I found out about my acceptance to Fuqua on Halloween Night, 2019. When I got the call, my wife and I were on the busy streets of Saigon. We celebrated the opportunity but were uncertain if we would take it. As newlyweds and living abroad working on a film project, we knew this decision would affect the rest of our lives.
I didn’t think Fuqua would ever accept me. I was half way around the world and all the way non-traditional. I work in the entertainment industry and never wear a tie, and for that matter, never wear socks.
My wife and I moved to Seoul, and my mind was still yet to be made. I sat in as many Fuqua panels as I could virtually, often at 2 a.m. in the morning Korea time. And each time I went to an event, I felt a special energy about the Fuqua culture.
I reached out to 10 current students and alumni from Fuqua and had phone calls with all of them—a 100% response rate. Everyone was so forthcoming and willing to help.
Upon returning to the U.S. in February 2020, I began contacting every single one of the incoming students in my class. It was a lot of work, but I found each member of the class to be fascinating. I talked to a classmate who originated from the Congo, he was so full of optimism and energy. During the call, I sent in my deposit.
Everyone had their own story about why they joined Team Fuqua and every story was just as compelling as the next. I was addicted to meeting all of these well-accomplished people who were becoming my new family. Every time I ended a call with a fellow classmate, I felt a joy from deep inside.
In March 2020, the coronavirus hit where I was in New York City and my roommate got sick with COVID-19. The National Guard was called in to quarantine the area. The infections spread, and I was scared to leave my apartment. I didn’t go outside. I couldn’t go outside.
I was afraid.
Then the word came out that the start of our WEMBA program would be delayed. The one ray of hope for 2020 was diminishing. The mood of the country was down. The mood of the world was down.
I reached out to my classmates to send hello videos. I felt that if just one person could send a positive message, it would make a difference. It wasn’t just one person. Team Fuqua made a difference.
My classmates responded.
Although the program was put on hold, it didn’t mean we had to delay our friendships. As a matter of fact, we accelerated our lifetime relationships. As hello videos poured in from Fuqua classmates and staff, I realized this was a special group. We were experiencing a time like no other.
A couple of classmates suggested that we do a happy hour, and since I knew everyone I started to float the idea if people would be down for it. People were on board, and truth be told, I had no idea what the heck an online happy was or how it would possibly play out. In a conference call with two classmates, we hashed out how it could go down. The three of us came up with a plan.
45 classmates showed up to our first happy hour. No one knew each other. However, we made it work. The Blue Devil blood ran through our veins. We made each other smile again.
I smiled again.
Happy hour number two rolled around two weeks later and 53 people came. The event started to go more smoothly, and we could sense the community building and our friendships growing. With each event, the bonds grew. People were showing why they chose to be on Team Fuqua and we could all see that the school did an excellent job with carefully selecting an outstanding group of people.
These are the people I want to build organizations with, these are the people I want to seek important and difficult advice from, and these are the people I now call my family.
Before our first official class meeting, we already had 14 events, the largest of which drew over 100 people. We also organized class rosters, study groups, and online forums to communicate. Before the first day of class, we were already a vibrant community.
Before the first day of class I knew I made the right decision to come to Duke.
Team Fuqua is legit.
The resilience and wiliness of my classmates to support each other is unmatched, even in a year like no other.
Even though we’ve only just started the program, I can say these people will be my family for life. I am proud to be a member of Team Fuqua and I look forward to seeing what tomorrow brings.