MBA time

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Orientation is in full gear and we are buuuusy! (In fact so busy that I started drafting this days ago and never finished posting it… til now!!)

They’ve kept us busy, with days starting either at 8 or 7:20 and “ending” around 6. Afterwards, we’d have group meetings and homework to complete before the next day of jam packed activity.

usc marshall mba orientation bbq

Sunday was our first time ever as a full class of 228. We had a BBQ to kick things off and meet each other and our SOs/kids.

balloon animal usc trojan horse

The kids and staff got to request balloon creations! Someone had this awesome horse.

brand new lecture room in fertitta hall at usc marshall

We took the opportunity to visit the new building, which is meant to house much of the undergrads at Marshall. This is one of their big lecture rooms.

usc marshall mba welcome sign with balloons

Monday morning, we got in before 8 to start our lives as MBAs.

usc marshall mba orientation folder with name tags, schedules, and other documents

My orientation binder contained tons of material and name tags. The big laminated one is for class, the small one was for getting to know each other this week, and the gold one is for networking and professional events.

usc marshall mba binder

I sat at a gold table, which foretold the core I was split into (we are divided into 3 for classes). Core A is gold!

usc marshall mba orientation welcome

We were greeted by many, including Assistant Dean Bouffides seen here in Town & Gown.

uscard table at usc marshall mba orientation

During lunch, we had a chance to pick up student IDs/parking permits, ask about the fitness center/health insurance/financial aid, etc.

usc marshall mba box lunches provided by usc hospitality

The lunch boxes were quite good! I devoured just about everything. I love the Marshall mints. #branded

Starting Tuesday, we were split into our cores. There are three with 76 students each – Core A, B, and C. I’m in Core A! (Best one, of course.) I like to call myself an alpha female. Each core is then split into 13 groups (11 with six people and 2 with five people). My group is A6 and we have one other female, who is international. Of the 4 men, one is international and the other 3 domestic. These folks are going to be like family in the coming months, as we will have TONS of class work, teamwork, and other interactions.

usc marshall mba students walking to classroom

The next morning, there was coffee with the deans, bright and early at 7:20. We then walked back to Popovich Hall for class and more orientation.

The next couple of days was a blur of class, assignments, reading, group stuff, and more orientation sessions. We were trained on everything from teamwork to career management to elevator pitches.

usc marshall mba core a in class

Yesterday, it was TAM day in the afternoon (Teamwork at Marshall) so we got to dress down.

In our strategy class shown here, we set the tone by whooping the other two cores in the cola taste test challenge! Our team got 6 out of 9 correct whereas the others… got 1 each. Core A has stellar taste buds!

usc marshall mba tam day

We got out on the field and competed in a variety of challenges. Here is Core B in their grey shirts, waiting for Core C to show up.

usc marshall mba tam day activity

Activities included this one where we had to get people to “islands” without touching the ground.

We started off with a hula hoop challenge (sending two down the line without letting go of each others’ hands), then did an egg drop before splitting into smaller groups. Each core was split into 4 and we rotated through challenges. Our team did the marble challenge, getting 4 in the bucket (2nd place). The first rotation took us to the water challenge, transporting as much as possible (we won). Then it was a word game and the one shown above, both of which we lost. Luckily it’s based on overall performance across all teams!

usc marshall mba tam day core a pride

To wrap up, we had the water balloon toss. We did quite well but my partner and I got eliminated about halfway through. This is my attempt at an “A” symbol.

usc marshall mba core a

Our team did really well and had the last team standing!

usc marshall mba tam day group photo

The professional photographer took a big class photo for us.

usc marshall mba coffee with deans morning breakfast

Finally, today we had another coffee with the deans to kick off the day.

usc marshall mba networking event desserts

To wrap up the week, we did a mock networking event complete with hot food, fruit, cheese & crackers, and of course, dessert.

It’s a relief to be at the end of the week, but there’s so much to do. Tomorrow I have a social event where I’ll get to meet some 2nd years and I need to prepare work for Sunday, when my group is meeting. We’ll work on group stuff, discuss some things, and go hiking together! I also need to fit in filming a box opening for Yuzen.

It still feels surreal that I’m (shh) technically a Trojan now… I think at best I can be a Brujan. I feel a connection with Marshall and “the network” and the people, but somehow not the generic Trojan image. Once a Bruin, always a Bruin I guess. Have you felt a stronger affiliation to your undergrad institution, if you continued your education too (and went somewhere else)?

Easing into student life

laelene Post in mba,Tags: ,
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It’s the first official day of taking a course at my MBA program and I’m glad that I signed up to take the JumpStart for Accounting. It’s not as fast-paced as I was afraid it might be, so it makes me feel like I can handle the material, even though there’s already stuff that confuses me. This is a quick refresher course that is just 2 hours a day for 3 days. Official classes start next week for us, before any other students are even back on campus.

