Cin Cin To 2013: Looking Back On My Time In Business School

Happy New Year everyone! I hope last year was a time you will look back on fondly, and that you are bursting with excitement and optimism for what 2014 holds.

I must say 2013 was a good year, and not just travel-wise. Not only did I accomplish one of my academic and professional goals of getting my MBA but I also realized my dream of living in another country. And one so culturally rich as Italy at that! When reading back on some old posts, I came across a quote I found last January by IESE professor Pankaj Ghemawat:

“Research shows that living abroad expands your mental horizons and increases your creativity. However, merely traveling abroad doesn’t produce this benefit. Executives report that it takes at least three months to become immersed in a place and appreciate how the culture, politics and history of a region affect business there.”

– Excerpt from “Smarter Managers for a Semi-Globalized India” in The Smart Manager Magazine 

I feel fortunate to have spent the last year and a half in Europe where I learned so much that extended past the classroom. Indeed it was a very challenging year both academically and personally, but it’s those difficulties that build character, broaden mindsets and ultimately humble us. And because SDA Bocconi has such an international class we all gained insight into each other’s cultures as well. One day I was learning how to say “good morning” in Greek and the next how to write my name in Japanese. Then my German classmate was giving me professional advice for any resumes I may send to Berlin (include a photo!), while another classmate and I were noting the cultural differences between Venezuela and India when it comes to introducing a date to your family. Together we learned from each other while still being able to laugh at our own stereotypes. As Ghemawat said, it is this kind of invaluable learning that facilitates cross-cultural understanding, promotes international business, and makes us more open-minded and well-rounded individuals.

Thanks to my classmates and the school for making this past year at Bocconi so memorable!

     

      

      

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Chasing The Sun: Heading South To Taormina

Around Thanksgiving my family joined me in Milan to do some Euro travel before my graduation in mid December. While they did their own thing for the most part, including a fun river cruise from Nuremberg down to Budapest, we all came together for a few relaxing days in Sicily right before my ceremony. Why Sicily? Well we pretty much wanted to go as far south as possible to escape the cold.

Taormina in December is fabulous. You get the sun and the views but without the massive crowds. Taormina has a port so in the summer the main streets are flooded by cruise ship tourists.  But being one of the few people walking around in mid-December, we felt like one of the locals. Since many of the restaurants were closed for the season, we stocked up on meats, cheeses and wine at the local grocery store to eat on our deck. During the day we strolled through Corso Umberto, Taormina’s adorable main shopping street, where I was very happy to see the fantastic sales due to off season. And for dinner we were told about a great nearby local restaurant with authentic Sicilian food and delicious wine. We offset all the cannolis we ate with a hike through the town’s gorgeous Greek amphitheater, and enjoyed the views of Mount Etna erupting, which you can see all over town. Three days wasn’t enough and I was very, very sad to leave, but of course that’s when you really know it was a good trip. ::sigh::

What to see:

Corso Umberto for great shopping and Piazza IX Aprile for spectacular views

Parco Comunale, a park/botanical gardens that was once home to an English noblewoman in the 19th century and was given over to the town in 1922

The Greco Teatro for a time travel

And of course, take in the views and enjoy the pastries!

Where to eat: Vineria Modi, a delicious restaurant with great wine and authentic Sicilian food. This one was referred to us by the owner and it did not disappoint.

Where to stay: We stayed at Hotel Villa Carlotta, but since the main hotel is closed in the off-season we stayed in their villa. We lucked out because the villa had just become available and we were given our choice between that and the original apartment we had booked. The villa is a new addition to the hotel and it used to be the owner’s house. While the  apartment was fantastic, one look at the deck on the villa and we were instantly hooked. Not to mention, the service was exceptional, the owner was so warm and hospitable, AND we were given a bag of Sicilian pastries when we arrived. Sold.

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24 Hours in Vienna

Growing up in California has made me rather accustomed to warm-weathered winters. A palm tree Christmas where I wear my Rainbows and a hoodie to help my dad put up lights outside is the norm. Moving to New York made me appreciate actual seasons much more as December is definitely one of the best times to be in the city with all the lights and cute christmas markets. However, I was blissfully ignorant about just how magical the holiday season can be before I stepped foot into Vienna in December. And now, I fear that Christmas back in SoCal has been ruined for me.

