Ahana Das, a first-year student at the Darden School of Business talks about starting at University of Virginia in the middle of a pandemic, her journey to the Grounds, and her hopes for the coming year.
Tell us about your journey to UVA?
Das: My family is originally from India, but I was born in Indonesia and grew up in Singapore. I moved to the US to study international relations and peace studies at the George Washington University in Washington D.C. After graduating, I worked in D.C. in the corporate investigations and due diligence industry, where I conducted M&A background research, evaluated investment opportunities for institutional clients, and analyzed risks related to money laundering and other financial crimes.
As a round 2 applicant, I received my call from Darden a couple of days into quarantine. When Darden eventually moved to a hybrid model, I was still working in D.C. I weighed my options and remained committed to starting this year in August.
When did you go back home? Did you have any difficulties getting a student visa?
Das: I traveled back to Singapore late June and shortly after, the new ICE regulations were introduced. To say that I was stressed was an understatement! The regulations were introduced while I was under a 14-day mandatory hotel isolation in Singapore alone. We had no idea if we would be able to travel to the US and start school or if we would have to remain online and travel later.
I strongly considered deferring once again during this time. I had just quit my job and would not have be able to travel back to the US. I didn’t know if I would even get a job amidst a global pandemic. My partner and all my things were still in DC.
While we were thankful that Darden was hybrid, consulates around the world were still closed. After several weeks of uncertainty and confusion (which ho
nestly felt like eons), Singapore residents and citizens were notified that the US embassy in Singapore was opening for visa appointments on July 27. I made an appointment for that very day!
I am one of the luckier international students and my fingers are crossed for all my fellow international students around the world who are waiting for embassies to reopen or are travelling to different parts of the globe to obtain their visas. I cannot wait for them to arrive on Grounds!
A big, big, shoutout to Richard Tanson in the ISO office and Whitney Kestner in the Darden Admissions office for their help, wisdom, and support throughout this period.
How was your journey back to Grounds?
Das: After I had F1 visa stamped and my flight tickets back to the US, I didn’t feel uneasy during my entire time back home. I wholeheartedly spent that time with my family and ate at my favorite Singaporean restaurants!
I travelled from Singapore to Los Angeles, stayed overnight there and flew into Washington D.C. I self-isolated in D.C. for 14 days and then took the COVID-19 test before travelling to Charlottesville.
Why did you decide to come to Grounds this Fall?
Das: I chose Darden for several reasons, but most importantly for its case study teaching method, community culture, and commitment to diversity and inclusion. I wanted to immerse myself in the Darden experience as soon as I could and am excited to arrive on Grounds. I have also been mentally preparing for my MBA journey for a year and was ready to take this next step.
How are you working on Grounds now? What precautions are you taking?
Das: The hybrid model is of course not what I envisioned when I had applied to Darden and visited last October, but we are all adapting to the new changes. All of us, students and faculty alike, understand that this year is different, and we are still committed to learning and growing together.
Darden’s faculty have been absolutely amazing in holding both hybrid and virtual classes, while still engaging the entire class. Students are well-prepared and enthusiastic; my Learning Team and I (a group of 6 individuals from different sections that come together to discuss the material before classes in Q1-Q3) have been meeting outdoors by the Darden courtyard in a socially distant way.
I have already learnt so much in my first week of classes from my fellow classmates’ perspectives and experiences and I cannot wait to continue learning more!
Social activities have adapted as well, we don’t gather in large groups. We have been meeting in smaller groups and taking the necessary precautions. A huge shoutout to Humans of Darden for encouraging us to do!
Personally, I worry quite a bit about the virus. A couple of months ago, I found out that I am at high-risk for not only getting the virus, but also for complications from COVID. So, I am definitely taking all precautions possible. That being said, I appreciate Darden and the larger UVA community’s genuine commitment to taking safety precautions and slowing the spread of the virus.
Students have been very understanding of the varying degrees of comfort regarding in-person activities amidst the pandemic, and several activities have either switched to virtual or have a virtual component associated with it.