One course down…

September 20, 2008

So yesteday was the final for MORS 430, leadership in organizations, which is the first class for all Kellogg students.  Its required for all students to take it and its a full credit class crammed in 3 weeks.  So to say its fast paced is an understatement.  I would say there was 50 pages of reading a night and then some essay assignments.  Now I must admit it is tough keeping up not because its particularly hard but because it is tough being back in class for the first time in a long time.  Thankfully the professors who teach all the MORS sections are very highly regarded and make it interesting.  I dont know a single person who did not find the class interesting and everyone agreed they learned a lot.

The other big happening around campus, and I am sure this topic was popular at every b-school lately, was the collapse of Lehman Bros and the sale of Merrill Lynch.  Thankfully, IB careers are not very popular at Kellogg so we are much better positioned to weather the impending storm coming over the next few years.  These two companies are two of the largest employers for grads from top MBA programs.  This is definitely going to hurt recruiting for the next few years, much more so at finance heavy schools.  Lots of folks who were going to go into IB now will be looking at other careers such as MC, adding to the competition in those areas.  People here aren’t too worried about job prospects which is very different than what I have been hearing from friends at some other top 5 b-schools…it sounds like at a few other places people aren’t to excited about recruiting this year.

The night life has slowed down a little bit because of class work but for the hardcore party animals its still possible to go out as often as you want.  The married and involved peope seem to have had the largest drop in partying…this is probably because many of the significant others are starting their jobs or the job hunt has spead up a lot.  I think people have also begun to settle down a little, at least until clubs and career stuff gets going.

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It’s not gonna be easy…

September 6, 2008

Well, KWEST was amazing like everyone said it would be.  Everything went smoothly on ours and it definitely was a great bonding experience.  The big reveal turned out to be a lot more surprising than I would have thought.  You expect people to be very impressive but after spending a week and goofing around, watching people get drunk and operating on 3 hours of sleep…its tough to picture them in any professional environment.   The hardest thing about KWEST is starting CIM only a few days after you get back.  A huge suggestion for picking a KWEST trip is to try to stay within a few time-zones of Chicago because at the start of CIM you can definitely pick out the people in the crowd that flew to the other side of the world.  The only bad thing I heard was a few cases of food poisoning on a couple trips…but out of 700+ people that’s pretty impressive.

So far CIM definitely has been a challenge, not the work since most is just fun stuff but because you pretty much are going 16+ hours a day at school for the first week.  Honestly, don’t plan on more than several hours of sleep most nights unless you skip the evening events out on the town with your section mates.  If you are married you wont see much of your spouse but trust me they can keep plenty busy with JV stuff and probably will be having far more fun than you will be. 

So far my wife has been having a blast, JVs volunteer to help with certain CIM events but also have lots of things on their own.  Having lived in Evanston for a month already, my wife has definitely found her fit and thus far has been loving my school experience.   After warnings from 2nd year JVs about not seeing us, many of the JVs have come to accept that and have gotten heavily involved with their own community.  Its amazing how much effort the school has put forth to ensure the JVs dont feel like they are left out…heck my personal opinion is that being a JV is a much better deal at this point.

MORs seems like it will be interesting but its scary to see all the work we are going to have to do for it in just two weeks.  We got an inch thick case pack and then more handouts the first day…along with some writing assignments.  If Kellogg is a soft school that is all fun and no work I am sure glad I didn’t go to Wharton or Chicago.  Personally I already feel overwhelmed and this is after only reading the syllabus.  I must say that even the 1st MORs class was far better than any class visit I had last year (I never got to visit a Kellogg class before applying)…but it sure blew a bunch of other top 10 school class visits out of the water.  The material is not challenging from an academic standpoint but the class is very well led, everyone was involved, and surprisingly fun.  However, it definitely seems like we will be doing plenty of work considering its only a two week long course. 

A huge point of advice for any international students for whom English is a 2nd language (this applies to every MBA program)…work on your verbal English skills and in all seriousness brush up on American culture.  I think the biggest hurdle for some of the internationals in class is going to be their English skills.  You need to be able to get your thoughts across clearly and precisely because you have to present them pretty quickly during a give and take discussion when going through a case.  Class participation counts towards grades so you are going to want to get involved and communicating your thoughts is going to be vital to your success.  Also, it really will make an impact with your ability to settle in with your classmates.  Also don’t fall into the trap of just hanging out with the other students from your part of the world, especially if you ever plan on working in the US.  The huge diversity at top b-schools is one of the biggest advantages they have.  I noticed this was definitely true at some schools I visited, and while this hasn’t been the case at Kellogg YET…there is always the possibility that will happen.

