Domestic Travel For International Students

The holidays, and therefore traveling season, are coming upon us.  Quickly.

For myself, I will be going home to DC for Thanksgiving a week late so my sister and niece can spend it with her husband and in-laws, and also to avoid holiday traffic since they either drive or take the train from Manhattan generally.  This also means that I can avoid holiday travel, and if you read this post and this one too, you’ll see why that’s a good thing for me, my blood pressure and all those unsuspecting and innocent bystanders that are my fellow travelers in the airport.

Though I loathe doing so, I will be driving out to DC on 12/16 after my internship at OCLC ends, spending a few days with my boyfriend who lives there, spending the Christmas holiday with my family, and then driving back to Columbus the day after Christmas with my boyfriend; he will then spend a whole week with me in Columbus all the way through New Year’s and fly back to DC the day after.  It couldn’t have worked out more perfectly, even with the 6.5 hour drive taken into consideration.  I consider myself lucky.  I have a colleague who is considering driving back to South Dakota for Christmas and that is a 13 hour drive at the least, not even factoring in inclement weather.  Best of luck to you, Eric!

But what about all of our international friends whose homes and family are far far away?  Thinking about the holiday travel made me revisit some of the holiday plans that my international colleagues made and were kind enough to invite me to.  Like I said before, their homes are far away and traveling back to Asia or Turkey or wherever else can be difficult considering the short amount of time they have and the prohibitive costs.  When my family goes to Taiwan, we try and stay at least a week, preferably 10 days, and the plane tickets cost at least $1000.  Not exactly grad student friendly, is it?

So last year, I know that a bunch of the international students went to or considered some domestic destinations during our winter and spring breaks.  These destinations included:

Orlando – flights starting at $190

NYC – flights starting at $333

DC – flights starting at $199

Chicago – flights starting at $148 (on Southwest, flying to Midway.  Midway is less congested than O’Hare); Round trip bus fare on Megabus starting at $50

I’ve listed the current prices from Travelocity, Southwest and Megabus.

If you haven’t heard of Megabus, it is a double decker luxury bus with wi-fi, comfortable seats and one stop in Indianapolis.  Picks you up in Downtown Columbus, drops you off in Downtown Chicago.  Great deal and I’ve done it a couple of times!  It also doesn’t take much longer than a normal drive to Chicago, even with the stop.

The flights are priced assuming departure on Friday 12/9 and a return on Tuesday 12/13.  Flights tend to be cheaper with a weekday stay.  And if I’ve learned anything from the Traveling Gnome, Tim Gunn and the woman who looks like Milla Jovovich but isn’t, it’s that you save money by booking your flight and hotel together.

So even if you aren’t an international student, you can still use this as a guide to kick off your winter break excursion.  Enjoy and safe travels!

Travelocity's Traveling Gnome (all rights reserved)

Grades and Exams In Graduate School (At Least From My Perspective)

This post has been inspired by a recent exam grade that I have received for one of my classes.  It wasn’t absolutely stellar, but it didn’t make me want to down cyanide pills (and the way this class is designed it is better that I chance having my slightly better than mediocre grade than take the comprehensive final).  My experiences with assignments, grades, and exams in graduate school can only come from the experience of someone who graduated with a degree in journalism just a few years ago from Ohio State, so if anything that I write about applies to you then be fortunate that you are already one step ahead!


Undergrad was sort of easy for me.  To be fair, the journalism program here isn’t anything prestigious in the world of journalism like Fisher is in the world of business.  I will say though that not everyone is a writer, so what I may have found easy a mathematician, engineer, or pre-med student would have struggled with.  I was though very involved in student organizations and normally held down like 2 jobs, so I wasn’t just a lazy bum.  Anyway, being that I studied journalism, the majority of my assignments were papers done by myself.  The majority of my tests were some kind of multiple choice, and my professors normally gave us some kind of guidance and direction to how to study.  A lot of it was the regurgitation of theory (which I cannot stand), or memorizing some crazy rule from the AP Stylebook (the grammar rules of journalists).


Graduate assignments and tests are a whole new level of crazy.

