120 School Days + 2,688 Miles = 1 Amazing LA Vacation

A couple of weeks ago I visited two of my cohort mates in Los Angeles.  It was freezing in DC, and the opportunity to cash in my miles and seek warmer ground was a no-brainer.

Shopping in Santa Monica

It was amazing!  Thirty minutes after arriving at LAX and after jamming my down wintercoat into my suitcase, I was eating lunch at a Santa Monica eatery with the sun on my face and the Pacific Ocean in my view.

The next few days were a whirlwind:  shopping in Santa Monica, racing down Pacific Coast Highway, soaking in the art and gardens at the Getty Museum, standing in line for an ice cream sandwich at Diddy Riese near the UCLA campus, boutiquing in Westwood, riding the winding Malibu canyon on a Harley and stopping at the Rock Store off of Mulholland Hwy, bowling at the infamous bowling alley from the Big Lebowski (mark it zero, please), taking an hour to go 4 blocks in infamous traffic (ok, not so fun), and celebrity sight-seeing (I swear I saw Khloe).

1st Year MBAs (L-R) Alexandra, Jen, & Maria Teresa at the Getty Museum

As I sit here in DC a few weeks later, I smile as I think about how different this trip to LA was compared to my previous visits.  I’d been to LA a couple of times for both vacation and business, but I felt like I saw this trip differently.

For example, while in the legendary line getting my ice cream sandwich at Diddy Riese for $1.50 and feeling an instant exhilaration at how cheap and delicious a deal this was, I then realized that this was an exact example of what one of my professors called “consumer surplus.”  Good thing Diddy Riese doesn’t know just exactly how much I would indeed be willing to pay for that there sandwich.  As I walked out of their shop, I wondered how Diddy Riese could possibly be making money charging such deliciousness at such an obscenely low rate?  I glanced at the long line that I had just been standing in and remembered the concepts of volume sales and cost efficient goods providers.  Gotcha.  Of course, both concepts flew out of my mind as I polished off the rest of my sandwich.  In fact, much of what I was thinking flew out as I finished such deliciousness.

Diddy Riese Cookie Sandwiches...a $1.50 slice of Heaven

Being an MBA student has given me another way of viewing the world around me:  it’s like I’m now traveling with 3D glasses with my newly acquired knowledge.  One semester in, I was sitting in my free ticket seat and wondering what dynamic pricing models my airlines had used in offering seats on the plane to wondering what the size of endowment and interest rate the Getty might need to operate such a facility for the public good.  It was as if I saw business everywhere and it made the strings of connecting everything so much more vibrant and clear.

I’m looking forward to going on one of the study abroad trips that Kogod is offering over the next break.  I’ll have gone through six more classes and learned a slew of other concepts and developed a host of skills.  On that note, maybe I’ll try considering consumer surplus while consuming macaroons and an espresso from Ladurées on the Champs Elysées next?  Oui!  Oui!

“See you in August”

The end of the school year is a mixed bag. Though it’s exciting to have a break from classes, there is no real rest for the weary. Internships start shortly after finals end and, especially for those of us that are interning outside of DC, there are plenty of logistics that need to be finalized. The biggest surprise was how hard it would be to say goodbye to friends.

Guys at Fogo de Chao

After finals, we began a series of little celebrations to herald in summer vacation. A few of the guys from the program enjoyed a steak dinner in downtown DC before meeting up with others in Adams Morgan.

The exhale that accompanied endless meat was both welcome and slightly overwhelming. In the end, we were happy to discuss our completed finals, expected grades and summer plans.

One (unfortunately cloudy) day some of us got together for a small barbecue. Since the pool wasn’t really an option, we mostly sat around, ate and enjoyed the musical talents of our friend Kevin.

Sing us a song, Kev

Some of us sang along from memory, others cheated by looking up lyrics on our phones.

Many of my classmates will be in different parts of the country for their respective internships. The likelihood that we’ll see each other over the next few months is low. Eight months of group projects, study sessions and back-to-back classes can really turn strangers to close friends. It is thus no surprise that while we are all excited to work and learn over the summer, it was weird to be saying goodbye for a few months.

As for me, I am in New York, interning in midtown. The summer is off to a great start despite waking up earlier than I did during school. It’s exciting to be back in the work realm using the tools that I gained in my first year. But I already miss my friends in DC and look forward to being back in August…. even if New York is pretty awesome.

A weekend in South America

This past Saturday I attended the wedding of a close family friend in Bogotá, Colombia. The young parents on my Thursday night Avianca flight were shocked when I mentioned that I was traveling to South America for the weekend. The short trips that my sisters and I made to Colombia meant a great deal to our immigrant father and made for a once-in-a-lifetime weekend.

Bogotá is no small town.

This being only my second trip to my father’s hometown, my dad and uncle were intent showing us as much as possible. Thus my South American vacation was full of rushed car rides and little sleep. It was awesome.

