Intersecting Minds: Education, Business and Technology at the North Carolina State Jenkins Graduate School of Management

Study Abroad Discussion

February 22, 2010
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On Friday, I had an opportunity to sit down with two first-year MBA’s who are planning to study abroad this fall. The conversation is in the YouTube below:

Listening to Derek and Emily talk about their excitement and what they hope to get out of the program was nice for me, too. Their thoughts reminded me again why I was so excited to go to Denmark and what I gained out of the trip on the other end. Cross-cultural immersion is a powerful experience, one that opens your eyes to just how big the world is, and how relativistic expectations and happiness can be. I’m a better, more thoughtful person for having gone through it, and I’m sure that while those two will have their own unique experiences, they will report similar conclusions when they return.

Derek and Emily are in for an amazing trip, and I wish them both the best.


And Just Like That…

January 11, 2010
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I’m back on campus here in North Carolina State ready for my first day of class. Does it feel really different? It’s hard to say right now. In some ways it does, and in some ways, it’s like I never left. The people are the same, the MBA lounge is the same, and I’m sure the intensity of the coursework will be the same.

But at the same time, I’m carrying the weight of the past 8 months with me, too. The internship at Genentech over the summer and the time spent in Denmark have broadened and clarified what it means to be here in Raleigh. For one thing, I’m extremely aware of how little time we have left until graduation: 4 months. And while that sounds like a considerable length of time, it’s really not. Between school work, assistantship activities and fun activities, we’re going to be so busy that the time will slide by almost without us noticing.

I think about my friends back in Europe often. I wonder what they’re doing, and how they’re classes are going. And if I close my eyes I can picture CBS and Solbjerg Plads and the library where I spent so many hours studying. I do miss it, but I’ve moved around enough in my life at this point that the effects seem somewhat blunted.

I’m ready for this semester to start, our last one before graduation, and I’m anticipating the challenges and successes that are sure to come with it. Here’s to a great one.

Almost There

December 19, 2009
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My head is completely full of ideas to write about: COP15 and the Great Debate; Lunch with the Danes; all the developments in the economy, health care legislation and financial reform. But right now all of us are a little overwhelmed with the finale of this trip.

We’ve been saying goodbye to people for almost a week now, and as each person leaves a part of the experience leaves with them. For the next 48 hours I’m going to stay away from the computer and just soak the last of it in. There will be time to write over the Holiday Break, and I’ll fill in those stories then, but for now, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Glædlig Jule og godt Nytår!

The Last Week

December 15, 2009
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Early this morning I put the finishing touches on my last final, a 15-page essay for my Innovation Leadership class. Advanced Corporate Finance nearly killed me last Friday, but it’s already receding from view. And now here we are, a few days from departure back to the United States.

Last night we had our residence Goodbye Dinner, featuring the finest Mexican food, BBQ and sangria Denmark has to offer in the middle of December. I suppose I could talk about the bonding and the first goodbyes, but anything I would have to say would come out sounding trite.

Instead, I like to think about the wall decorations, sheets of paper covered with our favorite quotes, memories and experiences drawn out and posted for all to see. Not everyone knew every story. There’s no way 80 people are going to become best friends, no matter how long they are living together. But we all knew what at least some of those words and pictures meant. They were the collective experience spelled out for all.

Living this experience has been invaluable in so many respects. The classroom has been enriching, and I do feel like I’ve come away with hard earned skills, particularly in finance. But while the classroom has been intense at times, it really has been secondary to the people and the experiences. That daily ritual of seeing your friends, talking through your problems, and sharing good times and bad. I think people here are thinking a little more deeply about who they are, what they value, and how they’re going to take all of this back to their friends at home. There is no doubt coming here has been expensive, there’s no price tag that can measure the relationships that have been built. Our professors preach networking back at home, and now it feels pretty good knowing my network is global.

I’d also like to think we’re looking at the future. After all, isn’t this the direction the world is going? Smaller, faster, more interconnected. I believe we’re going to live in a world where we’ll be expected to communicate with each other and learn from each other. We’re all going to take this new perspective on the world home with us, and we will all benefit from it.

Nearing the End

December 6, 2009
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I’m coming home in 2.5 weeks. Wow. I’ve been living in Copenhagen for four months, just long enough to get into a groove here, and now I’m preparing myself to leave.

Nobody here really wants to think about it. We’ve all been having so much fun learning about each other and from each other, and as a result, the weeks have flown by and it’s already December 6th.

This experience has encompassed so many aspects of my life the last four months. I know that there will be a period when I need to unwind and decompress and digest the whole thing: the places, the people, the experiences, the knowledge, the joy and sorrow of meeting wonderful people and then having to say goodbye before you are ready. It’s a jumble right now, and one I still can’t quite wrap my head around.

