Posts Tagged ‘school’

Winter break

laelene Posted in mba,Tags: , , , , , ,
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Ah, inertia. Ever since Thanksgiving break, I’ve seen a noticeable decline in motivation in all my classmates. We sort of just didn’t want to get back into things after our first real break.

Now that we finally got through the rest of classes, finished up finals, and are on winter break, all I want to do is lounge around. I don’t want to check emails or read books as I thought I might have done. I don’t like watching TV, but for boredom’s sake I’d turn something on just to have it going in the background.

This is reminding me of the spring break I had once where I was one of the only people on campus and I basically watched a dance competition show nonstop. I completely messed up my sleep schedule that time, staying up until 7 or 8 am and sleeping through until 6 pm. At least this time I’m keeping somewhat normal hours, though I’ve lost all sense of what day it is.

I’ve only got two more weeks at home before leaving and I want to maximize my time doing nothing and hanging out with the cats. So that’s the plan.

The craziest week

laelene Posted in mba,Tags: , , , ,
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Every time I think things can’t get crazier, they do! I mean, this week has been insane for me, especially in contrast to my classmates.

It started off on equal footing, with tons of studying and procrastinating for our finals on Monday and Tuesday. Luckily, we got through them and I think I’m relatively unscathed (we’ll see how the grades pan out). I then practiced interviewing with multiple 2nd years, worked on a case competition, attended various info sessions and workshops, had an informational interview, did a phone screen, and prepped for a big interview tomorrow.

Just today alone I was on campus for a full 12 hours of work back to back. I didn’t even have time to eat, though strangely I wasn’t very hungry. I did manage to eat 4 cookies to tide me over until I got home around 10 tonight. My body doesn’t feel tired, but my brain is a bit numb. Meanwhile, many of my classmates have the entire day off since we don’t have class and they don’t have many (if any) meetings. What a stark difference in lifestyles right now. They’re at the beach and I’m in study rooms and classrooms.

Oh! And then today I got a delightful phone call letting me know that I was selected to be a co-director for the Marshall MBA Ambassadors program!! Yippee! So I also squeezed in a quick meeting with the co-directors who are passing on the baton, then sat with the program director in admissions who helps guide us, and finally had a touch-base call with my co-director, who is out in New Orleans for a conference. We had a kick-off dinner to plan for tomorrow, a welcome email to send to the rest of our ambassador team, and other deliverables that don’t need to be done just yet.

It has been a whirlwind of a week and it’s barely half over. Tomorrow I have more meetings, case competition stuff, my all-important interview, and the kick-off/welcome dinner. I’ll have some breathing room after 9 tomorrow night leading in to Friday morning, so I might go home. Then it’s another informational call, a meet and greet on-site with a potential employer, and a long drive out to Joshua Tree for a fun weekend camping and rock climbing.

Whew!

But then when I return Sunday I need to regroup with my case competition team to finalize what we will submit Monday morning. We also happen to start a new set of classes Monday, with our very first prospective student visitors already! #mbalife

On not feeling good enough

laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: , , , , ,
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We all get to a point where we feel like a failure. Maybe you haven’t gotten there yet. But the longer you sail through life without smacking into a wall, the harder it will be to adjust and overcome.

That’s a lesson I learned the hard way.

Academically, life was pretty much a breeze up until high school. It got a bit tougher then, but I still graduated in the top 10% of the class (or was it 5%?). I got into a respectable college – UCLA – and began my undergraduate career. The first year, things were pretty good. I managed to get over a 3.5 GPA so I made the Dean’s Honor List and joined ALD/PES (the National Honor Societies). My second year, the grades slipped a bit. Perhaps I was distracted by pledging for my fraternity, AKPsi. My third year, I studied abroad in the UK and my grades kept going down. I figured that the different grading system and structure might have contributed. When I came back for my fourth year, the trend only continued. At this point I might have begun to realize that as classes got progressively harder, I wasn’t adapting.

It took me a long time to figure out what was happening. The lesson I learned about myself is that all those years of doing it on my own and having learning come easily did not prepare me to know how to handle adversity. In one of my last classes before graduating, I was actually afraid of failing the class. An absolutely scary prospect for someone who spent most of her education getting A’s. So in desperation, I asked my roommate for some help. She was also in the class and got the concepts way better than me. And you know what? She was able to explain things to me in a way that really helped my understanding! It was amazing.

