Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Day To Give Thanks

Who better to wish us all a happy holiday than the Section B bird:

The Bird is living it up in Florida right how; thanks to Colin for the photo!

Happy Turkey Day y'all!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Nail Polish and the Art of Zen

Can one person seriously be cold-called to start class two class days in a row? Seriously?

Apparently you can if you're me.

Don't know if Professor Lipson forgot that he's called on me, or if I blew the last cold-call worse than I thought. But today, it went fine. The main difference between this week and last week being that I had a nice (very!) quiet weekend at home. Spent the time catching up on readings that I had glossed over, and really concentrating on the week ahead. So this time, I was ready.

It was really nice to have some time to myself. That's one piece of advice I wish I had been given back at the beginning of the year, so I'll emphasize it here now: make sure to make room for "me time." Sometimes, at least for me, I need to back away from being social or trying to accomplish everything at once, and just spend some time alone to re-center myself; whether that's cooking, reading non-case stuff, or doing my nails.

In the midst of all the craziness of schoolwoork, homework, and all the other kinds of work, sitting down to paint my nails has almost a zen-like calming effect on me.

Maybe it's because it involves sitting down, with no distractions, putting my hands on the table, painting each nail meticulously and waiting for everything to dry. And that's ten minutes that I'm not forced to think about anyone or anything else, worry about what I have left to do, or when I'm going to sleep.

And perhaps that's the key - maybe sometimes you just need to shut it all out, only to return a short while later.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

With Deference to Judy Blume

Are you there, God? It's me, Sania.

I get it. You're trying to tell me something here. I need to suck it up and get better at this. This is not a surprise to me.

After a fumble this morning, I slipped and fell during Finance class too. Was that really necessary? You're really not telling me anything I don't know.

What is a surprise to me is how immediately my mind goes blank when called upon to answer a question that I'm not expecting.

Finance wasn't about not understanding the calculation; you and I both know that I do. I guess I didn't put enough effort into remembering and understanding where the numbers came from.

And maybe that was the jolt back to reality I needed. I'm not here to learn equations that I'll never use again. It's about understanding the principle. I'm obviously not quite there in Finance.

I'll work on it. Thanks.

The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves

I'm falling under. Had to attend to a family emergency at home in New York this weekend, and managed to fall behind in my readings and simultaneously increase my sleep debt. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot.

I've been dropping every ball thrown at me this week. Passed on a cold-call in Accounting, and fumbled a cold call on an Economics case overview. And we're only halfway through the week! I've probably hit a serious personal all-time low.

We're at a point in the quarter where it's becoming increasingly more important to keep up. Unfortunately, that time also coincides with the beginning of resume drops and the peak period for alumni networking. Throw another wrench into that mix, whether it's a personal matter or an illness, and you've just got chaos.

I'm in awe of my classmates who manage to balance a personal life, case challenges, clubs, family, and always put on a flawless performance in class. (Some of them are my fellow bloggers - how do you guys do it?!?)

But this week so far has been a wake-up call. Now that I've recovered from my sleep debt (overslept yesterday and missed first class - ugh), I need to shift into overdrive. There's only a short time until quarter-end and final exams -- 2.5 weeks! -- so the rest of it is going to have to be a sprint.

The first step is to go back and read the stuff that I've missed, because unfortunately, we don't have very many reading days before exams. Actually, I take that back - we do. In the U.S., it's called Thanksgiving.

Looks like I'm going to be having my turkey with a side of CAPM.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Meet the Darden Student Bloggers!

Ok, so this post is belated - as are most non-case-related things in my life nowadays - but I wanted to introduce my illustrious group of peers, and better late than never!

Darden Student Bloggers

There are 15 of us in total, 8 First Years and 7 Second Years.

Seriously, this is an amazing group of people, and everyone writes really well. Definitely check out some of their perspectives on Darden. Between the lot of us, you'll get a well-rounded view of what the Darden experience is like - we've got people from a seriously diverse set of backgrounds.

As a footnote, let me mention that my post from earlier about blowdrying my hair was about the day that my blogger profile photo was taken for the Darden Student Blogger page. I think I did alright for myself. God knows I've stopped putting in effort otherwise!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

This too, shall pass..

No, I haven't fallen off the face of the earth. Instead, I've come face to face with Q2 and Black November.

What's Black November, you say? Well, the days are getting shorter, and what with being in class all day, you don't get to see the sunlight very often. And if you do, it's still cold out. It's also the month that everything hits all at once.