In the meantime, I still have two finals to focus on. It’s surreal to have these real world concerns nagging at you while you’re in the middle of this strange adventure that has dislocated you from your natural environment. But the work needs to get done, the tests taken and passed and the papers written.

And then it will be time to go home. There is sweetness in that too. I know many of us are looking forward to seeing our friends and our families and our cultural comforts. But we also know that we won’t be the same, that Copenhagen will have impacted us and changed us for the better. We realize that we aren’t just Brazilians or German or Danish or Thai or Korean or Italian or French or American, but that we are global citizens. Even though we have differences, we are also connected by our humanity and our values and our goals. We have been living it every day for the last four months.

I know this blog post is a bit disjointed and all over the place, but I think that’s a reflection of my mind and my thoughts right now. I’m just trying to sit back and take it all in for the next several days.

The Home Stretch

November 30, 2009
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I’m back in Copenhagen after an amazing 5 day trip home to San Jose, CA for Thanksgiving break. We’re now down to just 3 weeks left in the semester, and it’s become very obvious that our time here is coming to an end. The final exams are coming in droves, and the Facebook invites to semester end parties are landing at an even more furious pace.

It’s very bittersweet to even contemplate the end of this experience. It’s been so jam packed with eventfulness, emotion and learning that it’s hard to digest it all, and I don’t think I’ll really come to terms with it until I’ve been back in the States for awhile.

But in the meantime I’ll be focusing on enjoying every hour I can here (even if I have my head buried in books at the library, which is quite likely over the next 10 days). After my brief excursion to the States, those aspects of Denmark that I really enjoy: biking to school, flødekartoffler, the library at CBS, and most importantly, my friends have come into sharper focus than ever. I couldn’t be happier with my decision to study here, and now I just want to sit back and enjoy it while I can.

Quick Update

November 19, 2009
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I know I’ve let this blog go silent for too long, but work has really piled up on top of me, and on top of that, I will be traveling for the next several days. It probably wasn’t the best idea to book all my trips at the end of the semester. D’oh.

But it is what it is, and I have to make the best of the situation. In any case, I’m off to Amsterdam in a few hours, and I promise to have a long blog post detailing our exploits complete with pictures of the experience.

Our time here in CPH is winding down. We only have about a month left to go, and I’ll be doing my best to document as much of it as I can. Have a great weekend everybody!

Oslo Recap

November 2, 2009
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What a weekend. Although our trip was short (<48 hours), we certainly made the most of it. On Friday afternoon, we left our dormitory and headed for Nordhavn and the boarding area. When we arrived, we realized we would be traveling in style. The boat was absolutely massive, a top notch cruise liner. After boarding around 3:30, we took a trip to the top deck, where I snapped some pictures of the CPH skyline before we left. Here’s my favorite:

Copenhagen Skyline

Nice evening

You can see from the picture the other boat in the dock and how bit it was. And we were looking down on it from the top deck by a good ways. Following a quick tour of the boat, we headed to a brief informational meeting about the cruise liner from 4:00-5:00. Then we had a formal dinner featuring ad libitum wine and an amazing array of food (caviar, salad, steak, potatoes… you get the idea).

It was fantastic to get an opportunity to catch up with many people who I hadn’t seen since Introduction Week. After the initial burst of meeting a couple hundred people, it became very difficult to keep track of everyone, so this was a great chance to reconnect with many friends. Speaking of people, another highlight of the trip was meeting my roommates in the ship room. I shared a cabin with three other guys, one American, one German, and one Swiss. Talk about a good group of guys, we managed to have a great time and not get in the way of each other too much despite the small size of the room. Check this picture out:

Ship Room

Tight spaces

And yea, that’s a room for 4 people, not two. Those are fold out beds on either side of the picture frame. Whew. But it didn’t really matter too much because we didn’t spend hardly any time in the room. Between the boat tour, the dinner, and the disco party that followed we only had a few hours of sleep on Friday night.

The next morning, we woke up around 8:30 am and headed downstairs for an all you can eat breakfast buffet. The food definitely hit the spot, and we were ready to go tour Oslo. However, with several hundred young tourists headed out, I realized it would be virtually impossible to move quickly enough in the 6 hours given to us to really see much. So I grabbed one of my friends, Carolina (love that name), and said, “Look, the two of us should head out to the Sculpture Garden. It will be so much faster and easier to get around if we split up.” Needless to say, she agreed, and off we went.

