For two weeks every quarter, Global Executive MBA (GEMBA) students jet off to an international location and learn. We get to be students first during this rare and beautiful window. True, many of us are still regularly checking in with loved ones and answering work emails, but the physical distance from our ‘real lives’ gives us the space to focus on schoolwork and our classmates.

But what about those remaining 10 weeks a quarter when we are learning from our respective homes? The truth is, most of our time as GEMBA students happens when we are apart during these distance learning periods. So how can you go the distance…in distance?

The Almighty Power of Chitchat

Time spent with your team during distance learning periods is a precious thing. Everyone has a wide array of home and career responsibilities, and time zone differences make call coordination interesting, to say the least. Because of these limitations, it is somewhat tempting to ‘get down to business’ immediately and bulldoze through an upcoming assignment.

I’m grateful, however, that my most recent team had an important standing item at the top of every meeting agenda—chitchat. We took 10 to 15 minutes at the start of every call to talk about what was new in one another’s lives. This was a terrific opportunity to get to know one another better and build meaningful relationships. By the end of it, we weren’t just teammates, we were friends too.

Make a Plan…

Each term, there are two pre-residency distance learning classes during which your professors explain their syllabi, upcoming assignments, and the goals of the courses. My teams used these two weeks to map out assignment due dates and discuss who was taking lead on what assignment over the course of the term. We knew enough of our travel schedules, busy seasons at work, product launches, and major family events to co-plan the semester. This way, team members did not have such a heavy burden during busy times in their lives outside the program.

…Then Learn How to Adjust

All that said, sometimes life has other ideas. When my teammates and I were thrown curveballs at home and at work, we communicated with each other immediately to see if anyone else could help pick up the slack. This happened infrequently, but it happened. By communicating with one another early and often, we established a supportive atmosphere where everyone was committed to one another and our team goals.

Take Your ‘Me Time’

I offered similar advice in my blog about surviving a residency, but the point still stands regardless of location. This is probably the toughest piece of advice to follow. It is very easy for your life to become a laundry list of what you owe everyone else, and it is extremely easy to view time for yourself as a selfish act. But, the truth is, time away can help you process the task at hand. Maybe you bake cookies. Maybe you go see a movie (that’s not on-demand) or maybe you take up boxing (I highly recommend the latter!) Find that thing that allows you to clear your head so you can show up better and brighter for the people who need you.

Say Thank You

It’s finals week. You’re stressed, and it’s easy to lose sight of the little things. Your partner meal-prepped for the entire week and stocked the freezer with pistachio ice cream for your late-night study sessions. Your boss encouraged you to work adjusted hours so you can take the morning to get a head start on an exam (because you do your best thinking in the morning). Your parents just gave you the same ‘you can do it’ pre-test lecture they’ve used since you were in first grade.

This program is a heavy lift, not just on you, but on the people you lean on every day. We all have people who make our presence in GEMBA possible. So show your appreciation! I admittedly could say thank you more than I already do…and I’m taking the opportunity to say it here…THANK YOU!