Saturday, February 27, 2010

Rapidly Moving

The world seems to move so quickly these days. The once snow laden streets are actually clear for once! It could be the fact that yesterday hovered above 0 degrees Celsius for the first time since I've been in Stockholm. Needless to say, white snow is now dirty slush and I can actually see some of the streets! Very strange.

I completed my Professional Service Firms module take-home case last night. It was odd to have an exam case that had no time limit and simply a 2,000 word limit. I likely spent much longer than the typical 5 hours (Darden exam length) on it, which put me in bed close to 6a. Not that my schedule has ever been "normal" here, but it could be better. Though tonight's Alice in Wonderland Party in the school's rotunda (aka school's bar) will likely have me up late again.

This coming weekend is Lappland - think cold, ice hotel, dog sledding and reindeer lassoing! Should be a blast, however I have three concurrent group projects to complete by March 10th. Basically this means that this week is going to be SUPER busy.

There's a bunch of Darden GBEers coming to town on March 7th who want to explore the city. This means they'll want us to go out with them. What's even scarier is March 7th means that I have just over 11 days until I'm home. It'll be bittersweet. I'm ready to venture back to the world of full-size fridges, my boyfriend and 24 hour stores, however, I also wonder how great this place is during the summer. So much to do, so little time. I best make sure that I enjoy these moments as May will be here before I know it - including graduation and back to the working world.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Left Brain/ Right Brain

Naturally, I'm left handed. Though my boyfriend likes to call me a broken left handed person as I throw and hit right handed. I eat, write and play pool left handed. I've never swung a golf club (to be changed in April 2010), but can only assume I'll be more comfortable doing that right handed. Urban legend says left handed people are more creative, though honestly I'm not sure if that is correct and if it is, what that means for strange people like me.

The real story here isn’t what hand I write with, but is what side of the brain we use most often as MBAs. We had a fascinating talk about creative leadership on Tuesday with anecdotes about creative right brain thinkers versus analytical left brain thinkers. The world we live in is very structured and linear - made for the left brain. Though there's something to be said for being creative and drawing boundaries differently - right brain thinking. Isn't that what innovation is anyhow?

Our professor posed a question to us. Often it is assumed that business school students leave business school left brain heavy, so do we think business schools do enough to make us balanced? I can't say a lot for SSE though I can note that classmates had mixed opinions. What I can say is about Darden. Darden allows each individual to design their own structure during second year. Are there opportunities to do right brain activities? Definitely. Are we forced to take advantage? No. I think about my "design" or you could call it "accidental design" and I couldn't be happier. I've written, directed and acted in play. Essentially, I participated in a 6 week book club, reading a book a week and then meeting classmates to discuss it. Tactical Leadership was one of those classes that forced an individual to be creative during role playing. And System Design and Business Dynamics was about visually modeling systems and then initiating changes to make a new system. My point is that we often laugh about the "fluffy" courses at business schools. But some of these courses are where we learn the most or at least, where we balance ourselves out the most. A classmate of mine recently write this post discussing a lot of what I'm talking about here, though in a different context.

Here's a list of which side controls what:


uses logic
detail oriented
facts rule
words and language
present and past
math and science
can comprehend
order/pattern perception
knows object name
reality based
forms strategies


uses feeling
"big picture" oriented
imagination rules
symbols and images
present and future
philosophy & religion
can "get it" (i.e. meaning)
spatial perception
knows object function
fantasy based
presents possibilities
risk taking

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

New Expectations

It is 10a on Wednesday and I have approximately 29 hours until my first midterm. However in those hours I need to attend two classes and get a full night's rest. At Darden, I know what to expect in terms of tests. For the most part you never need to review more than an hour if you diligently did your work over the course of the quarter. Further you typically are always allowed to use your notes, a benefit that I feel matches the real world.

