Thursday, May 30, 2013

That time I decided to go to grad school: GMAT edition

I decided relatively last minute that I was going to apply to business school for Fall 2014. It's something I had thought about for a while, especially as I watched some of my close friends apply to full and part-time MBA programs and start school. I definitely had second-hand excitement about the experiences they were having both in and out of the classroom, and knew I wanted to have similar experiences of my own.

I talked to 1 or 2 friends to get their thoughts...they were beyond supportive, which led me to believe that perhaps I could in fact do this. It was relatively simple for me to choose the program I wanted to apply to, although I later added complications to this (but we'll get there). One of my biggest criteria was the coursework. When I graduated from Georgia Tech I knew I didn’t want to work in an overly quantitative field and the undergrad Management program had limited HR/Organizational Behavior classes, which ultimatley limited my career opportunities. I wanted to make sure the MBA program I applied for offered classes that were going to help me advance on my current career path. The short answer to a long question was yes.

The next steps happened kind of quickly. First I found myself perusing the Goizueta website on a Sunday afternoon. Then all the sudden I was filling out the application. Then I created a GMAT study plan, mainly because I was SO DAMN OVERWHELMED by everything I had to do and it was a great way to avoid actually studying for anything. The application process included filling out personal details in a traditional application, essays, recommendations, a resume, GMAT results and an interview.


The actual application was simply filling in the blanks. The essays were under way quickly. After freaking out for a minute, I found 2 fantastic recommenders (both from work). I updated my resume and had someone give it a once-over, and I scheduled my interview.  The only thing really holding me up was the GMAT. I bought a study guide a long time ago, but hadn't bothered opening it or taking the test.

I knew that would be my biggest hurdle.

My original plan of attack was to create a schedule that I could follow up until test day. I took the test on the last possible day before the application was due and in hindsight, I really should have taken it sooner, just in case.


So there it is – the study schedule I created one fateful Tuesday night. I followed this schedule loosely until the first day of GMAT class. The best piece of advice the instructor gave us in terms of how to study was this:

Commit to a certain number of problems per day, not a set amount of time.

If you commit to 2 hours, you'll get significantly less done than if you commit to finishing 30 Problem-Solving problems. Doing a set number of problems also offers the ability to really get a feel for how long each problem is taking you, and you can time yourself. This eventually becomes critical and the biggest obstacle to overcome with the test. Timing is everything!

Emory offered a free GMAT class 2 Saturday/Sunday’s in a row (more details on how to join these sessions here), so I took advantage of that in advance of the test. The vendor was MathSP and I thought the sessions were phenomenal. I'd highly recommend the MathSP program even if you are paying for them on your own!

I also sent my original study schedule to a friend who just taken the GMAT and applied to business school as well, and his comments were these (which I found pretty helpful):
  • Are you OK to take the GMAT after the app is due? Just make sure (I was not)
  • I wouldn't take both weekend days off. I get that you have showers on Saturdays, but then put in some time Sunday maybe?
  • I would take a lot more practice exams. Reading books is great and all, but real-world practice is crucial. I would try to take a total of 4 practice exams before you take the real test. Related to previous point, these are much better to do on weekends as they take a ton of time (~3.5 hours?).
  • Think about getting in one practice exam ASAP to help gauge where you are – is that the diagnostic test you have?
To answer his questions: Yes, I was okay to take the GMAT after the app is due, but only because I was registering for the GMAT prep class offered through Emory. No, I wasn’t planning to take both weekend days off (blanks just meant I didn’t know what I was doing yet). I ended up taking 5 or 6 practice tests using free software from (it's legit, promise!) And I added one to the first weekend rather than a couple weeks in so I could see where I needed to focus my studying. Turns out, I had verbal in the bag so spent 95% of my studying efforts on the quant section.

So, the important question is how did it go?

