As my GAP experience is coming to an end, I feel compelled to write about how it’s affected me as a person and reflect on my journey thus far….
To my fault, I came into GAP with very specific expectations, not because I was oblivious to the reality, but because I didn’t calculate and analyze the environment and situation as well as I normally would have. I just jumped with joy and got on board without thinking twice. I personally selected Scotts France as my # 1 project out of 11 choices for many reasons and was ecstatic to get in!
To clarify, this experience has been extremely challenging. I have been drug so far out of my comfort zone that I barely recognize my starting point. I have learned so much and as a result, feel that I have grown as a person and more importantly as a being. My senses have been heightened and my emotional state stretched thin. It is a roller coaster ride of joy, fear, sadness, longing, happiness and anger. In 3 short weeks, I have undeniably realigned my priorities in life!
On an intellectual level, I was pleasantly surprised to work with a diverse group with various backgrounds and areas of expertise. I don’t know that I necessarily fit into any one mold, as I have always been the “Jane” of all trades and expert of none. My diverse background both educationally and professionally as well as socially and culturally made me the odd “Woman” out. This alone was a challenge given that I am spending 3 full weeks, day and day out with the same 5 people.
Having a roommate was an interesting experience as well. I have always lived alone and never had to share a bathroom let alone a less than 200 sq ft room. As adaptable as I have believed myself to be, this was a bit rough at first until we learned each other’s behaviors and adjusted accordingly.
Observing the team and seeing growth on so many levels with many of my peers has been eye opening. To see the quiet one become very opinionated or to see a natural born leader take the back seat was surprising. Those who were timid became territorial and those who were stubborn learned to compromise. When survival instincts kick in, you’d be amazed to see yourself transform overnight. I too have changed.
Reuniting with a childhood friend, who was like a twin sister to me, was overwhelming. This feeling of having missed someone for so long only to learn that you would see them again was both joyous and frightening. Fear left my body the moment I saw her as we immediately were able to pick up right where we left off all these years ago. Now I am overwhelmed with sadness for leaving as I am not sure when the next chance to reunite again would be.
I have never felt this homesick before. Growing up, I moved a lot, changed schools and moved continents and thus never had a sense of belonging or a place I considered home… until Columbus, Ohio. Being away for 3 full weeks has been really tough. It’s just a feeling I haven’t experienced before and was an interesting one to deal with. Now that I do have a home, missing it made me once again revisit my priorities, especially when it comes to career choices.
Another thing I take pride in is the deep connection I make with a selective few and the strong bond I form with them. Relationships are very important to me and thus I made sure to keep them alive to the best of my means. I know some people view each stage in their life as a phase, and as you pass through, you make friends and then once you start a new chapter, all that was goes away, along with those relationships and you move on. That’s how I felt too. I never thought in a million years that by keeping in touch via social media I would really get to reunite with a childhood friend, and now that I have, these relationships became all the more important to me.
So where am I going with all this? Ah yes, the realignment of my priorities. Those did change… I have changed. I am simply trying to go through life without any regrets!
As this journey comes to an end, I guess I just had a stream of thoughts and feeling that I wanted to share to shed some light into this whole experience. It’s not all candy and butterflies; there were tough moments, thrilling moments, scary moments, sad moments, happy moments and all very challenging ones. I am exhausted both mentally and emotionally.
I am very happy to be leaving this chapter behind, but thanks to this invigorating journey, I will never be the same!
“Get busy livin”
This is the quote from a tourist company in Switzerland that we used to go paragliding and canyoning. On the face of it, this quote seems accurate.
Unfortunately, this statement and claim makes some interesting assumptions. First, it assumes that one cannot “live” without being busy. And our culture, and probably many Western cultures, believe this. We think that the important people are the ones who have meetings all the time, who are constantly busy doing various activities, etc. These people literally do the most, and we aspire to be them by taking on time-consuming jobs, being involved in lots of activities, etc. People who just hang out in their homes seem lazy and boring.
I wish to reject this critique in several ways. The first argument comes from a cultural perspective. The French people are not as busy as we are. For example, they have lots of vacation time and several holidays off from work. Also, eating out at a nice restaurant is about a 3-hour investment on the minimum. The French are definitely not busy in the American sense. But are they successful? Their culture would say yes, and many foreigners would also say yes.
