Monday, March 10, 2008

My Cold Call Chronicle

My 3 day adventure of the past week was on its final and finishing leg. Here I was, far away from all things familiar, flying across from Wisconsin to Virginia to interview with my top choice for business school, Darden.

I took off from Milwaukee to Chicago to DC and then finally on to C’ville where a student contact met me at 11pm (bless him!). Along the way I got to talking with a few random strangers, one at each stop and each as interesting as the other. First there was the desi from Chennai at O’Hare, a fellow techie who seemed to have traveled all over the world. On the flight from Chicago to DC there was the healthcare professional from Virginia who worked with GE and we got to talking about books and American history. During the wait at Dulles for the flight to Charlottesville – which was delayed – I got to talking with a Nutrition grad student from NCSU who was on his way to interview at UVA for a PhD.

Onto CHO where the serene town with its trademark red brick buildings made me wish I was already a student at the university. CHO is a typical American university town… not that I have been to any other American university towns. The only other university town that I have ever been to is Oxford (SRM University does not count here!) and so I had little to compare with. However I knew right away that CHO was a charming town that was steeped in liberalism, quite like Madison itself, and multiculturalism where a number of elite, old American families shared breathing space with university students. The Darden School itself was stately and architecturally beautiful, just the way Thomas Jefferson had designed it and the rest of the university; yet its atmosphere was serene and quiet, far removed from the fast paced and dynamic industry it serves to prepare students for.

I arrived at C’ville late on Thursday night, with just enough time to pick up McD for dinner – my third for the day! The Best Western where I stayed was a comfortable and cosy hotel and contrary to its budget hotel image it was really quite generous. I woke up early next morning to mentally prepare myself for my interview. I missed the First Coffee tradition since my student contact had warned me that due to impending exams the following week there would be no First Coffee. I got to Darden at around 10AM and waiting at the admissions lobby for my interviewer to come fetch me. There I got to meet other applicants and man did I feel small!! There was a legal assistant from New York, an equity trader from New York, a product engineer from Atlanta, a healthcare professional and his nurse wife from the RTP… basically really super achiever people. And I was feeling pretty small, I’ll admit! My interviewer came and fetched me and we had our interview for an hour or so. Once that was done, it was time for the special lunch that Darden had hosted for us. Lunch was a formal affair, with all the emblazoned silver finery and a sumptuous buffet lunch. Each table had seven applicants with one Darden professor. Free flowing conversation, nearly invisible maitre d’s, really tasty food and a friendly atmosphere gave me a good idea of what business school in America would be like. Once lunch was through, it was time for a current student to show us around the grounds. She showed us the classrooms, the meeting rooms, the offices of the professors and the cafeteria. Tour over and it was time for me to go back to my hotel. Back at the hotel I relaxed for a little while before I headed out for a walk. I took a really long walk across the university campus to the halls of residence.

I spent my second day at C’ville walking around their very famous pedestrian open air mall. I couldn’t buy much except for a really tasty sandwich lunch at the famous Five Boys sandwich place. I managed to take a few pictures and was back in my hotel by afternoon to relax in bed with the tv on. Dinner was at the Italian place nearby – amazing sandwich, salad, cheesecake, soup, crackers and pink lemonade! I packed it all up to enjoy a tv dinner in the warmth of my room.

Before I realized, my relaxing weekend at charming C’ville had ended. I loved the university feel of the town, with its signature uniform red brick buildings and wide walkways to accommodate the iPod plugged pedestrian or the occasional backpack toting student pedaling away furiously uphill on her cycle to get to her class. Not the kind of place for a shopping trip, but I guess that’s one distraction students can do without!

On my return flight back from CHO to MSN, I met one eccentric UVA researcher – replete with long hair and piercing blue eyes – who was really friendly and very kindly walked me up to my terminal in Dulles. He was also an engineer so we had a lot to talk about. On the flight from Dulles to O’Hare was the med student who couldn’t get his nose out of his neuroscience textbook! At O’Hare was a seemingly endless wait as my flight to Milwaukee kept getting delayed due to weather – I suppose after weeks of snow, O’Hare had issues handling a day of perfect sunshine and warm temperatures! I finally reached home at Madison at around 10 in the night – physically exhausted but mentally rested. I’d need that for the grueling week I had after I returned!

1 comment:

'Smee! said...

You very, very lucky B(eep)


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