  1. You are expected to know like an infinity more amount for a test.  The amount you’re expected to read and study is a lot more intense than what I had in undergrad.
  2. There really are not that many smaller papers, projects, or assignments.  Normally it is one huge project or paper that you have to work on with a group of people.  Group work occurred, but did not happen that often with me in undergrad (how many group news reports have you ever read?).  Group work is the nature of Fisher though, because my friends in the undergraduate program would always complain tell me about how many group meetings they had to go to.  My teachers in undergrad would always comment on how everyone’s schedules were so different that they tried to avoid group projects.  I almost never had the same classes with the same people so this was true and difficult, but even when you have all your classes together it is still hard to coordinate the schedules of grad students.
  3. Because there are very few assignments, you really have to make sure that you don’t screw up on an assignment or that could be your grade for the class.   Professors will be willing to help you out, but they don’t have structured mini assignments to make sure you’re doing the reading that you’re even more expected to keep up with in graduate school.  It is nice to not constantly have to be tested on something….sometimes you just need to have a few days where you don’t read anything because of other things going on and have a few days that you don’t ever leave the library.
  4. I wrote a few papers where I was the sole author (if any) in graduate school.  I NEVER wrote a group paper in undergrad (once again though journalism is kind of solo field).  I am sure other graduate students write many individual papers, but due to the collaboration and teamwork of the business world many papers are done with others.  Though it is good that you can split up that 25 page paper among 3 or 4 other people, but truth be told there have been quite a few times I have raised an eyebrow or rolled my eyes at some people’s writing styles or overall lack of effort and would have rather had wrote the paper myself.
  5. The exams are a lot less straightforward.  If you want a study guide, you better study and then make your own guide.  You could be tested on literally anything that you have covered (no matter how obscure it appeared to be in class or in the text).  Professors want you to know theory, but they also want you to apply in some kind of way or example (that either they make up or you have to make up).  This may not be odd for some, but has been a challenge for me in spending time in remembering some particular thing and having an application to it.
  6. Exams also may lead to arthritis as well, because I would say at least 75% of the exams I have taken have been essay.  Essay exams are always the hardest, because you can BS a paper or have a lucky guess on a multiple choice exam but you HAVE to know your stuff in these exams.  There is no way getting out of this.
  7. Last thing I want to say is that a lot of professors in graduate school do not follow the standard midterm/final schedule that most of my teachers did in undergrad.  Midterm and finals week are still stressful, but instead of having to worry about all exams I need to individually study for, I may have one paper, one exam, or one project due (that have due dates that all are annoyingly close to each other).  For my Research Methods and Negotiations class, there was neither a midterm or final.  The final was optional for Staffing and is optional for Collective Bargaining.  With Staffing, the exam was factored in your final grade, and CB if you take the final than your midterm does not factor into your grades (both are comprehensive so it can be worse if you take the final).   There was only one exam for my HRIS class.  A lot of professors believe in different methods of learning than the dreaded test, but regardless these tests/projects/papers are worth a lot of your grade.
  8. There are a lot more presentations.  Most of the presentations that I had to do in undergrad were individual, where most of mine  in graduate school have been group (which you can have the same issues with group papers like someone really not contributing, reads straight from their slides, etc).
So I think that about covers everything.  Oh and being that it is graduate school, it is more challenging obviously.  So though I would love to get an A in everything, I am no longer in high school so it would be good when you start to accept one of my favorite mottoes “Bs get degrees.”

My first case competition: Swiffer, anyone?

I am still deciding on my MBA concentration. So far, marketing looks like my favorite one. With an IT background, it is hard to build up a resume showing marketing experience. I assume many of us are in the same situation, so I would suggest to use the opportunities offered at Fisher.  This week I participated in my first case competition: P&G Case Competition. It was a two day event, 9 teams ready to give their best. Big was my surprise when the case was about a product called Swiffer. This is one of the curious facts about being an international student: some popular products in the U.S may be completely unknown to you. So I had never heard about Swiffer or even tried one. It is a cleaning product that is very successful in the U.S and “created” a whole new category of products. The challenge: Prepare a case and presentation with recommendations to increase the sales of Swiffer up to 2 billion dollars by 2020 (increasing market penetration and loyalty).

First, the P&G staff presented the case and shared with us some important facts about Swiffer. Immediately,  we had to meet with our teams during 4 hours and prepare the presentation. The next day each team presented the case to a jury of top Fisher professors and P&G brand managers.  The case competition required hard work but it was also a lot of fun. I think all the teams did a great job, amazing ideas were presented, and you can tell everyone was very passionate. I really feel the experience helped me a lot in understanding what a marketing career is about. In addition, I had the chance to practice my speech, teamwork and creative side. My team did not win but I feel very proud of our work. Congratulations to the winning team!

This was my first case competition, and I enjoyed it. In January will be the internal Fisher Case Competition – if you’re a current MBA student, I highly recommend you participate!

Why Being a Grad Student Is Like Being My Parents

I’m sure by now that even the first year MLHR students are realizing what a weird schedule we keep as graduate students.  Classes are at night, some of us work during the day, project meetings happen whenever we can get all the people involved into the same place at the same time.

