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

The first day of school is always accompanied by some degree of butterflies in the stomach. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve been through it or how much professional confidence you’re bringing, first days are always about the same thing: the raw excitement of a new adventure with new challenges, plus the nervous energy pulsing through your midsection while you’re wondering how to make friends and get through it all.

On top of all that you’ve just entered a very unique learning program in the Cross Continent MBA (CCMBA)—one that trades some of the usual face time for the convenience of virtual learning while maintaining a professional career. First know that everyone in your class is in the same boat, and the program is an extremely supportive environment. But there’s still pressure to make it work for you and to forge meaningful connections quickly. The Fuqua team of faculty and staff has anticipated all this (and more) and the program has several facets designed to get you the highest possible value for your invested time—one of which is the learning team.

...your new team supports you from below.

…your new team supports you from below.

Here you walk into the program a fully-formed professional—ready to attack any GMAT abstraction or networking opportunity that floats your way. You also come in with a distinct educational and cultural background and a willingness to travel the world for the sake of learning. You’ve self-selected into a group of your globally-minded peers—these are folks you have at least a few broad ideas in common with. The CCMBA staff knows all this and uses the data to design each 5 or 6-person learning team as a mini-diversity lab.

From my perspective the learning team is a great and truly essential piece of the educational process for at least three reasons. First it makes socializing easier for those of us not born to chat up strangers. Subdividing the class into teams creates immediate social pairings within the larger group. Your team gravitates together out of necessity and quickly finds the common ground. Your residency experience includes team events and mini-adventures, some healthy competition with other teams, and a convenient common adversary in the fast-paced academic regimen you’re forced to keep up with. For these weeks you live together, you study together, and you form a significant bond in a short amount of time.

Secondly your learning team is designed to expose you to a range of cross-cultural and cross-industry experiential ideas. This provides some invaluable insights into the realities of working globally. Personality and other communication-style assessments like the Myers-Briggs (including ones which chart and compare all team members together) spur discussion of deeper personal traits and biases. The bonds become more intimate and the working dynamic more transparent because, you quickly begin to see where your teammates are coming from on a number of levels. You learn to appreciate the value that others are bringing to the table and particularly the skills that contrast your own.

This exposure and the resulting discussions serve both to get you thinking about other modes and approaches, as well as to shine a light on your own cultural norms and biases. CCMBA is partly about gaining better understanding of how other cultures behave and respond and partly about stepping outside of your home culture long enough to step back in a more objective and astute participant. You will inevitably attain a large measure of this by traveling in the program, but you learn it first and perhaps most directly through the diversity of your learning team, which is my final reason why they are so vital to the learning process.

They’ve got your back through this whole toboggan ride of an experience and will teach you a few things about the wide world out there. And, if you’re open to it, a few things about yourself as well.