Final Exams and Festive Friends

Esha and I at Holidazzle, last weekend's black tie holiday ball

Today was our first HBS final exam and I feel drained, wiped, burnt out...any and all forms of the word exhausted now apply. I have a to-do list miles long, yet somehow I can't find the motivation right now to get out of bed and do a single one of them. I will regret this tomorrow when I realize how much precious time I've wasted, but for now I am content to blog, check e-mails and remember a more pleasant time where my muscles weren't so tense that it takes effort to physically hold up my head. Sigh. 4 exams to go and then...freedom!

If you can't already tell from my dramatics (that are scarily more reality and less drama), the exam was hard. It was this extraordinarily complicated case that I just couldn't wrap my head around. My essay was bad. Thankfully, everyone else says their essays were bad too, but I distrust them. These people are so smart that I'm sure they did fine. And I bet they are saying exactly that about me. Only time will tell (results for all exams, and the final semester grades, are released Jan. 11, which means I must find a way to not stress out about whether or not I've flunked out of HBS during what is supposed to be a fun winter break).

Back to the exam. The worst part is that often you think you did bad, and then you go back and re-read your essay and the more you read it, the more you come to think that maybe you didn't actually do that bad. Yeah, I did that bad.

Okay, my friend just came into the room and slapped me around a bit (figuratively, don't let your imaginations run) and told me to stop dwelling. I can't change my exam and I did relatively okay on the other aspects of the course, so I need to stop worrying. She's right. Worrying done. We're having pizza in the dorm at 6 and then going into Harvard Square for dessert. Mmmm chocolate is exactly what I need right now!

A really quick aside: This week Section G held one of our long-standing traditions called Festive Friends. Every year, Gs do Secret Santa with a twist: in order to receive your gift you must complete a dare chosen by your Secret Santa. Mine was to dress up as a fortune teller and walk around asking strangers if they wanted their fortunes told. See picture below -- it was fun! Some of the other dares included selling water from the water fountain for $1 a cup (the girl sold 5 cups!), walking through the halls with a bell reminding people to get to class on time, serenading strangers with a love song, etc. It was a fun way to finish out our last week of classes.
Speaking of last week of classes (my final topic before heading off to said pizza party), this week we found out our new seats for next semester, our new professors, and said goodbye to our current profs, who we will all miss greatly. It's amazing how much they have all grown on me as the semester has gone on. Initially, I must admit I was a bit skeptical, but now I look back and wonder if I would have wanted any other professors. I especially will miss my favorite of the group, our LEAD teacher Michel Anteby. I can't put my finger on why, but I just loved everything about this guy: his sweet, shy demeanor, his French accent (especially the way he pronounced my name), his teaching style and the way he related to the was all just great. Next semester's professors have huge shoes to fill!

All right I'm off -- I will try to update once more before I leave for winter break next Thursday, but after that I will be gone without computer access until roughly Jan. 10. Spring semester starts Jan. 13, so I'll definitely get back into the swing of things by then. Take care and have a great holiday season everyone!

Just had to...

The Slacker Returns

Wow, I can't believe I've neglected my blog almost a whole month. Please forgive me, life has been beyond crazy. Believe it or not, there are actually only 2.5 weeks left of my first semester. It's so weird because although I feel like I've been in Boston for a long, long time, it's still hard to think that I'm already half way done with my first year. Hard to believe AND incredibly scary! Finals are perhaps the scariest thing yet because 50% depends on what you can do in one 4-5 hour timespan (the other 50% of your grade for most classes is dependent on class participation, but that is something you have time to craft over 14 weeks!). From here until Dec. 18, I will be spending most of my afternoons and evenings studying for said finals (and throwing in a few exciting events like this Friday's black-tie holiday party, Holidazzle and a Section G tradition the "Ugly Sweater Party" the following week - anyone know where I can find an ugly sweater to wear?)
As a quick recap from the last month:
  • I've felt a bit like a hotel concierge as I hosted two of my closest friends from back home over two consecutive weekends in November. The second weekend of Nov., my friend Melissa from college came and we bopped around Boston shopping on Newbury St., dining in the North End and battling some horrible rainy weather and a terrible cold I was getting over (but we made the best of it!). The following weekend, my high school friend Tausha came into town (see her blog, Random Ish, linked at left!). Together with my other high school friend Lauren we went to the New England Aquarium (awesome!), a charity gala (photo bel0w), and the HBS marketing conference.
  • Last week/weekend was our Thanksgiving break and I traveled to Pennsylvania to visit my uncle, aunt and cousins (photo below). Aside from a wonderful dinner, my cousin and I visited Hershey Park and Chocolate World (the actual factory where Hershey's chocolate is produced), and the group of us visited Gettysburg, the famous Civil War battlesite and the accompanying museum. I also had some time for Black Friday shopping, lots of "family game night" time and two movie viewing parties ("Elf" and "The Piano" -- both greats!).
  • Also in November: HBS company presentations (I went to Sony and Warner Bros. -- Disney was supposed to come next week, but canceled :( boo), the HBS SABA (South Asian Business Association) EKTA show (Indian/South Asian dance, fashion show, skits, etc.), Section G Flag Ceremony (we now have 30+ flags hanging around our classroom representing all the different countries our sectionmates are from), the HBS International Food Festival (two words: delicious and stuffing!), the Section G Fall Dinner (i.e. a mock Thanksgiving dinner) and more!

The rest of this week, all of the RC's are participating in a new simulation called The Manager as Integrator where we work in teams of 7-8 to manage a company over 6 years (i.e. 2.5 days!), incorporating basically everything we've learned in our courses this semester. It should be a fun, although intense, few days since we have schedules packed from 8am - 11pm most days. But as I alluded to earlier, this Friday is capped with Holidazzle, which should be an amazing way to end the week (the formal event begins with Section dinners and a section video/audio presentation and then dancing the night away at a fancy hotel). I promise I will write more before I leave HBS for winter break (I will be gone from Dec. 18-Jan. 10 and doubt I will have much time to write then). For now, enjoy some November pics!

Friends from Florida: Tausha, Lauren and myself at the Forgotten Dreams Fundraiser Gala

Section G 2010

My cousin Whitney and I at the movie theater in Pennsylvania

Jack Welch visits HBS

One of the most extraordinary things about HBS is its ability to attract and bring some of the most brilliant business leaders to campus to interact with and guide students toward success in their careers. A prime example: Jack Welch visiting the RC classrooms yesterday morning.

If you don't know who Jack Welch is, you need to look him up. For ~20 years, Jack was the CEO of General Electric, and he completely revolutionized the company through innovative, radical management changes. He grew the company to extraordinary heights and it is the successful conglomerate that it is today partly due to his leadership.

I actually met Jack and his wife Suzy briefly 3 years ago when I was an intern at Motorola. His wife was speaking at the marketing division's annual management seminar, and because I had helped organize part of the event, I was invited to attend. I don't remember much from the speech, except that Suzy Welch had perhaps the largest, most sparkly diamond ring that I've ever seen, but I do remember not knowing much about Jack at that time, and therefore not truly being able to appreciate his presence. I received a signed copy of his book, Winning, and read it at the time, but think I may need to crack it open again now that my knowledge of the business world is broader.

Apparently Jack makes an appearance on the HBS campus once every five years on the day his case (a Leadership & Organizational Behavior case on his tenure at General Electric) is taught. I feel so fortunate to have hit the jackpot and have been an RC during one of the years he made an appearance. After our typical case discussion, Jack spoke for about 35 minutes on everything from managerial lessons learned from the election to what he would have done differently if he could have reprised his time at GE. Let me tell you, he is one inspirational guy and although I may never be as great a change agent as he was, hearing his story sure makes you want to reach for the stars.

Q&A from Prospective HBS Students

As the 2011 admissions process ramps up, I've been getting a lot of questions from prospective students either looking for an insider's perspective to HBS or just general answers to lingering questions. I am more than happy to answer any reader's questions and encourage you to post a comment to an entry if it sparks any queries. I make sure to respond to every question individually, although as my schedule gets busier as recruiting season begins here in Boston, it make take about a week for me to reply.

With the abundance of recent questions, I thought I'd take some of the more common queries I receive and post my answers here so that I can share my thoughts on a broader basis. Enjoy!

