Thursday, January 28, 2010

"'cause every little thing, gonna be alright"

Two months until graduation and apart from abundant weekend festivities and lunchtime banter, there’s an unsettling frenzy descending upon the student body of the graduating class. Several different sentiments are suspended in the air above our heads. It’s like a current- an electrical charge that we are each carrying with us manifesting itself as fear, desire, apprehension and even some sadness. A few people are doing their best to party as hard as they can every chance that they get, because they know that this is it. For this particular crowd, school has taken a backseat to everything else- but to no detriment- as classes are generally light in both time and work-load.

Other people have been hiding out, due to job search anxiety- and the reflections in their eyes consist only of career search websites and cover letter drafts on their overused laptop screens. I get these people- I see why they feel the way they do and occassionaly, I can commiserate. But at the same time, I’m not one of them- not yet. I’m still working on finding my balance.

Of course, I have my freakout moments. Of course, my CV is perpetually in an open window on my laptop. And of course, my wheels are always turning, visualizing, scheming and thinking about what I will be doing after the MBA.

Monday and Tuesday of this week was “Winter MBA Career Fair.” Around 30 companies came to ESADE, generally industry-focused. Presentations ranged from L’Oreal and Nestle to Roche and Pepsico. I never actually expect to find a job at a career fair, and to be honest- my time is probably better spent working on my resume. At the same time, one never knows when the best opportunities may pop up.  And at this point in the MBA game- with graduation looming at less than a two month distance, skipping any networking occasion would be careless.

The fact of the matter is, I’m not sure about anything other than the fact that I am not sure. And that the day after graduation- I’m not going to just disappear if I don't have a job. I’m not going to discintegrate into thin air. Something will happen. Something will come up. Time will push forward, I will move on, and one day- hopefully sooner rather than later- I will end up doing something that I can say with some sort of conviction; “I was meant to end up here.”

In other news, ESADE fell to numner 19 in the FT MBA rankings. As long as it stays in top 10 in Europe and top 20 in the world, I wont ask for my money back.

And as a side note, I beat all the boys in their weekly poker game the other day. I think that's the MBA’s numbers/probablility/statistics working… And then as an homage to all the CSR courses and seminars, I donated my winnings to Haiti.

Here’s the Red Cross link, should anyone else desire to give a little back:

The funny thing is though, except for the brief moments in the middle of the night when I wake up sweating, imagining nothing but a dark abyss after the MBA…and the all-too-often converstions I have with those “super motivated” students wondering how many CVs I have sent out and how many networking events I have attended, Im really not that stressed. I’ve always said, excuse my language but, “shit just has a way of working itself out.”

So as much as I do sympathize with my fellow classmates who cry themselves to sleep at night, experience has taught me that- above all else- I will be just fine…probably better than fine.

And recently, while revising the 1000th version of my CV and his 50th job application, my classmate gently declared, “I hate you because when its all over, you are going to walk away from this MBA with the dream job I will never be able to get.”

God, I hope he’s right.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Maoz and Montjuic

There comes point when a place- a city, a town, a country- transforms from existing merely as a current address to when it becomes a home. Barcelona is home to me now. I don't know when this change took place, but I can pinpoint the moment when I realized it. I was at my family’s house in Miami a few months ago and as time began to drag, I remember thinking to myself, I can’t wait to get home.

And that was that.

Barcelona, in my mind, is now home.

It's the one place on a map that I can point my finger to and say that's where my stuff is, that's where my bed is, its where my current network is to be found. In flight search engines, my local airport is saved as Barcelona and the little flag that comes up next to my name on Skype is the red and yellow banner of Spain. Barcelona is not just where I live anymore. It's a city where the guy at the café on the corner knows what I want before I order it and where the teller at the bank greets me by name. There is nothing scary left about this city- there’s nothing waiting to jump out at me from around the corner and nothing that I have to try for the first time. I have my favorite restaurants, my hairdressers and my own locker at the gym. I know how long it will take to get to almost any point in the city- and I know which bocadillos to stay away from in the school cafeteria. I know my favorite corners in my favorite plazas, where to get the best patatas bravas in the city and who has the cheapest beer. These things don't necessarily make a place a home, but for me- it's the closest I’ve come in a long time.  

Unfortunately, my time here is limited and in about two months, I will have to go off into the world again and find myself a new home.

Therefore, I must keep reminding myself to enjoy it while it lasts- and I can only hope that my next home welcomes me as readily as this city did. Barcelona isn’t a bad place to occupy for a couple of years.  Its not my ideal- but I’m glad I chose it.

In the beginning of my time here, I established a few lists of my favorite places and features the city has to offer. Now, the lists have changed a bit as I have learned to tailor the city to my own needs and desires. Over a year and an entire MBA degree later...the things I love are not the same- but they are plentiful nonetheless.