As a second year MLHR student, I’m realizing that I have more and more in common with my parents not only as I get older, but because of my schedule and habits from being a grad student.

Eating Habits:

My parents eat dinner at 4:45PM every day, on the dot, without fail and are usually done by 5PM.

I eat dinner on school nights at 4:45PM, pretty much on the dot, and am done by 5PM so I can get on Highway 315 before the traffic starts and grab my seat in class by 5:30PM

Where Am I?? :

My mom sometimes forgets where she is or where she’s going.  Stop laughing, it’s not funny.  OK, it is a little funny, but it’s not senility.  She sometimes is late because she has to turn around since she started heading to Point B when she should have been heading to Point A

I sometimes forget what room I’m supposed to be in for class and if I have to wake up for school or for work. I have headed up I-270 on the 70W split at times thinking I had to be at work, when I should have been going up Highway 315N for my MW morning classes

Sleep Schedule:

My dad keeps a tight sleep schedule and gets up at 4:30AM every morning.  My mom gets up between 8A and 9:30A depending on what she has going on that day

I get up at 6:15A on workday mornings and 8:30A on class day mornings.  I have my alarms set on my iPhone and if for some reason they get messed up, I am toast that day

Remembering People’s Names:

This is a funny one, so feel free to laugh.  My mom will sometimes look straight at me and run through the names of me and my siblings and hope one sticks.  Sometimes I also get called Kali, Coco or Long Long, which are the names of our current dog, our old dog that passed away 10 years ago and what my mom calls her little brother

I have been to parties where I look right at someone, someone I am good friends with and have known for years, and cannot for the life of me remember their name.  I have to discreetly describe this person to a friend in hopes that they can remind me what their name is.  Sometimes I also mix up the names of my professors and what they are teaching.  I have yet to call anyone Luna, my cat’s name.  It might be another 20 years till that one happens.

Things I Can Look Forward To In The (Hopefully) Distant Future:

That thing where my parents have to hold a piece of paper really far away so they can read what it says.  It happened to me once when I got my laser eye surgery.  I thought it was hilarious and immediately told my parents and commiserated.  And then laughed at them.

All the Chinese herbs and medicines, and Western medicines, that my dad takes because of his bad back and knees

Being able to get away with all the above-mentioned stuff that my parents do after I’m no longer a grad student

PS – My parents are older than they look.  Heck, I still get carded for R-Rated movies sometimes…

PPS – Some people might think that I am an awful son for writing this blog about my parents, but I love them and they love me and I think they’ll get a kick out of it


My Parents and My Adorable Niece in Greece (I made a rhyme)


Surviving the WPMBA Program: Part III

How to Be in School and Still Have a Social Life

This post is the final post in the three-part series on “Surviving the WPMBA Program”.   In case you missed the past two, I touched on how to balance work and school and life, and how to keep exercise a part of that equation.  The third chapter in this series is devoted to your social life.  Or, in many cases, lack of one.  If you are in the WPMBA program, you are probably already struggling to keep up with the demands of your job and school.  Maybe you travel a lot for work, or maybe you are an exercise fiend (read my last post).  Chances are, you are finding it hard to figure out where to fit in your friends and family into that already overloaded equation.

This past weekend, my friends and I hosted our annual EPIC tailgate for the OSU vs. Wisconsin game.  It also happened to be Halloween, meaning my friend was hosting his annual Halloween party on Friday night.  I also had my first group paper due in Econ on Tuesday.  Needless to say, I was feeling  a bit overwhelmed.  When would I go grocery shopping and make food for the tailgate?  When would I catch up on sleep, which I usually reserve the weekend for?  When would I find time to edit my group’s paper?  And so on and so on.

The thing is, I really believe in making time for your friends and family.  It’s easy to push them aside when the going gets rough and you have a million things going on.  But, that’s when they are even more important.  Friends and family can remind you that there is more to life than work and school.   They can make you laugh and get your mind of everything you “have” to do.  In the case of the Halloween party and tailgate this past weekend, my friends and family did all of the above.

So how did I find time to fit all of that fun in this past weekend?  The answer is the same as it was in Part I of Surviving the WPMBA Program – I made a list!  I figured out exactly what I needed to get done, and how to fit it in around all of the fun.  Essentially, I made having fun as much of a priority as finishing my paper.    And I had a great time – especially at the 12+ hour-long tailgate bonanza on Saturday, which ended in a thrilling Buckeye win!  I won’t lie – Sunday was a long day of working on my Econ paper.  But it was totally worth it.

Me and My Girlfriends at the Tailgate!