1) You use a lot of acronyms in your blogs. What's the difference between "RC" and "EC," and who the heck is this TOM guy you talk about?

RC stands for "required curriculum" and is the term used to identify first year students. Likewise, EC stands for "elective curriculum" and identifies the second years. In our first year we have 10 required courses over the two semesters, with small half courses thrown in throughout the term (this semseter we had a 6-week course called "Learning at HBS," later in the semester we have a 1-week intensive workshop called "The Manager as Integrator" and there may be similar courses second semester). First semester courses are Finance 1, Financial Reporting & Control (i.e. accounting), Leadership & Organizational Behavior, Marketing, and Technology & Operations Management (this is TOM). Second semester we take Finance 2, Strategy, Leadership & Corporate Accountability, The Entrepreneurial Manager, and Business, Government & The International Environment (I think that's the exact name, basically it's an economics course).

2) You really confused me in your midterm entry when you gave your course grades of A, B, C, etc. I thought HBS grades on a 1, 2, 3 scale.

You are 100% correct in that the HBS grading scale is unlike most schools in that the class is divided into 1s (top 10% of class), 2s (middle 80% o class) and 3s (bottom 10% of class). The grades I talked about in that entry were my personal opinions of the course as a whole, and the grade I would give the school if I had the chance to rate the class (based on my individual learnings). We did get percentage grades for our midterm exams, as well as participation feedback for each class, but other than that we have not been given any specific marks.

3) You never updated us on your leadership roles!

Whoops, sorry about that! I actually did get two of the three roles that I applied for, so I can proudly say that I am one of the Assistant Vice Presidents of Marketing and Social for the Marketing & CPG club and one of the CO-VPs of Marketing and Communication for the Entertainment and Media Club. Currently, I'm helping plan an officer kick-off event at a pottery painting place called Made by Me for the Marketing Club, and I'm spreading the word about the Entertainment & Media Club through some marketing efforst on that end. It's fun!

Another person asked how I got elected to these positions so quickly since I'm a first year. It's actually a very simple process without campaiging or ballots. Basically the first years fill out a poll explaining why they'd be best for the position and the EC officers select the RCs based on that information (so really it's more of an appointed role than an elected one). I believe that sometime in the spring actual elections are held to determine the officers for the next year.

4) How effective is the case method for quantitative courses such as accounting and finance?

This question will be answered very differently depending on your personal background, work experience and level of quantitative skills. If you've kept up with my blog at all, you'll see that I'm not the strongest in the quant area, nor do I particularly love dealing with numbers (I'm much more of a creative, people person). While this does put me at a disadvantage immediately in these courses, I've learned very quickly to take it all with a grain of salt. What I mean by this is two things: firstly, I have no intent of going into banking or accounting, so for me, a general foundation in the subject will likely suffice, and any additional quant training could be learned on the job or through additional outside coursework. Secondly, while the HBS grading system tends to compare students to one another, I had to take a step back to keep my sanity and remind myself that I am truly incomparable to many of my sectionmates in this area. Without a quantitative work background, I will never be as good in accounting as the two CPAs in my class, and I will never be able to model as quickly or effectively as the former I-bankers. But that's okay! Really. It's hard to come to grips with at first, but you start to recognize your personal competitive advantages quite quickly here and it's best to run with them and take the other courses for what their worth.

Now I realize I have not at all answered the question yet, but I felt like that was important to say. Personally, I don't find the case method as conducive to truly learning the techniques and concepts of accounting and finance. For me, a combination of case learning and lecture/small workshop courses would be more effective in helping me get a grip on the basics. The good news is that there are tons of resources on campus (whether it be second year tutors, sectionmates, people from your learning team, textbooks in the library, meeting with professors, etc.) that you can employ to help yourself understand these concepts. It's without a doubt more work, but that doesn't mean you can get there. On the upside, the case method is a great way to teach you how to think about business problems in an environment where information is ambiguous and often incomplete. You truly learn a ton in class every day.

I would highly, highly suggest that you take the time (if possible) to come visit HBS and see the case method in action. It's a truly different classroom experience from anything I've seen, and watching a course will give you the best idea of whether or not you can see yourself thriving in an environment like it.

That's it for questions for now. Another post from this week is on its way shortly!

Coldplay is the Coolest Band Ever (and other fun HBS happenings)

I decided to post two entries today, one more academically oriented and the other focusing on some of the fun things I've gotten to do in the last few weeks (plus I figured while I have the time to actually devote to blogging, I should get an extra entry in there).

Some of the Section G ladies at Friday's dinner party -- I'm on the far right
Let's start with our Section G Retreat to Stratton, Vermont. Two weeks ago, about 100 of us (probably 80 of our 90 sectionmates and 15-20 partners and children) traveled in a caravan of cars up to Stratton, a ski lodge in the boondocks of Vermont. We arrived late at night, so it was hard to appreciate the beauty of the Vermont countryside, and went straight away to a dinner and dance party in one of the resort's restaurants. Outside there was a "bonfire" (more like a fire in a pot, but it kept us warm nonetheless) where we roasted marshmallows and stuffed ourselves with delicious s'mores. I hit the hay "early" at 2:30 a.m., while the rest of the crew stayed up until 5 a.m. and beyond doing G-d knows what (I do know at some point approximately 10 people were in the hot tub blaring rap music at 5 a.m. since it woke me up out of a dead sleep. Why anyone wants to be out in 30 degree weather in a hot tub at 5 a.m. bewilders me, but to each his own...).
The view of Stratton on Sunday, the day we left, so we didn't get to enjoy this beautiful weather.
The next morning, a huge group of us headed into the resort's "town" (a series of small shops and restaurants, see photo above) for lunch and unfortunately were greeted with lots of rain and clouds, which put a damper on the day. I was originally supposed to play paintball, and many people had planned to go hiking, but the weather was so crummy that I think a large majority of us opted to stay in, which actually turned out to be quite fun. A group of us played Taboo and watched Superbad, and then I spent the evening playing Trivial Pursuit with about 15 people (and my team, the Pink Ladies, won!). Sunday morning we got back into our car caravan to drive back to Boston, and this time I was able to see how gorgeous Vermont really is. The mountainsides are covered with autumn-colored trees and the towns are incredibly quaint and old-fashioned. We stopped at a dive restaurant off the side of the street and had some of the best onion rings, curly fries and sandwiches that we've had in a good long time. A great conclusion to the weekend!
Lauren and I warming up at Starbucks after lunch at the Union Oyster House
Last Tuesday, I joined my friend Lauren (one of my best friends from high school) at a launch party for Boston Magazine at a trendy restaurant called Banq in the south end of Boston. There were free drinks (I had an amazing Shiraz) and appetizers, and after the event we stopped at another cute restaurant for dessert and garlic french fries. Previously (I think like a week earlier), the two of us visited the oldest restaurant in America, which just so happens to be in Boston. It's called Union Oyster House ( and it has a room dedicated to the history of Boston with tableaus from the historical landmarks of the city. One of my favorite things about Boston is the history -- you may recall that I walked the Freedom Trail a month ago -- so it was exciting to dine within this incredibly old structure. And the food was good too!
The wonder that was the Coldplay concert
Finally, last Wednesday was the pinnacle of my week: I went to the Coldplay concert at the TD Banknorth Garden, Boston's auditorium and home of the Boston Celtics. It was one of the greatest concerts I've seen and I didn't stand still for the whole two hours they played. Not only was the music so loud that you could feel the floor vibrating, but the energy of Chris Martin and the band was beyond belief. Chris Martin was rolling around the staging, running, jumping and sweating a ton. He looked exhausted after the first song, but somehow managed to keep his energy up throughout the whole show, which included an acoustic set on a side stage in the middle of the auditorium and a cool remix of some of their older songs. They played their entire Viva La Vida album and most of their hits from their other albums (including Clocks, my favorite song of their's, Speed of Sound, Fix You, Yellow, The Hardest Part, God Put a Smile on Your Face, Politik, etc.). It was hugely worth the money I paid for the ticket, and I haven't stopped wearing my $35 Viva La Vida tour t-shirt since. :) Amar (the guy I went to the concert with) and I have already decided that if they come back to Boston next year on a new tour, we'll be one of the first in line for tickets. A highly recommended concert to see if they are coming to your area!