Over the rest of the morning and afternoon, we managed the following:

  • Walk to the Vigeland Sculpture Park
  • Walk back through the downtown area admiring the amazing Oslo architecture and hilly countryside
  • Stop for lunch at Bagel/Juice to spend $15 for a bagel sandwich
  • See the changing of the guard at the Parliament Building
  • Catch the Metro to the other side of the city
  • Toured the Munch Museum, home of one of the most famous paintings in the world: The Scream
  • Managed to get slightly lost on the way back, but found our way again

Needless to say, it was an action-packed 6 hours. Here are a few photo highlights:

Carolina and Ryan at Vigeland

Awesome travel companion

The Kiss

Favorite Munch: The Kiss

The Murderer

Second favorite Munch: The Murderer

Here are a few other impressions from Oslo:

  1. The Norwegians seemed a little more friendly to us than the Danes typically are. I’m not sure if this is because the Norwegians are generally a little less reserved than their counterparts, or if it was simply a function of Carolina and I being a traveling duo, instead of a huge group. But needless to say, people were very friendly to us, offering help and directions on the street and in Bagel/Juice.
  2. Oslo was a more unique city than i was expecting, and that was a good thing. The hills surrounding the downtown area were gorgeous. The architecture was superb, and the large parks and walking streets really made the city seem peaceful and welcoming. Unfortunately, there were no bike lanes though, but I can understand that to an extent considering how much more hilly Oslo is than Copenhagen.
  3. Six hours wasn’t nearly enough to see everything. Even though we had an action packed day, there was still soooo much more to see. If only I had my snowboard, I would have definitely planned a trip up to the mountains.

After our day touring the city, we headed back to the boat. As the sun was setting, myself and one of my roommates headed out to the hot tubs on the back of the boat to check the skyline before we headed out. This is what we were greeted with (and unfortunately the picture really doesn’t do it justice):

Oslo Skyline

View from the hot tub

Needless to say, we had another great dinner and party on the way back to Copenhagen that night. All in all, it was a fantastic trip, and Oslo is definitely on the list of places I want to come back to the next time I’m in Europe.

Taking Control of My Education

October 26, 2009
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A lot of my friends back at home have been asking me how classes are going out here, and how it compares to education back in the States. I’ve already talked about the specifics of the Danish system (100% finals, non-compulsory lectures, etc.). But I wanted to expand a little bit on how that system is affecting my study habits and interests here in Denmark vis-a-vis my experiences at NC State.

In all honesty, I spent the first several weeks here not really doing a whole lot. My finals were far in the future, the classes were kind of all over the place, and there wasn’t any real structure to follow. I wasn’t really doing a great job of adjusting to my new environment, and as a result, I began feeling really unsatisfied with my academic experience here. Where was the structure? Where were the assignments? At the end of the day, I just wasn’t really sure how much I was learning, and that became increasingly frustrating to me.

After going through a period 0f self-reflection and talking to friends and family back home, I realized I needed to adjust my approach. In the United States, I was going to learn whether I wanted to or not. The courses demanded it. Here, I needed to take much more control over my educational experience. If I didn’t want to learn, I wasn’t going to learn (and my grades would almost certainly suffer as a result). So over the last several days and weeks, I’ve begun to refocus myself.

Now, I set aside time each day to go to the library and teach myself the material I find interesting. Instead of relying on teachers and syllabuses to tell me what to study each day, I set my own schedule and pick the topics that are grabbing my interest. For example, there’s a reason I chose finance as a supplementary concentration to supply chain. Oddly enough, I like finance. And now I set aside several hours each day to pore over valuation problems, options analysis, and risk management techniques.

The same is true for my other courses here. I’ve spent less time studying for my Logistics class, but that’s because a lot of that material has been covered in other courses and experiences I’ve had in the States. Rather than bog myself down in reviewing material I already know, I’m trying to learn new material that will add to my skill set.

Unsurprisingly, this process has been very rewarding for me. I wake up and I find that I’m excited to head off to school because I know I’ll be learning what I want to learn, and writing about topics that truly interest me. It has taken some time to find my academic groove here, but now that I have, I’m not sure if I would trade it for the more structured American approach. Much like everything else here, it’s a cultural trade-off, and one that I’m learning to appreciate as we move closer to our final exams.

Light Posting this Week

October 21, 2009
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All of a sudden it’s late October, and school has finally started to bear down on us here at CBS. Most of my time this week will be spent catching up on school work, reading, cases and starting to work on my final projects.

In the meantime, here’s three business/economics/finance blogs that I read for analysis on global events:

Calculated Risk: Focuses primarily on real estate and the mortgage crisis. One of the primary reasons I’m still relatively pessimistic on the economy.

Naked Capitalism: Awesome financial analysis of global events

The Baseline Scenario: Simon Johnson is considered one of the top minds in macroeconomics/finance and his writing here is top notch

In the meantime, it’s time for me to hit the books!

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