Saturday morning we were up at 6 am to get ready to visit Monserrate. Next, we went to the Museum del Oro which featured some of the most interactive exhibits. The wedding on Saturday night was “espectacular” and the bride was a “princesa”. Sunday morning we were able to sleep in until 8 before attending a family reunion on a “finca” about an hour outside Bogotá. Three packed days but luckily hundreds of pictures to help remember them.

Family reunion on a farm

I took on a great deal of risk traveling when finals are only few days away and group projects are nearing culmination. It would have been impossible for me to make this rushed trip without the support of my classmates and professors at Kogod. Even though I am in the process of catching up now I am immensely grateful for the understanding that my teammates offered me before my trip and upon my return.

I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to attend two amazing events in Colombia and I have my great friends at Kogod to thank for that.

Kogod in a NY minute

One of the great benefits to attending graduate school on the East Coast is the proximity of so many great cities. Last week the students at Kogod enjoyed a much needed Spring Break. While I was unable to travel to any exotic locations, like some of my classmates (I’m looking at you, Amanda), I did go to New York to visit friends and family.

Having originally hailed from Staten Island, it was nice to be able to travel back north. I was very fortunate to have a colleague from Kogod join me. My friend Kristen decided last minute to come to New York for a fun filled 36 hours. Kristen, who grew up in Ohio, had only been to New York once and I was intent on showing her as much as we could fit in.

No rest for the weary

KO and LL in Times Square

Once we arrived in Manhattan, we pretty much didn’t stop moving until it was time for Kristen to leave. Lunch in midtown was an easy choice. Pizza was the only food group on Kristen’s mind. And with only a day and half in the Big Apple, we had to make sure we covered all our bases… pizza, bagels, coffee. After lunch with my college roommate, Nick, who was also gracious enough to be our host, we hurried downtown to do some shopping. Shopping in weekday Soho was rushed but luckily bountiful.

With about an hour to get back, get ready and get to a Times Square pub for networking, Kristen and I booked it to the subway to travel back up the East Side. The Networking for Professionals event at O’Brien’s was definitely worth the rush. We had the opportunity to speak with several experts in their given industries. Kristen (interested in finance) and I (interested in marketing) were the perfect tag-team. Our time at the event flew by but we both walked out with a better idea of the New York market and some great contacts.

With no time to spare, we rushed to Hell’s Kitchen to grab dinner with Nick. After dinner, we hopped in a cab to go back over toward where we were staying. Our classmate Kate and her mom were staying one block south of us while they had their own NY shopping adventure. We joined them for post theater drinks. They had just seen The Addams Family (very jealous). Meeting someone’s parents is always a great way to get to know more about them. It was really fun to hang out with Kate and her mom for a while with Kristen in a new city. Unfortunately, we didn’t think to take a picture at the time.

Beat the bus

When we woke up on Wednesday, I was really disappointed that we only had a few hours in New York. So we were in a rush again. We traveled uptown to grab some bagels and visit museums. I was in heaven with all the Kandinsky’s that were being exhibited at the Guggenheim. We spent about 2 hours walking down the spiral gallery. As a huge fan of the Met, I had never been to the Guggenheim and was really happy to have a new experience in New York with my good friend.

Then it was back downtown for last minute shopping. And what do you know? We bumped into two other classmates of ours! Big city, but small world. Kevin and Julie Jones just happen to be in Soho at the same time as Kristen and me.

Look who it is

After a rushed 5 minute conversation, we were running again. This time Kristen needed to make her bus.

The city that never sleeps

While many of my colleagues at Kogod plan to stay in Washington, D.C., my career search has mostly focused on the New York City metropolitan area. It’s hard to believe that I will be coming back to New York after almost 9 years away. But $40 round trip bus tickets are a small price to pay to stay in touch with close friends. Even though I am excited by the opportunities that exist in New York, I look forward to sharing New York with my new friends when they inevitably come to visit, hopefully often. It’ll give me an excuse to break out my running shoes….

Global Innovation: Paris and Prague

 

Global Innovation at the L'Oreal Plant in Paris

I can’t imagine why anyone would want to spend their spring break in a classroom. Unless that classroom is in Paris.

When I signed up for the IBUS course on Global Innovation, I did so for a few reasons. First, the class is the only at Kogod’s international business department that has a European focus (the subject of my undergrad degree). Second, the course includes travel. Third, travel meant spending spring break and Paris and Prague.

We all know that one of the highlights of Kogod is the international atmosphere here, which is augmented by the many opportunities to take short study trips abroad. Whether it’s Brazil, China, Argentina, South Korea, or Europe, twice (or even three times) a year you can take a class that not only teaches you about doing business in a foreign country, but actually exposes you to engaging with business in that country.

For me, going to Paris felt like it would be a homecoming. Having spent all of my life since age five studying French, all of my college years studying French history and language, and four months living abroad in Paris, I felt like the first leg of the trip would be a piece of cake.

How very wrong I was.

Seeing Paris with Professor Tomasz Mroczkowski was like seeing an entirely new Paris for the very first time. Our group of 22 — mixed full-time/part-time MBAs, SIS grads, SOC grads, and some undergrads — was folded into the renowned European business school, ESCP. Apart from taking class with incredible professors, we went on a whirlwind tour of French companies to study innovation at France Telecom, NYSE Euronext, and finally, L’Oreal. By the end of the trip I was exhausted (and craving steak frites), but ready for more in the Eastern European city of Prague.

