Sunday, July 31, 2005

Two Roads Diverged....

Robert Frost's poem about making choices in life was always my favorite. And it's amazing to look back isn't it, and to think how small little decisions you made might have changed the entire path your life has taken since then. I think back to when I was deciding where to go to college...had I taken the offer at Penn, for instance, would I be living there now, near my best friend who did take that offer, outside of Philly and working in healthcare? Would that have meant I wouldn't have ended up working in London at all? And that I wouldn't have decided to do my MBA? And/or wouldn't have taken this amazing opportunity to learn at such an international program with such interesting classmates? Not to mention wouldn't have fallen in love and be making future decisions based upon someone else's decisions as well? And on and on. Wow. Or had I continued in the Medicine track...or had I not taken the London job....

So now I am in one of those places again, with the roads diverging ahead of me. And as Frost says, you always say 'oh I'll come back and try the other option another time,' but in all honesty chances are you will never be at this exact crossroads again and never have the opportunity to try the alternative paths. It is a mixture of excitement and uncertainty, opportunities and risks. So far I am happy with the path life has taken me on, and hope that the next stages go well also (i.e. post-MBA jobs!) Wish me luck.... will it be US or UK? Previous employer or new one? North or South, East or West..... and so it continues...

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Punting, a Cambridge Tradition

Finally went punting today! Well, I have been punting before where someone else is actually doing the physical punting and I do the relax-and-ride role (very taxing one indeed), but today was the ultimate chance to punt all by myself. 5 of us went and rented a punt (about 10 pounds an hour), crossing our fingers it wouldn't rain (it didn't thankfully) and setting out onto the crowded River Cam. Filled with tourists and English-language students and other exchange students, it seemed to be International Day on the river, and we saw all types of punting techniques out there. Rory's theory was that the Italians seem to prefer to try to punt from the front of the boat as opposed to the back which is traditional (not sure if they just didn't notice everyone else doing it from the back, or if they were trying to be different). One Chinese guy apparently just gave up, put his pole in the boat and slowly paddled along with the little paddle they give you! There was much crashing and bumper-boats going, with exclamations and yelling in multiple languages. We learned a few punting tips as the day went on, such as:
  • Your pole may get stuck if the ground is muddy. This is particularly inconvenient when you have just given a huge push with all of your might and the boat rushes along quickly in the OPPOSITE direction from the stuck pole.
  • If your pole does get stuck, LET IT GO. Tina almost learned this lesson the hard way, getting tossed across the boat as she struggled with the stuck pole. It is either you, or the pole, so unless you are in the mood for a swim with the geese just drop it, don't fight it, and use your little paddle to get your stuck pole or plead with an experienced punter to pass the pole as they go by.
  • DUCK under the bridges, and try not to get stuck at 90 degree angles to everyone else under the bridge.
  • An MBA degree does NOT guarantee mastery of the ancient Cambridge art of punting. Nor does it guarantee successful negotiating skills when maneuvering among difficult punting passengers in crowded rivers... (though perhaps having beer on board might help, will keep in mind for next time) ;)
  • Parking is a skill that some seem to have naturally (Ryan!). Turning the boat around 180 degrees in the crowded river is another thing... good job Hugo ;)
  • You are meant to STEER the thing...yes that is right. With a giant pole. Good luck.
  • Who says boys are better punters than girls??
  • Ok I admit, my muscles were pretty tired after a while... maybe boys ARE a bit better suited...besides, I really shouldn't complain if they want to show off and push me along the river now, should I?
Actually it was great fun, if you come to Cambridge I hope to see you hopping up on the deck of the boat barefoot, Tom Sawyer style! ;)

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

new visions of the Underground

So the other day I was on the tube in London, and I'm standing at one end of the carriage, and, sort of subconsciously, I'm checkin out each of the other passengers...ya know, not really trying to, but you just can't HELP but look at everyone a bit more carefully now can ya, hmm, that guy looks stressed... look at his backpack...etc etc. So my eyes continue along the row of people seated, and suddenly I see the headline a newspaper a guy is reading, and I almost jump as I read: "So, How Do we Spot a Terrorist?" I almost laugh ironically at myself, as this is basically what I had been doing just seconds before...

It's interesting really; yes the British have the stiff upper lip thing of course, and it's true in many parts of a normal day in London you wouldn't know anything has changed since 7 July. but then again, how can you NOT look at people more on the tube...maybe people are not outwardly and openly afraid, but what are they THINKING inside? as for me, a mixture of life-as-usual even though that surprises me to feel it, and minor changes in attitude and awareness for sure. The cartoon in the Independent last Sunday struck me as well: the commuter getting ready to go down the curving stairs under the Underground entrance, and low and behold ahead of him on the stairs is the outline of the Grim Reaper making his way down as well...
Not trying to be depressing, but an interesting commentary. I am though impressed with the resiliency of londoners and i think that is important to the city's ability to deal with everything as well.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Any MBA applicants or students out there?

