Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Why do you build me up just to let me down and mess me around?

Apologies to The Foundations for borrowing their lyrics ("Build Me Up Buttercup") for the title of this blog post, but....

Dear Darden,

I have a question for you: seriously?  Now, I've heard all about "Black November" at Darden.  It's like one of those "the school, the myth, the legend" kind of things around here.  I know that I'm not supposed to have any free time at all, that I'm supposed to be getting 3.25 hours of sleep each night, that I should be making 5+ networking calls a day, that I should be calculating WACCs and de-levering betas in my dreams.  I get it.  Really, I do.  I was expecting it.  And frankly, my November didn't start out too terribly wonderfully.  I didn't understand anything in either Finance or Global Economies & Markets.  I hated my resume.  I was grumpy, for a variety of personal versions.  In other words, I was ready for Black November. 

Then, Darden, you decided to lure me into a false sense of security and complacency.  You gave me a light caseload last week.  My learning team didn't have to meet after Tuesday.  We got to go on a field trip, fifth grade style, complete with busses and a lunch consisting of turkey sandwiches on white bread and chocolate chip cookies.  I can't remember the last time I had a sandwich on plain white bread.  It was nostalgic.   I had time to pay my bills, clear out my DVR, and watch a movie from NetFlix.  I went to TNDC for the first time since September, without feeling guilty, because I got to sleep in the next morning since class didn't start until 10:15 for a change.  I got to clean my apartment from top to bottom because I actually had time to do it, not because I was using domesticity as a procrastination excuse.  In my view, having time to scrub your floors on hands and knees, with Pinesol, at 3 pm on a Thursday afternoon when you don't have company coming is the height of self-indulgence, an activity typically reserved for the unemployed or ladies who lunch.  The rest of the world uses Swiffers.   This weekend, I had time to make coffee cakes to motivate my Section E-mates to get up and play Darden Cup soccer.  I baked bread.  I made chicken noodle soup, from an actual raw chicken and a big pot of water and some chopped up vegetables.   It felt like exam week, only so much better.

Then this week started.  Monday was Black Monday, in my view.  I don't know what happened to the stock market, but my levels of joy and satisfaction with life plummeted well below 10,000.  I had a paper due that should have taken me 2 hours to write.  It took me HOURS, and I finished it 20 minutes before the deadline.  It was a 4-page paper.  WTF, Darden?  You've robbed me of my ability to write papers, and I was a paper-writing fiend before you converted me to a spreadsheet junkie.  I realized this week that my resume still stinks.  I haven't written any cover letters, and I have three weeks until on-grounds job applications are due.  I'm behind on preparing for case interviews.  I have several networking calls set up for later this week, but I'm still behind the ball.  I REALLY have no idea what's going on in Finance.  My class participation has fallen off a cliff.  We have a marketing simulation (StratSim) from 1:30 pm-9:30 pm today and 9 am-9:30 pm tomorrow.  It's raining today, and it suddenly went from 70 degrees to winter.  I feel like I'm drowning.  I'd rather go back to working 90+ hour weeks at a law firm. 

Darden, I understand that this month is called "Black November" for a reason.  I just think it was really mean of you to make me think that everything was peaches and cream last week.  If you were a man, I would dump you, because I consider that false advertising, and it's a problem in any relationship.  Take that, Buttercup.


Friday, November 6, 2009

Old friends

Since moving to Virginia, I have been truly awful at keeping in touch with my friends from back home.  There just isn't enough time in the day to feed myself, let alone make phone calls or send personal emails. However, due to some apparent oversight in the FY schedule this week (guess someone in the administration missed the "Black November" memo, but more on that later), I have had the luxury of enough free time to spend quality time on the phone with friends from college, exchange emails with a friend from work, and see a friend from home this afternoon (totally impromptu!).  Being able to catch up with these friends was exactly what I needed from a mental health perspective at this point in the semester.  The new friends I've made at Darden are great, but sometimes nothing beats being able to talk to someone who has known you for 5+ years. 

