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Archive for April, 2009

One of my housemates got engaged to his girlfriend during a break between periods. According to him, three things can happen to couples at INSEAD: you get engaged, you break up, you cheat. Mind you, the three are not mutually exclusive. There are rumors of people who have come here with their fiancés, broken up and left INSEAD engaged to someone else. There are rumors of the promiscuous partners who have gotten around while their husbands were spending time in the library. And then there’s reality: people ending 3 or 4 year relationships after being at INSEAD for just 2 Ps. I doubt it’s unique to INSEAD, but it might be something special to do with the changes an MBA brings.

This blog was titled MBA/MRS initially as a joke. When I was leaving my job, I sent a good-bye e-mail to the folks at work saying that I was off to travel the world, learn Spanish, seek a meaningful form of self-expression, but that I would eventually reintegrate myself into society and appease my immigrant parents by going for a dual MBA/MRS degree. It used to be that colleges like Wellesley and Barnard were thought of as finishing schools where girls went to get a History/MRS or a Literature/MRS dual degrees. But today the MBA is the new finishing school for those of us who have failed to get married until now. It was mostly facetiously that I named my blog MBA/MRS.

Shortly after I started the blog, my ex and I got back together for the 5th time in three years and the title of the blog started to feel kind of tacky. So I renamed it to Rant & Ramble while the URL remained the same.

They say… or rather, the boyf was fond of saying, ‘you can put your shoes in the oven, but it don’t make ’em biscuits.’ Yet our fifth attempt at making biscuits was going wonderfully – and we were even managing to see each other nearly every two weeks – looking at real estate together, discussing parenting strategy, and generally ignoring deeper issues of incompatibility that would eventually percolate to the top. But then I let the stress of P2 and he let the stress of his new job fuck the whole thing. Facebook is a bitch and adds a new dimension to breakups I haven’t yet experienced. This afternoon I saw a newsfeed that informed me that he went from being ‘in a wonderful, fulfilling, lovely relationship’ to being ‘single.’ Ugh. To add insult to injury, I’ve invested the last 4 months into networking, hobnobbing and researching an ndustry of interest in the city where he lives and spent 1300 EUR to start the visa process to move there. Sunk costs…

It’s all quite sad, though the most sad part might be that this is the right thing for both of us.

To make myself feel better I wrote a list of things I want out of life, blew off studying in favor of career strategy reformulation and pinned up my INSEAD Rugby calendar. I hear the ripped and hairless Mr. April has recently become available.

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This morning I took a 4 hour Foundations of Marketing exam. Actually I ran out of space two hours into the exam and had to stop since content outside of the lines wouldn’t be graded. So really, it was the exam graded based on someone’s ability to write really really really small. Turns out, that kind of advance planning is not one of my strengths.

The value of having taken that exam is zero to everyone involved. I didn’t learn anything from taking it; I won’t read the solutions because by the time it’s graded I won’t care. The grader is going to need a new prescription after deciphering the exam. The professor had to waste his time writing it. Oh wait… no he didn’t. He had to find an old case from a course taught last year and give it again. I could have taken the exam and come up with that same misguided, uninformed answer if I had taken it two months ago – that is, before we started the class.

What’s amazing is that during the exam you’re not allowed to go to the bathroom unaccompanied. It’s an open book exam, everyone is checking their e-mail on their Crackberries anyhow, and they have some admin follow you to the bathroom!! What’s next? A big block of wood to use as a hallpass when you leave class? The middle school analogy holds.

Exams are an incredible waste of everyone’s time. When we only have 8 weeks per period, spending an entire week on evaluating performance is a complete crock. On a per term basis, INSEAD just wasted 1250 of my hard-earned (err… hard-borrowed) euros to conclude that I didn’t learn squat in Marketing. If we had projects – come up with a marketing plan for your brilliant business idea / apply Blue Ocean Strategy tools to your entrepreneurial business plan / apply transfer pricing tools in a client consulting engagement – I might be down. But sitting in an amphi for 4 hours, writing in a script that will need a magnifying glass to decode, is a waste of time.

