Rollercoaster ride

That’s what it feels like, anyway…. like a rollercoaster ride. I feel a bit bumped, bruized and dazed after 2,5 days of Orientation, I must admit.
Alright, I’m going to make an effort to write a logical story, but please bear with me since I’m pretty knackered so I just hope I get everything alright and in the right order.
Monday was the first day of school (I’ve been wanting to write that for some time now ;-), I met up with a fellow blogger for tea and then we headed over to get our stream assignments (I’m not in the same stream as any of the other LBS bloggers I think) and group allocation. My group is like a mini United Nations, the following countries are represented: Iran, US, UK, South Korea, India, Peru, and the Netherlands. They’re all guys and then it’s me, a gal (women are definitely in short supply here)… They seem like really nice blokes though, I’m pretty happy (yes, I am covering my own behind here, just in case… ;-)
Yesterday and today were spent at Lord’s Cricket Ground, where there were a plethora of presentations, tea, handshakes and more presentations. I am in awe… I know, a lot of people are quite cynical about the whole MBA-thing, but I cannot help being as excited as a 6-year old on the first day of school. To think that there are 326 students of 56 nations together in one room… that is mind-boggling. And it’s very humbling. So many people from so many different backgrounds, and most of them have very interesting stories to tell. Yesterday afternoon all the students were grouped into regional groups who then had to prepare a two-minute presentation about them and their countries, which was hilarious and featured rapping Canadians, salsa-dancing Latin-Americans, belly dancing from the Middle East and near-french-kissing by the French. What a great way to learn about my fellow 007s. Being in the UK, most days end in the pub with a pint, and I’m slowly getting my alcohol levels up to scratch again.
I’m pleased to report that fellow bloggers MBAEurope, KV and Al and me see each other regularly and I must say, they are all as nice in person as they are on their blogs (Gaurav, are you out there? I’m keeping my eye out for you but don’t think we’ve met yet).
Tomorrow morning is introduction to Career Services, and then the afternoon off which I’ll spend chasing around London getting various practical matters sorted out. Friday will be spent volunteering with a big party at night. Saturday I’ll try and get Johnny a new F1 key and 
Campus is buzzing with the rumour (which has been confirmed so it’s upgraded from rumour status to fact status) that Jack Welch is visiting. He’ll be here in a couple a weeks’ time (on my birthday!) and *everyone* wants to go. There’ll only be a limited amount of tickets available, though, so not everyone will get to attend. It’s a strange thought though, a year ago I didn’t even know who he was, now I’m quite interested to see what he has to say.
That’s it for today, in a couple of minutes I’m meeting my study-group for dinner.

Jackpot! For real this time!

I got some great news today: my application for the HSBC loan has been approved! Woohoo! I don’t know whether to be happy because that means everything’s in place to go to LBS, or sad because that officially makes me a student, and a poor one at that ;-) …. It’s definitely happy! LBS here I come!

Monday at 1 pm my life as a 007-student starts for real with the
start of Orientation. Monday’s for admin-matters (we also find out in which stream and study-group will be), Tuesday and Wednesday will be spent at Lord’s Cricket Ground (see picture on the left) for orientation activities, can’t remember what we’re doing on Thursday [edit 1: I looked it up and it’s official photos and introduction to Career Services], and the week ends with a day of volunteering (which I think is a great idea) for an as yet unknown charity. Busy schedule, I’ll try and blog regularly about how I’m getting on.

[edit 2. Just had a detailed look at next week’s schedule and there’s a bbq, drinks reception, dinner or party every single night from Mon-Fri…. Wooohooo!]

 

Lessons learned about flathunting in London

* Do some virtual ‘legwork’ before you come to London, get a feel for what properties are advertised for which price. Use sites like Findaproperty or Primelocation;

* When in London, go to the estate agents’ offices. 9 times out of 10 if you ring you won’t be called back, and the properties you’ve found on the internet are gone. However, if you go in in person, they’ll tell you what they do have on their books;

* To find estate agents, ask current students which ones they used, look at the portal (there’s always people recommending/warning against certain agents), walk through the neighbourhoods you like and walk into every estate agent you see;

* Get the money sorted before you start the househunt so you can act quickly. Guidelines for the amount you’d need: 1 week deposit to hold the flat, 4-6 weeks deposit and 4 weeks rent up front;

* Don’t take the first place you see, but don’t dither too long either. If you like a flat you see, it’s in the right location and price bracket, go for it!

