know each other and got used to the schedule, we began to take advantage of every moment and wanted to spend more time together. We often travel together in small groups either before or after each residency to explore the region. Don’t rely on using spare time during the residency for this kind of exploration because there isn’t any spare time.

5. Sleep, Study, Socialize

While in residencies, you have to prioritize your limited time in a fantastic city with a great bunch of people who you love hanging out with. You have to find time to sleep, study, and socialize.

corporate visit to john deere
Visiting a John Deere office during the Durham residency.

On any given day in residency, you can choose to nerd it out, focus on your studies, and pass on the extra-curricular activities. You can also choose to go out every night and build your local networks, but you may not be able to focus in class the next morning. I think that finding a balance and pacing yourself is key to staying productive in the program while also taking advantage of some fun stuff.

I do recommend the cultural tours that are organized for us by the program managers. It’s a brilliant way to experience the culture of each city. Also, the faculty-organized corporate visits are a great opportunity to meet local business people and see how they function in a global setting. Per diem evenings give you time to meet the locals, do some sightseeing, and check out the night life with classmates.

There will be times when you’ll be too exhausted to party or too exhausted to focus in class. Just remember, the program is designed to let you manage your own time, and what you do with this time is your prerogative. What you get out of the global residencies will depend on what you put into it. So again, I say, strike a balance!