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Back to blog: Sharing my summer internship experience!

Time flies like an arrow. It has been quite a long time since my last blog. You could interpret that the MBA program is so busy that students do not have much time to do other things. Well, it might be true in my case but let me tell you that it’s not the case for everyone in the program – you do have choice over your schedule here.

I have a lot of things to share with you about my activities during my first year in the MBA program. It was a truly life changing experience and I have learned a great deal of new things. At this moment, I would like to share you my current experience: a summer fellow at The Columbus Foundation Summer Fellowship program, serving Tech Corps as a Marketing intern.

Tech Corps is a nonprofit organization whose vision is to build “a technologically literate society in which all K-12 students have equal access to the technology skills, programs and recourses that will enrich their education and allow them to successfully compete in the global workforce.” (from Tech Corps organization vision statement). My project at Tech Corps is to increase the organization’s online and offline campaigns to increase visibility with volunteers and supporters. I am at the half way mark of my summer fellowship here and my project is entering the production phase. My first “product” – Tech Corps Brand Identity Manual came out last week, and next I am developing the Annual Report for fiscal year 2010-2011.

Using my newly-learned skills with Photoshop I presented a more well-designed draft of the Brand Identity Manual to the Tech Corps management. I received their alignment on the proposed changes in the communication materials, and program names; which will convey a better awareness about Tech Corps. Some of these changes will require intervention from a professional designer, and I will leave this work aside to move on with my other projects. Tech Corps has not yet used an Annual Report as a marketing tool, so, the need to produce a well-designed and informative Annual Report is part of my plan. For years, people at Tech Corps – board, management, staff, and volunteers, have produced many wonderful programs as they prepare students for the high-tech era. However, one thing they need help with is recording these accomplishments, celebrating their successes and using these stories to promote Tech Corps’ mission. I am excited, but also a little nervous, to work on this task. I will be capturing the efforts of many people from the past and present and I will do my best to present their achievements and accomplishments the best I can. More importantly, I hope that this Annual Report will become standard process for the coming years and people will continue to recognize Tech Corps’ good work.

I believe my fellowship-internship at Tech Corps is providing me with intensive hands-on experience in marketing, much more than what I would have learned if I was working with a for profit organization. As a small organization with limited resources, Tech Corps, like most non-profits, needs help in a more end-to-end manner. The management has given me freedom to pick and choose my projects and they have counted on me to deliver the final product. I am developing multi-skills to perform that end-to-end product and I am learning a new perspective about marketing strategies for non-profit organizations. Summer is a busy time at Tech Corps. I have had to identify a way to fit my work into the current operation. Sometimes I feel guilty of taking away people time for my projects. I also feel difficulty with proposing the most feasible plan for Tech Corps considering their limited resources.

Last week at The Columbus Foundation I learned about Strategic Planning. I am thinking about a “game changing” strategy for engaging more volunteers. I want to bring more help to Tech Corps. This will help with the impact Tech Corps will have on the generations to come.

Learning from a LDP session

“I like helping people…”

That is my mission. That is what I am passionate about. That is the reason why I want to become consultant – to help many more people with my expertise. I already know that fact for a long time. The thing I really do not know until today is how to express that out comfortably.

You may question what happened to me today. Yeah, today I met Ruth, an expert in communication, PR who was invited to help MBA students with “Telling your story” session. It was an event in the Leadership Development Program for MBA students at Fisher. At first, I did not much like the idea of spending 2 hours of my non-class Friday for a “mandatory” session. In my mind, “mandatory” rule is associated with something not interesting. I am now thankful for this “mandatory” rule because I met Ruth, talked with Ruth and have her advice for my “story”.

I grew up in a culture that appreciates humility, not encouraging talking about personal achievements. That is why I was struggling with talking about myself comfortably. I do not know how to show that I am a capable person without listing my recognition and rewards. It is easier for me to do that in my CV or my cover letter, but I was scared of the idea about a direct interview with my prospective employers. Fortunately (or unfortunately), I have not had any interviews yet so I have not yet ruined my career because of that issue.

