Building Stronger Connection Over Conversation at The Kitchen Island

Building Stronger Connection Over Conversation at The Kitchen Island

Guest blog by James Cungwanara & Arindha Purwandari

As we write this on the final day of our classes, we reflect on the onset of our MBA journey. Being international students, there was an initial apprehension about forging authentic connections in this unfamiliar setting. While our first year brimmed with social events, which, indeed, broadened our network. Yet, akin to other students, we frequently question the depth of our relationships with classmates.

We also believe this is a common issue- not only from other classmates but also from those in other MBA program, that, with so many large social events and the pressure for recruitment or academic success, relationships tend to remain superficial. Feeling the urgency of the time left, we are considering ways to strengthen these connections.

Starting in the autumn quarter of our second year, we began organizing small group meals at one of our apartments. Inspired by the warm, informal meals that characterized our upbringing in homes with working parents—where conversations during meals were central to bonding amidst the hustle and bustle—we decided that recreating this atmosphere here at Booth could be the antidote to our issue.

Rather than gathering around a traditional dining table, we found ourselves drawn to the kitchen island—the heart of our home setup transcended mere meals; it fostered an informal space where heartfelt conversations flowed freely. The kitchen island, typically reserved for quick solo lunches, transformed into a communal hub where cultures blended, and friendships

When planning these, we were deliberate about our intentions. The invited guests were intentionally chosen—comprising acquaintances who hadn’t had the chance to interact closely with each other before but, based on our intuition, could have formed meaningful connections. During the meals, we also tried to steer away from the classic MBA topics (recruiting, trips, and the like) and toward more personal subjects, albeit with mixed success. Our aim was to facilitate deeper bonds through intimate conversations and delightful meals, hoping that not only we but also our guests would truly get to know their classmates

These small gatherings became a highlight of our Booth experience. They cultivated a sense of community, allowing us to forge genuine friendships. Witnessing the joy our events brought to friends was incredibly rewarding. The positive feedback affirmed that our gatherings facilitated new connections among peers. Beyond honing our conversational and hosting skills, this initiative made us more attuned to people’s preferences and experiences—a valuable skill as we prepare for post-graduation careers.

Our journey taught us that building meaningful connections in an MBA program extends beyond attending social events; it’s about creating an environment where interactions thrive. We encourage every student to consider hosting such intimate gatherings—a simple yet powerful way to foster a closer, more supportive community.