Ironically, when I was younger, I tutored and mentored children. I did not realize the impact that could have had on them. I figured I was just helping out, spending some time with them and sharing some knowledge. It wasn’t until I was on the other side of the table that I learned the power of extra help. I’ve never been tutored in my life. I’ve never gone to the teacher for help. I can’t really remember truly engaging in a study group either. I thought study groups were for people to sit in the same area and do their own work. After over 15 years of schooling, I finally began to see the impact of having support.

It’s not like I didn’t know about support being out there. I just never associated it with myself. I had never learned how to reach out and use the resources out there. I hadn’t known to ask for help.

Is that strange? Am I alone in this? Or perhaps it is more commonly an Asian thing?

Whatever the case, looking back at my college track record makes me feel pretty awful. Had I known how to empower myself with better learning, what would I have gotten? Could I have graduated with honors, with distinction? Panda’s college story tells almost the exact opposite story. He started off a little lower than me, but as he got into the upper division courses, he got better. He was hitting his stride with classes in his major that was really fit for him. I wasn’t finding the joy in diving deeper into my chosen majors. Maybe I should have double majored in something else. Maybe I should have majored and minored instead. But maybe it was that one factor all along, that I just didn’t know how to ask for help or how to identify when I needed it in the first place.

I’ve learned since then and I hope it’s not too late to apply that to my next academic pursuit. I still find it hard to reflect on how I’m doing and get help when I need it. Being aware of the issue is only half the battle. It takes a conscious effort to continually address it so it’s not neglected.

Now I certainly hope that you don’t have to face extreme adversity in your life. Yet by experiencing that low in life, you learn a lot and you grow from that. So in a way, I hope that you do face challenges, so you can build up your resiliency.

In fact, that reminds me of when Panda failed for the first time. It was a training program and he made a mistake that meant he didn’t pass the course. He had to do the whole program over again at a later date. I remember he called me sounding so dejected. He did not handle it well. The amount of stress and worry was far more than necessary, but I think because he hadn’t really experienced failure before that, he didn’t know how to deal with it. It just made him feel like he couldn’t do it at all. Luckily, we talked through it, did not let it get out of proportion, and built up his confidence again so he could pass the next time. It really takes experience to go through something like that and learn the hard-won lessons of how to be better.

So if you ever feel like you’re a failure or you’re not good enough, remind yourself of what you can learn by pushing through it and growing with it. The lessons from the experience will be more valuable than the ultimate outcome. That’s what I’m doing now as I apply for b-schools. It’s tough but it will be worth it!

365great Day 363: living abroad

laelene Posted in 365great,Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
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365great day 363: living abroadWhether working, studying, or just plain living abroad, it’s the type of experience I think everyone should try at least once. I’ve done them all, like visiting family in China for summer break (and going to school for that year when I was 9), doing an exchange program in England, and working overseas in Singapore. This was from my last night in Singapore, as I packed up my desk and bid farewell to my coworkers. It had been quite an immersion into their culture, completely unlike anything I was used to yet familiar in many areas. It’s amazing what you learn in a few weeks of entering a different society. It’s easy to stay closed-mind in a bubble if you never leave your home country, but normal travel doesn’t quite change you the way living abroad does (even if it’s only for a few months). I really value all of my time abroad in the various capacities that I was there for. Spending extended time in any other country opens your eyes to other ways to view the world and it’s a great learning opportunity for all.

The academic cost of moving

laelene Posted in stories,Tags: , , , , , ,
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When I was growing up, my parents and I would move every few years (no, I’m not a military brat nor are we missionaries – the two most common guesses). As a kid, this was never really an issue – I’d just help pack up my stuff and settle into another new room. I’d go to a new school with new teachers and new friends. Life would continue on its merry way and my experiences expanded further. I even went to China for a full year of schooling when I was 9 and came back without skipping a beat. But then came 7th grade.

We were living in St. Louis at the time. I’d been there for 5th and 6th grade. I don’t know when I found out, but sometime in 7th grade my dad found a better job out in New York. We’d be moving over winter break. In a way, I was glad – there was one class I was really struggling with and I was convinced I’d get my first C in the class. That’s a seriously awful grade for a straight-A student with a Chinese-American upbringing. I don’t know if I would have actually done so poorly, but I was glad I’d never have to know! The move to the New York school system meant that that particular class would get lost in the shuffle; there was no equivalent course at my new school, so it wouldn’t transfer and count for a grade.