I wasn’t supposed to go to Vienna. I have been wanting to explore Budapest ever since I backpacked through Europe and decided to skip it in exchange for Kraków (which, by the way, is quite the charmer itself.) So when my New Yorker-turned-Berliner friend Robert and I decided to finally meet up in Budapest for a long weekend, I eagerly opened up a map to see what nearby places I could also visit. Vienna wasn’t exactly on my list of places to go, but considering I’d never been to Austria I figured I’d handle it with a quick overnight trip. I mean, no one talks about Vienna like they do about Paris or anything. I won’t need more than a day in Vienna right?

WRONG.

From the moment I stepped off the u-bahn onto Kärtner Strasse and came face to face with the State Opera House I was in awe. THIS is Vienna? How come no one told me how beautiful it is here? And how does this city keep its streets so pristine? I guess I’m not in Milan anymore (love you, Milano!) I quickly dropped off my stuff at my hotel and took a stroll down the Ringstrasse, Vienna’s Ring Road, which is lined with some of the city’s most impressive landmarks. Ringstrasse was created by order of Emperor Franz Josef in the 19th century because he wanted to create the most majestic street in the world. Well sir, Bravo. I don’t know if I’ve ever walked down a street and been that amazed by the magnificence of every building. Some of them were fitting – of course Hofburg Palace where the President resides should be grandiose. But how come the Natural History and Fine Art Museums look like palaces too? At one point I even realized that my jaw was actually hanging open.  Tourist fail. I am soo not blending in like a local. And then I arrive at the Rathauspark Christkindlmarkt, a Christmas market set in front of City Hall which is so festive that it is sure to warm even the grinchiest of hearts. As for me, a bonafide Christmas chump, I was in heaven walking around with my mug of gluhwein taking in all the wonderful sights and smells. And once again I have to ask, How come no one told me about Vienna before?? Well, I am telling you now that if you happen to find yourself in Europe in December (or even in the summer) then a weekend in Vienna is a must.

For those of you that will be visiting Vienna, here is a cheat sheet of some places to check out. Unfortunately its not an exhaustive list because, as I found out the hard way, 24 hours in Vienna is just not enough!

Ringstrasse

As mentioned earlier, Vienna has a ringed boulevard (4 km long!) in the 1st district which will lead you to many of the city’s main buildings. I started at the State Opera House and made my way clockwise on foot, but there’s also a Ring-Tram you can take which will get you around in a half hour.

Hofburg (Imperial Palace)

Located right in the heart of the city, the Imperial Palace is a great spot to visit not just for the architecture, but to also stroll around the adjacent Heroes’ Square, Heldenplatz, and through the park.

Kunsthistorisches Museum and Natural History Museum; MuseumsQuartier  

Since I only had one day, I didn’t have a chance to visit any of the museums, but it is a must for the next visit. Museums that seem to be popular are the Albertina, Natural History Museum, Leopold Museum and  the Fine Art Museum.

Parliament

Beautiful building built in the Greek-Roman style with an impressive fountain in the front which includes a statue of Athena.

Rathaus/Rathauspark

This was my favorite place to visit during my trip – when I first saw it I was instantly taken back to Disneyland giddiness. Not only is Vienna’s City Hall building beautiful, but at night amidst the bustling Christmas Market the whole building lights up and calls you from afar. The park is decorated very festively with lanterns in the trees and even with a cute penguin (fake) ice skating rink for the kids. This is a must see when you’re in town.

Schönbrunn Palace

Where the imperial family used to live – the palace is a bit of a trek outside the city center but its beautiful and has a park and even a zoo! Not to mention its also home to a Christmas Market in December.


St. Stephen’s Cathedral

While every European city seems to have a rather impressive cathedral, I thought Vienna’s cathedral was particularly beautiful and unique because of its multi-colored tile roof.

Ankeruhr – Hoher Markt Clock

This beautiful clock, located in what is said to be Vienna’s oldest square, has twelve historical figures that move on each hour. Make sure to go at noon to see them come to life in a parade (I went around 10am or so and lets just say I was less than enthused when the time came and one figure moved all of 5 inches. Should have done my research.)