Here at SSE, I'm not sure what to expect. This Psychology of Financial Markets test will have 15 multiple choice questions, which I hated in college, and short answer questions where on must answer 2/5. I assume the questions will surround all the theory we've discussed however we've been speculating what the professor could actually ask - be it study details, hypotheses, conclusions or simply who performed the study.

I've read the material but it doesn't feel like it is sticking. Here's hoping that changes and that the test isn't as hard as it looks 29 hours away.

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Friday, February 19, 2010

Why the Case Method Works?

At SSE, I'm taking a course in Leadership that is segregated into three modules - leadership, decision making and professional service management. I'll admit the decision making module has lacked applicability to the business world. However, the professional services management module has been very interesting and informative.

Prior to business school, I worked in a PSF (professional services firm) and after school, I'm set to join another PSF in a different realm. So maybe this is why I'm interested. Part of the module included various assignments that essentially add up to reading Managing the Professional Service Firm by David Maister in its entirety. Some of the information seems like common sense to me though I'd likely have difficulty articulating it on my own.

One of the anecdotes in the book regarding motivation struck a chord. The author was describing how to achieve excellence in client service. He compared this to losing weight - "They know and want the goal, they believe it is worth the effort, they know what to do - but, like all human beings, they are very bad at incurring short-term discomfort to achieve a long-term goal. People are terrific at postponing diets. Do they feel guilty? You betcha! Are they likely to change? Not unless they're forced to!" He proceeds to explain that guilt alone doesn't change people, but the right degree of embarrassment does. Then he gives the example of having your weight announced to tell a group of people, the same people every week. May create some self-discipline and motivation, huh? Finally in order to achieve excellence his opinion is that a system must be designed that doesn't simply leave individuals to their best intentions.

I connect this to the case method because in undergrad, I did what it took to get decent grades. Be it cramming for a final or pulling an all nighter to finish a paper I had a month to write. I think each of us understands the pitfalls of procrastination and the rewards of doing a little work daily instead of leaving it until the last minute. Yet, until the system changed for me, a la the case method, I didn't have the motivation for the daily work. There's enough risk of embarrassment that while at times people gamble that they won't be the 1 in 67 that is cold called, for the most part, work is done and the entire class is better off for it. In contrast, I've found myself reverting to bad habits at SSE. While I could blame it on the bookstore, I should be finished with Maister's book instead of on page 200. In my opinion, the case method is an incredible system that helps elevate the learning potential of the students. Without Darden I never would have realized what I was missing.

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Thursday, February 18, 2010


As an MBA, I tend to be impressed by friends with an entrepreneurial spirit. I wrote this post in December 2008 regarding a friend who wrote and self-published a book. Recently, she has been picked up by Amazon Publishing and her book has been relaunched under a new cover. Further, she's taken it upon herself to open Waverly's Honey Shop. I'm very excited for her and more importantly, impressed how someone can put their mind to something and succeed.

On a different note, a high school classmate who has always been interested in musicals and theater has written and directed The Gilded, a new musical which opens in San Francisco tonight, Feb 18th. This blog has a video preview of the musical. Again, I'm impressed by the dedication and candor of this person who used to be a teammate for various projects.

This brings me to one of the classes I'm taking here at SSE, Ideation. We have a group assignment due next week where we have to interview a local entrepreneur and find out about their idea generation and business plan process. I find that some people find a love and work on it for years, like my friend who wrote the musical. Some people happen upon an idea, like my friend the author. The business owners we interviewed here in Sweden are what I would describe as a serial entrepreneurs. They already own an interior design firm and are in the process of making a TV show about design. In November 2008, they were on vacation in Nice, France and fell in love with an olive oil shop. Thinking the concept would transfer well to Sweden, they asked to speak to the shop owner who agreed to franchise the shop. Most of our conversation was with the manager of the shop, and it was interesting to get her opinion on what their target market should be, compared to what the entrepreneurs thought it was when they began. Additionally, the entrepreneurs targeted a location due to the affluence and education of the potential customers. Turns out, Swedes don't know as much about olive oil as those in greater Europe and approximately 60% of the products purchased from the store are gifts. Regardless of challenges, the concept is still quite interesting and the story had my attention.