What did I learn from her? Well, I learned to express my interest, telling my story without being concerned too much about showcasing my achievements. I learned to focus on what I am  passionate about most: helping people get over issues in organization, in human resources management so that they can focus on delivering their business results. I have many stories surrounding that to tell. And I am more than happy to tell these stories rather than speaking about my recognition. I like to be humble (consistent with my culture) yet I want to gain credibility for my capabilities.

I used to share my story only to my close friends, who I trusted would not think of me as a show-off person. I am now feeling more comfortable telling everyone about my passion. I like helping people. I can help with problems in statistics, finance or accounting classes. I can help on the admission process to Fisher MBA program, in housing, in relocation and life in Columbus. I can help with issues about office machines (printer, photocopier, LCD) and features of Word, Excel, PPT, Movie Maker. I can provide perspective and advice on human resources processes, organizational strategy. Come to me with your questions. I like finding solutions for you!

I love Leadership Development Program! 🙂

Caution: Grad life is not always “pink” (part 3)

Waiting for bus

Waiting for the bus that never comes

“Pink” in my culture means beautiful, perfect

Even though I experienced a bad day with the bus system in Columbus, I had no choice but continue to use the bus as the only transportation means, since the taxi cost was quite expensive to me. Wanting to fix my laptop, I took it to the IT service desk of Fisher, then BuckeyeBar of OSU, then Micro Center but no one could detect what the issue was. A technician at Micro Center checked my adapter and said that it worked normally so he requested me to leave my laptop there 4-5 days and pay $75 for diagnostics, in additional to a repairing fee. With such a large expense, I thought it would be better to buy a new laptop, so I took my laptop back. After leaving the Micro Center, I bought a set of bed sheets and a blanket. Holding a bunch of stuff in my hands and my laptop bag on my shoulders, I waited for the bus, which again did not come. Then I noticed that this bus route stopped during the holidays (!). I walked for a mile from the connecting bus stop to here. However, it was a different story to walk back that distance with my heavy baggage, tired from the long wait and disappointed about my broken laptop. An old man offered to help drive me to the bus stop and I did accept. It was not a safe decision, my friend told me later, but I was too tired to continue walking and he seemed to be a nice man. Fortunately, I connected with some country-friends in my apartment village and they offered me rides to go shopping. When checking options of a new laptop, I tested my laptop with a new adapter and it worked (?!). After replacing it, everything got back to normal. Phew!

Think PositiveLesson 3: My purpose for writing this blog series is to motivate you if you have ever fallen into “bad luck” or issues, that thinking about my story, hopefully, could make you feel better. I would also want to help you to stay away from such troubles as much as possible, with good preparation. Do ask for help. IFI and your country student association are reliable sources to rely on. And on top of these, keep thinking positive! Sometimes you do not have a choice for what happens to you, but you will always have a choice of how to react towards it. It is your behavior that changes your luck, not the luck itself.


Caution: Grad life not always “pink” (last part)

“Pink” in my culture means beautiful, perfect

I wrote this blog while my roommate was moving in my apartment. The simple task of finding a roommate took me 3.5 months to complete (?!). Among all the  issues I faced so far, housing played the biggest part, both in terms of time and cost.

After arriving in Columbus, I was lucky enough to find a two-bedroom apartment to move in at the 5th day. However, I did not prepare myself for the empty apartment with little furniture and utility. Having no car, no friends in the Columbus at that time, I relied on International Friendship Inc. ( and the IFI volunteers to buy heavy furniture such as bed frame, desk, chair table, couch, etc. They even gave me a free dining table and chairs from one of the IFI staff’s house. How thankful I was for the help of people in IFI! I also had to register for electricity, internet service and house insurance. These intensive administrative tasks required time and effort that I hardly extracted from my orientation program at school.

Watch-out: SCAM!

