I knew the words Fuqua and Friday, but separately, not as a term “Fuqua Friday.”
It was after I’d gotten admitted to the MQM program in 2019 when I visited a Fuqua Around the World networking event in Bangalore, India, and first heard the term. While we were busy bombarding the alumni with naïve questions, someone brought up the topic of Fuqua Friday. I remember how fondly everyone spoke about it. But, to be honest, I somewhat got the impression of it being a utopian event where everyone, including faculty members, alumni (if visiting), current students, and even their kids gather every Friday evening to enjoy some good food, delicious dessert and chilled beer after class.
Fast forward two months—I am in Durham, attending the first term at Fuqua while adjusting myself to the American graduate student life (read, discounted frozen meat from Harris Teeter). And guess what, nothing happens on Fridays. In the beginning, I thought, maybe Fuqua Friday was just another “oh, it used to happen, but recently stopped” kind of thing. And soon enough, with all the coursework, and introduction to the concept of networking, we all forgot what we had heard about it before coming.
But fall is when Fuqua became full—the MBA second-year students were back from their summer break. Up until then, you could sense a certain emptiness in the corridors. And that’s when we heard of the first Fuqua Friday of the year, the first Friday of Fall Term 1.
Julia Castanet, a fellow MQM student and dear friend, recalls, “…I was shocked by the mass of people and the commitment of my professors, classmates, and even the families of my peers to be a part of this community tradition. It was exciting to realize that my business school which is so committed to academics and excellence inside of the classroom, is equally committed to building community outside of the classroom.”
We had a gala time at the first one. It was much bigger and more fun than we could’ve imagined. We celebrated diversity day—from flash mobs dancing to Afro beats to Bollywood music, the students covered it all. And over the next several Fuqua Fridays, we celebrated Halloween, Christmas, and more. When asked whether he looked forward to it every Friday, Atreyo from India quips, “Yes! I occasionally found myself planning my days around it.”
When asked what the most memorable Fuqua Friday was from the Spring 1 Term before the pandemic ended the tradition for our class, Mike, from Canada, spoke about another Fuqua Friday experience—dinner and beers followed by a Duke Basketball home game. “It was a remarkable experience meeting other MBA and MMS students while lining up to get chicken tenders and beer, chatting with my friends about all the assignments we finished that week (and of course all the other ones we still have to do), and wondering how the Blue Devils are going to perform that night. Unsurprisingly, it was a great win.”
Andres from Colombia sums up it aptly and concisely, “Fuqua Friday was a space we had at the end of the week to relax for a bit with our friends, meet new people, and enjoy the food and drinks after a week of work.”
Yes, a business school can get stressful at times, especially when it’s a 10-month program. Stress can come from adjusting to a new culture in the country as an international student, doing well in classes, and the biggest of them all, networking. A gathering such as this goes a long way in reducing the stress and making one feel at home. You meet fellow mates going through the same struggle, all coming together for a cup of wine with mac and cheese and celebrating the onset of the weekend!