I set a minimum test score goal at the beginning of the GMAT class, and told myself that if I got that score or higher, I'd submit that to Emory and if not, I'd study more and re-take the test. After nearly 6 weeks of studying 10-15 hours/week, I took the test on a Tuesday morning (perfect choice!) and ended up scoring 10 points higher than my goal! High five, pat on the back, and GOODBYE STUDYING! I cried when I got to my car, I was so glad to be done and so proud of myself for what I had just accomplished!

Coming up --
  • That time I decided to go to grad school: Essays edition
  • That time I decided to go to grad school: How do I choose? edition
  • That time I decided to go to grad school: Why?
This has been such a long process, and it's been killing me to not write about it! I had a hard time finding genuine, real experience posts about the grad school application process, so even though it's different for everyone, hopefully this answers some questions or addresses concerns someone out there in internet-land has. Feel free to send me an email with questions, too! I'm certainly no expert, but having done it recently, I've at least got some perspective!


Monday, May 27, 2013

On blogging...

One of the challenges with blogging is figuring out how to represent yourself. I know people that I know in real life read (hi, friends!) but I write as if I'm writing to a bunch of strangers. Partly because I don't have enough of a life to justify blogging about it in order to "keep everyone up to date" and partly because it's easier to write as if you were anonymous and your audience was anonymous. That whole things-are-easier-from-behind-a-screen, 21st century complex.

I've been thinking a little bit more big picture about this blog and why I write. I do it because it makes me feel good, I do it because I like connecting with new people, and I do it because I know I'm not the only one experiencing life this way, so we might as well share what we know.

But suddenly I'm feeling like I need more "fluff." I've posted some really personal things about my relationships, my friends, my family, and myself. I'm okay with that but what if you real, but kind of imaginary people, aren't? Do you want to read about how my heart breaks over a single text message, or about the mold in my shower and the bugs I kill in my apartment? Do you want to know about my grad school application process, or are my "current obsessions" plenty?

I'm trying really hard to keep it a mix of both, but honestly, it's easier for me to write about the serious stuff. I can talk fluff with anyone, but the serious stuff, I like to write. Duh.

There wasn't a huge point to all of this, other than to tell you that I'm trying to keep things light with a touch of serious and excessive oversharing of my life details, because that's what I do best.


Thursday, May 23, 2013

What do you do when you're mad

What does it mean to fight fair?
We all get in fights. We get in fights with our moms, our bosses, our best friends, our siblings. Some people are perpetual winners of fights, and others are perpetual losers. Or that's how it seems to me, because I'm a perpetual winner. But am I really a winner, or do the people I fight against just give up because I am relentless and so they just get tired of the fight? It's such a terrible habit, and one I'm trying desperately to break. So many things just aren't worth it!
But sometimes, it is worth it. When I can think rationally enough, I try to give myself space. I'm allowed to be mad, but I'm not allowed to fly off the handle. Then, I write. Remember when I had a non-relationship breakup? I wrote all the time, and I really think it's how I got through that time. So now it's my go-to response to a fight. I write. I write mean, angry, rude, terrible emails or notes in my iPhone. I write until my anger has quieted and I'm left with the actual problem. Then I decide if it's actually worth the fight. 9 times out of 10, it's not. I feel infinitely better because I've "vented" but nothing has suffered as a result.
How do you handle a fight with someone you love?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

"Training" Update #1

I've officially started 'training' for these triathlons I'm registered for. My goal is to log time on the bike, in the pool, and on the treadmill (or outside) each week, although pool has to wait until I find a pool to join! My new favorite way to work out is to combine Couch to 5k and these cross training ideas.

