Wednesday, January 27, 2010

On Toques and Toboganning (Or Hats and Sledding, If You Speak American)

Yesterday, I had a "Robin moment".

Robin, for those of you who do not watch How I Met Your Mother, is the quintessential Canadian in the show. On many occasions, she makes comments which are foreign to her American counterparts. Usually, on the show, these refer to inaccurate Canadian stereotypes, or are just flat out made up. (Sorry to burst your bubble if you are using the show as an encyclopedia for life in Canada.) I mean, seriously, when's the last time I heard a Canadian refer to someone as a hoser?

Yesterday we were discussing North Face jackets and the conversation drifted along to ski pants, or snow pants, and whether snow pants was an apt name for the garment. In the process of the discussion, I said, "well, I would call them snow pants because you wear them for other snow-related activities such as snowball fights, tackle football or toboganning."

"Toboganning?" was the curious response from my classmates.

"Yeah, you know, when you ride down a hill in a tobogan," I replied.

"We call that sledding."

"Right, and I suppose you don't wear toques either."

Anyway, in order to gain confidence that I was not making up either toques or toboganning, I posted a poll in my Facebook status to see whether anyone else had fond memories of toques or toboganning. The 32 comments that followed seemed to indicate that I had not, in fact, started making up random Canada facts. And that Canadians are indeed passionate about toques and tobogans.

So, my American (and international) friends, let this be a little educational moment for you. If you ever find yourself in Canada, you will need to wear a toque to keep your head warm. And should you wish for the exhilarating activity of flying down a hill at full speed on nothing more than a thin sheet of wood, it's called toboganning, not sledding.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Cville Scene

Last night I went to a Haiti Benefit concert (Hoos for Haiti) to see my Q2 Finance prof's band.

I saw a brand new side of Cville that I had never seen before.

I'm not entirely sure what I was expecting. Before my prof's band, there was a swing band, so there were remnants of swing dancers left in front of the stage. I anticipated that people would be standing around and listening to the music, as my friends and I were doing.

I was wrong.

The band began to play and the floor suddenly started moving, with people of all ages dancing in all sorts of styles. There were little toddlers bouncing around to the music, teenage girls doing their own thing, university students swing dancing, and fully-fledged adults completely rocking out. I have never seen such a concentration of long silver hair in one room.

So when we went to say hi to our finance prof after his band finished, we asked if this was normal for Charlottesville. Apparently it is. If I ever want to see it again, I simply need to wait for another benefit concert or make my way to Fridays After Five.

Maybe next time, I'll dance...

Monday, January 18, 2010

Q3, I Think We Can Be Friends

When my alarm went off at 7 a.m., I quickly brainstormed ways to hit "Snooze" - not for another 9 minutes of sleep, but for another week of vacation.

I dragged my butt into my new seat in Section V and quickly scanned the GEM (Global Economies and Markets) case for my 8 a.m. class. As Murphy's Law would have it, I got the first cold call of the quarter and completely fumbled my way through. (For the record, I don't think anyone else noticed my struggle quite like I did.)

A new quarter brings new sections and thus I am separated from my beloved Section B, forced to share a classroom with new people. The familiar classroom discussion dynamics are gone, and now we all must learn new backgrounds and names.

So going into the afternoon, I was pretty down on Q3. But then, I realized that the courseload is lighter. For the first time since arriving at Darden, I managed to make it to learning team and then get home in time to watch "How I Met Your Mother" at 8! (And that was with a triumphant discovery on how to use the new decision tree software for DA* which required us to completely remodel the tree for tomorrow's class.)

On top of all that, we only have ONE Friday with classes in all of Q3.

So, despite getting off to a rocky start, I think Q3 and I are going to get along just fine.

The other interesting dynamic of Q3 is the role of recruiting. Some students are lucky enough to have internship offers sewn up already. (Banking recruiting all happened last week.) Others are more focussed on interview prep than classroom prep. Personally, I am trying to balance coursework with practice interviews. I'm optimistic about a few great internship opportunities in the pipeline and will probably wait to say anything more until I've been offered and accepted an opportunity.