I chose a two-bedroom apartment because I wanted to have someone to keep eyes on me in case of emergency. I posted in an OSU off-campus housing website for roommate searches. I made a mistake in the post that led me to the wrong group of people responding. I lost one month to recognize and correct that error. Right after that, I received a scam email that caused me to hang on to my room for another month to wait for someone who would never come. I received an email asking to share a room with me. The email described in detail about a girl, who was a transfer student in winter quarter and wanted to secure a place before she arrived. She offered to send me a check with whatever amount I asked. Sympathizing with her, I offered her free temporary housing at my house when she arrived, no need to send me a check. She told me that she would come in a month so I secured my apartment for her. Then she asked me to help her to pay the shipping fee of her personal items when they came, which included a car. I agreed to do so but I advised her not to ship her car but buy it here in Columbus.  After that, I did not hear back from her and of course, never saw her. When I told my friend this story, she said that I was lucky to avoid the scam. Apparently, if I had agreed to receive a check, she would have sent me a larger amount and asked me to transfer the extra money to another account. A friend of my friend did so and three days later, the bank confirmed the check was fake, but her money transfer was gone. I did not know what would had have happened if I did not advise her to not ship her car here in advance.

Now, these issues were over. My roommate is moving in my apartment. Hopefully we could get along well with each other 🙂

Lesson 4: Start to find a house as early as possible to secure a place before you arrive. Of course, I do not advise you to sign a lease without seeing it. Instead, you could do research online for on-campus, off-campus housing options, then connect with your friend (or your country student association) to ask for reference and/or room check on your behalf. If you cannot do so, you should arrange the room check schedule with respective landlord/ roommates before your flight. You can ask support from International Friendship Inc. ( for temporary housing service for first few days while you check and decide on your housing.

Life is beautiful!

Fall quarter is over now. When looking back, I cannot believe that I am survived from all the up-side-down events I listed in this blog series. Not only survival, I am enjoying the grad life here with friendship, study. I have learned that grad life might not always be “pink”, but if I choose to respond to “bad luck” with positive attitude, it could be.

Mid-term exams… OVER!

Two weeks before last week was mid-term exams season. For first year student like me, it was the very first and important challenge for my decision to go back to school. I hold my breath, crossed my finger and wished for a positive result since then. The results came out this week has put back air into my breath. Phew!

I did not know I could be at such stress just because of tests. For a very long time, I did not experience hand shaking like I did during the last exams. I had to hold my pen so tight that could not write normally, my heart beat like crazy and my blood pressure increased, all happened because of tests (?!). Who said that being student was enjoyable? Hum, it would be probably true for most parts, but definitely exclude EXAMS! :-). Mid-term tests are necessary though as we did spend a quality time to review our learning, not waiting until final exams. Furthermore, after mid-term, we definitely have a better idea about what is expected from the professors so anxiety will be reduced.

Exams over

Although I made some silly mistakes in my tests due to the stress, eventually I did not-so-bad on my mid-term exams, neither did my classmates, according to the professors grading. I felt much more calm and relax for the last mid-term exam today.

Lesson learned: be ready to face the exam pressure in the  MBA program and try to get over it as soon as you can. Practicing deep breathing might be a good idea if you feel you are losing your nerve.

Goodbye mid-term – I conquered you! Final exams – I am coming!

Football 101 and “football religion” in Columbus

Two weeks ago, I had one session called “Football 101” – organized by professor Ankerman for Fisher international students in culture class.

OSU team

OSU team

For most participants of this session, it was the first time to know about “American football” though we were more familiar with “international football” which is called “soccer” in the US. Come join with us, there was one former professional football player, who used to play for Ohio State University team (OSU) and a professional football team in the National Football League (NFL).  He was very friendly, unlike my imagination about a typical American football player: giant in shape, rude in attitude and violent in action. Together with professor Ankerman, he walked us through the game rule, patiently answered our innocent questions and shed some light on the mystery of American football. Though time was not enough to clarify all questions about of American football, the session was open for us a different view about the sport, a better understanding about the passion of Columbus citizen for this game and created in us a curiosity to watch a game one day.