The second argument comes from an American stereotype. We are all familiar with the parent who works too much and subsequently misses seeing his or her children grow up. The parent misses the soccer games, the birthdays, etc. I would argue that being a parent can be one of life’s greatest joys (not for all people, but for some). However, if you are fulfilling the “Get busy livin” motto, then you will miss out on this important aspect of life.
The third argument comes from psychology. Perhaps the busyness that we pursue is not a pursuit of pleasure. Perhaps it is a mechanism to avoid pain. Perhaps we do not wish to deal with our own problems, vices, addictions, poor self-image, our failure to be what we want to be, etc. So, rather than address them, which would require work and pain, we escape by filling our lives so much that we cannot even stop to think about them. The alternative, staring into an existential mirror, would be too much for us to handle.
A second assumption being made in the “Get busy livin” claim is that these outdoor activities are, in fact, true examples of actually living. And I believe that the majority of people would agree with that. Thus, whatever the majority thinks is “awesome” and deserving of approbration is, in fact, truly awesome. But, over time, group think changes. For example, in the late Middle Ages, there was a period called Scholasticism, which was followed by the period of Enlightenment. During this time, it could be argued that society valued academics, thinkers, philosophers and rational thought. However, after this period, society started to reverse into the Romantic Period and embraced emotionalism rather than rational thought.
Therefore, if something cannot be objectively awesome or successful since the majority will inevitably reverse what the definition of success is, then why do we allow the majority to dictate our perceptions? Is it because we desire social acceptance? Is it because that the majority’s opinion, often dictated by media, is the major source of information that we have?
I would call us to a higher standard. Rather than fall prey to the majority, one should develop his or her own version of success. For one person then, success may be defined by paragliding. However, another person’s form of success may be just taking walks around the city park or staying inside enjoying a good movie.
For the readership of this blog, I would suggest the following. Develop what your own version of success truly is. Do not blindly follow society’s calls for busy-ness, money, outdoor activities, etc as the keys to success or happiness. Rather, find what truly makes you happy and complements your personality, skills, etc. Once you do, you will be a lot better, and you will feel a lot stressed since you will not be pursuing dreams that aren’t even yours.
– Oracle Andy
Before any of you start to roll your eyes and dismiss this post as another Shai-box…hear me out.
Life as a business woman often means you’re the only girl in the meeting, in the department, or even in the entire organization. Life as an MBA woman (unfortunately) stays consistent with this standard. I was the only girl on my core team. And now…life as a Gapper…is shaping up to be the same.
Other than the very important diversity and women’s empowerment point, (both are at the very center of who I am), it doesn’t bother me too much to be the lone carrier of the lady flag. My team-bros are super great and see me and treat me like a team mate…a brilliant beautiful crazy intelligent team mate. J
There is another girl on Team Scotts, which is awesome. Not only does it mean there is someone to tell me if there is salad in my teeth, it also means there’s another voice in the discussion. But for social activities and weekends, she often has other plans.
Which means Shai and the fellas. ALL THE TIME!
For example, in London, we met up with the London team. We saw the ladies for about 20 min and then it was a total bro party for the rest of the evening.
It can be a little difficult to be the lone lady at karaoke. I kept selecting Pink, Beyonce, and Miley Cyrus and the boys were not fans. I think Chris almost lost it when I selected the second Taylor Swift song…but that is probably justified.
(FYI, Korean karaoke in france is definitely a good idea.)
This weekend the fellas and I took off on a little adventure to Switzerland. We booked one huge hotel room that was absolutely freaking great.
But what do you do when it’s 4 boys and one girl? You set up some rules. Well one rule…the Fart Zone.
Fortunately, we had a great balcony with a view.
Then Andy and I decided to take our life into our hands and go Canyoning at the recommendation of Jeff D (who is crazy). Canyoning is like cliff jumping, but in a canyon where there are rocks on every side of you and the water comes straight from snow run off and you could basically die at any moment.
It looks like this…
When the driver picked us up, I was really excited because there were two other girls on the bus. But when we got to the loading zone and farmed out into teams, I ended up on a team with about 10 fraternity bros and Andy.
My main concern here was being the one person on the team squealing or nervous or playing into the ‘girly’ stereotype. Also, it gets a little weird when the guide tells everyone to strip down and then suit up. That meant 10 frat boys in their underroos (hello swim suits anybody?) I stealthily found a curtain to duck behind to wriggle into my wetsuit.
