Friday, September 26, 2008

Rome or Bust

I'm leaving for Rome tomorrow afternoon.

I should be attending a case study stuff..but then again, this entire MBA is all about “shoulds” and should nots…and coulds, cans, wills, and will nots.

I’m hoping these are lessons in themselves- sacrificing one opportunity for another- or being so incredibly inundated with assignments and appointments and engagements that there are as many missed opportunities as there are opportunities taken. I feel pushed so far out of my own boundaries that I’m at a standstill. I’ve stalled. If I shut my eyes for a moment- another potential career path has fled from my peripheral vision. 
So now- I’m the one fleeing. 

And if I miss a seminar here or there? I don’t think- don’t think anymore, that is- that it will be the end of the world. 

If I had enough hours in these days...or years in this degree...I would do everything. Unfortunately, I can't. 
Pre-term is almost accounting and stats are done- and we have a few more exams to go. I still haven't slept and apparently, we were supposed to have known what field we wanted to go into BEFORE the MBA ever really began. 
No one told me this.

My days are plagued with numbers and figures and theories I didn’t even know existed- and my nights are inundated with the reality of the nightmares I will be facing when I rise the next day- and have even more drastic decisions to make. Decisions that, apparently, I should have come prepared to make. I'm not being dramatic right now- I don’t think that it’s possible to over-dramatize the severity of this situation. I can only, after weeks of attempting to deal with it- to put it all into compartments in my mind, sort it out- sort myself out- I can only laugh. 
And go to Rome. 

Our resumes and cover letters have been butchered and beaten- and now we are meant to hand them over and accept the fact that everything we have worked so hard to become- is held within a few lines of words and numbers. Most of which have no meaning to me.... So after a few conversations that only managed to confuse me more- and the inner battle between what I've been told I want and what I truly desire, I've decided against consulting. For now. So I'm going to Rome. For now. 

Screw consultancies and their deadlines...

Rome. Now...there's something I know. I get Rome. I fit in in Rome- in the piazzas, in the cafes amongst the culture that helped form me- and made me want to come back to Europe one day. I don't fit in class…staring blankly at brilliant professors who actually expect me to understand regression coefficients and accumulated amortization. I never did, probably never will- but again, that has never stopped me. I'm here now, aren't I? And although I'm lost in almost every single aspect and I don't expect it to get much easier...Rome awaits. 

Going back to Rome, to me, is like paying a visit to a long lost love. This MBA- well, this is a new relationship that seems to have hit a rough patch- and that’s never a good sign this early on. We should still be flirting. So I do what any girl would do- revert to my old ways- to something farmiliar…comfortable…safe. 

Except- instead of running into the arms of someone who knows me and loves me, I’m getting on a plane and spending a few days walking the streets that have held my weight before- in hopes that they can still hold me up- when I’m about ready to fall.

And then Monday- i'll come back to Barcelona- and I’ll try this again. With consulting out of the equation. For now.

But as I see it- its McKinsey’s loss. Ciao amici.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Lista Del Primer Mes

A few Barcelona/MBA/Personal discoveries and thoughts:

-I have ADD. It seems to have developed post-undergrad.

-L’Auberge Espagnole was great, but it didn’t come close to doing this city justice. (speaking of, I am looking forward to seeing Woody’s Barca film.)

-I would rather drink Kenyan tap water than the stuff that comes out of the faucet here. I hardly believe its potable.

-10% of Barcelona is covered by parks.

-I am the only blonde in the MBA class. This happens to be the first time in my life I am a minority…and I’m LOVING it.

-I have been driven to hiding my cheese under the sprouts in the salad bar line…otherwise, the Nazi at the till charges me twice as much for lunch. (I am fine readily admitting this...I've recently discovered that it's normal procedure for many other well-advised students).

-In Spain, it’s ok to go to dinner at midnight, but showing up at 12:30 is just a bit too late.

-Red bull doesn’t "give you wings", it gives you the shakes.

-In b-school- in Barcelona- it’s easy to forget that the world (economy) around us is crumbling…and hopefully by the time we graduate and have to get jobs, the world will be in a better state than it is now.

