Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Black November's Ray of Light

I've been hearing all about "Black November." As an ignorant international student here at Darden, I thought it pertained to the weather change--the creeping winter evidenced by the sun setting at 5pm and the harsh, chilly air forcing you to stay indoors. And then, I heard about "Black Friday." Back home in the Philippines, this was a holy day for us Catholics, observing the death of Christ. Apparently, this is the biggest sale event of the year here in America. As an American friend says, "this goes to show what our two countries worship."

Finally, I learned what "Black November" meant in the Darden dictionary. Black November is that most dreaded time for first year MBA students. It's when recruitment efforts are intensified as resume drops become due and interview invitations are anxiously awaited, and this on top of an already very rigorous coursework. Obviously, the dreary winter doesn't help ease things ups. So yes, it can't get any blacker than that.

Today, I woke up to rain pounding on my window and an ominously dark sky. I wanted to curl up in bed, warm and dry under my comforter. But of course, there were cases to do and a Marketing simulation class activity to tackle.

About four hours into class, I saw an email notification pop in my screen. The subject noted the name of the company I had interviewed almost a month back at the NSHMBA MBA fair in Chicago. I had been anxiously waiting for word from this company since I knew some final results had already been out. Realizing it was an email, I figured it was a letter of rejection. I'm sure they'd at least give me a call if they were offering me the internship position, I thought. An hour later, I finally forced myself to come to terms with reality. And so, imagine my surprise to see a congratulatory email with an internship offer! I was beyond astonished! I read and re-read the letter at least thrice and triple-checked my name in each page. I just couldn't believe it. Whether it was the power of prayer, talent, or sheer luck, at that very moment, I was just relieved.

Thinking back now, I realize that relief isn't the first emotion I would have expected from myself after reading my very first offer letter. It should have been happiness or joy, right? But see, "relief" is defined as "the feeling that comes when something burdensome is removed." And that was exactly what happened to me. That fear of not having an internship, that fear of not finding a company who will sponsor international students, that fear of finding myself regretting leaving a perfectly great job to venture out and gamble in the MBA realm--these were all lifted somehow. This was my "relief"... my ray of light in the otherwise cold and dreary Black November.

Almost 12 hours after all the excitement, the dust has settled somewhat and I hate to say this but I'm faced with new fears. My letter had said, "Yumiko, we are looking forward to you joining our program. I am sure you will make an important contribution to the success of our company."

Slight panic begins to set. How much value can I add to this 10-12 week internship? Will I be able to apply all these fancy MBA tools that I learned in the actual workplace? Can I prove myself worthy of a full-time job offer? ...And many other crazy thoughts.

Perhaps I should leave these thoughts for another day and enjoy this brief moment of relief (or even joy). After all, it's not often that you wake up to a cold, ominous dark sky and and end up feeling that warmth of sunshine.

To my fellow First Years, here's to your own rays of light in this challenging but temporary Black November. This too shall pass.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The trouble with Cold weather, Stockings, and a Lost car

I've lived in a tropical country all my life. This meant enjoying 95 degree F (35 degree C) weather almost 10 months in a year and frequent beach getaways. I've been bracing myself for the notorious US East coast cold fall/winter weather and suffice it to say that I didn't prepare enough.

A few weeks ago, Charlottesville weather started to get more chilly. Mornings were cold at about 55 F (13 C) and nights hit a low 36 F (2 C). My teeth are literally chattering in this temperature. So my wardrobe changed overnight from nice and cool t-shirts and summer dresses into turtle necks, long-sleeved shirts, scarfs, and warm coats. This gets trickier with recruitment week and company briefing days.

I've been so busy and stressed out lately juggling between schoolwork and recruitment activities that I haven't actually thought of my personal girly woes. Two incidents these past days reminded me there's more trouble in life than finding the best mutual fund to invest in or how to approach a case interview.

A few days ago, I found myself without a clean set of pant suit for a company briefing. So I decided to wear a business casual dress instead. Now, I knew this would be a welcome invitation to hypothermia for me (what with the start of winter sneaking in). But I checked the weather forecast that day and it was relatively sunny. To be on the safe side, I decided to put on stockings/hose, those lace top thigh high ones. It wasn't much protection from the cold but it was better than bare. So at 7:50am, in the chilly morning air, my roommate and I walked through the unpaved road from our apartment to school. Three minutes into the walk, I felt my left hose start to run down. I tried hoisting it up back in place subtly. It didn't help that some classmates were walking behind us. I knew I should have gotten the pantyhose one but those somehow cuts your air supply. I was tempted to rush back to the apartment and take it off but that would make me late for class (the $5 penalty wasn't appealing to me either). So, every few seconds my roommate stood directly behind me to give me a bit of privacy to pull my stocking up. At that very moment, I wished my thighs were two inches bigger. Totally embarrassing. I won't even go to the details of how I managed to hold my stocking and cross the busy two-lane street and the parking lot to school. The memory of it will haunt me for a long time.

I cursed the cold weather then. Little did I know I'll be cursing it again not 24 hours after my stocking incident.

Last night, I planned on going out and taking the car. I didn't find our car in the parking lot so I figured my roommate used it. She got home later than me so I wasn't able to ask her about it. The next morning, as I was preparing breakfast, I casually asked her if she took the car last night. The conversation went along these lines:

Me: Did you use the car last night?
Roommate: No, I didn't.
Me: But it's not outside in the parking lot.
(Me rushing outside in the cold without a jacket to look for our car. I checked both ends of the parking lot to no avail.)
(Me with numb fingers rushing back inside the apartment.)
Me: It's really not there!
(Me thinking about the car insurance coverage if it included theft or misplacement...)
Roommate: Wait, wait... I think I used it two days ago when I went to the gym. I'm not sure if I drove or walked home..
(Her thinking about her crazy busy day two days back and how hectic it was that she forgot how she got home.)

So we rushed our breakfast and left at 7:30am to look for our car in the school gym's parking lot. If that panic wasn't enough to wake us up, the cold winter air sure did! That plus the lawn sprinklers that just had to turn on when we crossed the lawn. Thankfully, we found the car parked outside the gym with two parking tickets on the windshield. At least it wasn't towed.

So there, two days in a row my morning caffeine fix came in the form of loose stockings, a lost car, and a damned too cold weather for me. I'm scared to think what mishaps the real winter will bring.

Special thanks to my roommate Astrid for having my back and for making mornings a little crazier than usual. Never gets dull at 127.