This weekend I'm taking it easy, trying to catch up on schoolwork, errands and general life to-do's, although tomorrow night I'm going to a potluck dinner at a sectionmate's house, which should be fun and today I've got a personal training appointment at 1:30. Then it's back to busy next week (although it's a three-day week due to company information days on Thursday and Friday) so I'll write more then. Ciao!

Halfway through Semester 1

I was talking to my best friend last night about how life here at HBS is a conundrum. In one sense, I feel like I have been here for years, and in another sense I can't believe I'm already halfway through my first semester. Somehow the individual weeks go by so quickly because I'm so busy, but as a whole I feel like I've been in Boston much longer than 2.5 months.

As I'm sure you can infer from the introduction, 2 weeks ago was our midterm week. We had three exams (Accounting, TOM and LEAD), although only Accounting and TOM actually count toward our final grade (the reason they give us a 3-hour, ungraded essay exam in LEAD perplexes I irrational in thinking that if I'm going to spend 3 hours on something, I should at least receive a mark for it?). With that in mind, I thought I'd go through and do a brief review of each of my classes and professors now that we're at the midway point so you can get a sense for what I'm learning every day.

1) LEAD (i.e. Leadership and Organizational Behavior): This is actually my favorite class. Our teacher, Michel Anteby, is a little bald Frenchman whom I find so cute. The class is structured so that we not only do cases, but also interactive projects that help us learn about our individual leadership style, and how we would handle difficult managerial situations when we're actually in the business world. One of the more interesting simulations we did was called the Lingua Franca Iceberg Simulation. It involved a computer program that garbled the typed text of two people in a group of four to mimic language barriers. We had to work together in a limited time frame to develop a project while fighting through not being able to understand each other. It's amazing how frustrating it was, but also a good lesson as companies become ever more global. When we're not doing simulations, we're often reading cases about specific people and their challenges in creating successful groups, developing successful one-on-one work relationships and in aligning business incentives to create cohesive organizations. My overall course grade: A.

2) Marketing: I'm actually surprised that this hasn't turned out to be my favorite class, but I think it's because the casework blows hot and cold. We've had some incredibly interesting cases on "sexy" brands like Coca Cola, Snapple, the New VW Beetle and Starbucks, and then we've had perhaps the most boring cases ever on companies like Sealed Air (they produce inflated packing material for shipping), KONE (an elevator manufacturer) and some company I can't even remember who manufactures metalworking fluid. Metalworking fluid?! Come on people. When we're not dealing with these less than exciting companies, the class is really fun and I do feel that I'm learning a lot about developing marketing campaigns and dealing with challenges in each of the marketing sectors (i.e. the Four P's or promotion, place, price and product). My overall course grade: B

3) Financial Reporting and Control (aka Accounting): Of all the quantitative subjects, I'm surprised at how much I actually like accounting. The subject matter doesn't have the best reputation throughout the world for being incredibly stimulating, but somehow I feel it's like a puzzle with the debits and credits, and making sure both sides of the balance sheet, well, balance! I can't say it's not hard, because we've had a few classes where I've had absolutely NO idea what is going on, but overall we've tackled a huge range of accounting concepts and truly gotten a glimpse at how subjective accounting can be (and therefore how easy it is for companies to "hide" information in their financial statements, whether intentional or by accident). We've currently just finished our module on Financial Accounting, and starting next week we're diving into Managerial Accounting, which I've had no prior exposure to, so that should be interesting to see how I do. Overall course grade: B-

4) TOM (Technology and Operations Management): This course was my enemy for the first half of the semester, and I think many of my classmates would agree. Basically, the coursework looked at many different kinds of factories and the processes by which products are made. This doesn't sound so hard, but when you start throwing in metrics like cycle time, throughput time, added value time, idle time, machine utilization, etc., it becomes mind boggling. There are so many numbers and so few indications of what to do with those numbers, and help is hard to find because this is the one subject area that almost no one has encountered before in their work experience. The good news? We were allowed a "cheat sheet" for the midterm exam -- one 8.5 X 11 sheet of paper filled with as much information as you could fit (thank you computer and small font!). This cheat sheet is what helped me score an 86% on the exam, which I am extremely happy with. The even better news? The class is now shifting into a more qualitative module on supply chain management and improving operations from a less technical standpoint. Right up my alley! Overall course grade: Was a D, but I'll give it a B- going forward.

5) Finance: Now that TOM is no longer my enemy, I can shift my anger toward our Finance class. We happen to have an excellent professor for this course (his name is Andre Perold, he has a great South African accent and he just so happens to be the course head so he knows his stuff), but I just find it all so confusing and non-intuitive. I've been working with a tutor almost since the start of the course, AND I am a regular at the weekly review sessions, but I still struggle to keep up and truly understand what we are doing. We started the semester analyzing financial statements and doing discounted cash flow analysis, which I actually got with a lot of hard work, but now we're on a risk and return module working with CAPM, beta, the sharpe ratio, etc., and while I have a basic idea of the concepts, I find them incredibly hard to apply, especially in a case setting. If I could give one suggestion to the MBA program, it would be to split this class in two -- put those students with Finance backgrounds in a more advanced, perhaps case based course, and stick us dummies in a lecture class so we can actually be taught theconcepts, rather than struggle through cases night after night not knowing what to do. Overall Course Grade: C-

Faith, Hope and Love

It's midterm time here at Harvard Business School, which means that many of my days over the past week have been spent at review sessions preparing for my accounting, TOM and LEAD exams. It's tough to fight distractions when you're studying debits and credits for hours on end, and the beautiful fall leaves and cool weather keep beckoning from my 3rd story window. I've managed to keep my concentration (mostly), save for three things that have managed to pull me away from my studies: faith, hope and love -- in the form of a movie, a book and a political campaign.
  • Faith: As I was waiting in the Boston airport last weekend for my flight home to Florida, I stopped into the bookstore to find a good read to occupy my time. Initially, I went for the new Phillipa Gregory book, that is until I saw the $30 price tag (it's a new release in hardcover) and was starting to feel discouraged when "Eat, Pray, Love" caught my eye from the bottom corner of the bookshelf. I remembered hearing a colleague tell me about the book when I first started HBS and although the tagline didn't grab my attention necessarily (I truly am on a historical fiction kick. The last four books I've read have been about Katherine of Aragon, Johannes Vermeer, Anne Boleyn and Josephine Boneparte), I decided to trust her judgment and I picked up the book. I'm so glad I did! The story follows a woman on a year-long journey of self discovery through Italy, India and Indonesia. It's written in a way that is so humorous you find yourself laughing out loud, but the humor doesn't detract from the life lessons she dispenses throughout. Much of the book is about faith and finding G-d, but the author doesn't ever preach or suggest a religious right to the reader. Rather she explains how she found inner peace through G-d and how it changed her life. A great read that I'd definitely recommend!
  • Hope: Two days ago I mailed in my absentee ballot, proudly voting for John McCain. I've literally been called three times in the last four days by the McCain campaign asking if I'm still voting for him and did I mail my ballot. Boy are these folks worried, and with good reason. Although I become more and more of a staunch Republican as I get older (and a person who is unafraid to admit her conservative beliefs despite unpopularity among most peers), I'm not sure McCain will be able to pull this one off. I've watched each of the three debates, and even though I think McCain won the third and final one, he just can't compare to Obama when it comes to command and presence. Next to this robust, well-spoken younger man McCain looks old, fragile and weak -- and this reminds the American people too much of Bush, who is universally disliked. However, I must continue to hope that some miracle comes along in the next two and a half weeks that propels him to the forefront of people's minds -- and ballots.
  • Love: This afternoon I took a study break and jetted over to the movie theater to see "The Duchess" a historical drama based on the life of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, and starring Keira Knightley. It was a fanstasic film that made me cry -- it's those darn swelling orchestral refrains that get me every time! The story (without revealing too much detail for those who might still go see it) is about her loveless marriage to the Duke of Devonshire, her love affair with a commoner and the sacrifices she had to make in life -- one of which is giving up her greatest love. It struck such a chord in me because I can't imagine every living in a loveless marriage and feeling a passion outside of my marriage that I knew I could never tap into. What a horrible, imprisoning life that would be! Regardless, I found her story very captivating -- a great reprieve from accounting and a chance to let out some pent-up stress through the tears the movie brought out. Seriously folks, this is why I love entertainment. How often do you have the chance to absorb yourself in another world and allow yourself to emotionally connect without real life causality or effect. Brilliant!
With that said, I must get back to studying (unfortunately I'll be doing this all day tomorrow as well). Next weekend is my section's retreat (we're going to Stratton, VT for two nights) so I'll have lots of exciting stuff to blog about (plus some fun pictures!) when I return from that trip. Have a great week!