I love…

-Saturday morning coffee dates on Passeig De Gracia.

-Strolling along Diagonal on beautiful sunny days- reminding me when I’m just about to forget- that Barcelona is pretty cool.

-Falafel runs to Maoz at 3 a.m. on Las Ramblas.

-Discovering the underground, lesser known side of Barcelona’s nightlife with locals.

-Montjuic at night- and the view of Barcelona from Monjuic at night.

-Massimo Dutti. Who knew?

-Terminal 1 at El Prat. I could spend hours there. In fact, I have.

-Window shopping at Rabat on Rosello. Can’t help it. The glare of the jewels gets me everytime.

-The Vueling in-flight magazine, Ling.

-The skyline full of the long white masts of the boats docked at the port.

-Manchego (secco)

-Plaça Reial’s palm trees

-I love that I figured out the bus system after all this time- it may have taken me over a year but I finally worked out a route that swings me right by Starbucks.

The biggest changes I find between the beginning and the end are the differences linking what I loved then and what I love now. I suppose this, in effect, is what makes a place a home- as opposed to a temporary visit or an impermanent residence.

The most glaring example of this change is what I saw when I looked up then, as opposed to what I see when I look up now.

When I first got here, I loved the drive to school- glancing up and seeing the curves of Gaudi’s designs and the bright blue of the sky that never seemed to darken. Now, the buildings are old news and the weather proved susceptible to nature’s follies. These days, I love looking up in the middle of class and seeing the faces of my classmates. Whether they’re smiling, deep in thought, deep in gchat conversation, rolling their eyes, or even sleeping (you know who you are…), it is their faces that have been the glue between me and this city- making it my home. It is the faces of these people that make me smile to myself knowing that they are in my life- even if its only for another few months.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

"Of our elaborate plans, the end."

OK, so it’s been a while since I last wrote and for that I apologize. If I had a valid excuse, I would probably mention it. Truth is, I don’t. Whether it was the fact that “Christmas Break” was three weeks long and I did nothing but eat, drink and be merry- or the fact that I decline to admit to myself that the MBA is reaching its end and therefore am refusing to acknowledge anything of the sort- I have barely opened my laptop since finals.

Now, after an idyllic Christmas in Rome, an absolutely perfect New Year’s in Cortina and many long and lazy days eating my way through Italy- I find myself back in my sub-zero Barcelona apartment- complete with a new family of roaches who seemed to have made a home of my kitchen cabinet. Nonetheless, we are two days into the final term and I’m already short on sleep. This deficiency, however, is no longer due to absurd amounts of work and early classes. Instead, I am now losing sleep as a result of the knowledge that in less than 10 weeks, I will be graduating.

School commenced as it always seems to do after any sort of break…classes began as seamlessly as they ended, we welcomed the new faces here on exchange, said hi to our old friends, dusted off our computers and dug the course books out of our mailboxes. I’m not worried anymore about making it through- If I’m still on the roster after the first year, I am confident that I will be a permanent fixture in ESADE until I am handed my degree.  What I’m worried about is the imminent end. On March 26th, we will be official MBA’s. That’s exciting. What’s not-so-exciting is March 27th. “The Morning After.” I will wake up…and then what?

Of my classmates, I think only between 5%-10% have post-grad job offers. And of the remaining 90% of us, there are a good number who are still unsure of what they want to do and where. Although I do wish the best for my schoolmates and their futures, it makes me feel much better that I am not agonizing alone in this quiet disorientation.

It seems that throughout the last four years of my life, I’m continuously heading towards the end of something and the beginning of another.

I’ve heard, read and described the life of an MBA student in countless ways. From “incredible whirlwind,” to “bizarre ride,” MBA students around the globe assume a broad array of emotions throughout their programs. To me, its like I’ve lived an entire miniature life in this finite period of time. In the all-too-short 18 months, I’ve experienced more than my fair share. But the part I’ve loved most about it- is all the many little beginnings and endings wedged in between the margins of the one big beginning and end- the day we began to the day we finish. It’s almost as if- in this one imposing pink building on this one quiet street in this one European city, we have all lived a whole life together, complete with a dawn, a period of growth, a dusk, and a new family that we probably would not have chosen but have grown to love. Now that we are approaching the ultimate end of this part of our lives- all the slightly inconsequential beginnings and endings begin to take on more significance and I have found myself trying to cram as much as I can into the next two and a half months. I’m already starting to miss parts of my life here in Barcelona.

My best friend said to me as we were discussing job searches on the way to school today, “Our little party has come to an abrupt end.”

I couldn't have put it better myself.