Espresso Break: Hotel Sacher

Take a coffee break at Hotel Sacher for the infamous Sacher chocolate cake only made in Vienna and Salsbury (regardless of the criticisms, you have to try it!)

Where to stay: I stayed at Opera Suites, a small but cozy hotel on Kärtner Strasse diagonal from the Opera House. While my room had no view and was small, the location was perfect for a Vienna newbie like me, was very clean and came with free wifi. If I was staying for several days I would probably look for something a little nicer with a view, but as I was out by 9am it was more than fine.

Already looking forward to the next visit!

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Walk Like A Venetian

Venice. One of the most talked about places in Italy, yet for some reason I hadn’t made my way over before. But as soon as I took my first vaporetto ride (Venice’s ferry metro you could say) I understood just why this city is on so many people’s bucket lists. It really is such a beautiful and unique place.

Venice is a lot bigger than you may think –  you can spend hours getting lost in all of its small alleys. It’s also one of those places that becomes a ghost town in the evenings, which may also be why its such a romantic hotspot. As you will see in one of the below photos, there is noticeable flooding around town which makes you wonder just how long Venice will be around for. It’s ironic that the tourism industry is the biggest source of income for the town, yet the constant flow of cruise ships coming through only contributes to the erosion of its infrastructure. This was protested so much that a ban was passed just this month that will put a size limit on the cruise ships that come through starting next year. In any case, I’d suggest making it over there one way or another next time you’re in that part of the world.

Fun fact: Hemingway was a regular at Harry’s Bar, a spot founded by Giuseppe Cipriani back in 1931. The bellini that is so well loved (by yours truly especially!) is said to have been created there, and I made sure to enjoy it when I popped in. Remember the bldg in Paris I recently dined at that Hemingway used to live in for a few years too? Maybe a trip to visit all his old haunts would be a fun tour.



 

 

Where to stay: We stayed at Al Ponte Mocenigo, which is about a 15 minute walk from Rialto and removed from the craziness of all the tourists. This is definitely my favorite hotel I’ve stayed at in all of Italy (and all of Europe this past year) – not only is it affordable and the customer service is fantastic, but the rooms are super charming with wood beam ceilings, murano glass chandeliers and Victorian style decor.

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Midnights In Paris, And An Afternoon In Champagne

Part I: Escapades in Paris

I’ve been to Paris only a few times in my life, but its one of those cities that gets better with every visit. This past weekend a few b-school friends and I hopped on a quick easyJet flight, narrowly avoiding yet another Italian transportation strike which had downed many flights for the day, and we were in the beautiful City of Light in time for dinner and drinks.

This Paris trip was particularly great as the 6 of us had all been to Paris before: we spent just as much time exploring the city as we did enjoying the french cuisine (and wine of course.) While we were there for only three nights, I hope a longer stint in Paris will be in my near future. Next on the list: learning French!

Where To Eat in Paris:

Le Petit Marché – A modern French restaurant with a touch of Asian fusion in the Marais District. Try the sesame tuna and the veal.

La Maison de Verlaine – Very intimate and delicious restaurant at the top of Rue Descartes in the Latin Quarter. Fun fact: Hemingway lived in this building for five years in 1921.

L’As du Fallafel – A busy spot in the Marais district but worth the wait. Get the falafel with everything on it.

Pierre Hermé – A very biased choice here as its my favorite macaron place in town!

 

Part II: Bubbles in Champagne Country

One of the best parts of the weekend was a quick day trip Jen and I took to Epernay to visit the Moët & Chandon house. As most of you know, this past summer I had an amazing internship with Moët Hennessy USA in New York, and part of my work in the trade marketing department involved creating tools to increase our portfolio’s champagne sales. Epernay is tiny, but the reason to go there is for L’Avenue de Champagne, the long street of champagne houses that extends through the area (and much much farther than we walked.) Some say that it is even the most expensive street in the world due to the many bottles they have stored there. There are other champagne houses in Reims, such as Veuve Clicquot, Piper-Heisieck and Tattinger, but we were able to secure some last minute spots at the M&C house here in Epernay. The tour itself had room for improvement as it felt far too rushed and our guide was not very clear, but the highlight was walking through part of M&C’s 28 kilometers of cellars. Yes, thats over 17 miles of cellars, and I suppose part of the reason the tour guide was afraid of losing me since I was always lagging behind trying to take photos. The visit naturally ends with a tasting, and Jen and I opted for the “Grand Vintage” tasting which consisted of 2 glasses of White and Rosé 2004 and was absolutely delicious. We made the trip out to champagne country – we had to do it right!