To make matters more gender-awkward, we had to pick up our helmets that had names across the front. And when it came to be my turn, the only helmet options I had were Snookie or Party Boy. Obviously you know what I picked…
Right before we took off to drive up the mountain to our insanity, I asked the guide what’s up with me being the only girl? And he said, “think of it this way, you’ve got about 10 extra brothers looking out for you on the mountain.”
One the one hand…BLERG! I don’t need BROTHERS to look out for me. I’m a strong independent woman that can do it myself.
On the other hand…BLERG! It’s on me that I assumed being the only girl meant an automatic adversarial relationship. I took on the role of “other” long before anyone put me there. And it turns the Bro-skies were totally great. So KAPOW to my own gendered assumptions.
If you have a few minutes you want to allocate to me squealing and jumping to my doom, check out this video. http://youtu.be/kI5t6DY97oM
Saturday also happened to be my birthday. And these sweet boys that I’ve spent the last few weeks mothering (they even call me Momma Shai), really knocked it out of the park!
I got to pick the dinner place. THAI! YUMMMY! And then I got to pick the evening activity, which, honestly, all I wanted was a night off to just be alone. The hotel had a really nice bathtub that was calling my birthday name.
But the guys insisted we all go back to the hotel together. Admittedly, I was a little annoyed because bath time did not need to include 4 boys. But when we got into the hotel, the guys had a surprise.
Gateau chocolate! My favorite!
And then, the boys gave me my birthday wish. They left for their un-supervised night of debauchery and I got this:
– Birthdays in Switzerland are awesome
– Being the only girl in a room full of boys struggling to put on wetsuits is awkward
– Just because you’re the only girl in a room full of boys doesn’t mean it will be a bad experience
– We still need more women in business school, in business, and in GAP
The men of Team France know how to do birthdays right (and how to honor the fart zone).
16th May, 2014
Lyon, France – Eastern Front of Allied Lines
From a strategic perspective, the invasion of Switzerland was absolutely necessary to thwart the further incursion of the German aggressors.
Despite the country’s political neutrality, Swiss’s critical resources of cheese, chocolate, watches, bell-wearing cows, and army knives with corkscrews were too imperative to the Allied cause to pass up.
Thus, a full-scale raid was ordered.
On the heels of the successful defense of the United Kingdom, morale ran high but endurance ran low. For such a daunting and ambitious task, only the most elite of Special Forces were required – and there was just one team that fit the bill.
The legend of this unit was known far and wide – from the halls of Mason Rotunda, to the shores of the Olentangy. General Jay Dial would argue that none were more important than these forces. Most dare not whisper their name, but the bold simply refer to them in hushed tones as: Porter’s 5.
Customer. Supplier. Barriers to Entry. Substitute. And Rivalry. With their powers combined, they become…
Aided by his GAP blessing and geopolitical youtube videos, the 5 of them descended on the Swiss through every front.
And by Sea.
The town of Interlaken fell in less than 48 hours.
Somewhere Hannibal and his elephants looked down with envy.
On their victory lap back home, the team decided that capturing the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN) and its Large Hadron Collider could also be useful. The fact that it was in Geneva, the home of the World Trade Organization, the League of Nations (predecessor to the United Nations), and numerous conventions and treaty signings just dumped fitting fuel on this GAPolitical carpet-bombing.
Scoreboard check: Allies 2 – Axis 0
Rest assured, friends. Freedom has been secured.
– Commandant Dickson, over and out.
A quick update from Sherehan:
“Tonight, I went solo…..found a restaurant overlooking the river, with a wonderful view, yummy food and a great atmosphere. Salad, dessert and a fine Riesling later…. my “soirée” turned into an enchanted evening filled with harmonious melodies! Turns out, there was a concert at the Lyon Confluence, so obviously, I stayed to experience it with the wonderful people of Lyon.
The Razowski restaurant in Lyon Confluence
Razowski is inspired by the delicacy of Eastern Europe. The restaurant’s name is rooted in that of a Polish boxer who managed to escape thanks to his sports career. It is a tribute to people as courageous as the founder of Razowski.
