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Reflections: Mad dash to the finish and beyond…

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“Courage isn’t having the strength to go on – it is going on when you don’t have strength.”

― Napoléon Bonaparte

When I think of the last ten to eleven months, I am reminded of training for three to four half marathons in quick succession of each other. Every day is a challenge, whether it is mental, spiritual, or even physical. The last two semesters of getting any degree, not just an MBA, is a sprint to the finish. There are meetings to talk about meetings, group sessions and projects that go awry, pop quizzes, pop tests, and homework that seems to be unending to keep up with your studies.

However, on top of all the school work, there is job searching, figuring out what path you want to travel after this gauntlet, and all of the self doubts and unending questions of what comes after? Or why did I do this? On top of all of this I had received a life altering diagnosis at the start of my summer semester that severely impacted my health the rest of the year. There were days that I was so tired I didn’t want to move, let alone go be productive at school, but I did it anyway. I had quit my job for this degree, threw away my cushy future and went after what I wanted – there was no way I was going to let anything get me down.

I don’t think I have ever been as unsettled before when I thought of my future, as I was finishing my degree requirements mid December, without a job offer in hand. I really felt like I had failed. Or if not failed, performed severely under par. I was by no means the only one feeling this way, but it’s really crushing when the feelings just cascade one on top of the other. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t know exactly what my next steps were going to be or what I was going to do.

I was terrified.

After the initial burst of fear that last a couple of days after finishing classes and finals, I woke up one day after one of the deepest sleeps I’d had in months, completely at peace. I didn’t have anywhere to be, nothing to compete with my time; I could do whatever I wanted. Around the same time, my doctor let me know that my health was on the mend.

I had finished the gauntlet, the degree was mine, and the experiences I had had were amazing, terrifying, and could never be replaced or replicated. My health was back on track; I could get back to where I had left off months before-if I wanted to.

Or I could carve out something completely new and actually be able to spend the quality time to get it right for me this time around. Without a job to quickly jump into, I actually had the time to focus on me. And that’s just what I did and what I’m continuing to do. I’m still looking for a job, but I’ve been working also on mentally recharging my batteries, spending time with friends and family, travelling the world, and truly giving myself a break.

The MBA taught me what I needed to know in business, working in teams, and how to become even more successful in the next phase of my career. However, I also learned that sometimes, it’s okay to slow down as well and take time to really live life and not have a plan moving forward.

So am I still internally freaking out every now and again? Sure. Am I letting it rule me? Absolutely not.

Whatever is supposed to happen will eventually happen and not a minute sooner.

Next Up: Travelling Iceland

*Feature Image Credit to M. Walcher

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Reflections of a Frustrated Global Graduate Student

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“You’ve done it before and you can do it now. See the positive possibilities. Redirect the substantial energy of your frustration and turn it into positive, effective, unstoppable determination.” – Ralph Marston

*Wasn’t sure if I was going to post this, but I think it really shows the meaning of the word epiphany. This was a really hard semester.*

XLRI is one of the premier graduate institutions in India. It is most well known for its Human Resources program, but the XLRI Business School is also touted to be a best in class school. So when coming to a best in class institution, there are certain expectations that one automatically believes will come from attending this particular school.

You can expect:

Disciplined academic structure

Tough teachers

Even tougher classwork

Many late nights studying

Mental agony…

And this list could go on and on and differ for many people, but when I think of a best in class institution, the first thing that comes to mind is disciplined academic structure.

[Start Rant]

What I didn’t expect was sheer chaos.

As always at the beginning of the semester, the whole cohort was given a schedule of when are classes were, but even within that week there were changes.

And then the next week more changes.

And the week after that there was again another round of changes.

Fast forward to end of March – there was not one week that went by this semester that classes were not cancelled or rescheduled. The schedule given to us at the beginning of the semester wasn’t even close to the schedule that had to be followed.

The last few weeks were particularly crazy. Sometimes we had assignments due the next day, but we weren’t given the assignment until much later that night. It’s not a problem if the assignment is given in class, but an assignment that isn’t given until 11PM the night before and still due the next day? I haven’t ever experienced anything like it.

I asked my Indian classmates many times if this was normal in Indian university levels. Most said that their undergraduate levels weren’t like this, but some did mention that this was how it was done. I was and still am utterly flabbergasted.