-Earwigs can lay eggs, propagate, and live within the pits of peaches (yet another interesting experience with *Aramark*, the school’s catering service- which, by the way, also does prisons.)

-I definitely have A.D.D.

-Maybe I don’t want to go into consulting, after all. Then again, maybe I do. 
Maybe if I were allotted more time than a month's deadline to figure it out, I would have a clearer idea of what to do with my life.

-Every skeptic, disparager, and doubter was right- and it pains me to admit it- but relationships do not last in Business School- no matter how much love is involved.

-Just because you are good at math, it doesn’t mean you will be good at statistics. 
Quite the opposite actually.

-Speaking Spanish with a lisp isn’t so unnatural after-all.

-I can still party like a rockstar…until Monday morning comes along.

-There are still people in the Western world who have never "met" a Jew.

-Public holidays are Gods gift to MBA students.

-Blackberry Messenger is dangerous. Especially after a few drinks.

-I will never shed the “American” stereotype- despite how American or un-American I am. And unfortunately, this is a result of the ignorance of others- and has nothing to do with myself.

-I hate public transportation. Especially in the rain.

-Sangria is too sweet.

-It is possible to live in this city and never speak a word of Spanish. Which is a shame.

-It’s not about what you know, it’s who you know. Just like everywhere else in the world.

-Long-life milk should really make its way into U.S. supermarkets. It’s lasted more time than anything else (perishable or un-perishable) in my fridge.

-And finally, the story of Gaudi’s untimely death;
The story of the death of Gaudi is a graphic illustration of the absurd misfortune that filled the life and work of this enigmatic Spanish architect. On June 7, 1926, a street tram tragically ran Gaudí over in the centre of Barcelona.
Throughout his life, Gaudí had avoided attention. Few photographs of the architect existed, which meant he was not an instantly recognizable figure to the people on the streets of Barcelona. As he lay injured and anonymous, the gathering crowd was unaware that it was the revered architect that lay on the ground before them. Because he was unrecognizable, taxi drivers refused to take what appeared to be an injured vagrant to the hospital, and were later fined for not assisting a wounded man.

Sadness and Learning

The best thing for being sad," replied Merlyn, beginning to puff and blow, "is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting."

Thursday, September 18, 2008


The morning of my undergraduate graduation, I strode across a stage in a cheap oversized robe, donning an unbecoming cap with a slinky tassel meant to have some kind of significance or other.

I instinctively extended my hand and was presented with my B.A. diploma from someone I had never seen before- and will never see again. The president of the university stood beside the faculty, shaking the hands of the students whose names he never bothered to learn. I remember thinking: 
“Should I thank him?” 
“Maybe I should say something.” 
“What do I say?” 
“Has he ever done anything for me?” 
"Has GW ever done anything for me?” 

The answer was no. I didn’t learn much in my classes and I wasn’t taking with me any indispensable wisdom from my courses. 
I quickly decided, “I’ll take the diploma and go.”

And I moved on with my life.

I walked away from college with no more knowledge about my subjects than I went in with. I couldn’t tell you the first thing about Interpersonal Communications, Geology, Logic, or Astronomy. I spent four years in lectures- studying (sometimes), debating, summarizing, calculating, writing, and presenting. And honestly? I couldn’t differentiate igneous and metamorphic rock if my life depended on it. 
The crab nebula still eludes me.

Not all was lost throughout those years- I learned about life. I like to think that I learned about myself- I know I learned about love and I discovered some of my passions (none of which were consistent with the material I was studying). I didn’t especially enjoy being in D.C. and I didn’t love the whole “G.W. experience,” but I appreciated it-I still do- and I’m glad it’s part of my history- of my life.

It’s now a bit too early to decipher what I will get out of this MBA- if I will know how to successfully run a business, effectively yet respectfully manage people, create a true and fair view of my company’s accounting through a balance sheet. 

I don’t know what I will be doing after the MBA- if I will find my dream job/career or just fall into another path that will indubitably lead to something else, and something after that, and something after that.