Every week in Ideation, we have to come up with a new business idea. It doesn't have to be a new invention, but a new innovation. Little tweaks to the value proposition of current products/ services suffices. Listening to the stories of these entrepreneurs helps put into perspective that anyone can be an entrepreneur and everyone has ideas. I'll admit though, after 4 weeks of solid ideas, they're new ideas have become much harder.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Maximum Email

Those who follow my blog know that I recently posted a ploy to entice readers to help me with my Psychology of Financial Markets survey. Needless to say, we hadn't received enough responses from within Sweden, so I went ahead and sent an email from my SSE account to 200 SSE email addresses. Turns out a number of them failed, but regardless, it reached a decent sized audience. Consequently, I am also not allowed to send another recipient large (or maybe even small) email for next 24 hours as I've hit the quota! I find it funny as 200 people is only a portion of Darden's Class of 2010! I can't imagine if Darden limited us to that many recipients in a 24 hour period. It was bad enough that Darden's mailboxes had a 100MB quota last year. The first years don't know what they're missing without receiving the "Warning: You've Exceeded Your Quota" email once a week!

Also, I didn't congratulate the Class of 2012 admits!! It's a very exciting time for you all and please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions. I recently wrote a novel to an admit about Darden, why I chose the school, what the case method is like etc. My fellow classmates and I are here to help!

Monday, February 15, 2010


Last weekend, I spent the last of my planned weekend adventures in Paris with my parents, grandmother and a family friend. I've been to Paris a couple of a times though I haven't quite seen the sites that most tourists have. You could likely say that I've become a better tourist over the years and that traveling with other "good tourists" has made me better.

To this day, I'm still surprised how all the Parisians stay thin. The decadence of the food is stunning. I think I definitely had dessert nightly as well as another course or two with it. I've decided, I'm a fan of small portions as I'd prefer to taste a little of everything than get a large portion of one item. The most decadent of all was Valentine's dinner with the family, which was a six course meal, prix fixe. The appetizers included gnocchi and lobster salad. The main courses were line-fished seabass and veal medallions wrapped in ham. Dessert was a chocolate cake-type dessert, a lemon tasting dessert and a coffee/chocolate cracker dessert. Finally, the restaurant gave us chocolate truffles, which I asked to take home. I was STUFFED! The food was fantastic and my goal now is to learn how to make crepes from the French exchange student on my floor!

Even though it was quite cold in Paris (similar temperature to Stockholm), we still did a lot of walking. My dad and I wandered around two floors of the Louvre for close to three hours. Afterwards, we decided to walk to the Eiffel Tower and the Champs Elysee. While religious art is a staple of the Louvre, I much preferred the Musee d'Orsay, which is the impressionist museum. Great photos and an excellent Van Gogh exhibit. The last day, my mom, dad and I went to Montmartre and Sacre Coeur, which is very fun if you like to see artists working right in front of you.

It was a wonderful trip and I still love Paris! I'm happy not to be packing for this weekend though. I desperately need to do my laundry, which is on today's agenda. Also, I'm swearing off sweets for a while and will be in the gym daily.

Below is a collage of photos from Rome, London and Paris:

From Collages

Friday, February 12, 2010

Survey Help

I'll be honest, this is a shameless plug for a study my group is conducting for our Psychology of Financial Markets class. If you have a couple extra minutes (and would like the chance to win an Amazon giftcard), please go to ONE of the links below (your choice) and fill in the appropriate information by Feb 16th.

Survey Link: 

Survey Link:

*only fill out the survey once otherwise you'll skew our results.

Thank you for your help!!