I get that school is supposed to be challenging and stretch you and build you up…but in my mind without having a structured environment where you feel safe enough to do that in, it just poses problems.

[End Rant]

For the people who know me well, they know that this makes me a very unhappy human being. I love planning and I love order. I thrive in those environments. Coming into an academic situation where there was no order and stumbling through the semester just with sheer will power alone was excruciatingly painful at times.

Don’t get me wrong. I learned that I have the strength to get through it. I learned that even though ambiguity and uncertainty doesn’t sit well with me at all levels that I can push past it. I even learned I can think on my feet a bit better now and I fight more for my voice, than I have in the past.

And that was really what I had to remind myself of in the end. I didn’t come to get my MBA, or more importantly, voluntarily go abroad to get my Global MBA to just play it safe. I wanted to do this, because I wanted to grow. Honestly if I didn’t learn anything out of this whole semester, then attaining an MBA while traveling the world wasn’t what I was supposed to be doing. This whole experience forced me –literally – out of my shell and made me work. I can say I worked harder than I’ve ever had to, in order to get the grades that I did.

As I look back on the whole semester as it winds to a close; I’m thankful.

I’m thankful that I decided to take this risk.

I’m thankful that I made it thus far.

I’m just – really thankful.

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And I’m off – Again!

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Well it’s that time again; a new round of traveling and experiencing a foreign land. After an amazing 3.5 month stint in Shanghai, China, I’m now headed to Jamshedpur, India. In India I will be starting my second semester as part of my Global MBA. I honestly can say, I’m excited and terrified at the same time. Considering the lackluster course load in China, I’m really hoping for some more rigor and depth in the classes that I will be taking in India.

From everything that I have heard, XLRI will give me all that I desire in terms of academic difficulty and I hope that I am able to rise to the challenge. It’s a new frontier for me as I have never been to India for such a long period of time, nor have I been to this particular city before. Overall, India is a very beautiful country with rich history and culture and it’s economy is accelerating at a blistering pace. I’m anxious to experience this new city in a country that I have already come to love.

Next post will be in India!

I hope everyone had a great holiday season and an amazing New Year’s Day.

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Study, Study, Study, and – oh Yeah more Studying!

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“It does not matter where you go and what you study, what matters most is what you share with yourself and the world.” ― Santosh Kalwar

So as most of you know who have followed me from the beginning; I am here in Shanghai in the 1st semester of my MBA. I’ve posted plenty on my little adventures around China, but I thought I should circle back and tell you a little bit more about my classes….since I’m in the midst of the dreaded FINALS!

*Sigh* Why did I want to go back to school again?!

Anyway, it’s been a whirlwind – some classes are better than others by a kilometer- but super fun when all is said and done.

1st Class: Managing Teams and Leadership – loved this class! It basically introduced us all to the plethora of leadership theories out there, how to work in teams (plenty of simulations for this), and then we had to create our on Global Leadership Theory in the team we were assigned to. It was one week of sheer craziness, but I learned a lot.

2nd Class: Chinese Culture – this class was and continues to be so so. This class is essentially for us to learn more about Chinese history and culture (hence the title), but it’s a little lackluster in my book. My professor, while she is very sweet, really just has us teaching ourselves through power points, and gives little tidbits of information along the way. Cool but – well – a little boring.

3rd Class: Language of Management – desperately needed! Ah, my refresher of accounting that I took eons ago it seems! The professor is really giving us the basics so that we can build upon it later. While sometimes the information seems too basic at times, I’m taking what I can get, because the last time I even though about this stuff was first semester of freshman undergrad…need I say more?

4th Class: Applied Statistics – I. need. a. TEACHER! Don’t get me wrong, I can read a book, but without a Ph.D in this stuff, sometimes it’s hard to make heads or tails of it, which is why teachers are supposed to be helpful. My professor is a very nice man – he cannot teach at all. So in short – since my final is today for this class – I’m going to pray that what I taught myself is enough for this class.

5th Class: Management Analytics – super cool! I really liked this class. It was a one week crash course with a final at the end of the week, but it was awesome. I really enjoyed my professor for this one. He was passionate about analytics and he new his stuff inside and out. He gave real world examples and he basically set up his class to where he lectured and then gave us ample time for practice. I really wish this class had been a semester long.

