Friday, August 21, 2009

I'm Leaving on a Jet Plane

All my bags are packed, and I'm ready to go. I'm leaving on my KWEST trip tomorrow. I'll be traveling to Hong Kong and Macau for 7 days with 19 classmates or so and 5 2nd-year students/trip leaders.

The KWEST trip, which is done annually with each incoming class, is one of the most highly-recommended parts of the Kellogg experience. I think that student participation is > 80%. There are close to 40 trips that go to various destinations around the world, and according to everyone I've spoken to, you form your closest friendships during KWEST. Needless to say, I'm very excited.

I'll have a day to rest after I get back, and then I begin the 3-week orientation, which contains a flurry of activities from sun-up to sun-down and a 2-week course on leadership. It is supposed to be an exhausting experience that you share with the 60-70 classmates that are in your section. I recently found out I am in the Jive Turkey section...dig it.

I probably won't get to post anything during KWEST, but I'll try to squeeze in an update during the orientation. Until then, practice kindness :)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Heart of Life

Remember how in that last post, I said that I would occasionally post things that have nothing to do with business school. Well this is one of those posts.

I've finally finished all of my personal To-Do items related to the move, like moving my 401K into a rollover IRA and reinvesting, readjusting my insurance to reflect my lack of a car and new rental property, etc.

Now that I've taken care of those items, I am settling into a nice groove and slowly making my apartment feel like home (albeit an empty, empty home). For example, I made dinner the past couple of nights. It was a slightly modified version of what I've been eating weekly for the past 3 or so years in Austin: rice and salmon. Fortunately, I have no qualms with eating the same meal on a weekly or even daily basis, per my usual work lunch.

I've also taken a few leisurely strolls through Evanston and the campus, opting to take a new route whenever possible to get to familiar places in hopes of discovering a new bit of treasure in the sand.

In my apartment, I've been reading, social networking, listening to music, and playing guitar. Although I am still a far ways off from my old peak guitar-playing skill level, I am seeing incremental improvements every time I pick up the guitar. Today, I noticed that I was playing a bit more fluidly than the last time I recorded myself. I also noticed that like most of the guitar players I enjoy listening to, I can't stop myself from making stupid faces when I play. I don't understand why I pucker my lips, but nonetheless, I do.

BTW, the song is called "Heart of Life", and it's by John Mayer.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

One week down, some large number to go....

First of, for any of you detail-oriented folks, you may have noticed that I changed the layout of my side column again. I've added a new widget, "Kellogg at a Glance", that displays a random "Kellogg" picture from my Flickr account. Given that a picture is worth 1000 words, every time you reload the blog, it will be like I've just posted a new 1000-word account of my time at Kellogg. I rock!

In addition to the pictures, I've also moved the Kellogg content to the top of the column. This is a result of my desire to position my blog for 2 audiences: 1) my friends and family (who may not even read it!) and 2) anyone interested in obtaining a glimpse of the Kellogg program. Although I write primarily for my friends and family, I recall how useful it was to find Kellogg blogs when I was deciding between schools. If a blog had actually been maintained the entire 2 years, that was like finding 3 peanuts in a 2-peanut shell; you know what I mean. I apologize in advance if you fall into the latter category, and I post something that you have no interest in. I know what it's like to be in your position, and I wish you the best of luck with the application/decision/grad school process.

Now, for the juicy gossip! I've been in Evanston for over a week now, and during that time I've managed to get settled in, take care of most of my To-Do list, and walk as much as a professional walker might through Evanston, the Northwestern Campus, which has a minimal amount of campus maps (to confuse people no doubt), and Chicago.

For anyone considering ridding themselves of most earthly positions for the trip up to Kellogg, be warned; a car is extremely useful, if not essential, initially after arriving. Fortunately, I had my parents and their SUV available for my trips to Wal-Mart (dropping $600 in the process), Target (around $400), and IKEA ($400), which is a solid 45 minutes away from Evanston. If it weren't for their SUV, I don't know how I would have managed as well. Once you have acquired all of your requisite items and furniture, I don't think you'll need a car very often at all. The El and inter-campus bus are very convenient, and there are a lot of stores within walking distance.