*DA = Decision Analysis

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


It's still there.

My friend pointed it out the other day, and now I notice it every time I walk outside.

Last night I couldn't bring myself to park beside it, leaving an empty space between the abandoned SUV that Justin used to drive and my Acura.

Today the reality was heightened as I walked past his SUV into my apartment building, having just finished practicing the hymn a friend and I are leading for the Darden memorial service.

Grief comes and goes in pulses. The timing of Justin's death makes it all that much more difficult to deal with. Many of my friends are still away on holidays, so it's not unusual that he's gone. But every time I walk past that SUV, I'm reminded that I won't be able to call him up when I have extra pancakes, that he won't randomly stop by to say hi if I haven't talked to him in a few days, that I won't see him behind the grill for a Sunday afternoon BBQ.

He may be gone, but he is not forgotten.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Back in the 'Ville

After over four weeks of being gone from Charlottesville, I arrived back on Sunday night, relieved to discover that my car still starts and my apartment was not broken into.

Travelling from C'ville to Toronto to Edmonton to New York and then back to C'ville seemed to be a showcase of all the different aspects of my life. As I travelled from place to place, I found different facets of who I am resonating with the people and my surroundings.

Through all this time, and given travel time to think and ponder between places, I came to two conclusions. First, that there is no place in the world where every part of who I am connects with other people. There are always aspects of my personality that connect really strongly, and others that don't quite match. In many ways, I found myself at odds with Edmonton before I left, because I found myself different in significant ways. (Namely that I was not married with children, nor about to have children.) But being back, and hanging out with my married friends, I found it fun to be able to dive into competitive strategy board games (Settlers of Catan, Agricola, etc.) and have fun on that level. On top of that, my friends there have known me for 5, 10 years, some even longer, and there's something comforting about being with people who know you.

Heading to New York, I got back in touch with friends from school, who are in a much closer place in life to where I am. But we have differences, too. Differences of faith, background, ways of seeing the world. So while in the career aspect, who I am resonates much more closely to these friends, in other aspects I am different.

But the realization that I came to through all of this, which any kindergarten teacher will tell you, is that we are all unique. It would be impossible to find someone exactly like me. Thus, it makes sense that I connect with a broad range of people and can't find anyone at exactly the same place in life that I am at.

And the second realization is that getting to know these people, being in their world and connecting with their friends will open you up, stretch your comfort zone and help you grow as a person. One of my many favourite moments of the trip was visiting with my friend's friends in their NYC apartment and seeing NYC from a resident's perspective.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Public Transit

The man sitting behind me on the NJ Transit train is snoring.

In a conversation on Wednesday night with a few New Yorkers, we were
discussing the pros and cons of living in New York. While there were
many pros, what one guy said was that about once a month, you have a
"bad New York day," which usually involves taking the bus and coming
across some interesting characters.

When I took the bus yesterday, I must admit I was surprised to see
people from a wide variety of walks of life. One of the advantages of
living in a city with a great transit system is that everyone takes

I grew up in the suburbs of the city with the worst transit system in
the world. Well, it may not be the worst, but it definitely ranks up
there. And being in the suburbs definitely compounded the problem.

In the past month and a half, I have spent time in cities with great
transit systems. There are two characteristics which make these
transit systems great. First, I have been able to take transit to and
from the airport. Second, as a relatively new visitor to the city (in
Munich, it was my first visit, and it was my second visit to Toronto
and NYC), I was able to figure out and use the transit system while
being on my own, without a resident of the city. To be fair, of
course, I did have people letting me know what to look for.

Sent from my iPhone

Test Mobile

There is a setting on Blogger that allows you to update your blog by
sending an email to a secret address. As I was currently reflecting on
public transit and wishing I could blog about it from my vantage point
on the NJ Transit train, it seemed a useful feature and so I am
testing to see if it works. Blogger hasn't yet developed an iPhone
app, which is slightly unfortunate.