Having never been to Prague, I first thought I would be completely lost. I didn’t know a word of Czech (I now know how to say hello, please, thank you, beer, and water), and I certainly didn’t know the city like I did Paris. But Prague exceeded my expectations, and quickly took the top spot in my personal list of most beautiful cities. The academic portion was incredibly enlightening, and extraordinarily impressive. Our meetings were with the leaders of each featured company: the directors of strategy for the Czech energy company Cez; marketing, customer service, and PR executives of Vodafone Czech Republic; the leader of the US Commercial Service in Prague; and the CEO of GE-Walter Aviation.

Despite moments of exhaustion (it’s amazing how much you can fit into a day…), the trip was constantly eye-opening, and incredibly inspiring. Now back in class in DC, I find myself many steps ahead of where I was before the trip. The exposure to different cultures’ approach to business has changed the way I think about business, and has made me able to take the theories in class at Kogod and synthesize them in a way I hadn’t been able to before.

So in short, spending all of spring break in a class room wasn’t half bad. Let’s put it this way: I want to do it all over again.

 

 

Big decision: Go full or part-time?

In my experience as a Kogod Ambassador I’ve noticed that some of the most popular questions among prospective students relate to their decision about going full or part-time. They wonder about the main difference between both programs, and what they could miss if they chose the latter. To them, here’s my answer, and know that I’m fully writing from my personal experience since I’m a full-timer while my husband is a part-timer, both at Kogod…

By comparing my husband’s experience with mine, I can tell with absolute confidence that the learning experience as well as the ability to network and make friends is exactly the same. Professors demand as much from part-timers as they do from full-timers, with the only difference that part-timers take fewer courses per semester. As for the interpersonal relations, it’s true that part-timers meet in class less often; however, their class is smaller so they share all courses, which allows them to get to know each other more quickly.

The main difference between you becoming a part or full-timer relies on (1) the time you spend on campus, and (2) the extent to which school becomes your main focus. Of course going part-time will require you to spend less time at school, since you will be working simultaneously and taking only 6 credits per semester as opposed to 12+. Plus, work will probably continue to grab a big part of your attention, since there’s a reason you didn’t leave it in the first place, this being: the need to continue getting an income, the potential of growing within the organization, the risk of quitting and having to look for a different job later on, etc.

No one program is better than the other per se; it all depends on what YOU want to do, meaning what your interests and priorities are. Most international students for example, prefer to go full-time, looking for an on-campus experience that they probably lacked in their hometowns. Other people feel they want to become 100% students again: dress up comfy, grab food on the go, study at the library or simple sitting on the grass, and generally following an unstructured time schedule. Some decide to go full-time to graduate earlier and make that career switch they’ve been long waiting for. Others are willing to cope with only one type of stress at a time.

But everything is relative. For many people, working and studying at the same time proves less stressful than studying only, since it gets easier to set up time boundaries and become more productive. Plus, people may feel psychologically less pressured when taking care of several issues than when only focusing on one. Some others are career enhancers as opposed to career switchers, so keeping their job to capitalize on opportunities of growth within the organization makes more sense for them. Other people simply need their monthly income and are not willing to take on the risk of getting a new job in times of recession.

So… Who are you? What are your goals? What are your interests and priorities? Inquiring yourself can help you find out whether you would be happier as a full or part-timer at Kogod. Ask yourself:

  • Do I want to spend more or less time on campus?
  • Does having two focal points stress me out more or less than having one?
  • Do I want to have the 100% student experience again?
  • Am I a career switcher or enhancer?
  • How does quitting my job affect my career potential?
  • Can I afford to stop receiving a salary while studying?

Getting to know who you are and what you want is the first step to choosing the school and program that will fulfill you the most.

To know more about Kogod’s full and part-time graduate programs click here.

Friday’s Feast

First-years looking full and happy

Last Friday the Graduate Business Association hosted the school’s first International Potluck Celebration.  Students brought food from their home countries to share with classmates.

I have planned many social and educational programming events in undergrad and now with Kogod.  This event was by far the least expensive and overall, pretty easy to put together.  Although so simple, Friday’s dinner provided insurmountable value to students.  I speak for all of my US classmates when I say that it was a privilege to honor Kogod’s international students.

One of our favorite professors, Ajay Adhikari, with students

The potluck dinner showcased cuisines from China, Thailand, India, Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, Ecuador, and various regions of the United States (just to name a few).    International students are deserving of everyone’s admiration.  Not only have they moved from opposite ends of the globe to study at Kogod, but they bring valuable knowledge that spans beyond the classroom.  I love learning about their home life, previous work experiences, travel adventures, or even beer recommendations.

The butter chicken from India and lamb chops from Bangladesh placed second to the camaraderie in the room Friday night.  I can’t wait for another International Potluck Celebration next semester!