Another pitfall for us non-car students, is that the only grocery store within walking distance, Whole Foods, is expensive. If you restrict yourself to items on sale, then it will probably cost around the same as a "regular" grocery store. I've tried to circumvent this problem by stocking up on items from Target that I use often. Hence, my Kashi Tower.

After I was all settled, I visited Chicago to do the tourist thing with the parentals. I highly recommend taking some time out to visit, because it is a beautiful city, and they have some great attractions, such as the Field Museum and Shedd Aquarium. You may be tempted to also visit Navy Pier, but unless you are going there for fireworks or some other big show/festival, I would avoid it. It was very disappointing; classic example of a tourist trap. Sears (now Willis) Tower is a must see. They recently installed glass enclosures on the side of the building at the sky deck that offer a thrilling view of the city. It took me a moment to step out all the way to the edge.

I've also managed to spend some time with my fellow classmates, via large organized events (screaming at bars) and more personal events (chatting at coffee shops). As expected, everyone I've met has been very amiable and interesting. Yesterday, I had a 6-hour chat with fellow bloggers Stephen, who recently unmasked himself, and the Modern Business Cow. I'm looking forward to more of these relaxed interactions throughout the next couple of years.

That's it for now! I hope that all of you with Kellogg aspirations will one day find yourself seated in the Kellogg chair. It. Is. Nice.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Observations from the frontline

  • Davis Street seems very popular with the Evanston crowd. It is also a great way of cutting across the "Kellogg" portion of Evanston to campus. Along the way you'll find the Post Office, an "El" train stop, a bicycle shop, a skateboard shop, Red Mango (yogurt shop that was full of students at 9:30p), 7-11 that is open 24 hours, a liquor store, Ace Hardware, Jamba Juice, and more. The Davis and Orrington/Sherman cross section is particularly eventful.
  • There are lots of Asian (dim sum, noodle houses, sushi, stir fry, etc) restaurants in the area
  • If your mom likes flowers and plant-life in general, then she will enjoy the Northwestern campus
  • Evanston is a great walking/cycling city. They have bike lanes all over the place, and I haven't seen any cars parked in the lanes. I'm curious to see how many cyclists there will be come winter
  • Walmart and Target are far away. Ikea is even farther away (40 minutes to get there). I don't plan on going to any very often after this week, unless I can bum a ride from a classmate
  • The LA Fitness on Sherman is very upscale. All of the equipment looks fairly new and in pristine condition. The basketball courts are large, and the class room in the back has a nice view. The towel service wasn't as nice as I was hoping for; the towel only covered 80% of me when wrapped around the waist (I exposed my leg), and it felt like sandpaper. The provided towels aren't recommended for showering.
  • The pool at LA Fitness is great. It has 4 lanes and is 25 yards long. The pool is designed with wave guards on the sides to keep the water from getting choppy.
  • The hot tub at LA Fitness is not hot. It's more like a warm tub.
  • Some of the people (that I'm assuming are students) look like they are 14. I know I look young, but wow...
  • My 1-BR apartment is much larger than I was expecting. Given the spartan amount of furniture I have, a studio would have definitely worked. Nonetheless, I really like the location and the apt so far.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

I've Arrived!


We (the parentals and I) set out for Evanston on Saturday at 6AM. After 19 hours of driving (1200) miles, we arrived at Evanston on 1AM Sunday. I think my dad remembered the last time they rode with me in their car in Austin, when I almost wrecked it; I only drove for 3 of the 19 hours. The rest of the time, I accompanied my mom in cheerleading my dad's driving prowess.

The apartment office is closed on Sundays, so we stayed at a local hotel yesterday and today. We spent most of today walking around Evanston and the Northwestern campus. When we arrived at the Kellogg building, which was locked, my mom snapped the "jumping-for-joy" pic you see above; check out the air I got. Tomorrow morning, I'll officially move in to my apartment.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Free time shmee time

I posted the video above for 2 reasons: first off, my new laptop has a built in webcam, and I wanted to play with it (you can expect more videos in the future); second, it sort of ties in to this post. I would have played with Garageband instead, but my little MAudio USB box that I use for recording instruments is safely packed away.