View from the terrace
With a view this magical, I was left to wander in my thoughts and felt an overwhelming sense of serenity. A much needed relaxing evening with beautiful melodies from amazing artists, the music filled the air and emotions overcame me. Sometimes, it is absolutely wonderful to be left alone and experience the world untainted. I allowed myself to be a woman who emphasizes a life of passion expressed through personal style, leisurely pastimes, charm, and cultivation of life’s pleasures… better known as quaintrelle!
As expected, the food was trés trés delicious! The menu is very American, with burgers, nuggets, fries and brownies; I forgot I was in France.
My Salad Entrée
Finally… the cherry on top à The Concert
Artists Lili Road (opening act) and Pep’s (pictured below)
Pep’s sang his infamous Libertà song (the crowd went wild) and how can they not, it sounds even better live. With a simple guitar, Pep’s relied on the amazing acoustics of the Confluence.
“I just wanna be free in this way…Just wanna be free in my world
Vivere per libertà…Vivere nella libertà”
My evening alone was perfect!”
“We are the Americans. We are loud. We are boisterous. We speak loudly, we laugh loudly, our volume fluctuates, we gesture wildly with our hands and body and we eat everything that isn’t bolted down. We also act like Freshmen, traveling in packs and often walking in lines like baby ducks. Scotts SAS is located in a corporate park that shares space with BASF and IBM France and if Lyon itself were not cosmopolitan enough, the cafeteria certainly is. Human communication is overwhelmingly silent, indirect and often unintentional. I try to remain keenly aware of the messages I might be giving other people. As Americans we are different, though it doesn’t feel at all unwelcome – just different. Some of this may stem from Scotts being an American company, proud of it’s “hop in your fighter jet and go” approach to corporate management. Some of it may be that American’s aren’t as remarkable as we might flatter ourselves to believe. And some of it may be that despite generally being quiet and contained (comparatively speaking), people in Lyon are just more accepting than Americans might be.”
– Saucy Daddy Pop
When we all began the MBA program at Fisher College of Business nine short months ago, we were given luggage name-tags with a message inside. That message had a single statement about enjoying the Fisher journey. At the time, I perceived the Fisher journey as a purely intellectual and professional one. The message was not surprising, as I understood I would emerge from the experience with a broader set of skills, knowledge, and career choices than I had when I entered the program.
However, the depth and impact of the present journey I’m experiencing, both within Europe and more broadly the MBA program, resonates on a much more primal (or nuclear) level within myself. That little luggage tag boasts an eerie amount of clairvoyance, as the journey I have experienced thus far goes well beyond professional into a personal, psychological, and existential realm of growth.
The journey to France, England, and beginning this weekend, Switzerland, are undoubtedly great experiences within themselves. This entire experience over the past two weeks has felt akin to an accelerated incubated MBA degree. Through the first year in the program, I went from feeling adept, talented, and intelligent when I entered to extremely impressed, overwhelmed, amazed, and humbled by my colleagues (As a past psychologist and therapist, I frequently say some of the GREATEST ‘psychologists,’ or experts in human behavior I have ever met have been in the Fisher MBA program. If you want a therapist, don’t see a PhD, see an empathic MBA with some time to kill).
Going from a big fish in a small sea to the ocean of talent that is Fisher is daunting (especially if you’ve never stepped foot in a business course prior to Fall Term). However, the experience pushes you, molds you, and challenges you. You master the material, master your emotions, and hone your own skills, leadership qualities, and potential. You grow.
The GAP experience has been synonymous with the MBA as a whole and complementary to that growth process. Arriving in country, I felt apprehension about the culture, the food, the project, work, and responsibilities. However, within a short two weeks, our group has been force to accelerate our own talents and abilities to band together and meet the demands of the project, communication with each other, and…..the sometimes grueling demands of the nightlife.
So, in closing, as a Fisher MBA student, our present journey is not a singular one but a cluster of dozens discrete experiences that are continually molding and shaping us. These experiences do not occur within a vacuum. For me, everything from poorly navigating tubes in London, to sobbing at an embarrassingly audible level during Les Mis, eating unidentifiable cuisine, meeting with dozens of brilliant leaders within the European Lawn & Garden market, to touching structures I have only seen during long exploratory hours on Wikipedia & Google Earth….. I feel like I am awakening every day as a different person.
And waking up everyday feeling like a better version of yourself from the day before is what keeps us going.