Buddy Dinner

We’ve officially turned the page to November and half the quarter is over. As always, I’m left wondering where it went…and where my blog entries went too! For any future students, know that autumn quarter (next year – autumn semester) is not only the longest, but it is also filled with welcome-back activities, football games, fall festivals, group meetings and all the intricacies of grad school.

On October 22 the Graduate Human Resources Association hosted its first Buddy Dinner of the year at the Buckeye Hall of Fame Grill. About 40 of us gathered to meet, eat and relax before a frazzling week of midterms. It was also our first chance to meet our “buddies.” Each year, GHRA first-year students have the option of pairing up with a second-year buddy. I’m not part of the match-making process, but it seems that we are paired up based on common interests, backgrounds, etc.

Unfortunately, my buddy never materialized last year. I think she was too busy to be a buddy, which is understandable. This year I vowed to be a better buddy to a first-year student.

As everyone settled into the restaurant we moved around to sit near our buddies and learn more about them. I was happy to be paired with Mary, a nontraditional first-year student who works full time. I suspect we were paired because of Mary’s nontraditional status and our mutual backgrounds from farming communities. Although I was not raised on a farm, as Mary was, we always had farm animals. I’m not sure another person at the dinner could have named a hog breed, much less had the same (Duroc) growing up! It’s going to be a good match, I think.

The GHRA is busy planning other events for this quarter, including a round table discussion, service events and plenty of social activities. Behind the scenes, buddies will be emailing or getting together to discuss favorite professors and exam expectations. It’s part of that flurry of fall-quarter activity that makes the return to classes just a little bit sweeter.

It’s not too late! Or too early!

The first month or so of the SMF program has brought about an interesting dynamic between the students. Many were concerned that they have too little work experience for a graduate program. Most MBA programs suggest 3-5 years of work experience for candidates, and many of our classmates are straight from undergrad. Another portion of the students (including myself) have been concerned about getting back into the swing of school after some time in working world. My time lapse is only two years, but a handful have been out of school for up to six or seven years. Regardless, the schedule, mentality, and status of your bank account are all turned upside down. However, after the initial concerns, I think everyone is settling in and realizing that the dichotomy is what makes this experience unique and worthwhile. It’s much like a “Just for Men Gel” ad – the perfect combination of experience and potential! (Let’s be honest, the best Just for Men commercial is the one with Emmitt Smith, Walt Frazier, Keith Hernandez, and the Big Unit, so here you go.)

After completing a handful of interviews, I have realized that there is a great tradeoff between the two. Some interviews focus on technical concepts that we may not have covered in class up to this point. It is difficult to reach back to my undergrad education for specific topics, especially the ones I have not used in my jobs. However, what I lack in technical analysis, I make up for in actual work experience. Many interviews discuss behavioral questions, and despite what anyone may believe, this is a huge aspect of succeeding at any occupation. I felt as though my work experience was relatively useless until I started interviewing and compiling a sizable amount of “tell me about a time when…” answers.

To summarize, wherever you fall on the spectrum from directly entering grad school to going back after working the better part of the last decade, there is a spot for you. Just at look at how welcoming Emmit, Walt, and Keith are to Randy. This could be you.

The Layered Approach

It works on so many levels.

On the most superficial one, wear layers to class.  It doesn’t matter what the weather is like outside, it will be the exact opposite in the classroom for the first 30 minutes of class, then it will be like the weather outside, and then after that, it’s just a free-for-all.  So wear layers, you’ll be happy you did.

But in a more applied manner, it also works when you’re looking at school.  One thing that I’m noticing this quarter is that there is a lot of overlap between our courses since two of them focus on labor, either in the sense of negotiations or the law.  It’s been easier, but sometimes more confusing, to apply principles and concepts from one class to another.

And that’s one of the great things about this program.  They really make sure that we have a very rounded and well-defined education that builds upon itself, like layers, that ensure that we have a very thorough and great comprehension of the theories and practices that we will have to use in our future careers.

I suppose my main point here is for the first years and prospective students that may be worried about being ready for work after the program or your internship: Don’t worry, Fisher has you covered.

And when in doubt: bring a jacket

Born a Buckeye, Always a Buckeye

From the moment that I was born, being an Ohio State fan was a given in our family. My parents always made sure that my brother and I “properly” supported the Buckeyes and tended to play the entire Ohio State soundtrack before we reached the age four! A family favorite of ours is a video of my brother Bobby marching around to “Hang on Sloopy” with a bucket on his head, clearly imitating the roll of the band members that he admired at that age. Although a more hysterical memory, it truly captures the “buckeye fever” that my parents instilled in us at a young age, which down the road turned into a deeper passion and respect for THE Ohio State University.