OSU Fans

We experienced the love of Columbus for football when the opening season game occurred in Thursday, instead of Saturday as normal. We got out of the class and found ourselves flooded in a men stream moving toward the stadium. Buckeyes theme song was playing in everywhere: cars, restaurants, street performance artists…  Red and white were dominant across streets as they are flag colors of the OSU team. Airplanes carrying OSU flags painted the sky with cheering theme in smoke. People in the street was wearing a string of pits in their necks which was similar to the string of beads in Buddhism. Later on, I were told that the pits were from buckeye trees and the string of buckeye pits were symbol of good luck to OSU team (!). That day, it took me over 2 hours to find the bus to get back home as all buses had to change their routes to avoid traffic nearby campus. When I got out of the bus, I saw the tailgate party that University Village organized to entertain their citizens before every home game. I realized that football is not just a game for Columbus citizen, it is a region which connects everyone here.

OSU kid fan

OSU kid fan

This impression was reinforced at the day of football 101. One day before that day, the ranking #1 team was defeated, making OSU team the TOP in the College football championship. In the morning, most of my classmates talked about the dream came true when OSU got into the number 1 in a very long time. In the football 101 lunch session, the professor brought in brownie with letters “O” “H” “I” “O” “B” “U” “C” “K” “E” “Y” “E” “S” which his daughter made to celebrate the team victory. Weekend last two weeks, it seemed that the pressure of being number 1 was too heavy to bear, the OSU team lost in an away game (game away from home) with a much lower ranking team and dropped into the ranking number 10. This week, there was no active discussion about football at class or in forum as if it was a forbidden topic or an explosive subject. One professor absence at class with reason of digestion problem with food was interpreted that he could not digest the football failure (!).  In rare occasions when being asked about the game (normally by international students), people responded very briefly about the result but did not take the opportunity to blame the team. It is not common behavior for sport fans. I witnessed a lot of crazy behaviors of soccer fans when their favorite teams lost or their beloved players did not perform well. Though it made me really admired people’s love to football here in Columbus.

OSU team flag

OSU team flag

All attention was put into the home game last weekend, with the hope that the team would get over the failure to perform at their best. Despite our stressed schedule to prepare for mid-term exams, my classmates went to watch the game at the stadium as well as participate in the pre-game tailgate party. The OSU team responded to their love by a destructive victory (49-0) and brought back the smiles into peoples faces.

I don’t love football… yet, but I love the passion people in Columbus give to their football team. Go Bucks!

Caution: Grad life not always “pink” (part 2)

“Pink” in my culture means beautiful, perfect

I arrived in Columbus at nearly 10:00PM with exhausted body and tired mind, feeling sick with the vision of sleeping at the airport over night. Fortunately, there was one person waiting for me, the volunteer host from International Friendships Inc. USA (IFI USA). She was patiently waiting for me, though the airline staff refused to disclose my travel status. No need to say how thankful I was when seeing her with my name board at the gate. I was saved, thanks to the hospitality and kindness of a Columbus citizen! (Later on, my thinking was reinforced by a lot of international students who received support from IFI USA as well. Columbus is such a beautiful city, both in landscape and people’s heart!)

After a deep rest with 10-hour sleep, I thought all my bad luck was over, but I was wrong again 🙁

(continued numbering from part 1)


Caution: Grad life not always "pink"

3.  When I used my laptop to start my housing search, I realized that its battery drained off quickly. However, when I plugged in the adapter, my laptop slowed down so much that I could not work; but if I unplugged the adapter, it worked normally (?). I decided to wait until my laptop was full charged to use it, but it took 1 day to reach to 30%, 3 days to get to 71% of battery (?). Some days later, when installing Internet service at my leased apartment, the technician said that my laptop could  not recognize the normal cable as its device was broken (?). “Bad luck never comes alone” – this saying was truly right in my case. No cellphone, limited access laptop, I was, as if, in an island!

4. Second day after I arrived Columbus, I decided to explore the bus. I searched the bus route on the internet and found one nearby. Great! I took a short cut to cross  to the main road and saw 3 bus stops, 2 closer ones were at the left side and 1 further one at the right side of the road. I had no idea where these bus stops would lead me to or when the bus would arrive because there was no information available there, except the bus stop sign (!). After over 1.5 hours waiting and running from one to another bus stops, I got into one bus at the furthest bus stop. Fortunately, it was the right one to take me to campus. Phew!