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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Travel Made Complicated

Every so often, snow on the opposite side of the world ruins your day. I suppose this is not a common occurrence for most, but by golly am I unhappy with the snow gods today. This weekend I'm set to go to Paris, where my parents, grandmother, and grandmother's friend have already arrived. My boyfriend was prepared to leave DC tonight. However after the 2 feet of snow received this past weekend and an anticipated 5-10 inches on its way, British Airways decided to cancel tonight's flight, this morning. BUMMER!

For personal reasons, he was already headed home on Friday, so we were down to a measly 26 hours (or so) together in Paris. Theoretically, 6 of those we're set aside for sleeping. Needless to say, the cancellation of the flight has led his entire trip to be cancelled. While I'm excited to see my family, I was also looking forward to seeing him as this was our one trip planned during my quarter abroad.

This cancellation also had me spend at least 4 hours on the phone today with various travel providers - Orbtiz, British Airways and the people with whom we had our hotel reservation. At least Facebook provided mindless entertainment as I listened to hold music. And another shout-out to SKYPE! Less than six dollars allows me to call any landline or mobile in the US - that came in handy today! Plus, adding credit to my account made phone calls to France quite simple and cheap.

I suppose I should start my homework now... need to come up with a business idea for ideation. Maybe a personal assistant to coordinate cancelled travel.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Purchasing of all things... Razor Blades

It's abundantly clear that I should have brought more razor blades with me. It seems that the bathroom setup and two of us showering at least once a day is leading my razor blade to rust. I contemplated having my boyfriend or parents bring new blades to Paris as I will see them there later this week. Quickly, I realized that just seems silly and I should see what they have here.

The grocery store had a number of razors hanging on the wall, but no packages of blades. I asked the woman at the counter if they carried blades and she pointed me in the direction of a touch-screen kiosk where you select what you want and receive a "receipt" that is then scanned with your remaining purchases. From there, there is another machine after the checkout counters where you scan this "receipt" and it drops your blades in a vending like fashion. Given that my Swedish is worse than my French, I couldn't read the machine instructions and did my best to understand what I was supposed to do. I finally got the "receipt" to scan, but couldn't figure out why the vending door below was still empty. After asking for some help, the clerk opened the vending door NEXT to the one where I scanned my "receipt" and handed me my purchase. It just seemed silly that the blades ended up in the machine next to me that had no scanner. Oh well, I was successful, albeit not without feeling a bit foolish.

Sunday, February 07, 2010


If it wasn't for the crap exchange rate, this city's prices would be on par with the US. Unfortunately, such is not the case.

As most readers know, my roommate at Darden is British (not to be confused with my Chinese roommate from Chicago GSB in Stockholm). This was my first trip to the UK, nonetheless London, which is likely sad as I think I'm 25% English. I emailed my roommate for the must-do list as I know a weekend is a short time to visit a city this large. Between her recommendations and my good friend from college who recently moved here with her husband, the itinerary was packed.

We saw a number of sites including St. Paul's Cathedral, Tate Modern, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Tower Bridge, London Eye, Tower of London and plenty of shops! We even took a trip to Windsor to see Windsor Castle (very cool!).

One thing I was overly impressed with was the selection of food. Friday night we ate at a local Lebanese restaurant which was delicious. We followed dinner by picking up dessert at a local bakery - also yummy! Saturday morning kicked off with breakfast at My Old Dutch Pancake House where I had a crepe thin pancake with apples, bananas, and nuts. I'd like to export the restaurant to the US, though in the meantime, I'm looking for a good Dutch pancake/ crepe recipe. Dinner on Saturday night was at Wagamama, a noodle bar that seems to have Thai inspiration. It is a cross between a sit down restaurant and fast food. It is also another restaurant that would be well received in the states. And speaking of sending food across the pond, sounds like Chipotle is opening in London around May.

What trip to London is complete without purchasing discounted show tickets? None, so we saw Wicked on Saturday night. Great show as well as a good way to keep me out of the pubs because I know next week is going to be full of wine in Paris!