Every single day, there's an increasingly longer and longer list of things to do. Classes, recruiting, home, family & holidays. It doesn't help that resume drop deadlines are fast approaching, and I'm stuck in a cover-letter writing quagmire.

And Q2 has that ill-fated trifecta of classes -- at least for me -- Global Economic Markets, Financial Accounting, and Financial Management & Policy. As someone who didn't come from a finance or quantitative background, I gotta say - I'm struggling to keep up. There's a ton of reading, which most of the former bankers and finance mavens can skip, but I can't.

Last week, I reached my breaking point. There was just so much pressure to read, understand, and perform in areas that I just wasn't comfortable in. Even after reading the cases, going to Learning Team, and attempting to process the information post-LT, it just wasn't clicking.

That was when I had my minor meltdown. We're talking a sobbing, furiously angry, frustrated meltdown.

For those of you who know me IRL, I know - I can hear what you're thinking. Sania doesn't break down in the face of pressure. It's just not me. My typical attitude is to claw down whatever is in my way, come hell or high water.

And yet, Darden has shown me time and time again that I'm so far outside of my comfort zone right now, that anything is possible. It's a bit strange to be so vulnerable. But it's also teaching me to be a better person.

When I'm feeling myself slip, I remind myself of the following quote*:

"Stripped of your ordinary surroundings, your friends and your daily routines, you are forced into direct experience. That's not always comfortable but it is always invigorating." - Michael Crighton

If you think about it, it's true. It's not easy, but it's true. Every new moment, every new trial, even every tear - it'll allow me to grow, stretch, evolve.

And maybe one of these days, I'll figure out what's going on in Financial Accounting. Until then, it's time to take another deep breath and plug on.

* I found this quote in an excellent BusinessWeek article I read when I was considering coming to Darden. It's a really great & accurate picture of what goes on here. Check it out here.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Early Birds

Q1 exams are over. A solid week of mind-numbing studying and cranking out analyses, interspersed with some interesting moments of anxiety and dismay, over.

So why then, am I up at 8 a.m. on a day that I have absolutely nothing to do? Good question.

After two solid months of 8 a.m. classes and 8 a.m. exams and 8 a.m. learning programs, I think my body has finally learned to stop fighting it.

The insanely early class time was probably the biggest hang-up I had about coming to Darden. As a self-avowed "non-morning-person," I need some time to get going in the morning. This isn't to say that I'm lazy; I think my circadian rhythms just amp up a little further into the day.

I know what you're thinking - Sania, didn't you ever have a job? Well, of course I did. Waking up at 7 to commute into the city was never a problem, but that's because I got my "me time" in. That's the time where I'm not obligated to speak to nor pay attention anyone, and I can just be silent and think and reflect.

Not an option at Darden. I'm still up at 7, but the minute the clock strikes 8 a.m., it's time to be poised and listening and processing what's going on.

It's probably a good thing. But God knows a few months is not enough time to become one of the early birds. Let's see how this shapes up..

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


The dishes are piling up in the sink.

If you knew me, you'd know that I detest doing dishes. It's the one chore that I hate with every fiber of my being.

The dishes are piling up in the sink because exams are on the horizon, and I especially can't be bothered with doing them now.

Instead, I've been trying to cram six weeks of decision analysis techniques into my small brain, and learn the statistical theory that I've been avoiding for 25 years of my life. I wasn't kidding when I said I've been dreaming about normal distribution curves.

It's times like these when washing dishes seems like an appealing distraction.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Lessons Learned This Week

It is indeed possible to blow-dry your hair and fine-tune a Powerpoint presentation at the same time, standing in front of your bathroom mirror at 7 a.m. That's why God gave us two hands. Introduce a hairbrush into the mix, that's where priorities come in. If you can switch off between the hair brush and the keyboard in rapid succession, that's efficiency.

Monday, September 29, 2008

CHO Early

Seriously -

Charlottesvile-Albermarle Airport has got to be the only place in the country where you arrive *early* - regardless of whether you're flying into it or out of it. At least based on my experiences this weekend.

It's kind of awesome, actually.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

We're Clueless, By Golly

Dear Section B,

You realize that everyone else thinks we're insane, right?

I mean, can you blame them? Between our tradition to highlight the both the smartest and stupidest contribution every week -- where the stupidest is far more revered -- and our penchant for banging on the desks and stomping on the floors every morning, I guess I can see how the other sections might not "get it".