6th Class: Strategic Thinking – love this class! The professor for this class is amazing. He’s had a lot of real world experience with this subject and he knows it backwards and forwards. His lectures are engaging and he really wants us to ask all of our crazy questions. Our class was split up into groups again and so there was a homework presentation in each class basically going more in depth on whatever subject he was about to teach next, which was nice. Our final project for him is to come up with a business strategy for a company originating in either the US, China, or India and going into one of the 3 countries as well.  This class makes me think and I love that.

7th Class: Global Business – a mystery (as of now)! This class is an extension of Culture class, but I really don’t know anything about the professor because I start this class today (November 27th here!). Essentially the class is supposed to give insights on how business is conducted in China. I hope it delivers.

So that is my class schedule, so far I’ve completed 3 of the 7 classes; I have 3 more final exams and 3 more final presentations. I’m now going to take a deep breath and go back to studying statistics.

Oh and before I forget! As an Ode to Thanksgiving – thank you all who are following my journey! Hope everyone Stateside has a Happy Thanksgiving!

Until next time!

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Stretching Your Mind: Learning and Growing

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I like the encouragement I get from doing new things. I like to feel scared or challenged in the hope that I can pull it off. That little bit of fear creates an energy that I can channel into the performance. ~ Joanne Whalley

It’s been an amazing first week and a half of class in Shanghai. Our first official class in the Global MBA was entitled “Managing Teams and Leadership 1.” This class was taught by Dr. Tony Lingham, a Case Professor from the Organizational Behavior Department. The class was held for one week – all day – and I have to say, it was probably one of the most eye-opening classes that I’ve taken, possibly ever.

The class focus was to learn how to assess how we – as individuals – learn on our own, how we adapt our learning styles when in small groups, and then finally how we learn as a team when thrown into one. Let me tell you now; this is not for the faint of heart. We had fifty-one students at the time: fourteen US, twenty Chinese, and seventeen Indian Cohorts and Tony split us all into groups depending on our learning styles and proceeded to tell us to develop a Global Leadership Theory that was going to be presented on Friday (last Friday).

Let’s just say, I didn’t think it would be possible. Groups were created on Tuesday, so that meant we had less than four days to get acquainted as a group, get comfortable in our group, come up with this theory, and build a presentation around it.

Four days people, four days.

Wonder of wonders – it really happened. After some initial bumps and bruises, our group really came alive and we quickly became very good friends and work partners. Instead of reluctantly working in a group of individuals, we really became one team with one like-minded goal.

It was a brutal process; assimilating all of the information that we were being taught in class and then continuing that learning in our groups, building the presentation at night, but I learned so much about myself and of how I perceive the world and how I want to be perceived. Here are some of the things I learned:

  • I want to be a subject matter expert in my field, but I don’t want to do it alone – I want to work in an amazing team while growing and learning.
  • I love feeling my mind literally stretch to incorporate new information, new ideas, and new ways of thinking about things.
  • If I want people to change how they perceive me, I have to do something about it – not them. The problem starts with the individual not the others – only you can change you.
  • I can change, if I really want it bad enough, I can – and will – change.

So how did the presentation go? Great! It was a long Friday morning and afternoon, but all of the teams did an amazing job; I still can’t believe we had only ~3.5 days to do it in, but who cares! The results were awesome.

Over the course of the weekend some of my new friends and I went around the town in Shanghai. There was Karaoke night on Friday night, a lounging day on Saturday for me, found a yoga studio and some shopping on Sunday with some new girlfriends, and ended Sunday night at Bonnie’s house, where she cooked us a phenomenal traditional Chinese meal. I’m going to be one sad sad person coming back to the US when this is over – the food is fantastic over here!

Monday kicked off the beginning of the rest of our classes that we will be having this semester. As of now we’re taking Global Environment, Language of Management (Finance) on Tuesdays, Statistics is this Thursday, and then we have a self-study period this coming Friday.

Busy, Busy, Busy!

It’s all good though – there is still plenty of time to learn some Mandarin and see the sights. I may forgo a little sleep, but it will be worth it in the end.

Until next time! Zai Jian! (See you later!)

Candid Shot of Tony teaching Class

Candid Shot of Tony teaching Class

Array of dishes Bonnie made - super delicious!

Array of dishes Bonnie made – super delicious!

Rachel (my roomie!) and I at Karaoke!

Rachel (my roomie!) and I at Karaoke!