* Weigh up the alternatives: living further away from school, but cheaper (although you need to take into account you’ll spend more on transport), or closer, but more expensive. Expect to pay between 150 and 170 pounds per week excluding utilities for <10 walk from LBS;

* There seem to be a lot of good 2 and 3 bedroom properties around: obviously sharing with students has the advantage of lower costs and company and a lot of the MBAs share housing;

* Wear comfortable shoes, take a pencil and paper to take notes (after seeing a lot of flats you tend to forget what was special about what flat), maybe even a digital camera (we did that so we could show our third housemate who couldn’t be there for the hunt what the places we liked looked like).

I’m back in my own flat in Holland at the moment, dealing with some last minute things that need dealing with. Strange thing is, I actually miss London and my housemates and my fellow 007s already…. didn’t think I’d get used to it/them so quickly but I did and I miss ‘em. Tomorrow and Saturday morning will be spent on packing the last of my belongings, getting rid of a few and cleaning up my flat before it gets sold on Monday (which is also the day that the 007s report for duty). Plus Johnny, my lovely Powerbook, needs to go to the dentist, since he’s lost on of his keys today (the F1 key dropped off…). Strange, since the keyboard seems pretty sturdy and I’m very very happy with Johnny otherwise.

[edit 1: this morning as I was taking a shower, I thought of some more things I wanted to say about flathunting, so I’ve added these to the list]

Let’s talk shop

One of the many reason that made LBS so appealing to me, was London itself. ‘The London advantage’ is something that LBS, rightly so I think, prides itself on. One thing that I love especially about London is the wide variety of museums and shops. And of course, me being me, I just have to share these finds with you.
Today I checked out the Marylebone Farmer’s Market (held every Sun from 10 am to 2 pm), which is about a 10 minute walk from our flat. Great produce, ranging from veg and fruit to cheese, bread and cakes. I loved it, I can’t wait to have a kitchen again in which I can cook!
On Marylebone High Street (about a 7 minute stroll away) is Daunt bookstore which is one of the most beautiful bookstores I’ve visited in a loooong time. Comes highly recommended (no, I have not bought any books yet, I promised myself that we have to be settled in our flat first).
Divertimenti, a cookware shop, is also located on the High Street, and I look forward to shopping there, maybe after I take a few lessons at Cordon Bleu, which is only a 5 min walk away… ;-)
Next stop was the National Gallery, which is one of my favourite museums, which also has a great shop. I love the way you can search their computer system for your favourite paintings, then have a tour printed out of those paintings. For a small donation you can get an audio guide, and presto pronto: you are your own tour guide! They’ve recently added to MP3 audio tours to their website.
More and more MBA’s are coming onto campus, and now that I’ve been here a week, it’s finally starting to feel like ‘my’ LBS. I’m starting to find my way around campus, and I can’t wait for Orientation to start on the 29th of August.
PS For an overview of what shops are in the Marylebone High Street area, check out this guide.

Home sweet home

I hope that I’m not going to jinx it, but we’ve found a place to live in London! Woooohoooo! After 2,5 days of trekking around in a very warm London, seeing lots of places (some of which were eminently unsuitable) and talking to loads of estate agents, we’ve found a place. It’s close to LBS, nicely furnished, has got a great kitchen, nice views over London and very important: we can move in on Tuesday, which works out great. We put down a deposit yesterday, and although the landlady technically can still refuse to have us (which is why I’m a bit afraid to jinx it by writing about it), I’m happy we’ve found a place. One less thing to worry about. Now, next big step is hearing back from HSBC (hopefully sometime next week), and then I’ll be all set!
We’ve been issued with binders detailing the minutiae of the LBS MBA, I’ve secured a locker on campus, and the next few days will be spent raising the cash for the flat, taking care of the paper work that needs sorting out for the flat, enjoying London and catching up with incoming MBAs and friends living in London.

