Sunday, October 18, 2009

Bring Money to Class

I've often wondered why people make such a big deal about what school you go to. Sure, the peer group that you end up with will probably correlate well with the reputation of the school, either by self selection or by competition to get in. But really, does it make a difference in terms of what you pay for - the quality of teaching? It is not cheap to pursue an MBA. Not even counting the opportunity cost of being out of the work force, there is the non-trivial matter of tuition. Is it worth it from an academic standpoint? So far, I'm thinking yes.
I have taken a number of statistics classes in my time, but I knew this one was going to be different from the very first class when the teacher said "Bring money to class". Combining chocolate (seriously, we had M&Ms in class one day) and gambling to make the lessons resonate, this is, by far, the best statistics class I have ever taken. For the first time, the subject is interesting and fun; despite the fact that the pace is extremely fast, the content is rather technical and that I am discovering that I'm not a particularly skilled gambler (maybe I should stop bringing money to class...).
Of course, it's helpful that the class is full of people who want to be here (not true of my prior stats classes!) and that entry to INSEAD requires a certain level of competence in math (so I think it is quicker to pick up concepts). But, the teacher (Ioana) makes a huge difference; teaching by inspiration and leaving the path to discovery in the hands of the student. Similarly, my economics teacher (Pushan) is breathing new life into my interest in Economics (a subject in which I have a degree!).
Certainly the social experience of school is turning out to be fruitful - but I can sincerely say that the academic experience is not disappointing.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Tokyo - Meeting Half Way

My schedule affords me time to do many sub-48 hour trips; however, that's not particularly helpful to get me home, which is about 23 hours in transit. Likewise, Erik's intense work schedule this half has not opened up large gaps for long-distance travel. The solution? Meet 'half way'.

Technically, half way would look more like Hawaii; however, flight logistics on both ends makes that a sub-optimal solution. A highly technical review of flight patterns combined with a cutting-edge cool-factor analysis led us to Japan as a more suitable meeting point and, after two long months apart, Erik and I were united.

Tokyo is attractive, clean and relatively easy to get around. We opted for a more relaxed itinerary, which enabled us to enjoy some of the more subtle attractions of the area, including:

vending machines that serve hot coffee (in a hot metal can!)
some of the culinary delights - elaborate meals
and mystery goo. and bean pancakes shaped like fish!The architecture was awesome. We felt like the city was a lot less busy than we'd expected - like there was nobody around. This seems to be possible because the city operates on so many levels. It's like there are 3-7 layers of city at any given point.

We also checked out the cultural sights, including a day trip to Nikko to check out a templea walk through a local fairgroundand chilling out around some of Tokyo's temples and gardens (like this local did).

Japan is definitely a place that I'd like to come back to. Maybe next time with my bicycle.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Renting a Private Island

For a change of pace, 39 of my classmates and I rented a private island in Indonesia for the weekend. Beaches aren't actually my first choice for weekend destinations; however, this was an exception that I was more than prepared to make. It's one of those experiences that you simply can't get unless you are part of a community such as the one I am in at INSEAD.
What's there to do on a private island that has no TV, no Internet, no restaurants, no..blah blah blah. Well, the answer is that there is plenty to do when there are 39 people that you are still getting to know. Bonfires, Fireworks, Snorkeling, Kayaking and Jenga are helpful, too.