Tailgating and dressed appropriately for the game

It is fair to say that anyone who is not born and raised in Columbus cannot quite understand why life is centered around Ohio State’s Football schedule. ☺ Graduates and die-hard fans specifically plan their weddings around home games and ensure to that it is on an away game week or bi-week. My cousin had a wedding a year ago and all that came out of my Dad’s mouth was, “Really? A home game weekend? You have GOT to be kidding! She should know..” It is amazing how obsessed our community is with OSU football; however, I will honestly say that I certainly among this “fanatic” population. I get chills from the roaring excitement that explodes before we kick-off and I hug and high-five the fans sitting around me even if I don’t know them; and to me, that is what Ohio State is all about. I have always felt attached to the buckeye culture, which is simply a result of the emotions that are collectively shared by everyone in the Stadium.

As an undergraduate student, I would make the six-hour drive home from Nashville for Ohio State Football games. Now that I am officially an Ohio State Graduate Student, I feel honored to be attending the university that I have respected so deeply throughout my entire life. There is something very special about The Ohio State University. You can try to describe it, but when you go to a football game, you can FEEL the passion. I was born a buckeye and I will always be a buckeye. GO BUCKS and cheers to a HUGE win over Wisconsin!

My Best Friend (aka My Laptop)

Hard for anyone to believe: my best friend, it turns out, is an inanimate object.  It’s true!  Sure, *technically* you don’t have to have a laptop to get through Fisher . . . but I highly recommend it.  Having a computer at your disposal makes a world of difference throughout the day.  OSU’s campus is wireless and Fisher has its own wireless network.  There’s even free wireless at the new Panera that opened last week across the street.  Countless knowledge is at your fingertips (as is constant distraction if you’re not disciplined).

Why get a laptop?  There are a few major reasons:

1. CARMEN: Most courses offer online course packs.  Long gone are the days when you had to order printed copies of articles or a myriad of books.  All course content at OSU is administered online via a system thoughtfully named Carmen.  The system tracks your current courses and within each is content that is posted by your professor (or their assistant).  Carmen is where you find a copy of your syllabus, lecture notes, articles, class presentations, test review materials, homework assignments, and links to custom course packs of articles available on XanEdu or Harvard Business Publishing.  Using these electronic resources allows you to access content as needed and without killing trees.  If you’re old school and need the hard copy, you can go to the printing lab on the second floor and print the information you need.  You’ll be using paper but at least you’ll be printing two-sided copies.  Each student receives a printing allowance for the quarter (i.e. for the semester beginning next year).  The allowance is plenty; it’s unlikely you’ll run out.

2. THOMPSON: Besides online course content, the other most valuable asset, in my opinion, is OSU’s Thompson Library.  Not only is it a beautiful newly-renovated building . . . it gets better: all students have the ability to access online content remotely on AND off campus.  If you are on campus, the library can tell you are on the OSU wireless network and you have instant access to countless information: articles, magazines, journals, databases . . . you name it.  Ever find yourself frustrated because you click on an article that only allows you to read the first few paragraphs unless you’re a subscriber?  Frustration ceases with the library!  You name it, they’ve got it.  All you have to do is log in if you’re off campus – and it’s yours!  Researching companies and industries becomes immensely easier to the point it’s almost a breeze.  You can choose to search by data source or you can hit them all up at once to see what is available by subject.  If you get stuck, there is a librarian that is dedicated to supporting the business materials.  She can help you navigate through the search and find exactly what you need.  Worse case: you have the material sent to OSU on inter-library loan.  It truly is amazing.

3. THE HUB: Fisher has an events hub that lists all the various happenings in the graduate programs at Fisher.  Student organizations as well as Career Management, External Relations, the Graduate Programs Office, the Alumni Office, the Leadership & Professional Development Office, and the various Centers at Fisher list events and allow students to register to attend.  Generally, events are free and sometimes include lunch or dinner.  Details are provided regarding the event (time, place, location), the required attire, and the recommended audience.  If you are ever unsure of where you’re headed, you can quickly sign into the HUB and reference the event you’re attending to find out where (building and room) it is scheduled to happen.

If you don’t have a laptop, you will survive.  Hopefully you’ve at least got an iPad or a smart phone . . . the technology is well worth the investment when you’re in b-school.  I’m so accustomed to being on a free wireless network wherever I go, I know I’ll have major withdrawals as soon as I graduate.  I will continue to relish the availability of information while I’ve got it.  I just wish I had more spare time for self-directed reading.