Sunday, September 27, 2009

Retrospective: Orientation & Career Forums

Orientation at Darden lasts for about a week. The schedule is basically as follows:

Monday (optional) - pick up your name tag and t-shirt, First Coffee, mill around and meet people, first Career Management (CarMa) session, Q&A Panel with Student Services/Registrar/Financial Aid, etc. I only did the name tag pick-up, CarMa, and meeting some new folks. I skipped the Q&A because I was frankly so irritated by the Financial Aid situation that I was not in the mood to sit confined in a small space worrying about it any more (more on this later). CarMa was all about finding your life themes. I was unimpressed at this point.

Tuesday & Wednesday (optional) - Career Discovery Forums. Basically, these were 1-4.5 hour presentations (usually by alums working in a particular field) and Q&A sessions with a panel of folks from various career tracks, such as General Management & Operations, Finance, Consulting, Entrepreneurship, Sustainability/Non-Profit, and Marketing. I went to GMO, Consulting, Sustainability/Non-Profit, and part of Marketing. I thought the sessions were vaguely informative. The quality of the presenters varied. The Q&A sessions were not terribly enlightening. If you knew nothing about a particular area, these may have been rather helpful. Likewise if you were looking for folks with whom to network later. I personally think that cramming all of these sessions into 2 days was just too much. It was a ton of sitting around, plus the same boxed lunches each day. I would think about hosting one forum each day, first thing in the morning, so that they are interspersed with other Orientation stuff. Also, Tuesday was the day of the Business Etiquette Dinner, which was actually fairly educational. For instance, did you know that the appropriate time to bring up business at a breakfast meeting was right after the coffee arrives, whereas at lunch you can wait until after meals are selected?

Thursday (mandatory) - Dean's welcome, First Coffee, Section & Faculty Introductions, Welcomes from Career Management and Student Affairs staff. Standard orientation fare. Nice to find out with whom we'd be in class for the next three months.

Friday (mandatory) - Introductions from the Registrar, Financial Aid, Library, UVA Honor Committee, and Darden Outreach, followed by First Coffee, Introduction to the Darden Curriculum, Learning Team Orientation and Lunch, and Learning Team/Community Acitivity. Everything up to Learning Team Orientation was not particularly memorable. I remember thinking that it was really duplicative of everything we'd covered in International Student Orientation. I was really sick of turkey sandwich boxed lunches by this point. BUT, I did get to meet my awesome learning team (woot LT 31!). Then they shoved us outside in 95+ degree weather to run around and do team-building activities. Because really, who doesn't love spending time with virtual strangers sweating all over each other? It's not like you're going to have to hang out with them every day for the next 3 quarters or anything, right? :-) I think there was a Cold Call (read: free beer + food out in one of the courtyards) after this, but I went home for a much needed shower and nap.

Saturday (optional) - Fun activities, including tubing, winery/brewery tours, hikes, etc. The weather was fairly miserable, but I enjoyed the wine tour I did, which took us to Veritas and Cardinal Point. We even got to meet the winemaker at Veritas; he was quite informative.

Interspersed throughout this entire week were various gatherings at myriad social establishments throughout Charlottesville. I frankly do not have the stamina to go out every night; never have, likely never will. Plus, I find it really difficult to meet people when you have to shout at each other to communicate. And, smoking indoors is still legal in VA. Boooo!

All in all, Orientation was about what I expected; definitely not the highlight of my life, but relatively informative, and a good chance to meet some new folks.

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