 
 


 

Bisous! Until next time…

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Five Cheers for Cinque Terre

Now that summer is officially over ::nooo:: and the dreary weather returns to Milan, its about that time for me to look back and start daydreaming about happier spring days — can you tell I’m a Californian? So after far too much delay, lets revisit one of my personal favorite places in Italy, the fabulous Cinque Terre…

As many of you know, Cinque Terre is made up on five small towns along the Italian Riviera. I’ve been wanting to check it out for a few years now, and the right opportunity came when Dory and Marissa told me they were visiting. They arrived on a redeye flight and by early afternoon we were already on the 3 hour train ride to Monterosso, arguably the best of the five towns to stay at. Like most of my recent girls’ getaways, we nixed the standard hotel room scene in favor of an apartment rental we found through HomeAway. The place was cute, about a 10 minute walk from the water, and while it culminated with a 100+ stairmaster workout to get to our rooms, it had a beautiful view and was affordable for my grad school budget.

Cinque Terre couldn’t be easier to get around in. Not only are the five towns within hiking distance of each other for the more athletic/adventurous, but its also connected by trains which run quite frequently. We already had our game plan ready: hike through each town, rewarding ourselves at each new place with a meal, a drink, or a gelato. Perfect, right? Until we got to the first trail and were told that the hiking trails were closed due to the storms and chance of mudslides. Hmm, this is going to make that gelato much harder to justify. Grudgingly, we ended up taking trains to each stop instead of hiking, but in Vernazza we found that the trail was only partially blocked off and were able to wander over to some killer viewpoints anyway. Some of my b-school buddies were also in CT for the weekend so together we explored the other towns, only skipping Corniglia because we were racing the sun and Corniglia has many, many stairs to go down before reaching the water. Although I regret not making it to all 5 towns, I’d say we did pretty damn good for just one day.

Monterosso

Vernazza

Manarola

Riomaggiore

For our second day of exploring we headed over to Portovenere, one of the other gems on the Ligurian coast  just a short bus ride from La Spezia. Portovenere is a beautiful quaint town with a castle overlooking the sea and many restaurants and shops that line its narrow alleyways. Tip: if you do make it over for a day trip, in addition to having the seafood (no brainer) also make sure to take some pesto home with you – one of the things the area is best known for. Overall, the weekend was incredible — sometimes I can’t believe how lucky I am to be just a short train ride away from paradise. Oh Italy, no wonder you’re such a charmer.

Portovenere




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Sleepless in Slovenia

This marks my 200th post since I first started this blog. Can’t believe how much I have learned and experienced all because I made some bold changes to go after what I really want. I’ve also been really inspired watching some friends and family go against the grain in order to pursue their passions. It just goes to show that we all have that drive and ability in us to change things up if we want to, we just have to take the first steps. 

 

“Your life always has a Plan B.” – Robert

I met Robert almost one year ago when I was working at Projective Space. He and his friends had a start up and were working out of the space, and we instantly bonded over our love of football (and really, how could you miss a group of tall Slovenes anyway?) When I told him I was heading to Milano for the year, he mentioned how I had to visit Slovenia and how he would show me around next time he goes home. Of course I said yes, but who knew if it would actually happen.

Fast forward to March and I found myself on a train making the trek across Italy to Trieste, the Italian coastal town near the Slovenian border. Robert had invited me over not once but twice when he was home for winter to join him and his friends skiing but ironically both times I was studying for finals. So when he sprung a last minute invitation to join him in Izola, a beach town just a half hour from Trieste, I knew I couldn’t turn it down. And I was extremely excited because I’d be visiting Slovenia for the first time, and nothing beats that high you get when you step into a new country.

