People are always asking me what partners do while their spouse is at Wharton? Many assume life is easy. Before I answer this question, I think we need to classify partners at Wharton into three different categories:
The Hop on and Hop off Nomads: These are the partners who work a few hours away from Philadelphia. They come down every other weekend to meet their partners at Wharton. Life is busy and weekends are usually packed trying to spend a day with your spouse and making it to all the social events organised by the school or the students.
The Long Distance Lovebirds: These are the couples who have decided to take the giantleap and live in different parts of the world, thereby getting only a few days in a year to spend time together. They are the ones whom you will see talking on the phone at odd hours, juggling work and school related assignments. As the definition of love changes with time, technology and trust binds these lovers.
The Tag Team Champions: They move together and work as a team. These are the partners who have relocated and moved all the way to Philadelphia to support their families and partners. These champions are usually the ones who are networking their way around, looking for friends and job opportunities, and finding a way to make themselves happy in Philadelphia while their significant others are busy with school life.
As part of the latter category, we packed our life’s belongings in two suitcases and set sail to explore this new journey for the next two years. After a 20 hour flight from Mumbai to New York and a four hour drive to Philly along with a trip to Ikea on the very first day, we were exhausted! We thought it would be easier once we settled down, that the pace would slow, but little did we know what lay ahead. The pre term was packed with numerous social events, pub nights, and Cluster Olympics – a warm welcome for all of us coming here. We spent the first month meeting interesting people from all parts of the world and professional backgrounds.
As a partner, I attended a daylong orientation and a job search workshop at the Wharton followed by a Welcome Happy Hour arranged by the Partners Club. There were several happy hours and small group dinners organized which made it easier to get to know the people around us. The Partners Club is a great support network and a fantastic platform for meeting new people and connecting with other Wharton couples. I have met so many interesting people and have quickly become aware of cultural nuances and sensitivities.
There are numerous opportunities for partners to get involved. As a board member of the Partners Club I now manage the International Partners initiative. We have been working closely to understand professional opportunities available for international partners and organising events to keep them connected. We are also trying to initiate a culture capsule at the end of the month in the form of an “Around the World” in one dinner event. At the end of these two years I will be proud to say that I have a friend in every part of the world.
On the professional front, it has been quite a challenge for international partners to overcome visa limitations. It is also a struggle for partners who have worked hard all these years to develop and nurture their careers. However, I believe there are many ways to keep active while one is still looking for opportunities.
Over the last few weeks I have attended interesting classes, met some wonderful professors, touched base with fascinating non-profits and start-up initiatives. The Wharton Women in Business Conference, a day-long event, was a great learning experience both personally and professionally. One can be as involved as you want but it’s best to make the most of this opportunity.
So if you think that life isn’t busy for us partners, guess again. Whether it’s submitting essays for club memberships before a deadline, trying to be the first one to buy something off of Wharton Market, or stocking up the house with enough wine for all the BYOB events, I think I can say that I am now “Whartonized”!