Clubs at HBS

A few weeks ago HBS hosted its annual club fair where all of the campus organizations get together to recruit members. There were tens of clubs there representing every possible social, academic or career-oriented interest that one might have. My problem was that I wanted to join 8 clubs -- way too many for a schedule as busy as mine -- and I knew I'd need to narrow it down somehow. In the end I wound up officially joining 6, with plans to only be super involved in two.

  1. Entertainment & Media Club: This is by far my number one priority when it comes to extracurriculars because the opportunities are endless. I know for sure that I want to work in the entertainment industry, and this club not only takes yearly treks to Hollywood and New York to meet with big shot business execs, but also brings in entertainment-related speakers and hosts an Entertainment and Media conference in the spring. I've applied to be one of the organization's Co-VPs of Marketing & Communications and will probably hear shortly if I've been selected for the role. It's truly perfect for me: entertainment and marketing combined equals golden opportunity!
  2. Marketing & CPG Club: For non-business folks, CPG stands for consumer packaged goods, a segment that offers a majority of the marketing jobs (think Procter & Gamble, FritoLay, Coca-Cola, Loreal, etc). For the first time this year, the previously separate Marketing and CPG clubs combined since their memberships overlapped by 80%. So although my interest in learning about the CPG industry is minimal, I'm still excited to get involved and see what marketing networking and skills I can gain. Here I've applied to be the Assistant Vice President in charge of Marketing & Social.
  3. Women's Student Association: The best part of the WSA is that it's one of the only clubs on campus that a) doesn't charge dues and b) makes you an automatic member as a woman of the Harvard community. I don't plan to take on any leadership roles within this organization, but I have already attended several of their events including the RC Duck Tour and the Harvard Undergraduate Women in Business conference (where I volunteered last weekend). They also have a lot of great women-focused, empowering workshops, like one coming up called "What They Don't Teach You at HBS" hosted by women alumnae.
  4. HBS Show: I am SO SO SO excited about this club. Basically, every year a group of students get together to write, produce, direct and star in a two-act musical comedy that plays for four nights at the end of the spring semester. Although I only plan to act, sing or dance in the musical (which limits my involvement to the spring term once the show is written and ready to be cast), I'm thrilled to have the chance to reconnect with my theater roots. I miss showtunes and tap shoes!
  5. Jewish Student Association: Even though I'm basically Jewish only by heritage (it's been years since I've actually celebrated a holiday), I thought it would be good to join this organization since I do plan to go on a Birthright Israel trip this winter and would like to learn more about my religion. Tomorrow night I'm going to a break-the-fast Yom Kippur dinner on campus (although I'm still deciding whether or not I should actually fast, so it may just be a dinner with friends rather than a break of the fast).
  6. Dance Club: I will probably be least involved in this, my final club, but I figured that the dues were so cheap, why not? Students in the club put on dance classes throughout the year and members can get involved in some dance shows throughout the semester.

I originally had intended to try out for the SHE-E-O's, a female a cappella group, and had wanted to join the Republican Club, but had to draw the line somewhere. Overall, it's very exciting and will certainly keep my ever-busy schedule as hopping as its been!

Crazy Antics of the Week

This has been a truly zany week. Case in point:

1) On Wednesday I finally ventured to Shad (the gym) for a Personal Fitness Assessment. I walk into the weight room, go up to the desk and ask for Darlene (my trainer) and the guy responds, "Sorry ma'am but emergencies come first." Puzzled, I look to my right and see a young man keeled over with a blood-soaked towel pressed against his head -- whoa! Turns out this guy was doing a reverse crunch exercise on a reclining chair with a 25 pound dumbbell balancing between his feet. The story continues as the dumbbell slips from his feet and falls on his head caushing two huge gashes (and can you imagine how much that must have hurt? A 25 pound weight is damn heavy)! At first I'm like, okay this is just like real life Grey's Anatomy -- lots of blood and an outrageously unbelievable emergency. But then I start to feel faint. Faint as in the room is blacking out, my hearing is going fuzzy and I feel like I may pass out. I sit down on the floor and the woman behind the desk says to tell her if I start to feel the cold sweats. Lo and behold, I'm sweaty and cold so she runs to get a cold compress for my head so I don't faint. So here's this guy bleeding waiting for the EMTs and here I am sitting on the floor 3 feet from him almost passing out. I guess it's a good thing I didn't go into medicine! (Postscript: Luckily, I did not pass out and the gentleman was taken to the hospital under non-life threatening conditions).

2) Also on Wednesday night, I joined my sectionmates for a night of karaoke at a local Irish Pub called Tommy Doyle's. The night was a ton of fun and I decided to open a bar tab around 11, so I handed the bartender my debit card and went along my merry way. About an hour later, I left with a bunch of friends to walk home and forgot to close out my tab and get my credit card. By the time I realized I had forgotten it, I was in bed, it was 1 a.m. and there was no way I was heading back for it alone that evening. I didn't think twice about it when I went to the bar the next afternoon to pick up my card, but my heart started to pound a little when the card could not be found. According to the bartender, when he realized I had forgotten my card, he closed out my tab, wrapped the receipt around it and left it in a plastic cup behind the bar. Now the cup was gone and the card was nowhere to be found. The manager assured me that they would continue looking, that perhaps it had fallen somewhere and he would get back to me later that afternoon. About an hour later I get an e-mail from Bank of America alerting me to the irregular credit card activity on my debit card and asking me to verify the charges or call the bank immediately. Now I got freaking scared. I checked my account and someone had fraudulently charged $600 on my card that day. To make a long story short, that evening was ruined as I now had to file a fraud report with the bank, file a police report with the Cambridge police, have my account closed down and re-opened and contact the owner of the bar to alert him to the situation. What makes things worse is the fact that the card was likely stolen by an employee of the bar since it was in an area that customers don't have access to. The case is not yet closed -- both the police and the owner of the bar are conducting investigations to find out who made these charges -- and because they charged more than $500 on my card, it's considered a felony and the person will be arrested when they're caught!

Crazy, just plain crazy.

On a positive note, the first signs of fall are starting to appear around Boston. Check out the first red tree of the season on the HBS campus:

Also stay tuned for several blog posts over the next few days. I plan to do a summary and review of my classes so far, an introduction to the clubs I've joined and a summary of some of the awesome events I've participated in during the last two weeks. For now I'm off to a local dive to celebrate a friend's birthday! Gnite!

The Wonders of a Shopping Mall and other Ramblings

It's amazing the things you take for granted living in a suburb: driving your car wherever you want to go, parking said car in a free lot, and spending days at a full-fledged shopping mall. Today I spent five glorious hours doing the latter: shopping at the CambridgeSide Galleria Mall. Bells rang when I walked through the glass doors and saw three floors of nothing but clothing, shoes and accessories stores. It was truly a beautiful thing. Needless to say I now have an ample fall/winter wardrobe complete with close-toed shoes for both walking and going out, knee-high socks, wool and knit dresses, thin shirts for layering, a trenchcoat, cute hats and more (thank you financial aid!). I will likely still have to supplement as the weather gets colder, but for now I'm set!

Next week at HBS is a busy one. I've got the Club Fair on Tuesday (and I already want to join 8 clubs, which is a bad, bad thing considering how packed my schedule is now) and registration with Career Services (meaning I'll finally have access to the 65,000 person alumni database so the networking can begin)! Socially, I'm going out for dinner/drinks with my new learning team on Wednesday night and I'm putting together a Grey's Anatomy premiere viewing potluck/party with some of the ladies from my section for Thursday night. A fun week to look forward to, for sure!

And now I shall leave you with a few pictures from this week...enjoy!