I thought my problems were over with this fresh start, but boy was I wrong. My counselor at the new school was concerned with placing me in the advanced track in case I had a gap in education (this was only for science and math classes). She convinced my mom and I that the best course of action would be to take the classes for the normal track and then test out of it before starting high school. So I finished up 7th grade and the next year came and went as well… my counselor had left by that point, so when I went to find out how to test back into the advanced track, I hit a wall. There was no such test to be found. I was stuck taking algebra while my peers in advanced placement had moved on to trigonometry (or something like that… the details are fuzzy now).

girl sitting at hotel desk studying with textbook, homework, and graphing calculator

Studying in our Houston hotel room.

What I do remember clearly was that I blazed through my freshman math class with 100% on all homework and an infuriating 98 or 99% on the final. My teacher loved me, probably because I made him feel good as a teacher. At the end of that year, I went to him and asked what I needed to know for the follow year’s math. He got me a book and told me which chapters I’d need to focus on and my mom spent the summer tutoring me. I even brought all my materials with me when we went to visit my dad down in Houston, where he’d been working for awhile. His company headquarters had moved and we were planning on moving there to join him eventually (though we ultimately ended up going out to Los Angeles instead).

Before I started my sophomore year, my mom and I went to the principal and counselor to present all the work I’d done (fully documented in the form of homework and tests). We convinced them to let me take the next level of math with a compromise: they said I still had to sit in the class I was “skipping” due to New York state laws that force you to spend a certain number of hours in that classroom. So I doubled up on math that year and “caught” back up. I don’t remember what happened in science. I wonder if ultimately it made all that much of a difference in my education. The one main component was that I was surrounded by less motivated peers in the normal track, whereas when I got back into the advanced track classes, I was surrounded by overachievers.

Sooo the moral of the story is not to move your kids around in the middle of a school year if you care about high academic performance. Between the different school systems in America, you never know what a transition will do. At least try to hold off until the summer so there’s a much more clean break. I’m going to plan on not moving anytime during the middle and high school years for my kid(s). It’s a whole lot harder to get caught up after the fact and with each step you miss, it could set you back that much more.

Job history: college summers edition

laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
1

If you missed the first two parts of this series, you can go read about the jobs I had in high school and the jobs I had during my college school terms.

I was one of the students who didn’t take summer school, but used that as a chance to land internships and try to figure out my career path. Even though I double majored, I carefully planned my classes from the very first quarter so I wouldn’t need summer school. I did end up taking an extra quarter, but that was because I didn’t realize that studying abroad limited how many classes I could take. Apparently they don’t take well to overly ambitious plans for education abroad programs, even if you are learning in your native language. But I digress. I certainly took advantage of those summers to try out some pretty diverse jobs!

As my first year of college was wrapping up, I had my eye on getting an internship. I tried a bunch of things, but everything was so competitive and very few companies would even look at a first year student. Ultimately, I was able to land an internship with a small film company about to film a low-budget movie. With all this entertainment industry influence around me in Los Angeles, I figured I should see if it was something I’d want to get into. I started off doing administrative work during pre-production. I looked through Craigslist to find housing for actors and I even found a dog to be in the movie. I helped book things and plan things and manage things. I also got to go out scouting a few times, driving around all parts of LA looking for that perfect spot for this and that scene.

filming messiah's castle scene of wristcutters with lots of extras

One of the scenes in the movie, in which I got pulled in to be an extra extra (har har).


Once we started filming, I took on even more, constantly managing the changing grips and electrics, getting second meals (a ton of fast food after a long day as we’re wrapping up for the day/night), wrangling extras, running lines with actors occasionally, and going around doing all that production assistants do. I enjoyed seeing all the behind-the-scenes stuff and running the operation was fitting for my skills. I learned a lot, met a lot of cool people, and even got to put my cat in the film – hence my credit as cat handler. I was probably in there somewhere as well, but only in scenes where you can’t even find me. Oh, and one time I found they’d used my car for a scene… we were very low budget. (The film’s title is Wristcutters: A Love Story, by the way – in case you want to watch it. :))

When it came time for my second summer internship, I wanted to explore a different industry. Since one of my majors was economics, I decided to see if I might want to pursue a career in finance. I landed an internship at Smith Barney with a duo who managed the financial portfolios of mostly aerospace employees. They’d carved out a niche for themselves so they could be one of the most knowledgeable in that area of expertise. Very smart! I spent my time there learning how to cold call, prepare financial portfolios, do financial research, and run a small portion of an office. They taught me how to read the financial portfolios, shared with me how they strategized, and being in that office space showed me what it was like to work in a big office high rise.

working at whole foods demoing food

The only picture I have from my food demoing days.