To add insult to injury at the end of this brilliant day, I was stopped by campus security who demanded to see my badge and then wrote down my name. I’m going to be officially reprimanded!

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The end of P2 is nigh.  I didn’t think I’d find myself waxing nostalgic about the Singapore split, but here I am getting sad about the folks who are going to move on.  I’m wishing I had gotten to know some of them better, wishing some folks I was just starting to get to know weren’t leaving, wishing I wasn’t staying behind, wishing my tennis partner/carpooling friend/get drunk while studying buddy wasn’t ditching me. The two-campus school is a weird animal. Among the P4s, there’s a pretty clear split between the folks who started in Singapore, the BFFs who have gone in P3, and the Fonty lifers. While two campuses gives INSEAD the ability to have a much bigger intake, I have a hunch that it results in a much more segregated class.

I haven’t made up my mind about whether or not to go to Singapore. My 25 point bid for Wharton got me a second to last place on the waiting list, so Singapore is my only choice for an escape from Fonty. I’ve spent time in Singapore and found the frizzy-hair weather relentless, the food the most amazing I’ve had anywhere, and the city somewhat void of culture. While you might not be able to afford the performance of the LSO or the NYPhil on tour at the Durian-shaped concert hall, there’s always the St. James Power Station – a favorite of every post-colonial hangover white douchebag with an Asian fetish.

The Singapore campus offers access to the rest of Asia. If not for jobs – if you don’t have Asia experience before, getting a job in Asia might be tough – then certainly it offers access to travel. To travel, you need $$. And I’m a child of the financial crisis, and a bit conservative with my funds.

I’m excited to meet a whole new group coming over from Singapore. In fact, I already feel like we’re so close because I’ve seen countless shameless close-ups of their cellulite on Facebook.

I am also excited about my new group for the core courses.  Turns out, I’m the only girl in my group. I’ve already told my groupmates that I would like them to address me as ‘Princess’, to stand up when I enter the cubicle, to eat only if I’m eating, and to have an emery board nearby in case I chip a nail while using a calculator. [Lame attempt at humor]

As for the out-going group… While we all had the best intentions at the beginning – making pronouncements of how much we wanted to learn from each other, how we wanted to become better people through team-building. Bollocks. I can safely say that I learned absolutely nothing from the interaction with my group. While I’m still on perfectly good terms with all of them, and will probably stay in touch (via wallposts…), I doubt we’ll have any group reunions post-INSEAD.

The paper that I wrote on our dynamics during LPG has been paying dividends in consulting interviews though.  

-Have you ever been on a team that didn’t work well together?

-Well, funny you should ask, Impersonable Interviewer Lady.  Actually my current group at INSEAD is so conflict avoidant that we can’t stand to spend more than an hour together.  Usually within one hour of working on a case that took other groups 5 hours to do, someone invariably says, ‘guys, I think we’re wasting time here.  Let’s just split this up.’  And then we each go our separate ways, and hand something in last minute that’s half-assed, incomplete, lacking thought, with conclusions contradicting the analysis, with half of it not even written in English.  

Actually, I’ve been trying to put a positive spin on this for the interviewers.  “The homoerotic tension among then men in the group…”  Wait, no, that’s not it either.

Maybe my powers of introspection are not all that well appreciated at the second-rate consulting firm I tap danced for last week. Despite having a first round interview that felt like pulling teeth, I made second round. This was a group interview – which was a bizarre experience. Everyone has a case to read, and their own set of questions to answer. Then you get to lead a brief discussion of your set of questions with the group.

I came out of the interview feeling pretty good about the outcome, but while some of my co-interviewees have gotten phone calls, I’m still waiting for mine.

In the meantime I’ve convinced myself that (a) I don’t want to do consulting, and (b) that I don’t want to do it at this particular firm because they don’t have a good practice in my area of interest. Yet, I’m on pins and needles waiting for their call. Nothing has changed. I’m still a 15-year-old eager for approval and external validation. Pathetic.

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First World Problems

I haven’t tried blogging while wasted yet, but this year is the year to try new things.  So here goes:

In this bubble it’s easy to lose sight of the rest of the world.  You know, the world that has to work for a living.  The world that has real-world problems.

