Back at School (What the hell do you mean, homework?)

February 25, 2008

This is a historical post moved over from my old site. The date of the original post was August 19th, 2007. 

Do you still have dreams that you’ve overslept and missed a final? Or that you forgot that you had a class all semester and never went, and suddenly it shows up on your grades? These nightmares have followed me ever since undergrad at Penn State… probably exactly the price I had to pay for having such a damn good time while there. And now, I’m back, and it’s really kinda weird. I mean, I haven’t been in a classroom in five years. A lifetime of events and memories have occurred since then. And now, it’s like deja vu. My first Darden class wasn’t actually a class… it was a refresher in Economics. It was actually optional, and I even paid for the privilege. But nonetheless, suddenly I’m back in a classroom, and I’m surrounded by a bunch of other young adults, and we’re discussing business and economics and the teacher is lecturing and (whimper). Well, to be honest, the econ was a waste of time. The course didn’t go very far and the concepts were covered entirely too broadly, so I felt as if we were missing out on some important details. The good news was that I was learning to function in a classroom environment again. The course lasted until last Wednesday, when I started the Accounting module. This, too, was optional. However, as I’ve never had an accounting class a day in my life, it was very useful. I learned an awful lot. The prof used a lot of old Accounting tests and cases for us to get used to the Darden method of instruction. It’s important to note that Darden is 100% case-based. Many b-schools are case-based, but they only cover a few cases per class per semester, or they only cover them in more abstract courses. Darden and Harvard are kinda unique in that they teach everything through cases. Harvard is obviously the standard-bearer in case studies and their cases are used all over the country, including at Darden.

A case is essentially a short story about a business, with lots of supporting documentation, and then a bunch of discussion and questions. The typical Darden day is 3 classes, over by 2 PM, and then 5 hours to study the cases on your own and try to determine answers, and then meeting with your assigned “Learning Team” from 7-11 PM to argue/defend your case with your colleagues. Then you go to class the next day, where the prof questions you on the case and the class discusses it. There is no lecture, not even in a class like accounting. It’s all taught through example and hands on application. I’ve heard we’ll have 3 cases per day, 5 days a week. What a pain in the ass… however, it’s also clear that it works. Every second-year I’ve talked to swears by this workload as the best way to prepare for internships and business in general.
I have been impressed by the diversity of our class… we have more then the average number of women (30%) and international students (35%).

Social events are also picking up. Monday and Tuesday nights were drinking engagements at local bars, in which I mingled and met people and forgot names and generally had a good time. Thursday we played soccer (I suck at soccer but it was still fun). Saturday I went to a barbecue at a student’s house and then we were off to a social engagement at a professor’s home.

I continued this trend of meeting and shaking, and last night we took the fun to “The Corner”. “The Corner” is UVA’s undergrad bar destination, and it was fun. I finally got that “I’m older than everyone here” feeling. Unlike at Penn State, the bars here have a rep for letting a lot of fake IDs through, so there are a lot of underage kids joining in the party. But all those college drinking nights came back in a hurry and we had a good time. Beer was cheap (very cheap!) and good times were had by all. Apparently the required after-bar food here is something called a “Gusburger”, which is essentially a burger topped with a fried egg. It tasted a lot better then it sounds. My apartment is only a five minute walk from Darden, but it’s too far to walk to any of these nightlife establishments. So, no worries, apparently a cab can take you there for about 7 bucks, which is even cheaper if you split it. Half of my class lives in the same apartment complex.

Some other good news this week pertaining to school. Darden was ranked number four b-school in the nation by Forbes, who relies entirely on return-on-investment on your MBA. This represents a four-place jump since the last such poll. And we were all pleasantly surprised to find out that a Darden second-year is now engaged… to Jenna Bush. Where the hell am I?

So far, though, my favorite thing about this school is the free Starbucks in the morning. I’m not a big coffee drinker, but that could be destined to change soon in the coming year, I think. And, no, that’s probably not really my favorite thing… it’s just my favorite touch.

So, today we’re off to orientation and taking our class photo. Orientation continues tomorrow and Tuesday, with the assignment of our sections and learning teams. We’ll be together as a team for the year, and as a section for the quarter (they divide the year into quarters here). On Wednesday, real classes start, and the fun begins!

This weekend, I’m heading to the AL gulf coast just in time to be battered by a hurricane (j/k)…. actually the officers of my old unit are getting together for a reunion. I haven’t seen some of these guys for several years, so I’m looking forward to what is required to be a good time. This will probably be my last big trip for the semester.

Well, I hope that everyone is well… Jim’s wedding creeps closer, and his bachelor party is coming together… no more details there, that will remain largely secret. My parents are getting close to finally opening their store in Cumberland, MD, and my bud Austin is getting close to finishing the already infamous “Wilson” movie. When it’s released, I’ll send you all a link… you’ll need to check it out… he’s put a lot of time and effort into creating it, and it should really rock.

So, until the next time I can come up for air…

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