I know none of this. Nothing is clear- and it does create a certain level of stress...but then there is so much that I have already discovered- the little things that most people don’t know, or know but don’t understand. These are the things- the exterior aspects of an education- living in a new city, a new country, with completely new and different people, turning everything on its head and acclimating to a new degree of living. These are the slight particulars that will all come together in the end as pieces of this experience…they will be the little particles that formulate the atom of “My Barcelona MBA." I love these little things- and I love that I am discovering more each day. 
Soooo...stay tuned- I’ll have a preliminary list next post…

Monday, September 15, 2008

Paradise to Probability

“Give a busy person something to do, and it will get done.”
Or so they say…
Someone should tell “them” to get an MBA! 
In business school, that philosophy goes out the window. Actually, all philosophies go out the window. Life, as I knew it- has gone out the window. I’m getting nothing done. And the more I do, the more it seems I have yet to do.

These are my classes, in case anyone is wondering why I haven't called them back:
-Managerial Statistics
-Financial Accounting and Reporting
-Business Law
-Information Technology
-and who knows what they will add to that list next week….

And how much I understand of the aforementioned balls and chains?
-about 10% (up 10% from two weeks ago.)

Beyond the 7-8 hours of daily classes, I have hours upon hours of group work a day- including an inundation of e-mails at night- and on the weekends. It never ends. 
Another misconception about business school? The belief that a concentration on group work would alleviate some of the stress- some of the work load- etc…
Nope. Not at all. 
Groupwork is exactly that- Work. 
More work.

Figuring out how to fuse the study styles, work ethics, cultures, opinions, strengths, weaknesses, and beliefs of seven people from seven different backgrounds and seven countries is no easy task. Attempting to maintain a voice among six other voices- just as strong or stronger than mine- just as knowledgeable or more knowledgeable than mine is no walk in Park Güell.

But I’m working on it- we are all working on it- still smiling, still positive, and still incredibly aware that wherever we go after this, there is nothing we wont be able to do- and no one we wont be able to handle. Not one single graduate of the ESADE MBA will have an easy time, but this stuff is invaluable. It’s f*cking fantastic. (and again…this is just pre-term: a weighty attempt at getting all of us right-brainers, "artists," hippies, call-it-what-you-will, caught up with the Goldman Sachs imports lurking among us…

Speaking of fantastic- not everything is a struggle. At this time yesterday, I was on a sailboat in the Mediterranean with some of my favorite people in Barcelona, including my new hero- a man who happens to have accomplished everything in his lifetime that I have on my “list” to do…

So although it’s about balance/finding a happy medium- there are no happy mediums to be had in this alternate-Barcelonian-MBA-universe.

How does one go from paraîso (*see image 1) on Sunday, to infierno (*see text 2) on Monday?(With time for rest in between). 
Ideas welcome…


"Least square criterium. The normal equations 
From min Σei2= minSSR

∂SS R/ ∂b0=0 => ΣYi = nb0+ b1ΣXi
∂SS R/ ∂b1=0 => ΣXiYi = b0ΣXi + b1ΣXi2

ΣY i-nb0-b1ΣXi = Σ(Yi- ) = Σei = 0
Σ(Y i-b0-b1Xi) Xi = Σ(Yi- )Xi = ΣeiXi = 0 

So Σei=0 & Σeixi=0 are artifacts which hold always
whatever your data might be."

*This post is dedicated to my group members (should they come across my blog)- Tanya, Emmanuel, Bernardo, Stephan, Nirankar, and Saurabh- who will get to know me better than most, spend more time with me than any boyfriend ever has, will most likely curse my existence more than a few times in the next few months, and will undoubtedly teach me more about myself than I could have ever imagined. xx

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Fight Outta Me

It’s quite clear that I have very little time to indulge in some of the small pleasures I used to enjoy on a regular basis. I’m not complaining. This is actually OK with me (at least today it is)- partially because I am so busy that I have no time to think about missing the things I am missing. It is also "ok" with me because I have found new pleasures- and these are serving as replacements for some of the lost ones.

Despite this predicament, I have become somewhat adept at discovering little pockets of time in which I can pander to my rudimentary desires. For example; writing during one of the 10 daily coffee breaks. 
Additionally, I go to the gym. I try to go to the gym. I don’t go to the gym to go to the gym per-se, I go to the gym(I cant believe I am admitting this) partially for the opportunity to listen to music. I miss music- my music- because buried within my music are the notes and sounds and lyrics that make up my memories. 
I have always said it, I stand by it, and I am sure I will elaborate on this point in the future. 