My new learning team: Phil, Reji, Qiao, Me, Craig and Aneal

Some Section G'ers at Vinalia for the RC/EC Mixer: Monica, Vesso, Ashlyn and Me!

The Section G Ladies at our first Wine & Cheese Party

First sickness of the season and other events of the week

The inevitable finally happened about a week ago: I got my very first cold of the season. I knew it was coming since my sleep, eating and working patterns had all changed very drastically in a very short period of time, not to mention the fact that everyone around me started coming down with something, therefore it was only a matter of time before my decreased immune system picked up the bug.
Hence, for the last week I've been feeling pretty darn crappy. It started as a throat ache, swollen glands, swallowing knives illness, progressed into a stuffy nose, I-can't-breathe-at-all, burning eyes, low-grade fever illness and finally a phlegm in the chest, deep cough, complete and total laryngitis illness. And that last stage, folks, is where I'm presently at. Yesterday morning I woke up with one of those sexy phone operator raspy voices, which slowly faded throughout the day so that by the evening my vocal cords were completely and utterly worn out. But who says you can't be social without a voice?
Yesterday was the Women's Student Association's first event - one of Boston's famous duck tours for the RC women. The "duck" is a World War II-style amphibious vehicle that can both be driven on land and propelled in water. The tour takes you around many of the famous and/or interesting sites near downtown Boston including the Boston Public Library, the tallest building in the city, historical sites from the Freedom Trail, John Kerry's apartment, the Boston Public Gardens and more.

The best part is definitely the excursion around the Charles River, though! The water part of our tour took place close to sunset so the views were incredible. It's not often that your tour operator drives your truck into a river and takes you on a 15-minute boat cruise!

After the Duck Tour, I changed and got ready for the last event of HBS' Orientation Weeks: Casino Night. I have to say I was expecting more from the event considering it came with a semi-formal dress code, but really all it was was blackjack, roulette and poker tables with some cheese and crackers for snacks. They could have done a lot more with the event as far as decor and theming goes, but it was still fun.

My analytics learning team members at Casino Night: Me, David, Jesus, Jesus' wife Barbara and Sonia

Since I still had no voice, I walked around all night with a pad and pen in my hand writing notes to people when I wanted to join in on the conversation. A bit of a buzzkill if you ask me, and something I'm certain I'll be made fun of for a while, but hey it worked!

This afternoon I'm taking it easy, trying to relax while I do my cases so that my system can recover and give me my voice back (you don't know how hard it is to get things done without being able to talk!). This evening I'm supposed to join 5 of my section-mates for Mexican food, so I'm crossing my fingers that I can talk by then!

Boston Harbor Boat Cruise, Sleep Deprivation, Snapple and Benihana

First things first: Last night the first year students went on a boat cruise around Boston Harbor, which was beautiful and lots of fun. The sunsets were gorgeous (see evidence below!) and the cool night air was so refreshing.

Unfortunately, balancing social activites, school work and other daily tasks is becoming more and more of a challenge, and we've just begun! Already my throat is scratchy and I feel a cold coming on, which leads me to my second topic: sleep deprivation. Seriously guys, I got way spoiled in the six months before I moved here and never really slept less than 8.5 hours. Now, a good night is 7 and a normal night is 6.5. You won't think a difference of an hour or two would make such a mark on my day -- thankfully I don't feel it as much with my morning coffee -- but I think my body is sending me signals that it's getting worn down. My allergies have been acting up in a big way, and now I'm getting that swollen glands, phlegmy throat, overall icky feeling that always precedes the first cold of the season. Just what I need!
Before I dive into my cases for tomorrow, let me just say that I have new appreciation for Snapple and Benihana. These are just two of the companies that we've studied in our first few days of class. It's amazing the things you can learn about a company from 80 minutes of class discussion, but I now have a firm grasp on Hibachi operations and branding of juice/tea -- so much so that I grabbed a bottle of Snapple Diet Raspberry Ice Tea after our marketing class to show my loyalty (and I want to plan a trip to the closest Benihana). Tomorrow we're studying contact lenses for chickens, which somehow doesn't sound nearly as compelling.
...and I'm off, more soon!

My Dorm Room

I don't have time to post much, but here are the long awaited pictures of my dorm room! It is still an on-going project (i.e. still pictures to hang, things to organize, etc.), but you can get a feel for how it looks now. :)

HBS Documentary on CNBC this winter!

For nine of the ten HBS RC sections, today's schedule was the same: meeting your sectionmates, having your first case discussion and learning about your professors for the semester. But Section G (my section) had another little surprise: CNBC is doing a documentary on Harvard Business School and has chosen my section to film! Even more exciting is that they are featuring two pre-selected students and following their journeys...and I sit next to them both, which means chances are good that a sliver of me will make it into the documentary! Having come from a journalism background, this is especially thrilling -- plus I always love watching those documentaries and investigative stories, so I can't wait to see how they position the school. The anchors and producers that talked to my section said the documentary is scheduled to air this December, but that a firm date has not yet been set. When they do pick a date, I'll be sure to pass it on so you can look for my profile in one of the classroom shots and get an outsider's view of my adventures over the first semester!

New Learning Teams, Sections and more!

Today was the official start of the MBA program, and in many ways it felt like a reunion with old friends. Even though our break between Analytics and now was only 5 days, I think there was a lot of excitement about reuniting for the RC, especially with more than 600 new students roaming around the campus looking confused. We also got our section assignments for the full term this evening: I'm in Section G (for Gabby!) and some of my closest friends from Analytics are in the same section, which is awesome (they say you build the deepest bonds with those in your section since you spend so much time together). I'm also seated in what they call the skydeck -- it's basically the top row of the stadium-style seating in the classroom, but it comes with a special honor. It's an HBS tradition to do weekly "Skydeck Awards" presented by the students that sit in this row. Essentially it's a humorous roast of the other students in the section -- poking fun at comments made, or my favorite, giving out the "Statue of Liberty" award to the student whose hand was in the air for the entire week of sessions.

Finally, today I met my learning team, and while I do desperately miss my Analytics group, I think a good dynamic will build with this new group as well. In addition to myself, there's another Floridian who worked in real estate, a Chinese woman who worked in Investment Banking, someone from the army who was recently deployed in Iraq, a consultant from London and a man who did Private Equity. I'm definitely excited to get to know them all better over the next few months.

And with that I'm off -- I finally got some shelving installed in my room today so I've got a ton of cleaning and organizing to do before bed. I should have pics of my dorm in the next few days so stay tuned!

Week 2 in Review

I find it fascinating that although I've been in Boston less than a month, I already feel equipped to tell people how to get around Cambridge, where to eat in Harvard Square and how to get to some of Boston's coolest weekend sites. Who knew someone could become accustomed so quickly?

As I'm sure you can imagine, the Analytics program has ended and we're all gearing up to start regular classes on Tuesday (although they ease us in and we don't have a full 3 case day until Friday). Overall, I'm so incredibly happy that I came to Analytics because I feel completely comfortable with the campus, have some great friends and feel way more prepared to tackle classes and the case method. It was most definitely a tough two weeks (and by no means do I think I'm now an expert in finance, accounting or statistics), but I feel like I'm ahead of the game diving into the RC curriculum.
Socially, it's also been a really great experience. I've eaten so many dinners out and have had way too much wine for my own good (and for my budget!). Last weekend a group of us went to a bowling alley/billiard's hall and stayed out playing until 1:30 a.m. I have to say it was the best night I've had in Boston yet. And there's still so much to see! A few days ago a group of us walked the Freedom Trail (see picture above -- and saw such historic sites as the Old State House, Paul Revere's gravesite and the location of the Boston Massacre) and we're already formulating plans to go whale watching, do a duck tour (a land and water tour of the city) and go to Plimouth Plantation and Cape Cod. I can already tell it's going to be a busy, busy semester.

This weekend I scooted over to New York City to escape the "HBS Bubble" for a while and visit with my many friends who live there. I saw Legally Blonde: The Musical with my friend Tausha on Friday night and on Saturday we visited The Met and Central Park (I fell in love with the magnificence of the art at The Met...seriously, this could be one of my favorite places ever). We also met up with a group for cupcakes at Buttercup Bakery and had some delicious food at Max Brenner (known for their delectable dessert concoctions). Despite some major delays in the buses I took in and out of the city, I had a fabulous time and was so glad I had the chance to catch up with friends that I don't get to see very often.