I was shocked at how many stores I saw that aren't mass marketed in the US. I broke down and purchased skinny jeans at Uni Qlo, a Japanese store that has plenty of staples at "reasonable" prices. Spending a total of two months in Europe, it only seemed fitting to purchase skinny jeans. My friend in London even converted to leggings - still not sure about those.

Overall, a fantastic trip to a very cool city. I'd definitely return, though might wait until I'm working again!

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Thursday, February 04, 2010

Locked Doors and Strange Floor Numbers

SSE is located in central Stockholm in a building most describe as old. The building is going through a renovation in order for the school to utilize the once outdoor courtyard year round. I'd definitely say the building isn't as technically wired as Darden. Most students take notes the old fashioned way - paper and pen. Finding an electric outlet near wireless internet is also a chore.

Some of the funniest things about the building don't include elaborate explanations. The building has multiple floors. You walk in on floor one and when you walk up the stairs, you arrive at floor three. Same exact thing happens if you proceed up the second flight, another floor with an odd number, five. There seems to be no good explanation for the system. If you go into the library, which starts at floor five, the levels ascend in traditional numerical order through ten, except that floor seven is missing. It is very odd.

Something else I've had to get used to is the fact that arriving early to class provides no benefit. What I mean is that all the classroom doors are locked until the professor shows up. If you arrive early, you simply wait in the hall, much like I'm doing right now.

In other news, the books I ordered off the Swedish website arrived today. I'm only 30 chapters behind in one of them. Odds are, that won't be completed in London this weekend. But I'll get there...maybe after Paris.
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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

It's Not Always Easy Being Far Away

Today is just one of those days. I'm sleep deprived and realized today that the number of deliverables I have for my classes are going to be challenging with my travel schedule. I realize that sounds ridiculous as it was my choice to plan travel to London and Paris, but the expectation was that SSE is easier than Darden. Perhaps it would be if I were taking the traditional full load - two classes. Unfortunately, as previously discussed, I need three classes for credits at Darden.

I'm not quite homesick and I don't exactly feel as if I'm completely missing out on Darden. I'm not sure what I am. After my workout today, I walked out of the gym thinking, it is just time to go home. Maybe having four currencies in front of me yesterday got to me.

It is a constant challenge to figure out where I'm going and what I'm doing. I likely spent an hour just trying to figure out transportation to and from the airports in Stockholm, London and Paris. Then of course, I need to figure out what I'm going to do when I'm there!

I think classes overwhelmed me today as I was plotting calendar due dates. My Psychology of Financial Markets professor mentioned our midterm. It sounds like it will be short answer and multiple choice. The latter actually worries me. We've covered so much theory that I don't even know what to expect. And yes, Darden is spoiled, open book and notes. Isn't that how it is in the real world though?

Speaking of books, the books I purchased from a Swedish website last week still haven't shipped. I'm feeling farther behind in reading as the days pass. I thought about checking the order, however the entire website is in Swedish. I decided they'll ship when they're ready.

It is strange getting to know people all over again. While very exciting, it is also frustrating. I'm building friendship norms again when I feel like I haven't built strong enough relationships with everyone at Darden. And of course, being gone on the weekends doesn't help. It is a game in reading people and getting used to their idiosyncrasies. I got a tongue lashing for something to do with the US today. I didn't know what to say, so I simply claimed uninformed. It is also interesting to hear Swedish students talk about their thoughts/ opinions of American companies. Not negative per se, but very interesting.

I miss my significant other and actually hearing my phone ring. Sounds funny huh? Skype has been wonderful and inexpensive though I didn't bother to pay extra for an incoming number. After much deliberation, I decided to forego purchasing a mobile phone here. I can use my US phone when absolutely necessary.

I try to forget things are so expensive. Often reminding myself that I do need to eat and "it is what it is."

I'm not putting down my experience here. I just thought I'd share thoughts on one of those days. Hoping to wake revived and in better spirits. Night.
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