Izola

Izola is a sleepy beach town, which if you know me you know is one of my favorite types of vacation spots, so I was all smiles as we arrived into town and checked out the gorgeous view from my friend’s apartment. Mental note: definitely live by the water once you settle down.I have been curious about Slovenia ever since my friend Shawn told me about what an unknown gem it is. Slovenia is a small country, tiny really in comparison to some of its neighbors, but it packs a lot of punch. As we were driving to Ljubljana, the capital (and they really do refer to it as The Capital, almost in an eerie Hunger Games style), I was marveling at how many different types of places this country has to offer: the beach, the countryside, the mountains to go skiing… what the, did we just drive by a shepherd herding his sheep? I love this place! I was given the option to either check out Bled, a town with a lake that’s quite popular among the tourists, or Ljubljana to visit the city center and the main castle. Bled looked beautiful but we in Milan are spoiled by having Como only a short distance away so I opted for the capital. And I must say I am a big fan of the city! Its smaller in size than Milano, and with a river running through it its filled with many cute bridges. The city’s castle is quite nice as well since the city put a lot of money into renovations – you can see an interesting mix of old and new when you visit. The castle’s viewing tower offers a fantastic view, and it’s said that on a clear day you can see up to a third of the entire country.

Aside from visiting the castle we made it a point to have some traditional Slovenian food, starting off with some Slovenian schnapps to keep us warm while we were walking around. We went to one of my friend’s favorite restaurants, Güjžina, which serves food from the Prekmurje region (in northeast Slovenia) – two hours later I was in major food coma from all the deliciousness. The typical drink which many locals prefer is the “prekmurski spricar” which is a spritzer of white wine mixed with mineral water, and the most pleasantly surprising find of the day was trying pumpkin seed oil, the country’s equivalent to olive oil. Ljubljana has a lot of character with it’s artistic expression, for example all around the main streets of the city you can see tons of shoes hanging from wires, and there were also interesting floating orange Monopoly-esque houses that we couldn’t exactly explain. Personally though, what I liked the most was the emphasis on dragons: the dragon is the symbol of the city and is on its coat of arms, and it symbolizes strength and courage. Robert even said the local football teams fans wear green to dress up as dragons at games. Love!

Our main feature: Bujta repa (cabbage with meat), dodoljev tris (potato dish), and ravenska (buckwheat salad)

In addition to checking out Ljubljana, we also visited Izola’s neighboring town Piran which is the oldest Slovenian coastal town. It’s charm, aside from being along the water, has to be its narrow winding streets that lead through the town. Piran is such a picturesque town, and its no wonder that its the country’s main tourist destination. Slovenia in general is a very warm, friendly country. It’s so safe that many people don’t even worry about locking their doors or cars. Robert mentioned that many people here are too shy to speak English, and we actually noticed several times as people started to approach us, overheard our conversation got nervous and walked away! I found it adorable actually, and have to say I can relate after living in Milan these past 6 months and watching some of my guy friends unsuccessfully try to flirt with Italian girls. Overall I’d have to agree with my friend Shawn – Slovenia really is a gem, and I’m glad to have seen it through the eyes of a local.

I’m always amazed at where life can lead us. A year ago I wouldn’t have imagined that I’d be in Slovenia sharing a glass of wine and good conversation with a friend I made in NYC. And two summers ago as I was visiting my friend in Milan during my month of backpacking, I only wished I could live in Italy and couldn’t foresee that I’d be making it a reality this year. As I was sharing the past year’s highs and lows and my concerns for my future career path, Robert reminded me that years ago we were worried about different things in our lives that have managed to work themselves out today. I’ve had major disappointments and setbacks in the last few years in both my professional and personal life, and yet I could not imagine that those would lead to this moment here today, spending a year learning so much about business, other cultures, Europe and about myself. So when I think about it that way, that our lives will always have a plan B and that it’ll still work out magnificently, it relieves some of the tension and anxiety that I have been putting on myself. This doesn’t mean that I’m going to stop trying for the things I really want; on the contrary I will continue to kick like hell to go after it. But perhaps what is right for me is something that is so big that I can’t even wrap my head around it yet but will be patiently waiting for me when the right time comes. And that is pretty damn exciting.