I am heading out for Evanston tomorrow morning, and I should arrive by Sunday night. I am extremely anxious for school to get underway so that I can finally determine how much, if any, free time I can expect to have during the semester. I've had a few friends express interest in coming out to visit, but I've been hesitant to make any commitments due to the big question of free time. On top of that, there are a number of hobbies/things that I'd like to continue doing throughout grad school, but again, I don't know if I'll have the time.
  • Playing Guitar - This is one of my favorite ways of relaxing. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to maintain a regular practice schedule, so I've seen myself touch the skill level of "average" only to then lose a lot of ground due to extended breaks. When I first started working at IBM, I was devoting a substantial amount of time every day to practicing, and I made some significant progress. I'm hoping that I can practice regularly when school starts.
  • Exercising - I've never really had a problem making time to exercise, whether by weightlifting, jogging, boxing, yogaing, swimming, etc, so I anticipate that I'll be able to keep up with it. I may end up switching from swimming to something else, since I don't know how eager I'll be to jump in the pool when the weather gets chilly.
  • Reading - I love reading as much as possible, and I'm sure that my classes will oblige me.
  • Writing - This covers the blog, my personal journal, emails, poems, etc. I wrote a lot more back in undergrad, especially when I was bored in class, and I think my imagination was all the more fertile for it.
Those are the "Han Solo" activities that I am going to try and fit in. Of course, I also want to do all of the school and social activities that you would expect from a student going to a school renowned for "soft" skills.

Monday, August 3, 2009

My last week in Austin...

...was fun and exhausting. I spent every night during the last week of July with my friends at various events and venues, hoping to get in one last memory with each of them before leaving. (I apologize in advance for writing about personal things, but this blog is also for my friends and family :) ).

On Monday, I met up with my girlfriend and a few friends for dinner, and then the GF and I went to watch 500 Days of Summer, which I wholeheartedly recommend. Tuesday night, we met up at my friend's house for our final movie night; we saw The Fall, which has some breathtaking cinematagrophy, and looked amazing in blu-ray on his large 120Hz HDTV. On Wednesday, I met up with some friends at a sports bar downtown for a birthday (I'm 27 now!) and farewell event. Afterwards, we went to watch a softball game that was surprisingly fun (thanks in large part to us heckling our friends). Thursday night, I played Bang with my friends (whose 8-week-old baby is adorable) for the last time. I never realized how much fun a card game could be given the right company, and I now have a copy courtesy of said friends. This was also the first time I've tried cake balls, and I will resist making a dirty joke about my friend's delicious balls. Finally, on Friday I went downtown with my girlfriend and close friend from college and had a few drinks; waking up the next morning was difficult, but worth it for a Don Juan taco from Juan in a Million.

My last full day in Austin was on Saturday. After eating that 1lb taco, we went to play pool volleyball with everyone right down the street from the IBM building where I spent many long days and nights. It was a fantastic way to make the most of a less-than-100-degree day. That night, we relaxed at my friend's house celebrating their dog's birthday, watching boy-band videos (not by my choice!) and funny youtube clips, and chatting it up. As 1 am rolled around, we gathered our things and left. It was a simple last goodbye, but then I asked my GF to turn around to do one last thing at their place. This time, I was almost moved to tears after seeing my GF and friend start crying. The next morning I set off for Houston to spend a week with my parents before driving up to Evanston.

The excitement has been building amongst the online 2011 Kellogg community as we wrap up loose ends, plan our trips out to Evanston, and prepare for the indoctrination to Kellogg life via the KWEST trip and then CIM.

I, for one, can't wait to slip on my Kellogg snuggie and dance around on the streets of Evanston under the stars hoping to catch one as it falls. I imagine that the next two years are going to be amazing (I want to still be telling stories about my time at Kellogg when I'm old and have lost bladder control), but I have to admit that leaving Austin has been bittersweet at best, and quite sad at worst. I left behind a group of friends that I cared about a lot; the kind of folks that you can drop your guard around without hesitation and leave you feeling refreshed after an encounter, as if you just jumped into a cool lake.