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Friday, July 28, 2006

The wisdom of fortune cookies 

Last night I had a fortune cookie that seemed to be hedging its bets. It had two fortunes - "Idleness is the holiday of fools" and "Never trouble trouble till trouble troubles you". For now, I'm enjoying my fools holiday and trying to leave trouble well alone.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

And breathe 

Next Monday is Wharton's International Student Orientation for the class of 2008. I'm sitting on a student panel in the afternoon to answer questions, give advice etc. One piece of advice falls in to the 'well, duh' category: don't lose you're passport, it's a pain to get everything replaced. I speak from experience.

I'm not exactly sure what happened to it. I know I had it when I was doing my tax form at the beginning of April, but when I came to look for it in May it wasn't where I usually keep it. It wasn't anywhere else in the apartment either. All I can think is that it got mixed in with some papers and recycled.

Getting a new passport was relatively easy, getting a new visa a little bit more tricky. Legally, I was fine to be in the US without being able to produce a visa, but there are occasions when bodies want to see one to demonstrate legal immigration status, and of course I need one to leave and re-enter the country. Visas can't be issued in-country, so on Saturday I headed off for a hopefully quick to Toronto.

All the official messages stress that there is absolutely no guarantee that a visa will be issued, especially if you're a resident of a third country. My conscious mind said there was nothing to worry about - London had been happy to give me a visa last year, so why should this be any different? My unconscious mind seemed to be less sure - on Sunday night I had an anxiety dream where I was panicking because the semester had started and I was late for my first 9am class (not only am I never late for class, I don't even have any 9am classes next semester). When it came to trying to eat breakfast on Monday morning my stomach seemed to be with my unconscious mind.

As it turned out, the conscious mind was right. After a considerable amount of standing in line, the requisite finger printing, and an odd but light-hearted conversation with the visa officer about a) the pictures of birds in new UK passports b)Ben Franklin and c) his (the visa officer's, not Franklin's) meetings with Prince Charles, I was able to pick up my passport complete with new visa this afternoon. I took my stomach to tea to celebrate, and hope my unconscious mind will have a good night's rest tonight in the knowledge that it'll be back on its usual pillow in Philly tomorrow.

Seriously, don't lose your passport.

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Friday, July 21, 2006

Freedom! 

Today is the last day of my internship. It's been a mixed experience.

I came into it looking to get an insight into a slightly different type of organization, how it works and the issues it faces, rather than to learn a new skill, demonstrate a new ability, or make a big difference to my resume. In that sense it's been a success. It's also really helped me to clarify what's important to me in a job and in an organization. Unfortunately, the internship itself wasn't very well planned and a lot of the work I was doing wasn't really appropriate to an MBA internship. I definitely got something out of it, and hard financial measures of the appropriate stuff that I did do show that there were benefits to the organization, but I'm disappointed that there was a missed opportunity for it to be more beneficial on both sides.

So, I now have just under seven weeks of freedom until school starts again on September 6th. I think the last time that I had such a long period entirely to myself was in the summer of 1993.

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Friday, July 14, 2006

For all those planning on applying to Wharton . . . 

. . . the new essays are out. Looks to me like the changes are a flip of a compulsory essay to a 'choose from a selection' one, and vice versa, plus an extra choice in the selection section.

Good luck to everyone writing them.

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Friday, July 07, 2006

I love this stuff 

This is an example of something which would have come as a huge revelation to me a year ago, and now feels like a completely natural way of thinking. Just one of the reasons I love business school.

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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Crash, bang, wallop 

We've just had a thunderstorm, yet another thunderstorm. I honestly think I might have experienced more thunderstorms these last few weeks than in my previous 33 years. well, maybe nit quite that many, but it feels like it. They've been pretty spectacular ones two - lightning that lights the whole sky and claps of thunder that made me feel that I ought to be running through a Transylvanian castle while being chased by something undead. Watching them from inside can be quite entertaining. Being outside in one is less fun - by the time I made it home on Thursday I was quite literally soaked to the skin and my umbrella had been bent in half.

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Flying the flag 

One of the things I noticed after I was accepted to Wharton and decided to attend was the way in which being associated with the Wharton name changed the way some people reacted to me. I remember talking to a new trustee of the organisation I worked for and the subject of my palns came up. When he heard 'Wharton' there was a shift, slight but noticeable, in his attitude. Suddenly it seemed like I was someone to be taken a bit more seriously, to be listened to a bit more carefully.

In the year and a bit since I acquired the Wharton 'flag' I've struggled with how high to fly it and how vigorously to wave it. I'm aware that some people, whether because of bad experiences in the past or their own preconceptions, hear "I'm doing an MBA at Wharton" as bragging or arrogance, however non-bragging, non-arrogant, statement-of-fact tone its said in. It also gets a bit trying being told that "you'll be able to earn a huge salary and get any job you want" when you're not actually interested in earning mega bucks and have just rceived yet another internship rejection. As a result, in casual conversations where what I do is irrlevant or I think I might get a bad reaction, I've tended to open with "I'm at grad school at Penn" and only mention "Wharton" and "MBA" later if they ask for more detail or it becomes relevant.

My internship, and talking to others about their internship experiences, has brought this issue back into focus. I'm very aware that what I do while I'm in the office shapes people's perceptions of Wharton and Wharton students. In the odd moments when I think "I'm only here for a few weeks and I'm not looking for a permanent job with them, what does it matter what they think of me?" I'm aware that it does matter very much what they think of Wharton students. Which raises the question, that I've discussed with others in simialr situations, how do you comunicate the sentiment "I'm half way through an MBA at one of the world's top business schools, is the most useful thing I can do for you really the filing/photocopying/diary coordination?" without sounding like an arrogant bitch thrusting a flag into someone's face?

Happy Independence Day to everyone celebrating throwing off the oppression of the British flag.

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Saturday, July 01, 2006

No animals going two by two . . . . 


The picture on the left is the view fom my apartment on Wednesday evening. The boat you can see is where the edge of the river usually is. You can't see it very well in the photo, but part of the railway track is flooded as well. The picture on the right is the view from my office on Wednesday afternoon. The two lines of trees give a good indication of where the river banks are.

. . . .
but there have been reports of Striped Bass swimming down the street in a town upstream.

I only had the minor inconvenience of a couple of disrupted journeys (the trainline I commute on runs behind the first lot of buildings you can seein the picture on the right, and it was flooded out) but many people had it a lot worse. Thankfully, the waters are now receding and in this part of the world the river seems to be mainly back within its banks, if still high, fast flowing, very brown, and a bit smelly.


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