But right now- there is no music. (real music). So ten years down the road, when I am filling my days with other activities, surrounded by different people, different air, different architecture- what will I listen to in order to bring me back here? To this classroom, these streets, my friends- the restaurants I frequent. The color of the sky at dusk- the noise of the motos rolling by underneath my balcony… 

Moreover- how will I bring myself back to the sensory components of this experience? The mixture of mental, physical, and emotional- the overpowering fusion of being overwhelmed, sleepless, yet charged in every sense of the word- rundown and oftentimes disheartened, but extraordinarily happy- fulfilled on one side, void on the other…Barcelona- the emotions I associate with Barcelona. What music will define Barcelona for me in the future?

Maybe that’s something I need to work on. 

Either way, I went to the gym yesterday and my ipod was on random- random like the traffic in Barca, random like the selection of MBA students in ESADE, random like my life.

And a song by Ben Harper came on- “Fight Outta You”- from his last album, Lifeline (which by the way, is a fantastic album).

I was having a “down moment” and Mr. Harper was the perfect complement to the end of my 16 hour day, not understanding financial accounting or managerial statistics, and clashing with group members over immaterial concepts. I had never really listened to the song before- and although it doesn’t 100% apply to my mental state at the time- it does a pretty good job.

So below is a gift to my fellow MBAers- all those who are struggling with one of the many aspects of this new life as well. "There's always someone younger, someone with more hunger, don't let them take the fight outta you..."


Monday, September 8, 2008

Ticking and Tocking

I’ve referred to time over and over again- the concept of time, the passage of time, the lack of time, and so on.

I have always been aware of time. Mostly- the fact that once it passes, we can never get it back. And that pisses me off to no end.

Barcelona is like a time vacuum- a black hole that sucks the minutes and hours away from me and when I turn to find them, they are gone. No trace. I’m feeling the lack of time more than I have ever experienced. It’s not surprising to me that I am constantly busy- but the extent to which my days are flying by at a preposterous pace is staggering. I arrived in Barca a month ago and I’ve spent more hours awake than I did sleeping all of last year. And I’m sure it doesn’t help that outside my fellow classmates- I seem to be surrounded by people younger than me. The passage of time had never been more clear to me than yesterday- lying on the beach with a bunch of friends- I was speaking to a German girl studying art here in Spain and I asked her how old she is. Her answer? Eighteen. I almost passed out. 
And then it was my turn. 
She was shocked. So was I. How did that happen? I’ve been 27 for half a year now- but I never felt 27 until I got here. And oh, how I hate it...

Before beginning the MBA, a few wise friends mentioned to me that the key to surviving b-school is accepting the fact that one cannot accomplish everything they intend to do. You have to pick and choose. Priorities: Managerial Statistics or Financial Accounting. Economics or marketing. Sleeping or eating. It’s all about sacrificing…. maintaining an old friendship or working on new ones, cultural activities or indulging in pleasurable ones.

I have no time for anything. I didn’t know that when I went school shopping, it would be the only school shopping I would have time for until 2009, or that if I plan on eating dinner at home- I must make it to the market on Saturday before 1:00 or I wont have another opportunity to go. I didn’t realize that the first IKEA run would be the only IKEA run. 
I still only have one sheet. Not good. 

My first day in the gym, I saw the tanning beds and wondered why the hell anyone in BCN would want to go to a sunbed with the beach at our toes. Now I understand. Who has time to go to the beach? I’ve been about 7 times- each of which, I arrive after 5 p.m. (despite attempts to get there earlier). So much for getting a tan…

I don’t sleep, I rarely eat, I never do everything I want to in a day- I study, but barely learn because I’m constantly thinking of all that I don’t know and wondering if I ever will.

“Work hard, play hard” is a gross understatement when it applies to Barcelona- let alone attempting an MBA in Barcelona. Now I know why people go to remote villages for school….one bar, a bunch of books, and crappy weather would suit this intensive learning “thing” well. Barcelona could possibly be the worst. But I adore it. I’m in love with Barcelona. And it made me smile when Friday night- at a club- on the dancefloor- strobe lights flashing, music pounding, and I heard an odd ringing from my clutch- only to realize it was the alarm clock I had forgotten to turn off for the weekend.