That same summer is when I found a job to do on the side, since my internship only required 8 hours a week. I became a Product Demonstrator, going to various grocery stores in the LA area, setting up a little table, and giving out samples of food, drinks, and whatnot. My employer was a third party company that represented many brands, so I got to demonstrate everything from ice cream to health bars to tea. I mostly went to Whole Foods to share the products, but sometimes I got sent to other grocery stores as well. For one brand, we actually did our work in Costco! I was pretty good at this job since I love interacting with people and I always carefully read and memorized all the selling points of the product. I did this job on and off for about two years because it was so flexible and I enjoyed it a lot.

ucla live events wall collage of images from event pamplets

I didn’t think to take many pictures so this is all I have – the collage on the wall from programs for the various shows.


When I returned from my year abroad, I interned with UCLA Live! (apparently renamed the Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA), which organized live performing arts events affiliated with the university. I was to help with their marketing, which I figured would be a good way to explore my other major, which was in psychology. I did a fair share of warm calls and emails to help promote the upcoming lineup of events for the season. I also had some cold calling to do to try to increase the database of potential attendees. While I didn’t help with the marketing strategy much, I did learn about it and did what I could to push it along.

Finally, when it came to my last summer – the one after my fourth year – I decided that I wanted to do something for myself. Every summer before, I’d gone out and done an internship. It was probably expected that I’d do one more since I was coming back for a final term in the fall and it wasn’t quite time to secure a job yet, but I wanted something else. I was suddenly reminded of my dream to be an Orientation Counselor. Back when I attended orientation, I had such a good time and saw the counselors having such a fantastic time that I told myself I wanted to become one someday. I then kind of forgot about it as the years went on and I learned so much. But then, somehow the idea crept back into my mind (or maybe it was in my subconscious the whole time) and it was now or never. If I was ever to be an OC, it had to be that summer, so I went for it. I was pretty nervous when I went to pick up the notification letter from the office. It was just a tiny letter so I couldn’t tell if it was good news or bad. I was pretty thrilled when I read “Congratulations!”

group of students standing on janss steps at ucla with counselors telling stories

Part of the job was giving tours of the UCLA campus, where we shared many urban legends.


All of spring quarter, the orientation staff met twice a week to train. It was basically like taking another class, since it had quite a bit of homework and a big test at the end. We learned so much about the academic requirements for incoming freshmen vs. transfers, all the cool resources available to students, tons of students groups for so many interests, and just about every aspect of life at UCLA. Don’t worry, we had fun too! I made some great friends and even met Panda there. Serendipity brought us together! (More on that another day.) Once the summer started, it was intense fun and hard work. Session after session of students came and went, we helped them choose majors and pick classes, we took them on tours of campus, and we even performed some pretty amazing skits. On our days off, counselors had various bonding activities planned including a trip to Vegas, hanging out in the middle of the night to watch the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony, and just plain enjoying each others’ company. I had a fantastic time!

That wraps up everything I did while I was an undergrad at UCLA. Stay tuned for the “real world” job experience I’ve had so far!

What did you fill your college summers with?

Another step towards an MBA

laelene Posted in mba,Tags: , ,
2

I finally got my GMAT over with!  That’s the first big hurdle in the process and I did alright with a 710.  It’s not as good as I had hoped I could do, but right on par with how I had been performing on practice tests.  It’s also a good enough score that it won’t hurt me in my application, though I was shocked to find I only scored in the 76th percentile on the quantitative section, even with a scaled score of 47 (which I thought was decently high).  In the verbal section I got a scaled score of 41 and that put me in the 92nd percentile, which was also the overall percentile I ended up in with my 710.  Curious – do many people do that well in math but poorly in English?  Am I competing against a lot of foreign test-takers or something?

With that off my back, tomorrow I’m heading off on a site visit to check out both Berkeley and Stanford’s MBA programs.  I’m hoping to make some friends with my fellow travelers, all of whom either took a class with my GMAT teacher or know someone who did.  Hopefully we’ll all end up at our dream schools!  I’m looking forward to seeing the Stanford campus again and maybe even learning something I didn’t know that will help me with my application.  Once I get back from that, it’ll be time to buckle down with my application essays!  At least I’ve gotten the recommendations underway, with all of my recommenders aware of the questions and deadlines.