In this rarefied world it’s so easy to focus on my first world problems.  Here is my own list, a la Rakoff.  (Rakoff has a collection of essays, Now, Don’t Get Too Comfortable: The Indignities of Coach Class, the Torments of Low Thread Count, the Never-ending Quest for Artisanal Olive Oil, and Other First World Problems.)

-deciding which internship opportunity to pursue

-10 minutes of traffic at the Obelisque

-Bordeaux or Burgundy with dinner?

-chateau party at Villecerf or Fleuri?

-traditional pearls or something more fun?

-Brugge or Barcelona for a weekend?

-eclaire au chocolat or chausson aux pomme?

-doing homework or salsa dancing?

-talk on Fair Trade standards or a panel on Smart Grids?

-choosing a bistrot in Paris

-the quest for tennis balls in Fontainebleau

Well, this drunken blogging was far less amusing than I had hoped.  It might have something to do with the fact that I have the attention span of a fruit fly.  

Care to share your first world problem?  Leave me a comment!

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Why I Write

I took a writing class in early 2006.  I had just gotten out of a lousy relationship and, emotionally bruised and hurting, began a much-needed process of self-restoration.  I figured doing new things and meeting new people would be a part of that.  I started taking group voice lessons with a professional coach and joined a magazine writing class at the extension school of the local college.

What I realized is that people you meet in night classes or in community choirs are kind of weird, but not too far from where you might end up if you aren’t careful.  They wear clogs with wool socks and mom jeans, and put their hair up in buns.  They’re kind, wonderful, sincere people who don’t know how to hold up their end of the conversation.  

I remember going to Home Depot to buy some houseplants (this was a year and a half ago when I was nesting and not even thinking about the MBA) and I saw a woman who looked just like me 30 misguided, lonely years from now.  I left without buying any houseplants and ran home to pluck my eyebrows and put on some tighter clothes.

So the attempt at self-actualization via the night school route just left me feeling more lonely than I felt before, because I was too afraid that by befriending the weirdos I would embrace my inner weirdo.  I would have been better off joining the kickball league instead.  I did however write some cool articles about the oyster obsession that was sweeping the east coast, about how to do Tanglewood on a shoestring and one about my culinary adventures in Korea.  But then I didn’t have the guts to pitch any of my writing to magazines.  One of the first assignments for the class was a brief piece on “why I write” and I found that I had nothing to say.  I didn’t write.  I used to write in my diary back in middle school – I filled pages upon pages with minutiae of what happened that day and a catalog of what Austin wore: Duckhead shorts, Ralph Lauren Polo, vertical stripes, Nike Air sneakers.  Then I stopped writing in high school because I was too busy, and picked it up again in college during travel trips. The result was overly florid descriptions of my experiences in Morocco, that found depth in every cultural difference and forced generalizations upon a culture I didn’t understand (much like I’m doing now in France, come to think of it).  

Post college I wrote a journal occasionally, but discovered that in my entries, I was always incredibly hard on myself.  Each entry would start with something mundane and end in self-loathing.  I was unhappy with my job, my prospects, my love life, the fact that I wasn’t an expert that NPR called when they wanted to talk about subject X.  I stopped writing and found a shrink and became one of those people who talked about their shrink at dinner parties.  Eventually this got loathsome too, so I packed my toga and set off for INSEAD.  NPR still isn’t calling me but I’ve learned to hate myself less for it.     

During those years, I kept a travel blog as a way of staying in touch with my friends and with my parents and sharing the experience.  And since the blog was public, I put more effort into writing coherent stories than I might when writing a diary.  These vignettes are like souvenirs from my trips.  

Many students (and one faculty member) have asked me why I write this blog.  What exactly is my role as the person who reports on the goings on at INSEAD that the rest of the world can read?  Do I have a responsibility to the institute to represent it in a certain light?  

I started writing this blog back in October when I was bored yet anxious about the changes ahead.  Mostly I needed a place to vent about the painful visa process, the lack of user-friendliness of the MBAConnect site, the stress of deciding whether my stuffed Panda could come (yes, definitely) and whether it was frivolous to allocate so much luggage space to a designer teapot (no, of course not).  