Tomorrow (Labor Day) is an errands and laundry day (boring but so necessary since everything goes into high gear tomorrow night). Oh! And I'm officially moved into my beautiful, fabulous, spacious, amazing permanent dorm room in McCulloch Hall (can you tell I'm happy here?), but pictures of that are still to come because it's taking longer to settle in and decorate than I thought it would.

Also, just a note: I'm going to try to squeeze in some more short posts this week so I can go into more detail about the fun events I'm attending and the awesome people I'm meeting. When I can only post every couple of weeks I wind up leaving out so much of the detail that I will want to remember looking back on this experience two years from now. See you later!


Time. It's something that seems to come in short supply these days. Time to blog, time to read, time to sleep, time to relax...they've all been reduced since beginning this adventure that we call Analytics. And I doubt things will improve once the RC (i.e. required curriculum, aka regular term) begins in a couple of weeks. If anything, adding club meetings, company presentations, sessions with career advisors and 3 additional classes will only further complicate the situation and force me to manage my time even better. On the bright side, despite losing myself in the so-called "HBS Bubble," I must admit that I'm really enjoying it here. The saying goes that if you're going to devote so much time to one particular thing that you better enjoy it, and the people you are doing it with. Suffice it to say I find myself enjoying both, despite my increased daily coffee intake and phone calls to my family reduced to five minute intervals in which I'm either walking to or from class, a study session, learning team meeting, etc.

So while I have some time (I have a group meeting from 3-9 p.m., which gives me exactly 20 minutes to write and publish this post before I'm accounted for, for the rest of the evening), I wanted to catch up on my blog writing (let me count this toward the one hour of personal time that we're encouraged to take each day). I previously promised some photos of my room and of the campus, and I remembered to take my camera with me yesterday so I snapped several shots to share:

View of my room from the door facing the window.

The bathroom is directly to the right and closet directly to the left (the width is so small that both doors cannot be open at the same time).

View of the slanted ceilings that I was so *lucky* to receive as a member of the fourth floor gang :)

View of my desk from on top of my bed (I'm not kidding, there was no other angle at which I could stand and get the entire desk in the shot)

This was perhaps the most interesting shot to get as I am crouched under the slanted ceilings attempting to get a shot facing the door (to give you a sense of the width of the entrance way). I hit my head several times, all in the name of interesting blogging.

Now every time you read an entry, you can picture me typing away at my little pink laptop in my storage closet of a dorm room - or at least you can until August 27th when I move to my permanent room (which is twice as large, yippee!).

I have some additional pictures and stories to share, but it's time for me to head out to my group meeting, so hopefully I wil have a few minutes later this week to update some more. Tomorrow is a 3-case day (which means tonight we have to work a case for our accounting, finance and quantitative methods courses) and we are expected to spend 2 hours on each (which takes us to 9 p.m.), after which we meet with our learning teams for 2 hours to discuss what we've found and prepare for class discussion the following day. I know this whole process may seem really confusing, so if you're interested in something I mention and want to know more, feel free to post your query in the comments section and I'll address it in my next post.

I Survived My First Day as a Harvard MBA (rhyme unintended)

It's 11 p.m. and I just got back from my learning team meeting where we discussed our first two cases (one in accounting, one in QM aka statistics). Although I want to try to get to sleep shortly (since the excitement continues tomorrow with our first actual classes), I wanted to get a quick update in since so many things have happened in the last couple of days.

Most importantly, I've been so pleasently surprised so far at the friendliness of the students. It doesn't seem like anyone has come in with a clique or large group of friends so each individual seems really eager to get to know one another. And, as I expected, everyone has an interesting story to tell. Adding to my growing list of extraordinary people: a girl who majored in nueroscience for undergrad and now wants to pursue marketing, a female airforce pilot, people from Lebanon, India, Spain, Germany, Latvia and Russia -- and many more, the list could go on forever. And to think there are only 200 of the 900 students in our class here right now!

I'm also already seeing the advantages to the Analytics program, both socially and academically. I definitely think I will feel more comfortable with the case method by the time the real school year starts, and I'll have enough friends and familiar faces to eliminate the awkwardness that always haunts the first few days of class. Plus, I should have the lay of the land here in Boston by then, although I already seem to have a good handle on the T system (now I just have to tackle getting used to all the walking, which is currently exhausting me by the end of the day).

On the social front, I joined about 19 other students two nights ago for dinner in Harvard Square followed by a get together at a local restaurant/bar called Daedalus. I think the next few nights will be devoted mostly to studying and sleeping, but this Saturday they are setting up small group dinners and there is an Analytics social Friday after classes end. Sunday night they have an Analytics BBQ on the Spangler Lawn (aka the student union), which also should be a good way to meet anyone I haven't yet introduced myself to.

I still have yet to take pictures of the campus and/or this storage closet that I currently call home, but I promise to do so soon so you can all get a better idea of where I am. More in the coming days!

I'm here!

Well, everyone, I have safely arrived in Boston and have checked into my temporary room in Chase Hall -- a process that was surprisingly less stressful than I imagined (thank goodness!). The room is small, and by small I mean it is not much larger than the average walk-in closet. I'll take some pictures and post them later since right now I'm actually getting ready to fly the coop and visit Northeastern University with Aynsley, who kindly helped me move in this morning. Later tonight there is a group dinner and drinks get together at a bar called Daedalus -- hopefully a good way to meet some people before we jump into the Analytics program on Wednesday. Hopefully I can find some time to brush up on my finance before then! More later...

Counting down the days

It's only a few days until I leave for Boston and my emotions are running wild. I honestly don't think I've ever been this terrified in my life, and although I know that's silly, I can't seem to move my thoughts away from my fear about this experience. It's so ironic seeing that at this time last year I was only dreaming about being lucky enough to join the Class of 2010 and now that I'm here my feelings are begging me to stay where things are comfortable and routine (which I know is neither what I will do, nor what is best for my future). Just today on the bulletin boards a fellow student posted a link to a book written by a recent HBS graduate about his experience with the MBA program. I'm trying to convince myself this author was just jaded, seeing as every student I've talked to has had a positive experience for the most part, but his harsh critiques got to me nonetheless. He talks of a "frat boy" attitude with "stress-fueled partying," extremely cocky and competitive classmates, and hopelessly challenging quantitative lessons -- all things I want to avoid. I just keep praying that this won't be a repeat of UF: an uncomfortable, lonely environment where I felt different and unwanted. Since dwelling on this is obviously not making things any better, I'm going to get back to packing and trying to focus on the positive things in hopes that when I arrive in Boston on Sunday, everything will turn out to be the opposite of my fears.

Salutations, Disney!

Today was my last day at work and, as such, was filled with bittersweet moments. When I got in this afternoon, I was immediately ushered to a goodbye party filled with a Coldstone ice cream cake and signs posted all around the common area saying, "Good Luck at Haavaard!" Along with the cake, I was ceremoniously given some chocolate pudding in honor of the Hasty Pudding, which I need to research more to completely understand, and a going away card signed by our team. I felt very loved and was honored that so many members of the team seemed truly interested in hearing about my upcoming journeys.

At the end of the day, it was definitely sad saying goodbye and giving out those hugs that to me, so often convey a desire to hold on to the time and place that you're at forever, and at the same time, a prayer that the future doesn't change the way that person remembers you (as it always inevitably does...details are blurred, experiences are jumbled and you slowly become a generalization instead of a specification). So before my memories become generalized, I wanted to look back and recount 10 of my favorite moments in my 21 months as a member of the amazing public relations team at Walt Disney World:

10) The very first time I spoke to my future boss Gary, he was calling from Hong Kong and thus dialed my home number at 10 p.m. my time. And while that phone call elicited many memorable moments, perhaps my favorite is when he told me, "You know, I'm going to decide if I like you based on who wins this weekend's football game," (he was a Tennessee Volunteer alum and I a Florida Gator) to which I laughed and he replied, "No, seriously." The Gators did in fact win that weekend, but I think slowly Gary came to like me anyhow. :)

9) Traveling to Disneyland for a publishing project. I got to stay for four nights and five days at the Disneyland Hotel for free so I could experience the theme parks, dining and night life and use that information to help edit and review the Birnbaum Guides (official Disney guidebook brand) for 2009. I had always wanted to go to Disneyland, but never thought I'd be able to swing it on my own dime, and here I was park hopping, dining in the finest restaurants and enjoying the southern California atmosphere at no cost. A true gift!
8) Shadowing my predecessor Sarah Benson at the (then) Disney-MGM Studios and meeting John Tartaglia (of Avenue Q original Broadway cast fame). Granted this memory happened before I was hired, but I felt like a kid in a candy story the whole day: getting taken in backstage at the Studios and entering the park before it was open to day guests; meeting a real-life photographer (David Roark -- whom I later worked with many-a-day); and watching a celebrity whose vocals I had revered for months and whose show I had LOVED on Broadway participate in a photo shoot in front of the hat. And then to have said celebrity shake my hand! I was in heaven (and little did I know I'd meet so many celebrities and come in backstage so many times that it would become commonplace and comfortable by the time I left).