My London trip was very short in comparison to my compatriots… I was there for a slim 36 hours. I loved the culture, food and people in Guildford. Our office was located in Godalming and we got some wonderful insights from Scott’s London to help us with our project. We went about town Thursday night. Fri the team hit the city and I stayed in Guildford to catch my flight back to Lyon. The town in Guildford is gorgeous! Shopping is VERY expensive and very chic! I would have loved to stay longer in London as there were many nostalgic moments from my childhood, but my bestie was waiting for me in Lyon J The cabby was awesome, he took the scenic route back to London Gatwick airport so I got to enjoy some gorgeous landscape and fabulous architecture.
My childhood bestie picked me up from the Lyon airport and took me back to her house. I met her hubby and kids for the very 1st time! She lives in a gorgeous little house with a big yard in a quaint East Lyon neighborhood. I can certainly get used to this!
Sat morning we made traditional Lyonnais breakfast (Espresso coffee and toast with Nutella and jam “confiture”) and we shared memories and reminisced about our childhood. We had 16 years of catching up to do and there certainly wasn’t a dull or quiet moment! Below is our attempt to recreate our old photo….. I think we just might be cuter now!
It was a 3 hour drive to Marseilles. I slept most of the car ride to and back, but did get to enjoy some of the scenery, which was breathtakingly beautiful! Marseilles is a gorgeous city with historic architecture and a rich culture. Unfortunately, it was too cold to swim, but we more than made up for it with long walks and some local shopping. Seafood was fresh and trés trés delicious! To my delight, we stopped at a café appropriately named “Columbus Cafe”! Nutella crepes were just a splendid ending to a nostalgic weekend with my bestie!
This weekend, Team France had the opportunity to travel to Great Britain to interface with the British unit of our client company. After our work was completed on Friday, we spent the rest of the weekend enjoying the sounds and sights of London.
Whenever I travel to a new location, there is a tendency to slip into tourist-type attractions. However, I find myself wanting to resist these places. While popular for one reason or another, I feel that only seeing these sites does not enable me to gain an authentic experience of the city. I don’t feel that I am integrating into the culture; I am only an observer of the culture.
In one sense then, London, a city filled with tourist attractions, is a city putting on a performance. A performance of characters, scenes, acts, etc. that are designed to appeal to the masses and draw them. (I am not giving a value judgment of this fact; I am merely just starting an observation). To some extent, I hope that my London travels were able to get a little beyond this performance, “break the fourth wall,” and find authentic English culture.
This begs the question of authenticity. What is truly authentic? Is the performance, the façade, the inauthentic side? I would postulate that it might not be. Initially, the performance may not be an authentic expression. It takes work to put on a costume, to memorize your lines, etc. These behaviors are not natural expressions of yourself. However, if these behaviors are repeated enough to the point of habituation, then it is entirely plausible that the performance becomes the authentic reality of the innate personality and character of a person.
Referring back to London (or any one city with tourist attractions), perhaps the city’s authentic nature can and does include all the tourist attractions that I naturally resist.
However, this question of authenticity is not restricted to international cities. Rather this question really cuts at the core of human behavior. There are many situations in which we as humans are putting on a performance in order to appeal to many people. In our attempts to receive acceptance and approbation, we modify our attitudes, values, and behaviors. A great example of this would be socialization. As a young child, we learn different social behaviors that are expected and accepted in our culture.
Another area that we put on performances is the MBA program. In one sense, we are trying to learn knowledge and techniques in order for us to be successful (attractive) to companies. The amount of practice that we put into interviews (which are truly performances) exemplifies this concept.
While initially we may have to put on the performance, I believe that the goal of the MBA program is that certain techniques, skills, and behaviors will be so inculcated into our psyches that eventually, they become who we are authentically are. And this performance-based learning style is not a bad thing. Our faculty and staff have experienced the world and know what will make us the most successful (i.e. what performance will create the best mass appeal).
As a parting thought, it is important every once in a while to have some introspection. International travel is a fantastic opportunity since it pushes us into unfamiliar areas that test and push us. So, I invite everyone on the GAP program and all the other readers to think about authenticity and the performances that we put on. And finally, make sure that the performances you put on are the ones that you eventually want to become the authentic you.
– Oracle Andy
“All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts,”
– William Shakespeare