Well I thought summer would involve strolling through the park and punting down the river Cam at a leisurely pace...yet somehow I feel as though I have no more time than during term, perhaps even less! I gather it's due to the frequent commute to London, but oh well.

Anyway, I am working to get my summer Individual Project, as described before, underway. My project is entitled "Customer Relationship Management in MBA Programmes." As I have an education management background, I find using business skills and marketing in the realm of education to be very interesting, and so am looking at marketing and CRM for MBA applicants.

IF any of you readers come across this and happen to be MBA applicants or students, you can actually help me with my IP!! You can partake in my student/applicant survey at:
Password: mbacrm

And add to my research! Feel free, really. And thanks if you do participate!

Otherwise not so much going on here, just lots of work. Have been down to London a few times now since the bombing and it is a strange feeling to take the tube... strange because in some ways I feel frightened, and other ways completely normal, and even the fact that I feel normal about it seems strange! And all the memorials at Kings Cross are very poignant.
Ok more soon.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Sunshine in the city

So this year doesn't seem to have had quite the number of hours of sunshine that I remember from summers in London 2001-2003, but what we do get sure is appreciated. Today is one of those gorgeous summer days in Cambridge that makes me smile when I look out the window. Sunshine streams into our bedrooms through the windows that look out on the back garden of Herne Lodge. The garden is full of green, and right now 3 or 4 different colorful flowers and bushes are growing. Not that I know much about gardens at all, but it is a nice feeling to have such a green garden. Even though it is smaller than some yards in Florida, it is so much cosier than the stark square yards with a chain-link or wooden fence and plain grass that are often featured at home. All of the different trees and shrubs and green plants and flowers are comforting somehow. Though I guess part of the Florida challenge is it can be too hot to grow many of these plants!

Anyway, I may have mentioned this thought before, but it sure is a nice lifestyle to be in Cambridge and have the city at your feet with your bicycle and nothing else. To hop on and be off to the shops in 5-10 minutes max, not to mention pedaling past Kings College in the sunshine, and all of the centuries-old architecture. I've never lived in a place where everthing I could need in the town (groceries, clothing shops, restaurants, bars, parks, etc) is a short 5-10 minute bike ride from my house. Or even a 15-20 minute walk on a leisurely day. It's a great experience. Today I wandered the shops looking for Cambridge gifts to send home, amidst all of the summer tourists eating their ice cream and taking photos (and nearly getting run over by bikes). The breeze was fabulous. I think today is so nice because it's not TOO hot, 21-22 degrees instead of 30, but still great sunshine, my favorite weather. My dad calls these days 'California days', with the breeze and sunshine and dry weather compared to Florida humidity. Here's hoping the weather lasts a while...

Friday, July 15, 2005

College Life

As next year's Cambridge MBA class gets ready to come over in a couple of months, our incoming class has had a lot of questions about college life at Cambridge. What is it all about really? Should I live at a college? What will I get out of belonging to a college? and so on.

So I thought I'd attempt to describe a little bit of what college life is about, and how that affects MBAs at Cambridge.

What does it mean to belong to a college?
The University of Cambridge is made up of 31 Colleges, and if you attend the University you must belong to a College. In fact, most of the buildings on campus at Cambridge belong to Colleges, instead of to the University. The University website has this to say about colleges:
"A College is the place where students live, eat and socialise. It is also the place where they receive small group teaching sessions, known as supervisions."
Colleges do require applications and select their own members. However, if you are accepted to the Judge Business School (Cambridge's MBA Program) you will receive a place in a college. You belong to the college for life, and in fact apparently alumni of a college are eligible to get married in their college chapel later on.

What does a college provide?
Colleges provide housing (often optional for grad students), dining halls and meals, formal meals, sports teams, social groups, activities and clubs, a library, tutors, gardens, and more.

How much time will I have for this during the MBA?
Surprisingly many MBAs fit in a lot of time for college activities. Many of our class rowed for their college team, which often required getting up at 6am before class each day to train. The college Formal Halls are often quite nice events, dinner by candlelight where the college members where their Harry-Potter-like gowns and meet and greet professors and students of all backgrounds. Many MBAs this year invited one another to each other's formal halls and guest nights. In fact some try to attend as many colleges formal halls as possible.

It's also just an opportunity to meet students who are studying different things, and get away from the ''business school" world sometimes if you ever need that. At my college I met grad students studying law, math, sciences, and engineering. You get to go to dinners and be surrounded by people doing very interesting, often very specific things with their graduate studies, which is a unique opportunity.

That being said, it was true in my experience that the nature of the MBA program means that you will spend most of your time with your MBA class, and often they become your best friends and your social network, and we even had some of our own MBA sports teams, and plenty of clubs and activities within the MBA. I have made friends for life in the MBA, and will hopefully have people to visit around the world now too!