And now I'm off for a potluck with some new friends...  :-)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Exam week is the best week of the quarter

Imagine being able to sleep later than 7 am, to watch prime-time television, to spend the whole day in pajamas, to have time to go grocery shopping, to have time to cook (not just heat) dinner…

For Darden FY students, the above activities are just figments of the imagination during the first quarter. During typical school weeks, I wake up at 7 am, shower, dress, do hair and makeup so that I look presentable for company briefings later in the day, grab my first cup of coffee at 7:45 (thank goodness for timers on coffee makers!), hop in the car, get to Darden by 8 am, spend the next 5 hours in class (refilling coffee every 85 minutes), grab a quick lunch, attend a company briefing or two, meet with a career coach/attend a club function/hit up another networking event, run home, pound a diet coke, prep the three cases for the next day, zap my dinner in the microwave while I change my clothes, then head back to Darden for learning team at 8 pm, get home around 10 pm, and spend some time unwinding, paying bills, trying to keep in touch with friends (which I am really bad at doing lately), and then fall into bed exhausted around midnight or 1 am. I frequently grocery shop at 10 pm, on my way home from learning team (there are four grocery stores between Darden and my apartment, 3 miles away). I don’t have time to cook dinner unless it’s a weekend (fortunately, I made a bunch of meals in August and froze them, and between those, lean cuisines, and free food at briefings or networking events, I manage to avoid dinners consisting of chips, cookies, or other unhealthy but quick foods). It’s a brutal schedule. I thought I’d have time for naps, like I did in college, but I do not. I am literally on the go doing Darden-related activities for 14+ hours a day.

However, once exam week rolled around, I found that I actually had some time to unwind and act like a normal human being. I had time to clean my apartment. I had time to go to both dinner and brunch with friends during the weekend before exams. I woke up each day at 8 am, grabbed some coffee and a granola bar, worked on the day’s exam for 5 hours, printed it out, drove to school and dropped it off, and by no later than 3 pm each day, I was a free woman. I caught up on the shows stored on my DVR. I painted my toe nails. I cooked. I ironed a huge stack of business casual attire. I spent a lot of time on Facebook. I took naps. I read books for fun. It was amazing.

Then second quarter started….and by day 2 I found myself counting down the days until Q2 exam week.


I have always been a huge fan of buffets. When I was a kid, one of my cousins and I used to be brunch buffet masters – we’d load up our plates with Belgian waffles, made-to-order omelets, fresh fruit, salads, freshly-carved meats, etc. And then we’d take a second, third, or fourth trip to the buffet line. I have no idea how we managed to eat so much, because I certainly cannot eat that much anymore; I just don’t have the stomach capacity for it (yes, for all you operations fans out there, my stomach is the Herbie when it comes to buffets). Now, that’s not to say that I didn’t try to relive my youth at the Darden International Food Fest…

The International Food Fest (IFF) is an annual Darden event sponsored by the International Business Society. Students form teams to represent countries or regions, and then they prepare traditional delicacies to serve from a decorated table/booth to the whole Darden community (you pay a flat fee for a wristband, and then when you show up, you get a plate and a fork and can eat all you want). After everyone has eaten themselves into food comas, many of the teams put together a performance of some sort.

While my heritage is German, there was, sadly, no Germany table at the IFF this year. Instead, I was recruited (during Orientation) by Team Italia. (Apparently, if you invite people over for a lasagna dinner during International Orientation, they will tell Irene , who will promptly recruit you.) We made a whole host of tasty food, including lasagna, tiramisu (I need to get that recipe from Irene!), polpette, bruschetta, insalata caprese, etc. My house and hands smelled like garlic for a week after my sub-team met to make the insalata and bruschetta….but it was delicious! Team Italia also sang some apparently traditional Italian songs during the performance section. Yes, even I sang, though I have a horrible signing voice and don’t speak a word of Italian. It was certainly interesting!

Although Team Italia didn’t end up winning any awards, this year’s IFF was a great chance to meet some new people, taste some new foods from around the world, and reminisce about how I used to be able to eat soooo much more food when I was younger. *sigh*