Wednesday, May 27, 2015


36 Hours in Bilbao, Spain

New York Times, you get me.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Europe decisions: MADE

Option 3 it is.

Barcelona to Bilbao
Bilbao to Lisbon
Lisbon to Paris

Rick Steves was sending me not-so-subliminal messages last week on his "Explore Europe" home screen.
You win, Steves.

Also, not too long after, I found this:
36 Hours in Lisbon


Intercontinental travel booked.
AirBnB requests sent.

I find it mildly amusing that Portugal was nowhere on my list of possible places to go when I started cooking up this crazy idea. Sometimes, that is the best.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Europe decisions

I submitted my last paper of the MBA last night at about 8:30, immediately proceeding to dance jubilantly throughout the house, proclaiming triumphant victory... At which point Jack reminded me that I still have to go to class in Europe. Minor detail.

Never having studied abroad, and hearing great reviews from friends who participated last summer, I decided to sign up for a two-week study abroad trip to France and Spain. I'll spend one week in Toulouse then a second week in Barcelona, both through the Toulouse Business School.

Needless to say, I am stoked.

I scheduled some extra time before and after, because... well, when is the next time I'll spend 3+ weeks in Europe? I am all set for Paris for 2 days before the program, and I have a week to fill after the program. With all the crazy school/work/life stuff that's been going on, I'm just starting to narrow down how to fill that week.

Time -- I only have one week; less than that if you factor in getting back to Paris by Friday, leaving Barcelona Sunday, and travel time in between.
Budget -- I have been saving for a while, so I have a reasonable chunk budgeted for this trip. Flights, hotels, food, and excursions, however cheap individually, add up quickly.
Interest -- There's really nowhere I wouldn't like to go. Heathrow on a stopover to Jordan is the extent of my Europe experience, so I have a lot of untouched ground to cover.
Language -- If I had a dollar for every time someone said "everyone speaks English in Europe!"... This is a more minor consideration; still I would like to be able to buy a train ticket without sounding like a complete American idiot. My Spanish is... passable. I know like 5 French words, so there's that.

The only real requirement is I must begin in Barcelona on Sunday (Saturday is OK, but Sunday is hotel check-out,) and I must end in Paris on Friday (flight is Saturday.)

Barcelona to Monaco
Monaco to Bilbao
Bilbao to Lisbon
Lisbon to Paris

Barcelona to Gibraltar
Gibraltar to Lisbon
Lisbon to Bilbao
Bilbao to Paris

Barcelona to Bilbao
Bilbao to Lisbon
Lisbon to Paris

Barcelona to somewhere in France
Miscellaneous France travels to Paris in time for my flight home

I think I like #3. There are plenty of opportunities for excursions in the Basque region (nearby Rioja wine region, majestic ocean cliffs, etc.)

Decisions, decisions...

Monday, May 11, 2015

School's out forever

I've been looking back on a lot of the casual conversations I had 18-24 months ago -- drinking a glass of wine on the couch with my partner, eating falafel for dinner with a friend, driving home from work on the phone with my mom -- the "should I or shouldn't I?" conversations before I decided "I should (probably.)"

And now this.

Graduate school has been an incredible experience, and I would absolutely recommend it to anyone who has the interest, the time, and the resources to commit to herself such an undertaking. I didn't really know what I was doing with my life ("didn't"? well... sometimes "don't") so I am glad I thought a lot about it, but I'm glad I took what felt a lot like a leap of faith at the time. I still might not have it "all together," but it feels damn good to be closer than ever.

There are so many amazing things to reflect on, but I tried to narrow it down for a blog post. These 10 are my favorites.

1. Conquering accounting and finance classes.
I was an English major for my undergraduate degree. Cost accounting and portfolio management are a far cry from literary criticism and Renaissance drama -- but I made it. And you know what, I did a pretty kickass job of learning.
2. Finding common ground.
Like a lot of people, I exist in a comfortable bubble of people who think a lot like I do. My friends have similar political and world views, so to enter a new group of people sometimes means being reminded that everyone does not think like me.
3. New friends.
To that same end, I met some pretty cool people, most of whom I would never have met or gotten to know without this program. It hasn't been all lectures and group homework; it's also Vegas trips, post-class beers, and weddings. Some of these relationships won't last long past graduation, and that's OK, but some will.
4. Patience. 
I've also come to appreciate my more established relationships. Friends and family being patient when I have to say no to group dinners and gatherings, work giving me a pass when I can't make it to another evening or weekend event, my partner doing extra dishes and laundry without complaint, and everyone generally putting up with me when I'm stressed out and a little crazy: these things make me even more appreciative of the wonderful people in my life.
5. Studying abroad. 
Ok, so this is future tense. I did not study abroad in undergrad, and it's not that I've had regrets... I've just wondered. At the end of this month, I'll go to France and Spain to take a couple more classes in international management and finance. More on that later.
6. Winning.
MBA-types thrive on competition (surprise!), and professors absolutely exploit this with projects in which teams are ranked against one another. I look back with such satisfaction on being on a team that "won" our simulation exercise for International Marketing, on helping to put together a "best" strategy analysis for Strategic Management, and on kicking comparative ass. Victory is so sweet.
7. Generally testing my mettle. 
Balancing school, work, family, friends, and sanity is not for the faint of heart. Especially in the last 2 months... there has been a lot of shit going on. I feel pretty awesome for getting it all handled.
8. Being educated.
Every time my mom tells me I'm the only one in our family except my grandmother to get a graduate degree (which she kind of tells me a lot)... I feel this little tug toward my grandmother (even though mom usually follows that up with "it was the only degree that didn't require any math"... *facepalm*) and proud to be part of the female majority in graduate education attainment.
9. Speaking of which -- the ladies. 
The women in the MBA program are the most awesome. Not to knock the men who are intelligent and driven in their own right, but the women make me hopeful for the future of the workforce and grateful to be a part of it. Also -- grateful to live in the time and place, under the circumstances, in which I do.
10. Vindication -- vegetarian food is better. 
I've written before about free food. I'll ever be too old for free food. Free food is awesome. There is always one vegetarian option, ordered in a much smaller portion. Without fail, the vegetarian option is gone in minutes, while the meaty entree languishes in its chafing dish, destined for the garbage. Everyone. Prefers. Vegetarian. Food.

That's a wrap, I guess.