With just one class right now, I already find it hard to get the work done, but part of that is probably getting used to studying and learning so much again. Plus, I’m still doing a lot to get settled in to the apartment and I’m only about a third unpacked at this point while still trying to figure out the food situation (should I eat out and have leftovers or cook in bulk?). There’s also so much socializing to be done…

Oh, and there was a fire alarm today that was quite distracting. I wasn’t sure where to go and by the time I got downstairs, I saw people milling about but then the alarm ended as they tried to figure out who pulled the alarm. I had my “essentials” with me – purse with electronics, keys, phone, and skateboard. With the coast clear, we stood in line to get back up the elevators and I noted a ton of tiny dogs (and one cat).

The day was off to a rocky start after that and the glass thermos that I broke. I hope my dad can help me buy another one of the thermoses. Then to top it off, just as I was about to shower before heading in to class, I dropped my ring down the bathroom sink. I was able to turn off the water but didn’t have the tools to unscrew the pipe. I had to go off to class without it, which felt weird.

At school, I picked up my parking permit and went to park in the lot I’ll be using this year only to find you need your student ID to get in. So I had to go to a different structure that is also open to the public. I was going to get my ID after that, but I wanted to make sure I was early for class so I just went in.

My life feels a little off-kilter these days, with so many things going slightly wrong. I damaged the moving truck I used to bring my furniture. I couldn’t find my precious rock salt lamp that was a gift from Calavera (it took me 3 hours of searching, but I did find it). The car key batteries died so I had to use the key manually while trying to find the right size battery. I couldn’t find my extra car key, which my roommate will need sometimes since we are tandem parking. I then received the batteries today and managed to jab myself while trying to unscrew the tiny screws. One promptly fell into the fuzzy carpet and I had to run a magnet all over the floor to find it again. Plus, everything that happened today!

But you know what? None of these are life-threatening or anything that will impact my life in a major way. I’m trying to keep my head up, my hands steady, and focus on the business of being a student again. It’s not an easy transition and having to think so hard at night when I just want to veg will be a challenge, but plenty of others have been through the same. I have two awesome roommates splitting a great apartment with me and there are dozens of fantastic classmates ready to make this year incredible. I’m looking forward to our first social event as a class this Sunday!

Busy time

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Has it really been a week since my last posting?! I don’t think I’ve gone that long without writing something since I started blogging more seriously. Yikes.

This might be a preview of what’s to come with business school. Things have been busy with all the preparation and I can hardly believe all the traveling, packing, unpacking, and repacking I’ve done in the past three months. I’ve been on 20 planes, 11 trains, 2 long distance bus rides, and countless car rides. From Admit Weekend to a wedding to a full month in China and a Europe vacation to boot, I’ve covered a good part of the globe.

Since coming back late the night of the 20th, I’ve been working out the details of my move and trying to get back to PST. Luckily, it only took two days for me to get out of the jetlag funk and now I’m on a pretty normal schedule. I have now moved in as of yesterday and am settling in and trying to get my homework done before the start of the pre-term prep course.

There are also a bunch of administrative things I needed to do, like get my student ID, get books, pay for my parking permit… it’s all so overwhelming that I have trouble even picking which one to do first. I’m slowly chipping away at my to do list before it completely balloons into insanity sometime next week.

I have no idea how the workload will be once classes kick into gear, so postings may become rather sporadic. I’ll certainly try to continue with minimal interruptions!

The crazy cool insects of China

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During my stay in China, I’ve come across quite the assortment of exotic bugs. They’ve mainly been beetles, but there were plenty of others as well! Here are some I have pics of…

Such bright colors!

I thought the bush had a disease (and in a sense it does), but these are fuzzy powdery caterpillars!

This one reminded me of a ladybug.

This dragonfly on the porch was massive – a good three inches or longer.

My first atlas beetle sighting in the wild!!!

Such a golden fellow.

A more typical insect that made its way indoors.

Omg, such a large skinny beetle.

This had to have been the loudest cicada ever. There was a guy who put their larvae by the trees like this and they seemed to hatch and not leave the tree.

For the record

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I get my sentimentally from my paternal grandfather. This has become clear to me in recent visits, as he gets older and it presents itself more.

A visit to his room and you’ll see pictures of his children and grandchildren plastered all over the walls and dressers. I hadn’t noted it much before, but it’s his way of preserving memories of his burgeoning family. It’s a nice way to see what family members were like, like a little collection of time capsules. I might just be the same when I’m old and proud of my progeny.