I continued to write because it was a way of keeping my parents abreast of my life – though lately they message they’re reading between the lines is about how stressed out I am.  I write in part because I enjoy the attention – the thrill of being ‘found out’ when people connect the dots between my writing style to my Facebook status updates.  Or perhaps I write it because I’m so conceited as to think that my opinions are worth sharing (though GP would say that it’s such a 1970s physchoanalysis cliché).  I also write to give sense to my experiences, that I wouldn’t do if I was keeping a journal.  I write because I need to vent those daily frustrations with the hope that someone might be reading: i.e. Why does INSEAD print business cards with an e-mail address that expires in a year?  Why aren’t students given alumni addresses immediately: mbamrs.MBA2009@insead.edu?  Wouldn’t that make sense?  The answer I was given was some mumble-jumble about IT settings and permissions for access to the alumni site.  Can the Business School for the World not [bother itself to] figure out a simple IT question?  Lack of accountability comes to mind.  The attitude says, students are only here for 10 months.  They’ll stop complaining eventually.  And since I’m on a roll, why can I never find someone at the reception desk?  Why is it impossible to find a campus map on the school homepage?    

See, it’s so easy to rant.  It’s easier to poke fun than to write something sincere and positive.  I briefly flirted with the cult of Yelp! an online review site for everything from hairdressers to restaurants.  The positive reviews were always so bland, but the negative ones were always hilarious.   

As far as projecting a certain image, I’m assuming that the people reading this (prospective students/alumni/professors/administrators) are smart enough to realize that this is one woman’s opinion about her very personal experience at INSEAD.  The things that I get worked up about may not even be on another person’s radar.  The aspects of INSEAD that I enjoy may be very different from those that someone in J’10 will enjoy.

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america-fuck-yeah

This week was “rag on America” week at INSEAD.  INSEAD hosts a number of national weeks every year.  The bidding for national week happened sometime during the pervious term, before the D’09s showed up on campus.  I suspect that America getting selected for the first time had something to do with an Obama halo effect and images of the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders in the video that Americans put together to bid for the week.  

So this week was America Week.  While the Dallas Cheerleaders did not grace us with their presence, and we didn’t get a sponsor (so we had to cough up $5o… err no… 50 EUR! to support America week), the week was pretty fun.  Beyond the 50 EUR and holding an improptu line dancing lesson during the cajun dinner, I did not get involved in the planning simply due to a lack of time.  I did however get some lovely injuries from riding the mechanical bull.  

Many of my classmates took America week as an opportunity to rag on America.  I felt like some of the discussions of the cases earlier in the week turned pretty obnoxious.  I heard things like, “You and your conspicuous consumption.  You and your hokey values.  You and unenlightened palates.  You and your crappy wine.  You and your 5 o’clock news.”  Besides pissing me off, it also made me kind of home sick.  It made me want to run home to the country that gave rise to the Twittering Kimchi Taco truck.  Does Fontaineblows have a Twittering Kimchi Taco truck?  No?  I didn’t think so!

americafuck-yeah

Last night, against my better judgement, I went to the Toga party at Tavers.  The amazing thing is how many people showed up in togas, and how many of those same people asked me, “hey, why are we wearing togas?”  Um, I don’t know.  Why ARE you wearing a toga?  I’m starting to think that if part of America Week was group-jumping off a bridge, many would do it, and ask for rationale afterwards.

The rationale is such: we’re wearing togas because we are 29 and studied too hard during college and missed out on the nearly-weekly toga parties.  The reason there are toga parties to begin with is because the sorority and fraternity system is called the Greek System because original fraternities were literary and honor organizations denoted by Greek letters.  These literary-cum-beer-funneling organizations often host toga parties because it’s okay if you get sprayed with box wine when wearing a toga, and togas come off easily.  

Hmmm…. I hate to admit it but in writing all this I’m starting get why people make fun of Americans.   

animal-house-posters

If you need something else to make fun of Americans, make fun of these teabaggers from the fly-over states.  If you need to know what teabagging is, ask someone wearing a slutty shirt from America week.

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