Bus sign

Caution: Grad life not always "pink"

Planned to take bus to the airport to check my lost cellphone, I stood at one bus stop and waited for a bus that never came (!) (Later on, I checked in the bus website and got to know that this bus route operated only on particular scheduled days in a year!).  After 1.5 hours waiting, I gave up and decided to take bus back home.

On the way back, I got off the bus at a supermarket. I remembered that this supermarket was nearby my house so after finishing shopping, I walked back home. However, after 10 mins walking I realized that I got out at the wrong bus stop!  I then wasted another 25 mins to take bus back to the correct place (3 bus stops from there!). I took the short cut to cross the neighbor lands as I did in the morning and LOST again! Finally, a lady used her cellphone GPS to locate my house. Being thirsty and hungry but more over, tired, I arrived at home at 5:30PM, after 10 hours of wandering around. I excused my lateness with my host then went straight to bed, ending a second exhausted day in grad life!

Bus stand

Caution: Grad life not always "pink"

* Lesson 2: You should ask help from someone to guide you on how to take public transportation in Columbus. It is not an easy-to-understand system, even to a local citizen. Before departure, use google maps to get bus directions, bus route and bus schedule (time) so you could reduce your waiting time at the bus stop. When you get onto the bus, try to get the bus route map and mark the places you want to go. Check with the bus driver whenever you get off the bus to make sure you are at the right place. Prepare small cash/coin ($1.75/trip or $4/day) to take the bus for the first few days, before you have a Buckeye ID (which allows students to travel by bus without cash payment) – the bus cashier will not return surplus money (I paid two $2 notes, one $5 note for the bus that day). Pay attention to seasonal schedule as buses shall operate less frequently during summer/break quarter, weekends (1 hour between 2 buses). Some bus routes  don’t even operate during holidays when you are in most need to go out! (story will be shared in next part)

(to be continued)

Ohio – Great land for great talents

My friends said that I was a statistical person as I had a tendency to point out any unique or common factors. I did not really think about this until recently I found myself keep looking for some interesting data about Columbus, Ohio :-). I hope that these information would make us feel more proud about the place we live. Let’s check it out!

Did you know that…


– Ohio IS the birthplace of aviation? On June 12th, 2003, The U.S. House voted to officially recognize Dayton, Ohio – home of Wilbur and Orville Wright – as the place where aviation was born. That’s why the phrase “Birthplace of Aviation” is etched on license plates of every vehicles. Photo note: Oct. 4, 1905: Wilbur Wright flies over Huffman Prairie, near the current Wright-Patterson Air Force Base

– Ohio is the state that has produced the most astronauts? 24 in all, including John Glenn and Neil Armstrong. (Note: Ohio senator John Glenn became the oldest man to venture into outer space.
On February 20, 1962 he was the first American to orbit the earth. In October of 1998 at age 77 he returned to the space program and traveled back into space. Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon. He was from Wapakoneta).

– Ohio invented the automatic traffic signal? Garrett Augustus Morgan (1877-1963), an African-American of Cleverland, Ohio was father of this invention (pattern issued in November 20, 1923). The Morgan traffic signal was a T-shaped pole unit that featured three positions: Stop, Go and an all-directional stop position. This “third position” halted traffic in all directions to allow pedestrians to cross streets more safely. Morgan’s traffic management device was used throughout North America until it was replaced by the red, yellow and green-light traffic signals currently used around the world. Morganr sold the rights to his traffic signal to the General Electric Corporation for $40,000. He also is the inventor of the gas mask, used by firemen in the early 1900s and by soldiers in World War I. Cleveland also boasted America’s first traffic light on August 5th, 1914


Garrett Augustus Morgan (1877-1963) - father of automatic traffic signal

– Ohio gave birth to many of top Fortune companies? Here are 11: Cardinal Health (Dublin), Procter & Gamble (Cincinnati), Kroger (Cincinnati), Macy’s Inc. (Cincinnati), Nationwide Insurance (Columbus), Goodyear Tire & Rubber (Akron), Progressive Insurance (Mayfield Village), American Electric Power (Columbus), Eaton, Inc. (Cleveland), FirstEnergy (Akron), Limited Brands (Columbus)

– Ohio gave birth to The American Federation of Labor? The American Federation of Labor (AF of L) was one of the first federations of labor unions in the United States. It was founded in 1886 by an alliance of craft unions disaffected from the Knights of Labor, a national labor association.