Sent from my iPhone

Friday, January 08, 2010

Trials and Tribulations of Interview Season

It's Friday night. I'm in, in my humble opinion, one of the best cities in the world - New York. And NYC on a Friday night offers a plethora of incredible options. There's Broadway, great restaurants, stores still open for shopping, and the list goes on and on.

What have I chosen to do?

Interview prep.

Yes... Interview season at Darden officially kicks off on Monday morning. 10:15 am on Monday for me. And I am not quite as ready as I'd like to be.

Interview prep in my life before Darden was so much less work. I was naive and foolish and thought that having a few good examples of my leadership skills and work ethic were sufficient to land me a job. And, indeed, they were. However, I am now up for jobs against people who have all the same great qualities as I do. And all those people are likely also spending their Friday evening prepping for interviews.

Making the decision to stay home and work today was quite difficult, but with NYC close by and no second chances for interviews, it was a necessary one. And it's not that I can say I've been busy spending my entire break prepping for interviews. I've gotten in some skiing and sightseeing (highly recommend the Tim Burton exhibit at MoMA!) and visiting and board game playing. But tonight I work so that tomorrow my friend and I have time for fun and celebrating her birthday.

For those of you prospective students who have tuned in to read about my thrilling interview prepping life, I'll give a quick background of on-grounds recruiting at Darden. First, companies spend the entire first semester doing company visits and wooing you with closed event parties and dinners. The next step is dropping resumes, which for me occurred mostly on December 4, the last day of classes. After that, some of the companies which previously wooed you break your heart, others surprise you with interview invitations. Interviews then run from January 11 onward, with second and final rounds, depending on the company. Classes do not start until January 18, giving companies a jump start on the interview process.

In addition to being invited for interviews, you can also bid on interview slots. Everyone is given a certain number of bid points, and you allocate these points to each company, depending on your level of interest.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Oh the Places You'll Go...

Sometimes I wonder whether the world is more similar or different than we think.

I left my home of 18 years to move to another country. Although I have always thought there was little difference between the US and Canada, having spent three months in the US, and now three weeks back in Canada, I'm noticing the little differences.


After three months of being mocked for calling the evening meal "supper," I have now been trained to call it "dinner," which gets me somewhat odd looks from my friends here, because dinner is generally a fancier/bigger meal which can occur at midday or the end of the day. So nobody orders pizza for dinner.

Soda. Pop. Soda Pop. Coke. I've always called it pop. But it seems that with my smorgasbord of friends from across the US, there is no consensus on which is correct.

Eh? After going three months with people generally pointing out at least on occasion that I have used this quintessentially Canadian word, I have been noticing that Canadians really do say it a lot.

Washroom, Restroom, Bathroom. A washroom does not have a toilet. A restroom does not have a bathtub or shower. A bathroom has all three. Thus, in a restaurant, you are most likely to be looking for a restroom. But when I tell my sisters I am looking for a restroom, they tell me to stop being so American.


It seems that different parts of the world value recycling to different degrees. For example, I have not been able to find a bin for recyclables in my apartment complex, nor do the boy scouts come around regularly to collect my cans. In Edmonton, we have blue bags for recycling, which are collected the same way as garbage. Even further, there are people that sort out the trash after it has been collected and THEN some of it gets used to produce energy. But all of this is paltry compared to what I experienced in Germany. In Germany, they separate packaging from compost and who knows what else, but the ultimate result is that very little ends up in the trash. There are bins for all of this in convenient locations, at least as far as I could tell from my sister's neighbourhood.

I think Canadian stores often offer credit cards (either for in store purchases or a Visa/Mastercard with the store's logo). I know American stores do, and my American friends seem much more willing to sign up for these aforementioned credit cards. I get offered them on a basis that is much more frequent than I ever did in Canada, but have no Social Security Number to actually take advantage of their offers.