When he was in his mid-eighties (86, perhaps), he wrote a log of our family history. My aunt carefully helped me read through it and I learned of his origins, my dad’s and ultimately mine. I had not known that my dad had another brother in his youth – a child who drowned when he was just 12. Apparently a few more of my distant relatives had also perished this way. (And there I was an avid swimmer in middle and high school… irony? Fate? An anomaly?)

For someone fascinated with family trees, this was a gold mine. He gave me a copy to keep and I cherished the gift of knowledge. I’ve been interested in my ancestry but looking at online sites wouldn’t be very useful since Chinese records aren’t as readily available. I don’t think I even have a birth certificate.

Last time I was there, in early 2014 (which may have been that same trip – I can’t recall), he gave me two photo books of pictures when I was small. There were some I hadn’t seen before and others that were a reminder of my childhood. It felt like he was passing them on to me, a sort of memory inheritance. This time, I received another one, with pictures ranging from when I first arrived in the US to when I was around 9, growing up in Kansas.

This visit, I was also told that there’s a new, updated version of our family history. My family members chuckled and sort of brushed it off as the silliness of an old man, but I appreciate his efforts. He even took a formal portrait and had copies given to each branch of the family. My sentimentality smiles at these gestures and I see myself in him. Now I know where this behavior comes from. How did I miss it all these years?

Life pain

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My heartstrings are tugged easily by all sorts of creatures in life. It’s difficult for me to think of pain or death for almost any living thing. This has been exacerbated by being in China, where life and death are constantly on display.

That tank of fish at the restaurant? They’re there so you can pick one fresh to eat. The meat market? Freshly killed animals that morning. Even a gaggle of geese by the side of the road could be plucked for a meal at any point.

I’ve never been crazy about meat but now I truly spent some time considering whether I should go vegetarian completely. I saw a truckload of pigs in the freeway and all my heart could do was cry at the thought of their fate. Visiting my uncle, there were geese and ducks and chickens abound. He eagerly had one of the geese caught for us to eat. I was nearly sick at the thought. Why should I be the reason a goose had to die that day?

Strangely enough, my hypersensitivity started when I noticed a massive ant and pointed it out to my mother, only to have her stomp on it. I was so upset that in my mind I was thinking about shoving her or even punching her. Had I not pointed it out to her, it would still be alive. This was a desperately upsetting thought and I suppressed the urge for all maturity to fly out the door and kept myself from throwing a tantrum. Inside, I was fuming.

Life is so precious yet we humans so carelessly take it left and right. We kill bugs out of fear or sometimes even pleasure. We kill animals for food. We even kill each other in anger. It’s crazy and sickening. I know that eating animals for food is a natural part of life, but it’s hard to accept sometimes. I hate being the reason for death.

It makes it hard for me to enjoy meat now. I found myself averse to eggs, fish, and various meats. Guilt riddled every bite, if I could bring myself to take it. All I could think of was the pain of a piece of my flesh being torn, cooked, and consumed. Seeing bone made me imagine my bones being broken. Pigs’ feet reminded me of that truck. Everything makes me sad and this sudden closeness with the source of my food has increased my sensitivity to it all.

It’s difficult imagining the pain of the creatures we eat. But at least we’re using them. What bothered me most about the death of the ant is that it was completely senseless. It was not a pest in our home we wanted to be rid of. It was not something we would eat. It was not attacking us or endangering us in any way. So why did it have to die? Thinking about it makes me so sad. I’m not sure I’ll ever get over it.

Our world revolves around food

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My entire visit to my grandfather was predicated on food. First, food for the kids. My mom put together goodie bags of all sorts of crackers, cookies, etc. for my cousin’s children.

Then, breakfast at the hotel before heading over.

Once there, we sat and conversed until lunch was served.

In the afternoon, we went back to rest and then returned again for dinner.

As we left, we were given an assortment of food to bring along, including zongzi (sticky rice and meat or dates wrapped in leaves) and fujiu (a family fav of fermented rice).

The next day, it was breakfast at the hotel again and we were off to the next destination.

My slang gives me away

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Whenever I speak to a Chinese person, they very quickly figure out I’m from the Northeast. For years, I couldn’t figure it out. I spoke perfectly standard Mandarin! Right?

It wasn’t until I was in my 20s that I learned certain phrases gave me away. Most of my conversational Chinese I learned from my mom and maternal grandmother. That side of the family is from the Northeast of China. While accent-wise we generally sound like the folks you’d find on TV or teaching you Chinese pronunciation in a language learning course, we’ve got our own slang phrases.