American Federation of Labor

American Federation of Labor

Founded December 8, 1886
Date dissolved December 4, 1955
Merged into AFL-CIO
Country United States
Key people Samuel Gompers
John McBride
William Green
George Meany
Office location New York City; later Washington, D.C.
Thomas_Edison of Milan, Ohio

Thomas_Edison of Milan, Ohio

– Ohio is home of excellent leaders and talents? Seven United States presidents were born in Ohio. They are: Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, William H. Taft, and Warren G. Harding. Some well-known personalities were born in Ohio too, such as Steven Spielberg, Paul Newman, Annie Oakley, Arsenio Hall and Clark Gable. Thomas Alva Edison (February 11, 1847 – October 18, 1931), a world-class inventor-scientist-businessman, who developed many devices that greatly influenced life around the world, including the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and a long-lasting, practical electric light bulb, was born in Milan, Ohio.

In my culture, there is a saying that “Great land produces great people”. This saying is certainly true to Ohio. Hope that Ohio would enrich my personality, foster my ability and make me a greater person than I was! 🙂

Would you join me in Ohio?

Ha Dang

Caution: Grad Life not always “pink” (part 1)

Caution sign

Caution: Grad life not always "pink"

“Pink” in my culture means beautiful, perfect

“Get admitted to Fisher – in top business schools worldwide? Cool! I will record a new country into my travel list 🙂

Application to on-campus housing is rejected? Small issue! Then I look for off-campus housing. Hum, people advise that I should check out the place before signing leasing contract. Ok, let reserve temporary housing service at International Friendships Inc. USA. Brilliant!

Visa interview is close to the orientation schedule? Not a big deal! Then I can have cheaper air ticket fare and spend less for living expense than I would do for early arrival.”

Grad life seemed to be “pink” to me these days, before my departure, especially with all the helpful tips and advice I got from the university website, university staff, and my mentor (who is assigned by Fisher as well). Furthermore, I had experienced traveling to many other countries before so I was confident that my transition to Columbus would be easy.

I was wrong! Terribly wrong! And it caused me a series of troubles that turned my life up-side-down!

1. I got my F1 visa 2 days before my departure. I finished packing my stuff 4 hours before my departure time. As a result, I was so tired that I overslept and woke up just 1.5 hours before my departure time (thanks to my neighbor who knocked my house door until I woke up. My alarm was not able to wake me up though it rang for over 1 hour!). I arrived at the airport just in time for last check-in. But oh no, my suitcases were overweight!

2. My first connecting flight arrived earlier versus schedule but the second connecting flight was late 2 hours. I grabbed my bags and ran to catch the flight to Columbus. I was stopped at custom clearance and security check took longer than normal (probably because I looked pale and panicky). I missed my flight to Columbus – first time in my life! I was about to contact my home-stay host to inform about the delay, but then I realized that I left my cellphone in the airplane. The airline staff called for a search but the people did not find my cellphone (?). Nevertheless, when re-issuing a ticket for me, all printers at the ticket counters were stuck so I had to run to another terminal to get my ticket issued (!). After a long queue, I got into the departing terminal to Columbus and spent the next 1 hour to search for an internet station and phone booth to connect with my home-stay host. She was not at home to receive my phone call (of course!). I landed in Columbus at 9:30PM after a 27 hour trip, physically exhausted and mentally worried about having no one to pick me up and no place to stay over night.

* Lesson 1: Before departure, be well-prepared both mentally and physically. You will not know what issues are waiting for you but if you are well-prepared, you can reduce the risk of issue to minimal, handle coming issues properly and not let them lead you to other issues. In my culture, there is a saying: “Good luck does not come twice. Bad luck does not come alone” so be WELL-PREPARED!

(to be continued)

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