Kellogg So Far

August 20, 2008

Last year when researching schools I had a hardtime finding details about what it was really like at school.  It felt that during tours, events, and when speaking to students and alums you get a very narrow view.  Every school tended to seem the same, even ones where students have the reputation of being competitive and not very involved with each other touted their tight knit community.  Occasionally someone would confess the weaknesses of their schools but it all felt like hype and every school sounded almost the same.  I did find a few great blogs that were insightful and gave a great look at what school was really like, but unfortunately they weren’t for schools I was all that interested in.  So this will be the first post of hopefully many on my two years at Kellogg in an effort to give a complete view of what life is like. 

The Big Move:  After driving half way across the country we arrived in Evanston during the first weekend of August.   Getting into our place was pretty easy no big snags there.  However, our stuff took a little longer to arrive so we were living with no furniture, nothing to cook with, and not much in the way of clothes until that arrived.  When the truck showed up they tried to tell us it wouldn’t fit into the area to unload…despite half a dozen trucks having been there during the previous few weeks.  Thankfully after my not budging on their claims and refusing to bribe them, they did back the truck in.  I wasn’t about to tip them after their rather shady behavior.  I have heard numerous other people that had the same issue, some were charged more money before stuff would come off trucks, things arriving far later than originally promised, and I know of at least one person who ended up canceling professional movers to do it themselves after the company pretty much tried to screw them over.  In the end our stuff did make it mostly in one piece, a few dings on the furniture and a few small broken items.  Overall nothing too bad, and it was much easier than moving stuff via UHaul but I don’t think I would use the same company again.  Honestly, I really recommend people have stuff professionally moved.  For all the drawbacks it is so much better than doing it yourself.  The cost wasn’t all that much more than renting a Uhaul, paying gas and tolls, and all the things that add up when you move yourself.

Getting Settled:  Since arriving there has already been two major planned gatherings, I would say 60 or so people attended the first one, and the second was probably in the 100 or so range.  A lot of people haven’t arrived and those not on the facebook group or who don’t know anyone probably are missing out on a lot.  No matter where anyone goes to school, I think joining facebook and the group dedicated to your class is key.  I wasn’t a huge fan of the site before this summer but it has been incredibly helpful thus far planning things with different people.  Other than the big gatherings, every night there seem to be 10-35 people going out to different bars/restaurants if you want to head out for some fun.  It does wear you down though, I would say very few people have been going out to everything…it becomes overwhelming pretty quickly.  Right now the biggest challenge is trying not to learn too much about people who are on your KWEST trip…that would ruin the big reveal but what fun would it be sitting in Evanston for a month and not doing anything with your classmates.  I am sure I have met people on my trip already but what are you going to do…our trip leaders keep telling all of us not to ruin the surprise but I am sure more than a few people have spoiled some of that already.

The social aspect thus far has been better than we even imagined.  We have met dozens of great people, everyone is outgoing and fun to hang out with.   I haven’t noticed much division by different groups yet, I have heard that its common at lots of schools for ethnic and cultural groups to tend to group together and segment themselves…Here it’s been a melting pot of everyone.  I would say the only people who have somewhat removed themselves are the internationals who arrived early for the international student event…there are only about 25 who chose to do that event and I think they just have really bonded so they tend to arrive in a group together and talk about what they did during that day.  It will be interesting to see how this works out going forward but after talking to friends who have recently arrived at other top b-schools they say for them it started right away.  I hope that its different here, I have really enjoyed talking to people from all over the world and it’s great to have everyone interacting…it definitely adds a lot to a group dynamic when you have a huge diverse group together. 

The JV Front:  My wife has already met a ton of other JVs, including some that live in the same building…so what they say about JVs being involved and having their own social scene is definitely true.  The fact that there is a huge network for significant others immediately there it really is a huge advantage to anyone moving with someone to an area where they don’t already have friends/family.  Making someone move a great distance so you can chase your dream is a lot to ask, especially if they are giving up a job the like, friends nearby, and pretty much their life for you.  The least you can do is move to a place where they can quickly get that back.  That said if you are married or bringing a significant other, commuting to downtown Chicago is easy and in the end it is better to be in Evanston where everyone else is.  I have met a few folks who are living in Chicago and I definitely think they are going to be missing out.  At least one already is regretting it and school hasn’t even begun yet.  So unless you already own something downtown, move to Evanston.   We have been doing stuff almost every night, if it’s just dinner with a few other couples or going out with half the people already in town its really easy when you can walk a few blocks home late at night and don’t have to worry about catching a train.  I can only imagine the hassle come CIM.

I definitely recommend that anyone attending Kellogg in the future arrive in Evanston early in August.   Having several weeks to get adjusted is big.   There are so many things you need to take care of, learning the area is a huge help, and most importantly meeting classmates is a big advantage.  I think every time I leave my place I run into someone I know and I have only met a fraction of the class.  So far Kellogg is even better than I expected…I am glad it was my top choice and its where we ended up.

I probably wont write another entry until post KWEST when I can give a breakdown of what that is like.