1. I did this one after just a straight Couch to 5k sesh. After the arm workout, I rode the bike for about 15 minutes.
2. O.M.G. I loved this treadmill workout. When I do this workout again, I'll repeat both parts.
 3. This was hard. Real hard. I did another day of Couch to 5k and then finished off the workout with the 4-3-2-1 and let's just say I'd be surprised if I was able to do 1/2 of the expected work. But man, did it feel good!
I've been mixing up morning versus afternoon, cardio first versus other stuff first, just to figure out my preferred, and it's been interesting. I've realized that I love working out in the morning, but I get so hot and it takes me forever to cool down. I also am learning that just running or walking isn't enough and doesn't leave me feeling like I got in a good workout. That's why I'm trying to add in these other elements - does that count as cross-training? I also know tennis is starting back up (I'm on 2 teams this summer, yippee!) so that will give me a pretty good mix of exercise. I just love tennis!
Anyway, this is where I am for now. I'll try to update regularly on my workouts and how training for the races is going. Everyone I've spoken to has been really supportive and excited, I'm a lucky lady!
PS - images above were random google finds or pins on Pinterest. I don't have original sources, but they most assuredly aren't mine :)

Monday, May 20, 2013

Saturday Night

I went to a dinner party on Saturday night, and it just reminded me how wonderful it feels to be surrounded by good people.

We celebrated birthdays, weddings, love, new beginnings and happy endings.

We cheers'ed, high-fived, snuggled, drank, sang, and danced.
It was actually quite a perfect Saturday night, and the best reminder about what matters most.
Even if that includes an over-sized Louis Vuitton duffel and a fox fur.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

What to get the Bride

Giving and receiving gifts is such a fun treat. Especially the giving part. So many of my friends have gotten or are getting married, and while it is certainly easy to just purchase off a registry, I also think it's fun to get them something, be it at a shower or for the actual wedding, that is a surprise, and something you picked out because it's perfect just for them.

I might buy these jewelry trays for a special girlfriend (via Effortless Style, one of my favorite design blogs)

I know monograms are pretty predictable for the new Mrs, but how fun are these? I love the bold colors!

Everyone needs a pair of sexy, comfy jammies! Maybe a fun gift for a lingerie shower if you aren't feeling the skimpy stuff.

A delicious new perfume could also be a stellar, non-traditional gift.

A little outside the box, but who doesn't love ice cream? Grapefruit, Riesling Poached Pear? Yum. I'd choose a number of pints that is meaningful -- 3 for the number of years dating? 5, correlating to number of months until the big day? You could even include a sweet note to be opened with the new pint.

What have you purchased for beautiful bride-to-be's?


Monday, May 13, 2013

The Scotland Portion of #kanda2013

The second leg of our trip consisted of renting a car, driving through Manchester and up to Edinburgh, spending a day there, and continuing north to the Scottish North Highlands and Inverness to see Loch Ness before returning to Edinburgh, and then back to London through the Lake District.

Basically, this means we spent a crap-ton of time in our beloved rental Volvo looking at sheep and gorgeous landscapes.

We named her Bridget, and she was seriously awesome. My car is 10+ years old so driving a brand new car was a dream!

Landscapes and sheep on the way to Edinburgh. Lots and lots of sheep, but given the time of year, there were lots of adorable lambs hopping around. Seeing them actually didn't get old.

Another beautiful day in Edinburgh -- visiting the castle first things first. It was quite windy though, and it rained for about 10 minutes every hour. Otherwise, perfect! 
A view of the castle.

Looking up. Can you believe this castle was never overtaken? It was torn down and re-built, but never taken over.

We also did a whisky tasting. Guess what? We hate whisky. I would have loved to do a distillery tour through the Highlands but unfortunately we ran out of time and had little to no reason to do it given that we didn't even like the whisky we tried...

A room full of whisky -- the most expensive collection in the world!

These landscapes were nuts -- rolling green hills one minute, snow-capped mountains the next. Some things I never thought I'd see in Scotland!

Beautiful, beautiful rainbow over Loch Ness. It rained just before we got on the boat, stopped for the hour long boat ride, and rained as soon as we got back to the car. Perfect timing I'd say!