I have just over a month to complete my applications and I’m really hoping I can put together a strong profile that will get me in.  I don’t have as much work experience as most of the other applicants, but my experience has been a super-condensed rollercoaster ride that has taught me a lot.  That should make up for a lack of years worked.  That’s the great thing for working for a small company!  You end up learning and growing so much more than you might have at a large corporation, espeically with all the hats you have to wear.  I’ve even been adopted into the engineering team more recently, since I’ve been working with our CTO on some things that he used to take care of.

It feels good to have time to dedicate to my applications now, but those essays are daunting.  I really want to present myself in such a way that they can’t help but take me.  That will be the hard part!

Momentum

laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: , ,
2

I’ve been working on getting the motivation to properly study for the GMAT and prepare my applications.  It’s really hard, since once you get out of a groove, it’s really hard to get back into it.  I’ve been out of school for nearly three years now (yikes!) and it’s been awhile since I’ve really had to study for anything.  I was doing well when I took my GMAT course earlier in the year, but since that ended, I’ve been halfhearted with my attempts at studying.  I really need to buckle down though, so I can get the score I want and feel confident with my applications.

How do I get that momentum going again though?  I’ve tried arranging study sessions with friends that keep falling through, and I keep reminding myself, but every time I should, I just want to unwind after a long day.  Even on the weekends I get tired and would rather be lazy than productive.  Maybe it’s because I don’t feel the pressure just yet.  I do tend to work pretty well with a deadline looming or something making my work more urgent.  I think I’ll outline a plan and start counting the time I have left before everything is due.  With concrete numbers in my head, I might just have to tighten the reins and get my act together.

Nerdy numbers

laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: , , , ,
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On my drive home today, at 7:18, I looked at the clock and thought to myself that if you combine the 7 and 1, you get two 8s, which is pretty nice.  But then if you combine those, you get 16 and 1+6=7, a different kind of lucky number.  Then I wondered what about 8+8+8?  With 24, 2+4=6… hey, I see a pattern here!  And so I went on in my head as I slowly made my way through traffic, adding up multiples of 8, then 7, then 6 and 5 and 4 and 3… on and on until I found all the patterns!

Some we are commonly taught – when you add together the digits of any number and it can be divisible by 3, the number can be divisible by 3.  (You did learn that, right?  For example, 105 can be divisible by 3 because 1+0+5=6 and six can be evenly divided by three.)  Another is that multiples of 9 add up to 9: for example, 9X7=63 and 6+3=9.  You could even take it up a notch and do, say, 9X23=207 and 2+0+7=9.  And of course, we all know that multiples of 5 only end in 5 or 0 and multiples of 10 only end in 0.

Now check out these patterns and keep in mind that only 0 adds up to 0, so we’re considering 1-9 only:

digits of multiples of 1 add up to 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 1, 2, 3, etc.  (up one increment each time)

digits of multiples of 2 add up to 2, 4, 6, 8, 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 2, 4, 6, etc.  (up two increments each time 123456789123456789123456)

digits of multiples of 3 add up to 3, 6, 9, 3, 6, 9, etc.  (up three increments each time 123456789123456789)

digits of multiples of 4 add up to 4, 8, 3, 7, 2, 6, 1, 5, 9, 4, 8, etc.  (up four increments each time 123456789123456789123456789)

digits of multiples of 5 add up to 5, 1, 6, 2, 7, 3, 8, 4, 9, 5, 1, etc.  (up five increments each time, or down four increments each time 123456789123456789123456789)

digits of multiples of 6 add up to 6, 3, 9, 6, 3, 9, etc.  (up six increments each time, otherwise known as down three increments each time 6543219876543219)

digits of multiples of 7 add up to 7, 5, 3, 1, 8, 6, 4, 2, 9, 7, 5, etc.  (up seven increments each time, otherwise known as down two increments each time 7654321987654321987654321)

digits of multiples of 8 add up to 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 9, 8, 7, etc.  (up eight increments each time, otherwise known as down one increment each time)

digits of multiples of 9 add up to 9, 9, 9, etc.  (up nine increments each time, otherwise known as 9 the entire time)

digits of multiples of 10 add up to 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 1, 2, etc.  (up one increment each time)

And then the pattern repeats with 11 mimicking the pattern of 2, 12 mimicking the pattern of 3, etc.  Am I the only one who finds this cool?  That’s the beauty of mathematics – it’s a precise language with very predictable patterns.

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