Saturday, November 28, 2009

Can We Have a Real Break?

If you are following my blog on a regular basis, you may know that I am in Munich. For five short days, I get to experience a new country and hang out with my sister.

And work on cases and cover letters.

While I have been able to afford quite some time to visit Christmas markets and shop at Marienplatz, I wanted to balance that with coming back to an insanely busy week and not feeling overwhelmed.

On the plus side, I've whittled down MOST of the actual work required for next week, which should afford me time to finish cover letters and get a jump on studying.

I think I speak for most of Darden when I say that 3 p.m. next Friday couldn't come soon enough!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A German-Canadian American Thanksgiving

Two days ago, I left the Darden bubble to venture across the ocean to Munich, Germany, where my sister is living. Although I must admit that I DID work on cases today, it has been nice to be out of the bubble where all the jokes seem to centre around some sort of Darden class or business process.

When my sister's roommates discovered that, being Canadian, we don't typically celebrate Thanksgiving at this time of year, they were quite disappointed. However, since we'd both mostly missed Canadian Thanksgiving (second weekend in October), we figured we would share the traditions of a typical North American Thanksgiving meal... at least as well as we could with German ingredients and a small preparation time frame.

We substituted the traditional turkey for chickens (bought fresh from the grocery today, since there was no time to thaw anything!), and cooked mashed potatoes and gravy and added a pumpkin dish instead of pumpkin pie. (While we would have loved to cook pumpkin pie, it seems Pillsbury has not made it's mark here, and Mom was 8 hours behind and fast asleep and couldn't talk us through the pie-crust-making logistics.) For dessert, given that pie was not an option, we made banana loaf from the frozen bananas in my sister's freezer. It turned out that her roommates, unfamiliar with the concept of banana bread, were quite disturbed by the old bananas in the freezer. They were, however, quite pleased with the finished product and wondered how it could be called "bread" or "loaf," given how sweet it was.

Before beginning our feast, everyone went around and said what they were thankful for. Then we clinked our wine glasses together and said both "Cheers" and "Prosit!"

As for me... I'm thankful for the opportunity to be in a new country, interacting with new people. I didn't have much time to research the sights of Munich, but have been so glad for the opportunity to be living in a house with Germans, experiencing their culture. If I don't see the Hofbrauhaus, I will still feel like I got a good sense of Bavaria because of the opportunity to just be here with these people. They have been gracious enough to speak English as often as they remember, and smile politely as I attempt to brush off my high school German.

That said, the rest of this weekend will be filled with Marianplatz tours and visits to Dachau and the Hofbrauhaus and, most importantly, the Christmas markets. And hopefully some cover letter writing...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Could that be a light?

At the end of the tunnel, that is...

Black November has been everything it was promised to be. It isn't the case load for me. School is challenging, but in a way that makes me thrive and excited about solving the challenges.

It's everything else on top of school. The resume drop deadling is quickly approaching: December 4. Despite my best intents, my cover letter still lies in its first draft form on my desk. There are networking calls and emails that need to be done, and plans for the job trek I am leading to Toronto are taking a long time to take shape.

There are three things that are keeping me going right now. First, I have amazing support. There's the first wave of friends who are here and struggling as much as me. We all have different strengths, and help each other in whatever way we can. While I may be sitting down with someone to talk through accounting concepts, someone else will be taking the time to help me find a contact or run through practice case interviews. And on top of all that, I have great people here who will talk me through whatever I am struggling with. The friendships I have developed are open and honest. And, on top of that, I've got good support back home, with friends and family who are not going through all this and are cheering from the sidelines.

Second, I know that every second year student I have talked to has made it through this time. And every alum who went before them. Yes, Darden is tough, but everyone survives and comes out a better person for going going through it.

And finally... perhaps most importantly... I realized yesterday that in just three weeks, I'll be in Toronto. Resumes will have been dropped, Q2 exams will have been written. I'll see one of my best friends and spend a week talking to companies on the Toronto Job Trek. And in four weeks, I'll be home, with nothing to stress about but interview prep and trying to fit everything in. From the looks of Facebook, there is snow back home, too!

So, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. But in the meantime, I have my Thanksgiving trip to look forward to. It's a testament to the craziness of Darden that I haven't mentioned or even really thought about the fact that I'm flying to Munich, Germany, to see my sister in just two short days! And when I get back, it will be right at the end of Black November.

And I will join the ranks of those who have survived.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Opportunity Consultants, Inc.

Today, I took a rare opportunity to get out of the Darden bubble in the middle of a weekday to go and meet with a client for Opportunity Consultants, Inc. (OCI)

OCI is a Darden-run organization that puts groups of volunteer students together to help small businesses and not-for-profits with small consulting projects.

Sitting around the boardroom table today, talking with the executive director of a program that runs programs for children and youth, felt good. It was nice to get out of the me-focussed-space and think about what I could do to help this organization develop the best possible program mix for its new center. Though we won't really dig into the project until next semester, I'm looking forward to applying my business skills in the not-for-profit sector. My background consists of a lot of not-for-profit work and there's always a sense of familiarity and nostalgia when I visit offices of social sector organizations, despite the fact that I only know a little about the organization and I'm in a new city.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Black November

The sun outside is shining, and the fall foliage remains brilliant. From all outward signs, no one would suspect that here at Darden, it is Black November.

Yes, the sun is shining, but I am enjoying it only as the view outside the window of my office as I scramble to prepare tomorrow's cases so I can get a jump on my cover letter and case interview preparations. This afternoon, I turned down a Section B potluck in order to get everything done, and that makes me sad.

As I ponder the rest of this month, the line from the song "Circle of Life" from The Lion King flows through my mind... "more to do than can ever be done..."

In completely different news, I want to give a shout out to my favourite CFL (Canadian Football Leage) team, the Edmonton Eskimos. They are playing the Calgary Stampeders in the Western Semi-Finals this afternoon. Maybe the game will be aired on TSN... ha ha ha.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


In Flander's Fields, the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row
That mark our place and in the sky,
The larks, still bravely singing, fly,
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset's glow,
Loved and were loved, But now we lie
In Flander's Field.

Take up our quarrel with the foe.
To you, from flailing hands we throw,
The torch; be yours, to hold it high,
If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep. Though poppies grow
In Flander's Field.
- John McCrae

It surprised me this morning when I asked one of my classmates whether Americans ever wore poppies, and he gave me a quizzical look.

The poem above is a Canadian classic. Every November 11, we pause to remember those who fought for our freedom. At 11:00 a.m., we observe a moment of silence to reflect on their sacrifice.

The poppy is a symbol of remembrance. Every November, small change donations to the veteran's societies will get you a small poppy to wear on your lapel. We wear them with pride as we remember those who have gone before us.

Although I will be in the middle of a session on case interviews tomorrow during the moment of silence, as I've met more people who have served their country here than I ever met at home, the reality of the sacrifice hits home more. My roommate's boyfriend has served in Afghanistan and Iraq, and I have seen how war affects both those who serve and the family and loved ones they leave behind. Even though he serves in the US military, I figure we've been on the same side since 1813 anyway. ;-)

So, although I am miles away from my fellow Canadians, tomorrow I will remember with you, as well as with those who have served right beside us for so many years.

Friday, November 06, 2009


Since moving to the US, I have rekindled an old flame: Pandora. It's amazing to log into a website that will play me new music that I love!

The best thing is the Pandora app on my iPhone that allows me to listen to Pandora on the go. Since there are no decent radio stations in Charlottesville, Pandora more than makes up for it.

I don't know if I can live in Canada again...

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Learning Team

There are three different types of learning teams at Darden.

1) Teams that all love each other and plan to name their babies after one another.
2) Teams that fight, and may have even broken up by now.

and then there is the category that my learning team falls under:

3) Teams who know how to work efficiently and effectively with one another.

Of course, don't get me wrong. While we may not be sappily close to one another, we get along really well and always make a point of eating dinner together on Sunday evenings - at someone's house, rather than the learning team room. I am always grateful for the support and understanding we have for one another. With all of us having different backgrounds, we mesh well and serve different functions. When I was sick last week, my team was gracious enough to tell me to just stay home and sent me the notes from the team meeting.

Learning teams are an integral part of the learning system at Darden. While there are times that I long for free evenings, I learn SO much from my group that I can't imagine learning half as much without them.