Our local “dialect” isn’t like many other dialects where it’s completely unintelligible compared to the national language of Mandarin. It’s basically like a Californian who uses “like” a lot, refers to freeways with “the” and that sort of thing. Growing up, that’s all I knew, since so much of what I retained was learned from Northeastern sources. I even went to school there for a year. It never occurred to me that our vocabulary would be different.

I used to be very conscious of this fact (ok, if I’m completely honest I still am) and sometimes carefully chose words and phrases to try to mask it. I also do so attempting to ensure I sound like a local and not a strange person who didn’t learn enough in school and speaks using strange phrases. But really, what am I so worried about? So what if they can tell I’m Northeastern and didn’t grow up in the motherland? At least I speak the language fluently unlike so many others who grew up stateside.

It’s strange how I embrace being different, yet whatever mode I’m in I want to be flawless. The Chinese role becomes ever harder as I get older – at once more understanding is expected of me yet I’m more disconnected with cultural norms. I’m trying to learn to embrace what I do know and can say without being too harsh on my skills. I’ve got to keep practicing!

Communal parenting

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In China, personal lives are a family affair. I’ve seen this playing out day after day in my family, even in my relatively short visit. Everyone spends time worrying about others’ situations. Is that nephew struggling to find a job? Can that granddaughter get into preschool? Does that niece have a significant other yet? Is a cousin’s marriage in the rocks? Does that uncle have financial troubles?

These all seem to be each other’s business. It even extends to the in-laws’ families, so it can get quite complicated. One person may be helping pull strings to get so-and-so into a good school, at any age. In fact, the younger children have a harder time just to get into a program. At least when they’re older, their grades play a factor.

Meanwhile other family members are discussing how best to interfere in a relationship that has gone sour. One aunt might go talk to the wife and another aunt or uncle would approach the husband. Of course the parents and in-laws have been heavily involved all along, often in the middle of the conflict.
Then there are those dealing with some crazy complex financial situation regarding property ownership or some business venture. Who lays claim to what? Should they engage in a lawsuit? How much money should each family give? It’s a big muddled mess.

These aren’t exactly what’s happening in my family per se, but you get the gist. I don’t think Western cultures put as much emphasis on meddling in each other’s affairs. It’s completely normal and expected in Chinese families though. Sometimes I wonder about my own sense of obligation to participate in family affairs in the future. In a way, I’m shielded from this because I’m so far and there’s little contact between me and my relatives outside of my occasional visits to China.

Yet, I can choose to engage. As a connection to the Western world, I can help those who want to send their kids to school in the US. Some of my cousins have expressed interest in this when their toddlers get closer to that age. We’ll see what happens when the time comes. Having Eastern and Western influences growing up, but slightly more from the West gives me some freedom of choice which way I want to lean. My heart has always been on the helping side!

What was your upbringing? How much involvement would you think is normal for an extended family?

My 5 Chinese favs

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These are some of the things about China that I’ve been reminded I enjoy:

Hot drinks

You can get hot water all over the place and trains even have an area for you to top up your jar. People tend to bring their own reusable drink containers, whether actual jars that used to hold something else or actual thermos type cups. Even juice drinks come out warm (typically some sort of orange-esque drink). It’s like a warm cup of Tang, which may sound gross but I love it.

In the US, I’m constantly asking for water with no ice or straight up hot water. In China, I don’t have to worry about it. I know I can get it by default. My stomach can’t really handle cold things, which may be due to my cultural heritage.

Salted duck eggs

These are brined eggs with a very salty egg white and an oily yolk. I absolutely love these and is the only time I actually seek out eating yolk. Usually I avoid yolks, but these are sooooo tasty. I can find these at the Asian market in the US, but I don’t really eat them there for whatever reason.

Minimal meat

There are plenty of delicious dishes with little to no meat, which might be why I don’t really crave meat. I never got used to eating it like Americans tend I’mgo and  perfectly happy with vegetarian options and lots of fruit.

Chinese cucumbers

They just don’t grow’em in the states like they do here. I’m guessing it’s a different variety, but I haven’t seen cucumbers quite like Chinese ones in the US. They’re bumpy on the outside, have a yellow flower on the end, and are so very tasty. American ones are all watery and rather tasteless. They make for great pickles though. Still, I prefer the Chinese ones that are sweet and have smaller seeds.

Wear whatever, do whatever

I can look however I want and act however as long as I’m not disruptive. I don’t feel the need to suppress a burp or worry about how big my belly is. Folks here don’t care and I don’t care what they think anyway. I’m free to try out different looks without running into someone. It’s not like I’m doing anything crazy, but it’s amazing how something as simple as wearing lipstick changes how people see me. With family and strangers, it doesn’t matter and my image is not affected like it could be at work.

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