 

Quote: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/new_things.html#AEmm42xAFarE2ieU.99

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Shanghai – First Thoughts

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It is better to travel well than to arrive. ~Buddha

Well, this is my official post while in China!

The trip was very smooth and without any delays – it was actually half an hour early! My checked bags made it with me and then I was picked up right away by the Chinese Cohorts who are part of the Global MBA. Check in at the guest house we are all staying at was also very smooth and after a brief break I and several others were taken out to a traditional Chinese dinner by the members of the Chinese Cohort on our first night here, it was amazingly delicious.

The next day – as always after a long flight – I was up at o’dark thirty (4AM to be precise), laid about and waiting until the oh so decent hour of 7 AM to go hunt for breakfast and start my day. Breakfast was a traditional Chinese dish, like a crepe – with egg, chives, lettuce, sweet sauce, spicy sauce, and a fried crisp. Sounds strange I know but it is delicious! Pictures are coming in the future – if I remember to take them once I have the darn thing, I’m usually too busy eating it to remember to take a pic for this blog.

Anyway, the US and Indian cohorts who flew in by the 11th were registered with Tongji University and then we all went off into different directions really just trying to find our way. Before lunch at a very local spot I was able to get a relatively cheap SIM card for my phone. Finally, I wandered around with a maybe a group of 10 people and we were able to get a limited tour of Tongji by one of the professors of CWRU, Dr. Anurag Gupta. He was extremely knowledgable and it was great fun talking with him and having him take us to his favorite cafe close to campus.

Today (September 13th), woke up fairly early, went back to the local Chinese breakfast cart (it’s right by the business school – it’s going to be coming ‘the breakfast spot’). With two other friends, I proceeded to get lost going around the campus trying to find the gym and swimming pool, which we found in time, before going to lunch at a different place, but still great food.

Lounged about until the evening time before going to YuYuan Gardens, which is not only a garden but a tourist destination in Shanghai; there are probably hundreds of stalls selling anything from chopsticks to silks, from ceramic tea mugs to jade jewelry.  The big event tonight though was waiting for night to fall and seeing the Shanghai skyline lit up along the Bund, a ritzy area filled with high end malls and swanky restaurants.

And that is literally where my night ended; taking pictures of an amazing skyline and then having dinner and coming home to write this blog entry about my first couple days!

Tomorrow is orientation and then Monday the 15th is the 1st day of classes – which will probably be my next post! 🙂

Hope you enjoyed the highlights, until next time!

Telecommunications Building New Construction Apple in Shanghai Jinmao Tower & Shanghai Financial Center
Quote from: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/topics/topic_travel.html#4tdaibj2LT2RKYjw.99

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Orientation, Surprise Goodies, and Flights – Oh My!

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If you are part of an organization that doesn’t let you laugh – leave it! ~ Gloria Steinem

 

Yesterday marked the end of orientation into the Global MBA program that I joined at Case Western Reserve University. Over the course of two days the facilitators of the program introduce me and 11 others to what we should expect as exchange students in Shanghai, China. 

It was an amazing two days filled with an interactive ropes course challenge at Common Grounds just outside of Cleveland, many different talks from the 2013 Global MBA Class reps, introductions to all of the amazing people who put this program together, and finally me running around trying to take care of last minute shenanigans.

A fun filled surprise that I didn’t know would be happening was that I and the other women in our US group received an invite to a town lecture in the historical Severance Hall on CWRU campus to hear a guest lecturer speak. I was pretty surprised by the invite and that our tickets were purchased, but I felt – why not? Why not just see what the talk had to offer.

I must say I was very enlightened. 

The guest speaker was Gloria Steinem, who I now know has been a female activist for pretty much longer than I have been alive. She is a brilliant speaker and knowledgable about a breadth of subjects. It was amazing getting to see and hear her speak about how far the many different right’s movements have come (specifically, women, race, gender, etc) but just how much further we had to go before equality was truly everyone’s. 

All I could think of throughout the 1.5 hrs was “she really gets it!” 

It was a great way to end the day.

Currently, I am sitting in the Delta Sky Lounge at Detroit’s International Airport waiting for my flight, excited and scared but definitely looking forward to everything that’s happening.

 

Until next time, Cheers!

New Shiny Business Cards, Gloria Steinem, Pics of Me and Alex and the Reception

New Shiny Business Cards, Gloria Steinem, Pics of Me and Alex and the Reception