7) Spending a day with the Jonas Brothers before they were the "it" group they are today. During the 2007 Disney Channel Games, the brothers were performing at the concert since they had recently been signed to Hollywood Records, a Disney-owned label. One of the publications attending the games, the teeny-bopper magazine Popstar! asked Disney to arrange for a half-day photo shoot with the boys at Disney's Polynesian Resort. I coordinated the shoot from soup to nuts and spent several hours with Kevin, Joe and Nick in a relaxed setting where they seemed to be just normal guys (normal guys with makeup artists, straightened hair and some of the funkiest clothes I've seen on three teenage guys, but hey, they are rock stars, right?).

6) Having my boss Gary throw random small items at me from Dianne's neighboring cubicle (sometimes it was Hershey's kisses, occassionally M 'n' M's -- it all depended on Dianne's candy of choice for the week) and attempting to fight it off with a fly swatter so kindly passed down to me by said predecessor Sarah (she knew it would come in handy!). Let's just say I passed that same green fly swatter onto my successor Betsy, and I think she made use of it several times as well!
5) Speaking of my successor Betsy, I never thought I'd say this, but passing the torch onto her makes my top 10 list of favorite moments because I gained a great friend out of it. I originally told her that I hoped I wouldn't like her because then I'd have a good reason to begrudge her for "stealing my job." But in the end she was just too sweet to hate and we've become very close friends in the last year. I'm so thankful that she of all people was able to experience when I experienced -- we understand each other and the demands of the job like no one else can!
4) Having the privilege of being with the Dream Squad when the Cinderella Castle Suite was awarded to a family for the very first night. The event coincided with our PR Press Event and I was on reporter duty for the day with the task of sending information back to home base where a press release could be drafted and sent out asap. For this reason I was with the Dream Squad from the beginning of the day when they found the selected family, to the photo shoots with Cinderella on the castle ramps, to the evening when the family was dressed up in royal garb and presented to the entire press event population in a regal stage show. Although I wasn't the one getting the prize, seeing the joy that it brought to this family made me feel the magic as well.

3) Meeting Brad Garrett at the Magic Kingdom. I had worked really hard planning his photo shoot and was thrilled when he offered to take a photo with me. Seriously, this guy was one walking joke -- perhaps one of the most innately funny people I've met -- and so kind, too! It's not often that you meet a celebrity who actually wants to stop, sign autographs and take photos with fans and he did just that. I was truly impressed by his lack of pretense and always secretly prayed for good ratings on his show, 'Til Death, since then.

2) All of the amazing restaurants I got to eat in (California Grill, 'Ohana, Narcoossee's, Flying Fish, Le Cellier, etc.), hotels I got to stay in (Contemporary, Polynesian, Boardwalk, Yacht Club, Saratoga Springs, etc.) and all the amazing extra events I was able to attend (Party for the Senses, Pirate & Princess Party, Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, etc.) that I never would have been able to afford had I not been in the position I was. My life was so enriched by working in the roles I had.

1) Attempting to "leave" Disney five times before I successfully made it out alive this afternoon ;) Now don't get me wrong, I never wanted to quit, but I was originally signed on a 9-month contract with an end date of July 27, 2007. This was extended for six weeks while a replacement was found, which was then further extended for an additional 4 days so I could assist on "one last project." Lo and behold, after my third "last day" I was hired on a three-week contract to assist with the Mom's Panel search and after my fourth last day I was subsequently hired three weeks later to work as a publishing consultant in the same office, one desk over. This time though, there's no turning back (for two years at least!). The funny part is that I never once wanted to leave my job and it seems to me as though whatever higher power is out there was keeping me at Disney for a reason -- and the reason seems to be showing itself now (my acceptance to Harvard was probably due in large part to my two years work experience at Disney and my two recommendation letters from Disney co-workers who probably couldn't have provided the same insight had I stayed only the first 9 months).
And now it's time to say goodbye to all my company (I'm exhausted and have a weekend full of packing and errands ahead). See you real soon!

Will you be my penpal?

Ever since I was little, I've loved having penpals. I used to tear out the Penpal matching sheets from BOP and Teen Beat, mail in my $2.00 and anxiously await receiving a penpal (do you remember those?). Nowadays with the advent of the internet, people don't write letters so much, but I still love receiving mail that's not a bill or a Victoria's Secret catalog (I get one every 3 days, don't ask why). With that said, I've received my HBS mailing address and would like to ask that you write me real mail so I can feel special and not pathetic when I check my mailbox daily. Please write to:

1112 HBS Student Mail Center
Boston, MA 02163
Cute stationary and/or cards that I can proudly display on my dresser are preferred, but care packages, plain old postcards and other correspondence will also be accepted. :) I can start receiving mail there as soon as I arrive (Aug. 11) so this gives you plenty of time to get that first letter, detailing how much you miss me of course, in the mail. Seriously though, when I was at UF it meant the world to me to get cards and letters -- a little slice of home in an unfamiliar place -- so please do take a few minutes to keep me up to date on your lives. I'll love you for it!

Birthday Festivities, part two

As our move draws closer, things are really picking up -- yesterday I went practically non-stop from the time I woke up to the time I hit the pillow at 11:30 p.m. With movers coming by to give quotes, countless "last minute" errands, my last few days at work and all the packing that has to be done around the apartment, I feel like my body is just getting more and more exhausted by the day. Thank goodness I'll have a little over a week to unwind before kicking it into high gear again once Analytics starts on the 13th.

But for now, let's continue to focus on the remainder of my fabulous 24th birthday extravaganza!

On Saturday morning my best friend from high school Aynsley (see her blog, linked at left for more on her life) came into town from Gainesville and we got our nails and toes done at a cute, chic salon called Magic Nails, complete with a smoothie and the endless girly gab that I miss so much when she's not around. Later that afternoon my closest friend from college Melissa came in from Tampa and the three of us, along with my closest friend from work Betsy, met up for a four-course feature dinner at none other than The Melting Pot.

I swear, this has to be one of my favorite restaurants, especially for a group setting. It took us nearly 2 1/2 hours to dine, which makes for plenty of conversation -- something you don't always have time to do say, at Chilis, where they rush you out faster than you can finish your appetizer. The four of us shared the Wisconsin cheese and the Smores chocolate fondue (heavenly, especially when paired with the brownie chunks and the chocolate covered marshmallows). We each got a side salad and then paired off for the entrees. Melissa and I shared a portion of chicken, shrimp, salmon, beef tenderloin and teriyaki marinated steak, and Ayns and Betsy shared a portion of shrimp, duck, teriyaki steak, dumplings and something I'm forgetting. No matter we were all busting out of our clothing by the time we left, which just so happened to be the time everyone wanted to take pictures (seriously girls, couldn't we have posed before we ate so I didn't look like a whale in my when-I-put-it-on-it-was-loose but now-I'm-busting-out-of-it Michael Kors number?). Overall though, it was great to spend time with my closest friends since moving to Boston means I probably won't get to see them as often as I'd like.