Thanks to Robert for being not only a fantastic host, but also such a great and inspirational friend!

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Z is for Zurich

Anyone who’s a fan of the British clay animation series Wallace & Gromit knows that they’re just nuts about cheese. I used to love that show when I was younger, so its not much of a stretch that as I was walking through the streets of Zurich, enjoying the sweet smells wafting through the air, all that kept popping into my head was Wallace exclaiming “The cheeeese, Gromit!!” And some cheese it is!

Even if you haven’t been to Switzerland, you are probably still familiar with their love for cheese. As we just had another set of finals (4th set in 6 months!), it was time for our obligatory celebration weekend getaway and so a few of us hopped on the train to Zurich. I was also fortunate enough to be reunited with a close college friend who was in Europe on business, so celebrations were most definitely in order. And for our first official order of business: fondue, of course!

As they set the giant pot of cheese in front of us, I had my doubts about whether or not we could finish it. The typical Swiss fondue is pure cheese, even though it is possible to get other things in it. We opted to try the classic style (when in Zurich!) which is a mix of cheeses and it generally only comes with bread to dip.  Fondue is seen as the main course, not the appetizer. I’m quite proud of us for handling it like champs though, it was delish albeit ridiculously filling. Other than the fondue, the fan favorite of the night was the gruyere mac and cheese topped with fried onions and with a side of apple sauce. Perfection! Also to note – chocolate fondue is definitely not a common thing there, unless you include tourist restaurants which may serve it.

All cheesiness aside, Zurich is really a lovely town. Coming from Milano where, even though its awesome the streets are pretty dirty, it was a real treat to be able to walk through Zurich’s pristine streets and quaint cobblestone streets. No graffiti, no dog poop, no trash – amazing! Zurich is pretty small (we even ran into people that we met on Sat night the following day), you can walk everywhere, and their tram system is very efficient as well. Don’t worry about trying to stay in Old Town either if you can’t swing it – it’s generally pretty pricey. We opted for an Airbnb choice located close to the artsy nightlife area of Langstrasse. We were only a few stops from the main train station and with the tram stop right outside the door we were well connected to check out the old town area, walk along the river, go do some shopping, etc. That being said, I would avoid the business areas as well because things shut down pretty early and it’d be pretty dull. The downside of Zurich is of course the ridiculous prices – I don’t even want to admit how much I paid for my Starbucks! But the people we met were very cool, the town (and its architecture) is awesome and the atmosphere is very easygoing. All in all, it was a perfect spot to unwind for a few days.

Oh, and don’t forget the Swiss have a different currency so prepare for that if you visit (you know foreign currency is my favorite!)

Fun fact: Zurich has clean drinking water since it gets its water from the nearby mountains, and throughout the city you can find fountains where you can fill up your water bottle. Very cool!

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Restorations

Sometimes its nice to feel like a tourist again. Especially when you’ve only lived in a city for 6 months and have hardly had any time to play tourist yet. This week the school set up a tour of The Last Supper for us. We were led through a church and a convent, and got the coveted 15 minutes alone with the painting. Well, almost alone if you don’t count the short but surprisingly feisty woman working there who almost took one of my classmates heads off for mistaking that she took a picture (she didn’t, but in all fairness someone else in our group snapped one and she mixed up the blondes – it happens!) It was very cool to see a mural from the 15th century, and its a shame that it hasn’t lasted very well over the years due to da Vinci’s method of painting directly on the wall using dry plaster, the fact that the convent is built over a river and the water soaked up through the wall, and that many restorations that were done centuries ago weren’t 100% accurate. Our guide said that even with all the restoration efforts made recently they were able to save only about 40% of the original painting (not to mention the fact that Christ’s feet were removed to make way for a door to the reflectory!) The most fascinating thing about the painting is the composition and how all the lines bring your focus back to Christ’s head. Our guide first started by telling us all about the painting while we were up close, but it was only after he had us move to the back of the room and see the painting from far away was this really evident and awe-inspiring.

