Abhijeet writes about his NUS MBA student exchange in Cornell University, USA.
After exactly 4 months in the land of Uncle Sam, I was back to my base with memories of the exchange experience. I have just one word to describe the exchange stint at Cornell…. FAAAN-TAAAS-TIIIC!!
It was in the third week of August that I landed in NY and took a 5 hr (~250 mile) bus ride to Ithaca, NY (ever heard of this place?? Neither did I — till I was selected for Cornell. I made sure I asked Nichole Detering how this place was pronounced lest I made a fool of myself). The fact that the US Immigration gave me a new name “FNU, Abhijeet” is a different story (FNU stands for First Name Unknown and it did not help when the lady at Gannet Health Center called me “Mr. FNU”, sounding like FLU which was more appropriate in a hospital setting). “Treasures are found in the most unknown of places” and this was amply proven when I reached the college town Ithaca. What a wonderful place!!
From my Maplewood Apartment on campus residence, I could see the long tower clock which was synonymous with Cornell University. A 15 min walk through the lovely woods took me to a 24hr super market… never knew shopping for grocery @ 2 am was so much fun. Then started the religious duty of walking for 15 min to reach the Sage Hall (that’s where the B-School is located), not to forget the two bridges and a waterfall that I crossed on the way. And yes, there were a few deer to give me company in the woods I crossed to my school. I was as close to nature as I could be….
Classes started in earnest and I was happy that each class ended in 1.30 hrs flat. So by the time I lost interest and it was “laptop time”, the class ended (BTW no laptop policy was strictly adhered to at JGSM). I had to complete only 3 NUS equivalent courses and this reduced my academic burden but the courses were so tempting (i.e. Wine Tasting, etc) that I ended up taking a few more. Plus, you don’t always get to meet the people whose book you have read at NUS (Dr. Robert Libby, of Libby, Libby and Short Accounting fame is a professor at B-School). My best course was Financial Markets where Prof. Maureen O’Hara was absolutely incredible with her wealth of knowledge and she taught in a fashion that made finance, for a change, FUN. In 2nd yr, courses are mostly ½ credits, with very few full semester courses and a manageable work load when compared to NUS (I heard their 1st yr was real bad but I was lucky to escape it). The best part was that most courses did not have a final exam; all internal assessments.☺
The social life away from studies was as hectic. Thursday evenings were reserved for Social Sage, a gathering of the MBA batch across drinks and snacks. Corporate presentations kept the evenings busy with my 2 business suits coming into good use. The recruiters also helped the “social” part by having a cocktail reception after every presentation, some even inviting students to join them in the local bar/pub post presentation. Ithaca town had so much happening in terms of plays, concerts, football and ice hockey matches though some of the clubs and hangouts close between 15th Dec and 15th Jan due to holidays @ Cornell, thereby showing how much everything in Ithaca town is dependant on the students. Not to forget the Indian students association who screened a latest Hindi movie every week. And if you got bored, you could go to the numerous gorges nearby or undertake a wine tasting trail or go apple plucking or skiing (..upstate NY rocks!!). If that was not enough, you had Niagara Falls, NY City, Boston and DC all within 4-5 hrs drive. Halloween, Diwali (my ramp walk during Diwali fashion show: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G9YBaKnjB0Y) and Thanksgiving parties, not to mention the numerous group parties, really made me think if I was such a party animal ( in Singapore I had never been to so many parties so frequently).
Overall, the exchange experience was great in all respect. I came to know the Ivy League culture as well as the effort students put to get their dream jobs (Johnson School runs a bus from b-school to Manhattan every Friday at 5 am ferrying the IB/Consulting aspirants for their networking sessions with firms at Wall Street.. phew!!) The college staff was very helpful and I was always made to feel a part of the cohort. I enjoyed summer in August, fall in Sept – Oct and heavy 6-8 inch snow in Dec (where else but Ithaca could I have seen most of the seasons within just 4 months). So finally it ended in 1st week Dec, and after 4-5 farewell parties, I left Ithaca for the last time… this time the drive to NYC was surreal.. the trees ,which I had seen in all different colors earlier, were now laden with snow. The exchange program was an experience which can only be felt, not expressed in words…
Thank you NUS and Cornell University for making it possible!!
Class of 2008