The eagle has landed…

You know when some things aren’t real till they’re real…. does that sound fluffy? Sorry for that, but that’s the best way to describe what it feels like right now. This is all of a sudden very real. This MBA-thing.
I’ve Euro-starred in succesfully this afternoon, arriving all relaxed at LBS. I took the taxi over from Waterloo Station (no way I was lugging the amount of luggage over on public transport), and the cabbie was very nice (in fact, most of the London cabbies I’ve met are really nice). Interesting facts I learned from him: some cabbies can make up to 85,000 GBP per year before tax… and he reckoned the number of tourists had gone down 50% since the bombings in July. Plus a good tip on food: go where the cabbies go, it’s cheap and usually fairly good, with a recommendation for the best fish and chips joint in London.
I got my swipe-card/identification pass which has a picture of me looking like a rabbit caught in headlights on it. And I got a sim-card which I stuck into an old mobile phone, so I’ve got an English mobile number. Went to dinner with classmates I met at the Open Weekend and then onto the daily pubnights the incoming students are organizing for the flathunt. But now I’m knackered… I need a good night’s sleep.
I want to share this blog which I found, which is from a writer and dare I say it, inspirational speaker, seeking to integrate buddha in the workplace. Some of the stuff he has to say is pretty sensible.
PS The pic attached is of a statue in the quad of LBS.

T minus 3

Three more days… just three more days to pack, unpack and repack. To decide how many pairs of shoes I really need to bring. And how many books. On Monday-morning I’ll take the intercity to Brussels and then transfer onto the Eurostar which’ll take me to Waterloo Station, right in the heart of London. I *LOVE* traveling by train, it’s so much more romantic than plane or car. The pace is different, so much more relaxed. Plus: no weightlimits for luggage :-)

On Tuesday morning the serious work starts: flathunting! I’m meeting one of my two flatmates on Tuesday and then we’ll head out apartment-chasing. LBS has a Portal site for all its students and staff, and on there, there’s a flatshare database for which you can register if your an incoming MBA of MIF student. I ended up meeting flatmate no1 during the Open Weekend and then we decided to have a browse through the flatshare-list where we found flatmate no2 (yes, we’ll have an odd number of people living in the house, so if we get into a fight, we’ll have a majority of people pro or con). We’ve got a clear image of what we want and where want it, and most of all for how much we want it, now let’s just hope we’ll find it!

A special visit

Today I paid a very special visit: I went to the Dutch Houses of Parliament and got a backstage tour! A dear friend of mine works on the staff of the Houses of Parliament and he invited me a long time ago to come along and he’d show me everything. Well, today was the day and he did indeed show me everything! We went to the dutch equivalent of the House of Commons (see picture), the House of Lords, had lunch in the restaurant (where I spotted two high profile Dutch MP’s who were apparently not on their summer break) and I saw the MP’s offices, the old room the House of Commons was housed in, the fabulous office my friend’s got looking out over the Binnenhof, the official ‘salons’ that are hundreds of years old and in which official receptions are held, and it was all fab! Normally the public is allowed access to the House of Commons public area (from where this picture was taken) but not in the other parts of the building I got to see today. It was interesting to see all these places you’d normally only see on the news in real life. And it was interesting AND sobering to hear about the realities of life at Parliament. Of course MP’s are only human and some of them are, well, ehm, very human.
I’ve promised my friend that when he comes to visit me in London, we’ll visit the British Houses of Parliament together, let’s see how they stack up to the Dutch ones!

PS If you want to see what I saw today, have a look at this virtual tour of the buildings.

Happy 100th blog-post!