Should I take college accomodation?
This is a difficult one to answer. However I think that most of our classmates who were single did choose to take college accomodation this year. The benefits of college accomodation are that it is usually cheaper than private accomodation, and it is often much more central, although it can vary. Classmates with families and spouses more often opted for private accomodation, though some colleges provide married housing.
The quality of accomodation varies a lot from college to college, so my advice would be to talk to people at the college you are accepted to in order to find out a bit about their options.
I was quite lucky at Sidney Sussex College (pictured). I chose college accomodation, and they assigned me to a college-owned house that is a 5 minute walk (no kidding) to the Business School. (perfect for sleeping to the last possible minute before morning classes!!) And it is quite spacious, my room is probably twice the size of my past London room, and a nice garden, good place for parties and dinners. It is true though that some classmates at my college who live right at the college itself have smaller rooms, so there is variety, but the rumor is that they try to put MBAs at Sidney in the house I am in since it's so close to the Judge. Other colleges have shared houses and some more dormitory-style rooms, so check into the situation once you get to that point!

Any questions about the colleges, post a Comment, I'd be happy to answer them.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Love, Big Brother, and MBA programmes...

So if you put 100 people somewhere for a year, ensure they often spend 12+ hours a day together (classes, meals, projects, revision, sports, pub...), and count how many romances will come out of the whole thing.....

Sound like an episode of Big Brother, or perhaps the latest (quite lame) Celebrity Love Island?? Not quite. I'm talking about higher institutions of learning, reputable business students and experienced professionals....

What I wonder is the average romance ratio of an MBA programme? And if, as it sometimes appears, couples form left and right, does that mean we are all just subject to our location and the people we are surrounded with? Can romance form anywhere if you spend enough time together? Wow such un-romantic notions....

I suppose it could be argued that we are 'at that age' (?), or that we are people with similiar interests and ambitions given the international MBA program (bit more plausible), or that romance can be heightened by surroundings and stress and intensity...hmmm kind of like cheesy adventure movies, 'Speed' with Keanu Reeves and the like, where love happens at the end of a huge car chase and life threatening shared experience, simply as a result of stress???

I suppose there is some truth in the 'you are a factor of your surroundings' argument when it comes to love....but the romantic in me would like to believe that, yes, surroundings are a factor, but deeper things are more important when it comes to real love and lifelong relationships. Alright, there's my sappy thoughts for the moment, as our MBA soap opera continues. ;)

Cambridge Restaurants

Some of my favs in Cambridge...

Varsity. Greek/Mediterranean. Click here for review.
Great mezze meal, more than you can eat, for about 12-14 pounds! Greek starters (houmous, taramasalata, etc), seafood course, meat/lamb course. Excellent. Dessert menu sounds great too, though usually don’t have room for it! They have a la carte as well, and try the Greek white wine, Retsina.
35 St. Andrew's St.

Sala Thong. Thai. Click here for description.
Good Thai food and dinner packages served on a punt on the Cam!! Our food was excellent, included set menu with at least 5 dishes including my favorite, green curry chicken. Great experience. Read about my experience here, scroll down to 'Queen of the Cam.'
35 Newnham Road

Eraina Taverna. Greek/Mediterranean and other international food. Description here. HUGE/extensive menu. Decent prices. Tucked in the alleyway not far from the Eagle.
2 Free School Lane

Galleria. European, pastas, meats, nice salads. Review here.
Good food. Slightly more pricey. Balcony tables would be nice in summer.
33 Bridge St, at Magdalene Bridge.

The Cow. Pizza. Review here.
Delicious pizzas cooked in the pizza oven. 2 for 1 Pizzas on Tuesday nights can't be beat, especially the Spicy Chicken pizza. Yum.
Corn Exchange St

The Panton Arms. BBQ/kebabs on weekends. Pub description here.
Our local pub, it puts on a fabulous BBQ Fri-Sunday with chicken, shish, and fish kebabs, good quality and nice presentation, with rice, salad, pita and veg on a platter. Delicious and very convenient for me! Nice outdoor courtyard with fountain, meant for a sunny day.
45 Panton St

Saffron Brasserie. Indian. Review here.
Our fav curry house. Love the Chicken Balti and others.
36/38 Hills Rd.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

a sad day

i still remember 9/11, I was in London, and shocked, and it was a strange experience to watch everything happen in my country from overseas, to try to reach people by phone and not get through, to stare in disbelief at the television and wonder what was coming next. I remember we didn't have a TV that worked well in the office and we walked to a pub on charing cross road to watch the footage.

Today I saw footage of the outside of that same pub, blocked off on Charing Cross Road, as the news blared a new terrorist attack, this time bombings in London.

It is an extremely sad and scary day, and I've been glued to the TV and internet for most of it. I have been working 2 days a week in London, going through Kings Cross where one of the bombs was, but luckily was staying in Cambridge today. I also used to live near Edgeware road tube, and my old flatmates were still there, one of them taking a train from Edgeware shortly before the explosion. I am very thankful that all of my friends so far, and our classmates who may have been in London, are ok. We do feel quite safe in Cambridge, but it's so terrible to see London, a city I love, damaged in such an evil way, and the terror and deaths of innocent people. I don't have much else to say sadly at this difficult time...

Monday, July 04, 2005

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