Thursday, September 23, 2010

A year

I often think about my life a year ago: A year ago, I didn’t know I would be a full-time MBA student. A year ago, I didn’t know I was going to move away from all my family & friends and the only home I’ve ever known. A year ago, I didn’t know I was going to leave my job for a big unknown adventure.

A year ago, I wanted to experience something great that would change my world. I was not thinking about Belgium or Vlerick*, but now that I’m here I can’t imagine being anywhere else but sitting in -1.01 at Vlamingenstraat 83, 3000 Leuven. (*You can read about my crazy adventure to Vlerick in my June post.)

What a difference a year makes. This past year has flown by and I know the 2010-11 school year will go by just as fast.

We’re only 3 weeks into the MBA program and we’ve already finished 4 classes - of which 2 have papers due in mid-Oct and 1 has an essay test due in early Oct. We have 3 more classes in the works, oh and I can’t forget that we have to keep up with our CVs and the career opportunities that come our way. We will have over 20 courses, 1 in-company project, 1 study trip to China, and 1 NGO project all within 12 months. I know what you’re thinking…WOW!

And that’s exactly what I was thinking. But then I stepped back and remembered something in my handy-dandy 2010-11 Ambassadorial Scholarship Handbook from RI:

While your studies are important, they are not the foremost reason you were selected as a Rotary Scholar. Don’t spend all of your time studying. Realize that the greatest education this year will not come from a textbook or coursework. :)

Now it’s shortly after midnight here on September 23. This is a very unforgettable date for me and a group of people. If I was with you last year on this date, I am so grateful for what I learned from each and every one of you. You have impelled me to improve upon my life; my experience here will be richer because of you.

On that note, I’m going to bed.

See you later,

Thursday, September 2, 2010

People and places.

I realized I haven’t yet mentioned anything about the people I’m meeting and my new city: Leuven.

My classmates. Day was day 2 of class and I’m so happy to finally meet everyone. Before class started, I only met about 30 of my classmates (out of over 80). I met the first 30 around Leuven before class began - you’ve probably seen them in my pics. It was nice meeting them on a smaller scale; I was able to talk to them individually and I had a chance to get know them. So meeting the remaining 50 was a little overwhelming - I’m so happy we’re wearing name badges! My classmates are from all over the world and I think my class is about 90% international. That’s one of the reasons I chose a European business school, the internationality of the classroom is unlike anywhere else in the world. I’ve met classmates from Singapore, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Kenya, Colombia and so many other places. We all have our reasons why we chose Vlerick, but there’s one underlying theme for all of us: to experience something new, to work with people from all over the world and to learn from them. I usually don’t put a lot of weight in first impressions but after meeting my classmates I think I can safely say that this is going to be one amazing year!

Rotarian and Rotaractors. Leuven has a Rotary Club and is home to the largest Rotaract club in the district. I attended my first Rotary meeting on Tuesday night and was able to meet and talk to many of the Rotarians there. Their meeting was held at 7pm over supper at a restaurant in a nearby town, Kessel-lo. The meeting was in Flemish, which unfortunately I don’t know, but I think I was able to understand some of it. If I listen hard enough I can pick out a few works and know what’s going on. Their presentation for the meeting was by a club member and former Rotaractor, she was talking about the results that came from a joint meeting Rotary-Rotaract brainstorming session about how to connect the 2 clubs. That’s a topic that I’m always interested in. :-)  My next Rotary event is on Sunday - a walk through part of town followed by a bbq. I’ve only met 1 Rotaractor so far, he was kind enough to pick me up from my airport hotel and take me to Leuven, hopefully on Sunday I’ll meet more of them.

Leuven. Leuven really is a small city with a big university. I get everywhere by foot. Some of my classmates rented bikes but I’m enjoying the walks. At home, I need a car. Places are far away and there is no mass transportation that takes me from home to work or home to shopping. Here in Leuven, I live near the center of the city and yes it’s a bit loud but I like the city noise. It’s also no more than a 20 minute walk to anywhere I need to go. The town has everything I need, but I need to go to many stores to get my shopping list done - I’m used to Super Target. Here in Belgium I go to the Apotheek (pharmacy), Delhaize (grocery), Hema (household), Kruidivat (drugstore…different than pharmacy), fnac (electronics), and then there’s the numerous clothing and shoe stores. I also need to make sure I get my shopping done before they close. Most stores (including grocery) close at 6pm and are not even open on Sunday. I’m used to 24/7 from the USA so this one is taking me a some time to get used, but I’m really enjoying the lazy Sundays…which I’m sure will become study Sundays as soon as school picks up.

My studio. Ok if you’ve been wondering yes, I’ve moved into my studio but it didn’t go as smoothly as I hoped. I haven’t been able to unpack because I don’t have a wardrobe and they’re finishing the renovation so every day they come in and do something and I get home and clean up after them. I just want to unpack already. They promise me on Saturday I’ll have it, but this will be their 3rd promised day…I’m not optimistic. So it’s not presentable and definitely no pics.

If you have any questions let me know and I’ll try to answer them all.

See you later!