Speaking of our guide, he was awesome! He is from Touring Club, and was so knowledgable and friendly. I couldn’t help but notice how content he seemed with his job as he gave us facts about da Vinci and his painting in a hushed, reverent tone with a slight grin on his face. I have to admit, watching him made me a bit envious that his job is to to talk about something he’s so passionate about throughout the city. Right now is prime internship hunting season for MBA’s, and it forces us to really look at where we want to take our careers and what company will be right for us. While everyone has different motivations depending on where they are in their lives, my number one priority is finding something that makes me happy. And from watching our guide and secretly wishing I was an art history pro so I could lead tours and wow people with the secrets of 15th century artists all day long, it reminded me that the end goal in finding job (and ultimately personal) satisfaction is being proud of what you do each day and who you affect. And if I can spend all day talking people’s ears off then even better!

When it comes down it, this year is a type of restoration period for all of us in the program. So as I hit the books in anticipation for next week’s finals, I need to remind myself why I’m putting in all of these hours of grueling classes, projects and exams, and trust that the hard work will all pay off. Back up plan just may have to be PT art history classes.

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The Soapbox Chronicles: Why The World Needs Football

So the latest news is that Balotelli’s coming over to AC Milan and the Milan fans of the city are stoked. He is such a beast of the field. It’s fun to have a new player to talk about and get more people excited about football and going to games, and it’s coming at a pretty convenient time too…

I grew up in Cali playing soccer. Wait, rewind, I tried out tennis, basketball, the clarinet, the piano and soccer, but soccer was the only thing I truly loved. When I spent a term on an exchange program in Spain, I was thrilled to be a part of a culture that embraced The Beautiful Game, whereas back home soccer was not nearly as popular. My friends and I would get frustrated everytime a big match would be on but our favorite bars weren’t playing it, and I would constantly gripe that we should have been born in Europe or South America. But we eventually did find our football bars in NYC (where all the expats were hiding), and a few friends and I even joined a co-ed team on Friday nights. Of course, a part of me was still pretty jealous about all the football love going on in the rest of the world.

So naturally you can guess just how excited I was when I found out I would be living in Milan for a year while getting my MBA. Finally, I’d be among people just like me! I was so happy imagining going to games, reading updates about players in the newspapers, playing matches with my classmates….

Wait, what? Did I hear that right? Girls don’t play football in Italy? Back up.

Instantly my dreams were crushed. How come in a country where football is religion half the population doesn’t take part in the sport? I know that girls get into rooting for their favorite team and go to watch the games, but I’m surprised that there isn’t more active participation for women. Well, that needed to change.

As some of you may know, a few of us students decided to start up the school’s Football Club this year. Aside from weekly games, we also made it a point to have the first co-ed football tournament last term. It was so great to get back out on the pitch again. We had five on five games going, and I was reminded about what I love so much about the sport. No matter what current issues we had with any classmates, when it came to game time we HAD to work together. Crossing, calling for the ball, (willingly) passing, scoring, celebrating… all of the stress and frustrations that existed back in the classroom melted away. Business school is such a group-focused program, and even though during this time the goal (yay for puns!) is to learn to work better with people that have different styles and backgrounds, it doesn’t always happen as effortlessly as we’d like. But on the field, when it’s either work together or get beat down by the other team, I was pleasantly surprised at just how well the teams all united. And what was even more fun is that it was such a great opportunity to get to know my colleagues better, especially the ones that I am not currently taking classes with. High-fiving, commending each other on that great assist, yelling at each other to make a mad dash for the goal (in the most positive, supportive way of course!) – all of this sure beats catching up over drinks at aperitivo. It would be wrong for the girls to not be able to enjoy this, too!

So even though I wasn’t as thrilled back home with the lackluster appreciation for the sport, now that I look back on it I wouldn’t trade anything for all the practices, games, tournaments, and orange slices I’ve had growing up. It’s ironic that it took coming to Europe to realize how fortunate I am that football’s such a welcomed sport for girls in North America… now let’s see what we can do with Italy! More on the formation of the SDA Bocconi girl’s football team to follow!

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