Friday, August 27, 2010


Due to network problems, this is a late publish, supposedly for Thursday. I guess Friday wanted the "F" back, and rightfully so as it's obviously a Friday now.
Happy weekend everyone!

Okay. So those last two letters aren't exactly the conventional "F" that fits in your weekend welcome banner. But with my life at Darden now, it fits aptly. I don't think I've ever looked forward to Thursdays as I do now--with arms wide open.

For the past week, I've started my new routine as an MBA student. It's one that I sort of expected I guess but the extremity of it still caught me offguard. It goes something like this:

6:40 Wake up, get ready for school and eat breakfast
7:40 Walk to school
8:00 First Class
9:30 First Coffee (A Darden tradition where students meet at PepsiCo forum for coffee or tea and chat informally)
10:00 Second Class
11:45 Third Class (I'm so hungry this time that I nibble some crackers in class)
13:10 Lunch (I usually pack some lunch and eat at the cafeteria or if I'm not too hungry, I rush home and make a decent meal)
14:00 Read/Study/Prepare for the next day's cases. We have three cases to discuss everyday, with usually two spreadsheets to prepare. Cases vary from being 2-page or 20-page long or even one thick annual report. The tricky part is studying the note discussions/lectures as well since you need this for case context.
I like studying in school, away from the temptations of my soft bed but oftentimes the school AC is too cold for me. So some days I study at home and (un-intentionally) catch some ZZZs.
19:00 I meet with my Learning Team in school. Learning teams are groups of 5-6 students from different sections and diverse backgrounds. Your LT is your support group. Each one has a specific strength (whether Finance, Marketing, Operations, or Accounting) to provide good insights for the team to better analyze the class cases.
21:00 We get lucky sometimes and end within an hour and a half or two. I have a bit of time to spare so I hit the running track, gym or the tennis court. I need to keep the blood circulating amidst the schoolwork frenzy. The other night, I was running in the treadmill while reading the thick reading for our Leading Organizations (LO) class. I realize how insane it is but time is always of the essence these days.
22:00 I go back to my apartment, eat (if I'm hungry), catch up with some emails, review the next day's cases, finish the lengthy LO readings, type out the LO homework and sometimes do the Career Management assessments.
00:00 I finally hit the sack utterly exhausted.

The next day, the sun rises and the cycle starts all over again...until Thursday. See, we get Fridays free. Darden has taken last year's student feedback and this year implemented a 'no-classes on Friday' curriculum. Fridays are reserved for recruitment events such as company briefings, recruitment socials, interviews, etc. Since recruitment season is a few weeks away for now, we are temporarily savoring the freedom.

Right now, I sense that all this sounds insanely impossible to keep up with and just damn tiring. But I also know that it's mostly because the routine is new and the transition from work life to student life is no easy feat. So, I'll give it more time and wait for myself to get the hang of things.

Meanwhile, let me enjoy this beautiful night called Thursday night. And just like any true Dardenite, I'll be heading off to TNDC. Thursday Night Drinking Club is a Darden tradition where Darden students go to a bar and celebrate the survival of one hellish week. It's really just a roomful of tired students drinking beer and talking about everything but the schoolwork and cases. But to us, it's that lucid interval where we catch a short glimpse of our lives before MBA.

Cheers Darden 2012!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

First Cases

For the past days, I've started hitting the books again. Or more specifically, I've started studying and analyzing cases. See, the Darden School of Business is one of the few business schools (including Harvard Business School and Ivey) that utilize 100% case study method. Instead of sitting through lectures where professors lead the class discussions, Darden students engage with each other in a collaborative setting through case analysis and discussions. The way I see it, the professors are class mediators, stimulating the discussions and steering it towards the right course or direction. The bigger class role relies on the students and their inputs towards the case discussions.

We have had around five live cases already in the past four days and I'm feeling a bit dazed. Two months of unemployment right before school started and five years from undergraduate school have made my brain rusty. But I'm liking it so far. We've discussed cases on Target, Samsung, British Petroleum (BP), etc., touching on the most recent corporate issues and concerns. The best part was actually seeing and interviewing the CEOs or representatives of these top companies after our case discussions. It was amazing hearing them answer our pressing questions on their corporate dealings and actually hearing first-hand their future plans. It was the closest thing to picking their brains and I'm not complaining.

They said that the success of case studies and case discussions rely heavily on the students' preparedness and level of participation. So far, I'm enjoying my class discussions and the richness and diversity of our inputs. Coming from an Accounting/business background, it's very refreshing to hear ideas and points of view from lawyers, pilots, doctors, bankers, consultants, athletes, etc. You're seeing more than just the other side of the coin. It's more like seeing the other five sides of a cube really. And I'm trying to do my end of the deal by speaking up and adding a thing or two to our discussions. Hopefully, those made some sense to my classmates.

A famous Darden professor, Peter Rodriguez, told us in his welcome remarks for International students that in a case study environment, you must not be afraid to "open your kimono." Don't be afraid to share what you know and how you think. Open your kimono. Just let it hang there.

Well, that last line might be more applicable to guys. But hey, we're only 30% of the population anyway.

Friday, August 6, 2010

"This is America."

A few days back, some of us Darden International students went for a first-time road trip out of Charlottesville. What better place than the nation's capital, right? So we went to Washington DC for some R&R and of course, to better immerse ourselves in the country's rich history.

We walked, talked, toured, took photos, walked some more, ate Asian food (that we miss so badly), and walked a whole lot more. Our feet could have died a premature death but we did cover pretty much everything touristy in DC--the wide array of museums (and there were lots of them! Good thing it was free), the US Capitol, the White House, the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the Washington monument and the charming Georgetown.

We were taking a lot of photos at the foot of the Washington monument when someone suggested to do crazy poses to add flavor to our all-too-touristy photos. I'm not one to experiment on poses and obviously I felt shy with the many people watching and waiting for their turn to shoot photos so I declined. She said, "This is America! No one cares." I just had to throw my head back and laugh. Hard. She's right, you know. This is America. Land of the free. One of the oldest (continuous) democracies in the world. As students/tourists in this country, I guess we at least get a free pass at unrestricted freedom.

Too bad I missed my chance. Well, the next two years should present more opportunities.