Sections at Darden are intended to foster community spirit. The Class of 2010 has 334 students, but for the first half of our first year, we take all of our classes with the same group of 65 or so. That way, we can see the same smiling faces every morning - and ostensibly so that we can get to know each other better.

But Section B has taken bonding to a whole new level, because a team that's crazy together, stays together.

Every Monday, we start out by yelling and pounding the desks to greet the week. Mondays are also Theme Day, which allow us to show off the more ridiculous sides of our wardrobes. Past themes include "Pajama Day" and "Monochromatic Day". The yelling and pounding of desks continues all through the week, at whim, and we round up the week with a rousing rendition of the Section B song at the end of last class.

And let's not forget - "The Bird" and "The Finger." The Bird is awarded to the most ridiculous comment or action of the past week (and behavior on drunken, raucous nights out is not exempt). It's the badge of honor that everyone hates. The (foam) Finger is awarded to the best, most thoughtful or educational comment of the week. It's a true badge of honor, that allows you to interject in any class discussion, as you please.

I've had deans tell me that sections are assigned completely randomly but I find that increasingly harder and harder to believe. We definitely have a disproportionate amount of crazy in section B. They like to remind us of this when we're seen at First Coffee in footsie pajamas.

But as a result, we're also the closest section - I can't think of a single thing that has helped me acclimate to this new environment better or faster than the insanity of Section B. I've never been at a school with any semblance of school spirit before, but I could get used to this. I know that wherever I am, whether it's a speaker event or a recruiting cocktail hour, if I can seek out a fellow Section B classmate, I'll always have someone to talk to.

You're a nutty bunch, Section B - but I've become quite fond of you.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Little Bit of the City in the Country

Dear Charlottesville,

You and I have some ground to make up. I can't help it, I'm a city girl at heart. Before Darden, I spent my entire life in New York - splitting my time between Long Island and Manhattan. This is my first time away from home. And I gotta say - it's been a pretty drastic change.

People drive the speed limit here. And they yield to pedestrians. This mystifies me.

Service in restaurants is slower. I haven't gotten out of a sitdown dinner in less than two hours.

And don't get me started on the shopping. Virtually non-existent. Especially for clothes. Apparently for such things, one has to go to Richmond.

But this weekend, you made up for your shortcomings, C-ville. Saturday morning, I went to the farmer's market that is held near the downtown mall every week. It was wonderful.

There were so many booths overflowing with fresh local fruits and vegetables. I spoke with a goat farmer who is working against the state regulations against raw milk. I bought a crisp green apple from a lovely couple who so kindly washed it for me on the spot so I could eat it right away. I brought home the best pie I have eaten in a long time, and a gorgeous bundle of wildflowers which are currently brightening my living room.

That's not all - on the downtown mall, I found a charming bookstore that I spent some time browsing. I adore bookstores, and this one did not disappoint. It wasn't a corporate behemoth, but rather a small lovely rare & used books store. It had personality, and I spent almost an hour browsing the stacks. An hour is a long time to spare when you're a Darden student.

That evening, I went to dinner with a few friends on Main Street, and the food was so good, I felt like I was in NY again. Come to think of it, I haven't had a bad meal in Charlottesville yet.

So maybe there's more to you than I initially thought, C-ville. I'll have to give you another chance.


All The Things I Never Thought I'd Do

Dear Darden,

I can hardly believe it's only been 6 weeks since I got here. It sounds like so little, and yet, I can barely remember life before you.

I've been dreaming about bottlenecks, and normal distribution curves. I live in serious fear of the cold call, and my little gold name badge is always within reach. I drop my name tent at least six times a day, but my lovely Section B neighbor is always kind enough to pick it up - although he might start charging me for the service soon.

I never thought I'd become addicted to coffee, but yet - the minute the clock strikes 9:25, I'm ready to bolt from my seat towards the PepsiCo forum. And the damndest thing is - my internal alarm clock has already reset itself to wake up in time for 8 a.m. class.

The 100-case party is looming within the next week, and yet we're less than 10% of the way through all the cases we can anticipate reading. Company briefings have started, even though we're nearly a year away from the first day of our internship. It's all madness.

But it's been a great ride so far. I've already made a few really great friends, and hope to make more amongst the amazingly talented group of folks that are here. There's so much more to learn, so much sleep to lose, and a lot more work to do.

Month 1 down, only 18 more to go. I'd better make the most of it. Can't wait!