Just as I logged into blogger today, I discovered that this is my 100th post on this blog! Time flies when you’re busy writing ;-)
Today was another goodbye I’d been dreading, taking leave off approximately 300 books that I sold off to a secondhand bookshop. Somehow seeing my empty bookshelves makes it all feel more real. I am really leaving (in a week’s time).
As I was pondering this, and filling out a evaluation form for my former project manager, I thought it might be good to write down some lessons learnt (yep, once a consultant, always a consultant) during this MBA application process, especially since the new batch of applicants is ready and rearing to go. [disclaimer: I’ve put down some more ‘wise’ words earlier on this blog, links can be found in the right column of this blog]
So here it goes:
* Weigh the different options: full-time or part-time, local school or faraway (maybe even online), US school or European or Asian. I wouldn’t rule out any of them until you know what you want (see next lesson);
* Figure out what is you want from an MBA. Do you need it to get ahead in your industry? Want to change careers? Want to work in a particular area post-MBA? Which schools best suit your purpose? Which schools are particularly strong in your desired field? Do you want to have the opportunity to do an internship or do you want to finish in one year?
* Research. Research. Research. Scour the web, read the forums at businessweek.com (but don’t get deterred by them), read the blogs that are out there, talk to people you know about your plans, contact schools you’re interested in to participate in admissions-events they’re organising or to put you in contact with current students, visit schools, visit MBA fairs, get some books on MBA, in short, do everything you can to find out more about the specific schools, specific programs and the MBA in general;
* Make sure an MBA is something you really, really, really want. Just the preparation for an MBA is both time-consuming and expensive and at some point your nearest and dearest will tell you to get a grip and talk for half an hour trying not to mention the M-word;
* Think about financing early on. The applications process costs a lot of money, not to mention the MBA itself. Get your credit in order and try and save up as much as you can, you’ll need every penny;
* Make a battleplan early on. If you want to visit some schools and MBA fairs, study for and take the GMAT, maybe even the TOEFL,
write your essays AND have a life, that’ll take time. So make a schedule (visit schools/fairs in autumn, take tests in spring, write essays in summer) and a budget and try and stick to it;
* Relax. I know, that’s hard. You’re putting so much time and effort into this, it’s just gotta work. And it will. Or it won’t. But like in life: it’s as much about the journey as it is about the goal. Relax every once in while. Create MBA-free weekends. No GMAT, no essays, just fun. Trust me, it helps and everyone around you will be glad too ;-)
As I’ve said before, I love self-help books (although I must admit that I’ve never read Men are from Mars, Women from Venus….and I don’t plan to), and read some of them once in a while, so I read this article in today’s Times with great interest. The author was an editor of self help books for 16 months and has gotten quite bitter. He’s got a point when he says that some of the books are pure and plain useless psycho-babble, but I wonder what happened that made this guy so bitter. Everyone knows that some books are useful for some people and some are not. We are all adults and it’s up to each and every one of us what you read and take with you from that reading.

Saying goodbye in style

Last night, a dear friend and I decided to celebrate my coming student-status in style: by having champagne and cocktails in the bar of the Kurhaus, a five-star hotel on the beach of Scheveningen. Oh, I’ll miss the beach so much….

Today, another first for me: I went to the Mauritshuis, a museum of Dutch 16th and 17th century art, about 20 minutes from where I live. The building is a fabulous classicist building which I loved and which stands right nex

t to the Dutch equivalent of 10 Downing Street, called Het Torentje, where the Dutch Prime Minister’s offices are (on the left of the picture above, just next to the main building). The most famous artist’s whose works are in the Mauritshuis are Rembrandt (who I admire, but not love) and Vermeer, and the top work is undoubtedly ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’. I was hesitant at first about going to see it, since there’s been such a hoo-haa with the book and film and all. But I loved it. This picture on the right doesn’t do it justice at all, in real life it’s much prettier.

One of the things I like about 16th and 17th century painters is that they were businessmen. We always think of artists as suffering, starving for their art, which is a thoroughly modern invention. If you look at Rubens for instance: not only was he a gifted artist, he also ran a large multinational business churning out paintings of high quality to satisfy customers AND was a diplomat. Talking about Rubens: tickets have gone on sale for the big Rubens exhibition later this autumn at the National Gallery in London. I’m definitely going!

Jackpot! Well, almost

I was this close. Literally this close. To taking home 50,000 euros. I went to the ABN AMRO bank this morning and had a chat. Turns out that I’m eligible for their Master’s loan scheme and the guy did a calculation then and there, filled out some details in the computer system (including my school name) and the computer nearly went bezerk. LBS means $$$$$ (or in my case euros, not dollars)! Who would’ve thought after my earlier negative experiences with Dutch banks! The ABN AMRO guy was suitably impressed with the schoolname, he’d done a few of these calculations before but had never seen the computer give back the maximum amount. I didn’t take the loan then and there, I want to wait and see what HSBC comes back with. But it’s a good back up option. And finally there’s a loan I am eligible for, since I don’t have the coveted US co-signor necessary for a lot of loans.