Erqhart Castle from the lake. It's way more ruins than castle it was still beautiful! I guess that's what I realized about Scotland... the whole country is like one giant postcard. Beautiful to look at and photograph, but not very day-trip friendly. If we'd spent a couple of days in the Highlands region, we could have done hikes and explored the neighboring towns, but since we were only there for a short couple of hours, we could really only take it all in from the car. Plus we didn't really want to get soaked and then have to ride home all wet.

We stopped in the Lake District on our way home at a marina to snap a few pictures. It was another beautiful, perfect day with a few scattered showers.
We drove back to London, stayed at an airport hotel, and got the heck outta dodge the next morning. The flight home was perfectly pleasant, I napped, worked, and read. Coming back from vacation is always such a relief for me. I have waxed poetic about my love for traveling, but I also thrive on and crave routine, consistency, and predictability.
I got to spend 7 days with one of my favorite people. Sure we argued and had our spats, but in the end we were both sad to leave each other and go back to our respective homes. The good news is that she's moving here in August, the bad news is that August is a long time away!
We're already talking about our 2014 trip and where we want to of my girlfriends from work just moved back to South America so that's on my bucket list for this fall, but we'll see. I've got a few other surprises up my sleeve that may take up more time & money than I'm prepared for, so I'm not really making any definite plans. But there's nothing stopping me from dreaming!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Death ain't nothing but a heartbeat away

I got news on Friday that a dear friend passed away.
The first thing I immediately felt was regret. Regret for not having spent more time with his family. Regret for not knowing that he was dying of prostate cancer. Then I felt sad. Sad for his wife, who was akin to a cool aunt to me in high school. But never sad for me. The truth is, my life won't be affected drastically. In fact, my life will hardly be affected at all.
I've unfortunately learned that we all deal with death differently. When my uncle passed away in December, I internalized it all. I empathized with my mom, with my aunts and uncles who lost their brother, with my grandmother who lost her son. I cried for their loss while we were at the funeral, at the cemetary, and even when we were alone at his house. Then we started the trip home, and that's when I started my own grieving. I pulled everyone I loved as close to me as I could (not physically, of course) and tried to keep them there, protected in my little cocoon. That only works for so long before your friends start to think you've gone a little loony... but that's how I dealt with it.
So when I found out about my friend Charlie, I was prepared for how I was going to react. Attend funeral, cry, drive home, overattachment to besties, alligator tears. I had this down. Then I surprised myself, and instead of doing my grieving after everyone else was done, I grieved in advance. I was returning some phone calls from before my London trip and catching up with old friends, and suddenly it hit me. I found myself en route to Charlotte and pulling over on the side of the road until the uncontrollable sobs passed. Until the overwhelming sadness for his wife and son and daughter subsided. While my fear of losing my own parents consumed me.  
Death doesn't have to be a reminder of what you have or don't have, or push us to hug our loved ones just a little bit tighter. It can also be a feeling of thankfulness and peace. One of the kindest, most patient, loving, honest men I've ever known is no longer suffering. His wife, who I love dearly, can live in peace, knowing her husband made it to his final resting place. He's most assuredly in heaven, the place he couldn't wait to be. I'm so thankful to have known him, to have shared some of the greatest moments in my short life with him, and to have been able to honor him at his funeral.
I didn't mean for this to turn into a diatribe honoring Charlie. What I intended to write about was funerals and how we all respond to tragedy and loss differently. So, I summed that up in one sentence and will now leave you with one piece of advice that I learned (albeit the hard way for him) from Charlie at the tender age of 15: Don't forget about the beer you put in the freezer to make it extra icy cold. It will explode, and that's not fun for anyone.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

London 2013 #kanda2013

Fair warning: this is going to get very, very long! I'll start with London & do a separate post for Scotland.
We left ATL on my 27th birthday and after many, many cocktails in the crown room (what's it called now Delta?), got lucky enough to have a completely empty flight. The flight attendants were also awesome, so both Mandy & I got a row to ourselves and slept for 7.5 of the 8 hour flight. Success!
First stop, the Waldorf by Hilton to drop our bags. Our room wasn't quite ready yet, so we headed out to explore and eat.
We saw street performers in Covent Garden (who knew Mandy was so into these characters? Not me),