I felt bad for a second until I looked around and about three of my fellow MBAs were all turning their alarm clocks off at the same time. So I suppose that will be the new M.O:
Weeknights- get up before the sun rises, weekends- stumble home in the blazing daylight- and once in a while- go from night until day- and sit in class being as brilliant as we will ever be.

So I guess being pissed off at the lack of time is of no use here- at least not for the next 17 months. And the whole “never getting it back” thing doesn’t really apply…not if I never sleep again.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Day Three?

10:00 pm last night, leaving school with only about ¼ of my work done- and understanding about 10% of what I needed to understand, I mentioned to a friend of mine; “Day two and I'm already dying.” 
To which he replied, “'Day two?’ or ‘the second day of your MBA’?”

Now, theres a question. A big question. 
Do I count backwards or forwards? 
Do I tick off the minutes until I am done? 
Or do I live the minutes- really live them.

Will I know how many weeks I have left of the MBA when I am 6 months in- or will I look back incredulously at the fact that six months have passed?

“Day two” or “the second day.” This differentiation is going to define my time here in Spain. This MBA- this all-consuming, fatiguing experience is going to be one of two things…and its up to each of us, individually, to decide what that will be- a task or a pleasure. A chore, a job, a mission- or an occasion, an event, an opportunity. 
Day two, and yes- I’m surprised to find myself counting the days. It’s something I’ve never done. Day one, day two, day three….three days, two days, one until the weekend. Three weeks left until pre-term is over, four months until Christmas break, and so on…

I’m disappointed in myself for thinking this way. I don’t want to be the person that thinks that way- who lets the best of times pass her by, by focusing on exactly that- the passage of time.

I need to get a hold of myself- or maybe…just maybe I need a bit more than three hours of sleep- at which point “day three” will transform into “the third day,” and I wont need these rude reminders that I’m counting down instead of looking up.

Monday, September 1, 2008

A Little Overwhelmed

Its almost 6:00 p.m. on the first day of official classes.

I woke up at 6:00 a.m., and was at the bus station by 7:00. (yes, I take the bus…) I watched the sun rise, arrived at school- turned in two versions of a short CV that will be published through ESADE- didn’t have time for a coffee, put my glasses on, sat down, took a deep breath and tried to act like this was all OKAY…”okay” it is not…nuts is more like it- crazy, ridiculous, foolhardy, mad, insane, bizarre, harebrained, idiotic, and so on and so forth.

After four and a half hours of “Financial Accounting and Reporting” (what???), chugging café con leche like its my job, and another three hour class of “Managerial Statistics,” I think my head is going to explode. Tonight, I’ll do some Financial accounting homework- may meet with my group to work on statistics, and then go over a few chapters in the new Spanish book I purchased since my language hasn’t progressed much in the last few weeks. And then it will all begin again tomorrow…tomorrow and the next day and the next…

(I must have been insane to actually believe that I would have a social life here, btw) Speaking of, there are about four different ppl visiting this weekend. Should be interesting.

My mac doesn’t seem to have the excel add-ons (whatever that may be) that I need- and after spending about 30 minutes trying to download an updated program- my computer freaked out (I guess he feels a bit like I do.)

I’ll eventually get home- I don’t know when that will be- but I’m sure it will happen. At which point, I will wrestle with the washing machine that seems to be holding my favorite clothes hostage, and I’ll spend hours on the phone with Telefonica who seems to have forgotten that we had an internet installation appointment. They refuse to call back.

Rent is due, we are still about 25% short of furniture, our bathtub wont drain, and we are sharing one set of keys between two of us (not to mention the fact that I don’t yet have a mailbox key.)

Michael came and surprised me this weekend- It was wonderful to see him…but my life here is so unaligned from his that the parameters of our relationship basically performed a 180 between his arrival time and the time he left for the airport last night. Everything is crumbling…and rebuilding itself simultaneously. 

A little overwhelmed is an understatement…and this is just pre-term.