I don’t know if there’s any Dutch people reading this blog, but just in case, I’ve put down the details below:
* Dutch passport
* bachelor’s or doctorandus degree
* evidence of any loans at IBG (dutch government loans) from your undergrad years
* you have to be accepted at school
* you have to be able to show how much tuition will be (easy peasy)
* you have to have an ABN AMRO bank account (which they will arrange for you if you take the loan).

Minimum loan: 5000 euros, maximum 50000 euros, repayment over 10 years which start 24 months after you start. Interest is 8,7% per year. You have to be between 18 and 33 when you start your degree.

Pot of gold

[Warning: the post up ahead is about money, money, money and shopping. If you find this offensive, do not read beyond the full stop at the end of the sentence.]

Another morning of sorting out practical stuff had me at the local branch of the ABN AMRO bank to close down a surplus bank account I’ve had for ages but never actually did anything with. Got talking to the bloke behind the counter who was closing the account down for me and I enquired about the Master’s loan that I had been so disappointed in a few months ago. Turns out, there are no restrictions (anymore?) for MBA students, so I set up an appointment for tomorrow to go and talk to him in more detail. From what I’ve gathered up to now, there are two snags, 1) the interest rate is higher than HSBC loan and 2) I can only borrow up to 50,000 euros…. not nearly enough. But I’ll see what happens tomorrow, if HSBC will not show me the money, then I might have to use ABN as a (partial) back up.

On a related note (as in both are about money), I went out shopping for some utilities to help me move. Every time I’ve moved up to now the biggest things that irked me were all those loose odds and ends…. stapler and staples, warranties (that I never actually use, but am too scared to throw out), cables for every single appliance I own (and sometimes it feels like I own cables for appliances I don’t own), pictures I want to bring, you know, loose odds and ends. Soooo, I went out and bought see through zip lock bags (which came in pink!) and see through folders, plus some tupperware-style-see-through-boxes to put loose odds and ends in. So far I’m pretty pleased with my efforts… but the proof is in the pudding, or in my case in the move.

PS I’ve got a guy from de Slegte (a national chain which sells remaindered and second hand books) coming in next week to buy my 300-odd books that I can’t keep…. big sigh…. in a way it’s strange to part with books I’ve owned for 10 years, I’ve gotten so used to having ‘em around.

Press ‘1’ to read this post

This morning was spent trying to organise a heap of practical stuff that needs to be organised when you move countries. Convincing the mailman that he needs to send my mail to another address, ringing the cable company to tell them that I no longer will be using their overpriced services, closing bank accounts I’d been holding onto because you never know (and that was harder than it sounds), and to top it all off I had to call the phone company to tell them that I want to be disconnected as of late August. By the time I called the phone company I had already listened to four different computerized voices (all women) telling me that I need to press a certain number to perform a certain action. I know I’m not the first to say this, but why do companies have these computers? I so wish I could just call a number and talk to a real life person. But sometimes you have to be careful with what you wish for. The lady from the phone company was very friendly, but also a tad incompetent. I was on my best phone-Dutch (ie without the normal accent that’s a leftover from my childhood) but she just didn’t want to understand what I was saying. At the end of the conversation, I was longing for a speechcomputer!

[addition 1. About an hour later, and I finally managed to finish The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The Trilogy of Four (yep, being unemployed definitely has its advantages) whilst sitting in the evening sun on my balcony. As you’re probably used to by now, I don’t do blow-by-blow detailed reviews, but I will say this: I liked it. Not the like as in un-put-downable like, or like as in you-have-to-go-out-and-get-it-now like, but like as in you could take a random page and get a good quote (see below) and I love that in a book. And like as in if you want to read something which’ll make bring a smile to your face read this. ]

[addition 2. It’s only fitting that I end this post with a quote from The Hitchhiker’s Guide, from the book So long, and thanks for all the fish:

" ‘I have had a day’, said Arthur, ‘of extreme telephonic exhaustion’ "]