And stopped for lunch and a quick persusal of the guide book. Good thing we opened these in advance of the trip... but they came in super handy. I prefer Lonely Planet and Mandy prefers Rick Steves, and between the 2 we felt really confident with all of our choices. I still prefer Lonely Planet though, I used it in Australia, too! The books are colorful, offer great suggestions for food and tourist stops, and the format is really easy to read. I'll stop plugging now but really... highly recommend!
After Covent Garden, we walked down through Trafalgar Square, pausing for pictures. Judging by all the people milling about, you can tell that the weather was spectacular! We got really, really lucky.

Continuing past Trafalgar Square, we found Westminster Abbey & Big Ben. We did a tour of the Abbey but no photography is allowed inside. There are so many famous people buried there, particularly famous scientists, which we found fascinating.
We walked back to the hotel and made it in time for happy hour and hors dourves, and then got a recommendation from the hotel for a light dinner. Dinner was eh, but the company couldn't be beat :)
We got up the next morning with every intention of making it to Buckingham Palace in time for the changing of the guards. Everything took us twice as long as we expected, so we missed that but bought tickets for the double decker bus tour instead. We hopped on and away we went. 3.5 hours and a sunburn later, we had a really great time. The guides were phenomenal. I was so impressed by the museum guides, taxi drivers, tour bus speakers, and everyone else who was willing to share information. The pride and passion for their country and what they do was so obvious, and it was contagious!
We saw the London Eye...
Took selfies on the bus...

Watched as all of London basked in the beautiful weather...

Found PK's horses...

Checked out Buckingham Palace...

Floated under the Tower Bridge...

Hung out with soldiers at the Tower of London (and saw the Queen's jewels!)

Rode the London Eye on the most beautiful day...

And took the quintessential London tourist picture.
We packed SO MUCH into 2.5 days in London. Not pictured was a Jersey Boys viewing, some great meals, visiting the oldest craft brewery in England, and a boat cruise to Greenwich. We had beautiful, perfect, even HOT, weather. I knew London was a big city, but I had no idea just how enormous it really is. I've always thought I'd be overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of a city like that, but instead I found it inspiring and exciting. I was excited to see everything and take in all of the people.
I haven't ever felt so comfortable in another city. I felt like I could see myself there, like I could live there, walk the streets, be friends with the people. I loved the busy-ness, the excitement, the pleasant people, the culture. Maybe there are more trips to London in my future?
Scotland up next!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Ramblin Rose Triathlon Training Starts... NOW!

Remember when I said I was going to do a triathlon? Well, what I didn't know then was that I'd be racing as a Ramblin' Rose Blogger Ambassador!

I am so excited! One of the things I am most nervous about is training properly and finding motivation, and having the Ramblin' Rose community will certainly curb a lot of that! I've made some amazing friends through blogging so I'm stoked about the opportunity to connect with women from all different paths!
It's not really going to change what I post about - my plan all along was to post about training, how it was going, and probably to do a fair amount of complaining about how much I hate running. I have already taken advantage of the ambassador community and found a couple of websites that should help me put together a great training plan. The first race I want to do is July 14, and the second one is September 22, so while I have some time, I have a feeling it will fly by. No excuses now! I'm also debating whether or not to join the Atlanta Tri Club. I think I would really benefit from the group training programs they offer, and at $40/month, it seems like a reasonable investment.
I've already got a couple of friends interested in racing with me, but if anyone else wants to make the trek up to Charlotte at the end of September, it'd be a blast! I'd love to find some training buddies locally... everything is more fun with friends!
I do have to tell you that they are comping my entry to 1 of the tri's in exchange for posting about the events. But, it won't change what I post. I am still really, really excited and this just sweetens the deal!