Thursday, July 29, 2010

Darden Firsts

What's the best part about a new place, a new school or a new home? Firsts.

Many firsts will come my way in the next few weeks as I immerse myself in the Darden and Charlottesville community. My first encounter with some of my future classmates came last night when a bunch of us Darden incoming first year students decided to meet up for a pre-Darden get-together. Thanks to Facebook, the turnout was pretty good! Around 15 of us met at Basil restaurant at The Corner near downtown Charlottesville for dinner and drinks. International diversity was quite well represented with people coming from Brazil, Colombia, Nepal, India, Dubai, Taiwan, Philippines (yours truly) and of course, the US (San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Hawaii). Conversation was rich and interesting, with people getting to know each other and starting new bonds. Everyone had very interesting backgrounds and stories to tell--from engineers and consultants to journalists. I was the only boring accountant around!

We went to our first bar experience at Charlottesville where I had my first 'power hour'--a shot game where everyone is supposed to drink one shot of beer every time the music changed. I figured it won't be too difficult since songs changed every four or five minutes. Surprise, surprise: the bar played 1-2 minute edited songs! So yes, I bailed on that challenge. I don't like beer anyway.

After a few hours, we went to a different bar with better cocktails (those I can take). We played this strange game of shooting small sacks of sand into a hole, a long distance away. I guess it's supposed to test how good you can aim with a few bottles of alcohol in your bloodstream. I won twice :)

The rest of the night was spent exchanging stories over drinks and dancing. It's quite easy to be comfortable with people you find many commonalities with--whether a career objective, a job history, a dream vacation, or a point of view. I guess there's really truth to what all Admissions officers advised us about choosing schools--it's all about fit. When the night was over, it felt like we weren't strangers at all.

Tomorrow we're scheduled for some barbecue cookout at someone's place. Another first I'm looking forward to.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Hello Darden, Hello Charlottesville!

This entry is long, detailed and feels like a 'Dear Diary' piece. So, caveat emptor.

After 22 hours of a cramped, long and arduous journey across the Pacific, I finally made it to Charlottesville yesterday. That trip is something I won't be volunteering for anytime soon. What with the very long immigration queue, stringent customs check and delayed flights. My sleep aid failed to work once again and I was alone with my sad-turned-anxious thoughts.

And so my first glimpse and feel of Charlottesville's abundant greenery and quaint charm was a warm warm welcome. The school grounds was a beautiful sight--extending many miles beyond my human eyesight--with students leisurely walking around the campus, enjoying what is left of summer. I get that scholarly feel and can't help but feel excited to be studying again after five years! The weather was warm, about 32 degrees C or 90 degrees F (I have to get used to measuring the temperature in F). Still nothing I'm not used to back in Manila.

I met my roommate and we bond easily. So happy about that! She was brave enough to rent a U-haul van by herself to fetch our furniture from a second year's apartment and move in to ours. Boy, am I lucky! We still haven't finished unpacking and fixing everything yet but we're slowly getting there. Yesterday ended with a nice dinner with one of the second years who very kindly helped us move in and offered free 'orientation.' Goes to show that Darden's tight-knit community and welcoming culture make two international students feel not so far from home.

Today was quite productive. We luckily stumbled upon the ID office when we were lost looking for the International Students Office. So we got our UVA IDs (weird seeing my face in that piece of plastic, looking like well, a student). We do get discounts from shops, restaurants, bookstores and even mobile carriers--student perks. The rest of the day was spent driving across different shops to cater to our different and urgent needs. So after spending 13 hours out of our apartment, we've ticked the following boxes: University ID, signed I-20 with ISO, AT&T contract, new bank account, new internet connection, home furnishings, and two all-American meals (we have to take our 'before' photos ASAP before the calories start pouring in).

Hmm.. not bad for a second day. There's still tons I need to take care of before I can sit down and truly enjoy Charlottesville but I'm savoring the joy of this novelty amidst the frenzy. I even filled my own gas tank for the first time!

Monday, July 19, 2010

When "Soon" becomes "Too soon"

I've been MIA with blogging lately. This has been due to the fact that I am one week away from leaving Manila/Philippines hence the endless preparations I had to tend to--packing (I sincerely hate this part), pre-MBA requirements/preparations including quite a number of books to read, health requirements to accomplish, Visa acquisition, and my favorite part, getting together with friends for farewell lunches/dinners and simple hang out sessions that I've come to truly value. I realize now how much I've taken their company for granted. And how much I will miss each one of them.

So, enough with my excuse for being MIA.

Here I am now, taking a short break from my crazy packing session. I have 1 1/2 bags (of 2) full and still there's so much that I want to bring. How do you let go of your favorite jacket, already a size too small but has nostalgic value? How can you leave that cute (heavy) mug that a dear friend gave you for Christmas? How do you part with the countless CDs your friend gave you as music compilations? Or even your oldest pajamas that your brother got you for your birthday? You hate parting with these simple things not because they have monetary value but perhaps because when you know that you'll be away for long, you want to hold on to things that will remind you of the people you are leaving behind. You want to hold on to those memories that will pretty soon be compressed in your brain, to make way for the new ones you will be making, albeit with new faces.

So yes, right now I feel that "soon" has become "too soon."

I remember my life a year ago. More specifically, my life during my MBA application preparation. I practically didn't have a life anymore beyond GMAT books, MBA school researches, essay-writing, interview preparations and school information sessions. My weekdays were spent hard at work at the office, including stealing even brief lunch minutes of reviewing my GMAT notes. After work, I ate a rushed dinner and hit the books until 12mn-1am. After the GMAT hurdle, I still didn't get my usual 6-7 hours of sleep since I would set my alarm at ungodly dawn hours to check my email for updates from the schools, whether for interview invitations or the dreaded rejection mail. Thanks to the 12-hour difference with US time, I never got a moment of peace.

I remember that period of anxiety and agony. Most of all, I clearly remember the feeling of wanting so much so so badly. I wanted my dream of pursuing my MBA and 'soon' just couldn't get to me fast enough.

And like what people say, "be careful what you wish for." It's ironic that right now, I want more time here at home. I want more time with my family and friends, doing the most mundane of things--lazy Sundays watching TV, fighting over whose turn it is to wash the dishes, playing guitar hero marathons, catching the latest movie and hanging out in the coffee shop after. Things you never thought you'll miss terribly.

I realize that yes, you can want something so badly and you can pour over all your blood, sweat and tears to get it. And you just might, like I did. You took all the steps--the first baby steps, the trot, the run, the leaps and bounds. But when it's time to take that last jump, that final leap to seal the deal, courage no longer seems enough.