The MBA program started in September. The first week was spent on orientation and getting to know one another. There were about fifty of us, and as the program promised, the class presented the same diversity as the city of London. Several were Brits and Indians, and the rest were from various countries – Germany, Netherland, Turkey, Italy, Israel, Qatar, Kuwait, Syria, Egypt, Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Thailand, Singapore, South Korea, and China. From Japan, there was another woman, Shiho, who had worked in an investment bank in Japan. Many of my classmates already resided in the UK regardless of their origin.
On the first day, I sat at the edge of the third row so that I could have a good view but get a breathing room on the side. But someone came to sit between me and the space. His name was Scott, a soft-spoken 26-year-old British American. Almost as though we marked the seat, most of us kept returning to the same place we sat the first day. And I was glad of it.
Project groups were assigned. Mine had Adam, Bridget, and Fred from the UK, Anand from India, and me. Adam was a Cambridge physicist in his early 40s with gray hair and a beard. Bridget was tall and blond and dressed like a Ralf Lauren ad. Fred was a former rugby lad and a salesperson who loved his Oxbridge-educated lawyer wife. Anand was an engineer with a mustache and a gorgeous emerald ring on his pinky finger.
I was intimidated by everyone in the class who had a proper upbringing, the right education, and experiences at respectable jobs. I decided I was the least intelligent of all and, therefore, had to put all my energy into this to keep up with them.
When I got out of the station near Stuart’s flat, exhausted from the 1st day, a man spoke to me. “Hi, we are in the same class,” he said. I did recognize him. His name was Yong-soo, an engineer from South Korea. He lived in the same neighborhood with his wife, who worked for the South Korean mega-corporation in the area. He looked very mature for his age, in his mid-30s, and had a very brotherly air.