My weekend concluded with a day of snacking and shopping with Melissa at the Milenia Mall. We literally walked the entire mall (and for those of you not in Orlando it is a HUGE mall with more than 300 stores), a feat I don't think I've done before in one shopathon. We didn't wind up buying too much, but I was blown away by the sales at The Limited. A case in point: Last fall I bought a gorgeous, warm, turtleneck sweater in burgundy for ~$40. I wound up wearing it to the Admitted Students Weekend in Boston in Feb. and was so warm in it that I regretted not buying it in every color they had. Well, lo and behold, somehow these fabulous sweaters didn't get eaten up in the tropical Florida climate and now they had them on sale for $4.98. I'm not kidding! You should have seen how quickly I snatched up a sweater in brown, black and off-white. Adding to my purchases I snagged a cute pair of dark-wash jeans for $13.99 (down from $70!) and a pair of white cargo bermuda shorts also for $13.99 (down from $50). My grand total came to $45 -- perhaps the most bang I've ever gotten for my buck at the mall.

And so my weekend came to a close and I actually felt really sad when Melissa left and I was again alone at home with the pups. I think some chord finally struck in me as I realized how imminent this life-changing event is. And as much as I want this, and know it's right, it gets so hard sometimes to push yourself out of your comfort zone to enter the unknown. In the end, whether or not I'm ready, my flight to Boston is booked for Aug. 10 and there's no backing out now!

Birthday Festivities Part 1

Well folks, I'm officially 24 and boy do I feel old. But despite my paranoia over the fact that 24 is close to 25, which is close to 30, I had a great birthday weekend filled with great food, great friends and great fun. I'll be chronicling my activities over a few entries since I have so much to share. I'll also be updating my blog more frequently now that my HBS adventures are drawing near, so stay tuned!

On Friday night, my mom and I dined at Victoria & Albert's, the most elegant and upscale restaurant on Disney property, which is on the second floor of the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa (Disney's flagship resort). V&A's, as it's affectionately known, is the only AAA Five Diamond restaurant in central Florida and due to its exclusivity and price tag (the 7-course prix fixe menu demands $125 per person), I never thought I'd get there, but thanks to some Disney magic and a lot of hard work, we were able to make it happen for the night of my birthday.

Here we are at our table enjoying our first glass of Heidsieck Monople "Blue Top" Brut Champagne NV (we had two) before our dining experience began. Actually, this picture doesn't do the restaurant, or the experience, justice. The room was absolutely gorgeous -- there are two dining rooms, one with about 15 tables, and a second, more cozy room with a fireplace that has 5 tables (we were in the second room, which I had requested). The main dining room has a gorgeous domed ceiling painted ethereally with tables both surrounding and underneath the dome. When you arrive, each table is set with splendid china emblazoned with the Victoria & Albert's logo, along with red roses and a candlelit lamp. The lighting is dim (which means when taking a picture with a flash the ambiance doesn't read in the photo) and there is a harpist playing. And although it's a formal restaurant (women must wear dresses and men must wear jackets), it's not stuffy as I worried it might be. Rather, the staff was extremely warm, joking jovially with us throughout the evening and offering every courtesy.

As each guest enters the restaurant, they are greeted by the Maitre d'Hotel who knows who you are and what you are celebrating (one of my co-workers passed along the word that I was accepted at HBS, so in addition to the normal happy birthday I was congratulated for that as well).

Upon being seated, the waiter and assistant waiter greet you promptly, pour that first glass of champagne and present your personalized menus for the evening (those are the small black "books" on the table in the first photo). These are personalized with your name, the date and the reason for your dinner (if it's a special occasion). Once you make your selections from the menu, the 3+ hour adventure begins.

After the champagne we were served a quartet of bite-size appetizers sent over by the chef -- unfortunately these aren't printed on my personalized menu so all I remember was a pineapple square with balsamic drizzle, a chilled melon soup and pickled watermelon, which was actually very tasty (from here on out I have the official, hard-to-understand-what-you-are-eating real names of the dishes and wines we enjoyed).

Our first appetizer was the Jumbo Lump and Dungeness Crab with California Asparagus Salad. The crab was wrapped in radish and served on top of the baby asparagus -- delicious! I also chose to do the wine pairings for the night, so I enjoyed this with a Pascal Jolivet, Sancerre 2006. For our second appetizer, we tried the Poached South Carolina Quail with Black Mission Figs and Fuji Apples, paired with a Dr. Zenzen Valwiger Herrenbery Riesling Auslese, Mossel 2001, which was by far my favorite wine of the night. My mom and I were both a little nervous at ordering quail, but it was surprisingly good, not gamey at all and very tender. And before I begin to sound like a lush here with the wine, each was a 2-3 oz. pour (although I did get a little tipsy when I attempted to maneuver my way to the restroom mid-evening!).

For our first entree, we ordered the Florida Pompano Amandine with Bean Ragout and Marcona Almonds paired with a Rosenthal "The Malibu Estate" Chardonnay, San Luis Obispo 2006. The fish was very light, flaky and buttery and with the crunch of the almonds, absolutely amazing. I could have eaten two of these (see below for the visual magnificence of this dish)!

Before receiving our second entree, the chef sent over a half portion of Pan Roasted Foie Gras with Georgia Peach Tart and Mostarda di Cremona paired with an unknown, very sweet wine. I was in heaven as I tried -- for the first time -- this buttery, melt-in-your-mouth meat (I later found out that not only had I enjoyed duck liver, but that it's also a controversial dish. At the time, however, I was literally in love.)

At this point, my mom and I started to get full, but had to brace ourselves because we still had our second entree, two dessert courses and an after-dinner treat sent over by the chef. This was our one and only complaint about the restaurant -- there was way too much food (perhaps they can do smaller portions on the two entrees or maybe it was just my mom and I's lack of control since we loved the beginning courses so much). Unfortunately, the pleasure of eating started to creep into the displeasure zone as our clothes tightened and our bellies stretched, but we made room to enjoy the rest to at least some degree.

Our second entree was the Marcho Farms Veal Tenderloin with Braised Veal Cheeks and Burgundy Poached Sweet Breads paired with a Prior d'Scala Dei, Priorat 2003 (this wine I didn't care for much and only sipped).

For our first dessert course, my mom and I ordered both of the options and shared them. The first was a cheese plate with three kinds of cheeses, baby champagne grapes, a piece of date bread, etc., which we only nibbled on. We gobbled up the White Chocolate Gelato with Fuchsia Petals and Lindt chocolate shavings (they placed an edible flower on top of the gelato, which I ate upon a dare from my mom and actually found to taste much like you'd think a flower would. It was very fragrant and sweet, but a little grassy!). This course was paired with a Quinta do Crasto Late Bottled Vintage Porto 2001, which I could not drink since it was so strong (I expected this of a port wine, but tried it anyhow). We concluded our meal (or so we thought) with the most amazing chocolate trio of desserts (a sampling of each): Tanzanian Chocolate Pyramid, Hawaiian Kona Chocolate Souffle and Peruvian Chocolate Ice Cream and Puff Pastry paired with coffee.

As our food settled (and our heads sobered up), the chef sent over what they call a "kiss goodnight": a trio of very small desserts to send you off with a sweet taste in your mouth. Unfortunately I was so uncomfortably full at this point that I couldn't enjoy them, but my mom praised the small butter cookies and bite-size chocolate candies.

Before we left, we were brought back into the kitchen to meet and compliment Chef Scott Hunnel, the Chef de Cuisine and mastermind behind this extravagant dinner. I had met him twice before on public relations photo shoots, but was happy to finally be able to congratulate him on his culinary wonders. My mom was also excited to tour the kitchens and say she met the chef (this was a special treat since I work for Disney, unfortunately not every guest is allowed this privilege).

After we paid, we were presented with our personalized menus, a small loaf of orange date bread (baked fresh in the Grand Floridian Bakery every morning and said to be a treat so you don't "go to bed hungry" as if that were possible after this meal!) and two long-stemmed red roses all in a beautiful gift bag. It was a lovely evening and despite being stuffed, we were sad to go, yet anxious to return in the future.

We had arrived at 5:45 and left the restaurant at 9:15 -- a 3.5 hour dinner (definitely the longest I've ever had), but well worth the cost and time spent. I would definitely recommend it to anyone celebrating a special occasion. And if you go, don't be afraid to try the more exotic offerings -- you may never have the chance to order quail or foie gras or caviar again!

Tomorrow I'll continue with the second day of my birthday weekend...see you then!