Friday, August 31, 2007

First 2 weeks – Let’s get the party started!

Wow, we are almost done with first 2 weeks at Darden and they have been incredible. Cases, Learning teams, Class discussions, self-awareness/reflection exercises, career counseling, club meetings, parties and sports have all kept us really busy, but boy! Did we have some fun!
We started out on Sunday August 19th with a cookout and got an opportunity to meet classmates and faculty that we hadn’t already met. Every one of us was still grappling with the names, our class being 300 odd strong. Monday was the official start and we kicked it off with meeting our section and section faculty. I am in Section E and my enthusiasm was turned to exhilaration on finding exceptional classmates exuding confidence but no ego; everything contributing to excitement and ecstasy for future.
‘Section E – easy does it!’

We were introduced to different departments, people to contact for questions and were informed about Darden and University norms. This was followed up with a career management session. Darden has an excellent approach to career search. It kicks off with finding about oneself, understanding strength and weakness, interests and motivation and then trying to make conscious choices about our future. The second day was purposefully kept similar. First couples of days were pretty much for orientation and getting us familiarized with Darden culture e.g. ‘the first Coffee’ and ‘High touch, High tone, High octane’ philosophy.

Wednesday, however brought an entirely different challenge with first hand exposure to the ‘case method’ and dreaded ‘Darden routine’. We had 3 cases to prepare for the next day and it took me from 2 pm till 6:30 pm to get that done. I grabbed a quick dinner before heading out to discuss cases with our learning team. I forgot to mention that we had already met our learning team the day before and I was totally thrilled with mine. We gelled together well from the start and had great chemistry. Unlike some other teams we were done with our cases before 10 pm.
We kept that up the next two days too.

Classes I must say have been fun. Since all classes are case based and class participation is graded, everyone was anxious to get their point in. Though, we kind of settled down as we went along. It’s great to hear different approaches to the same problem, different perspectives and see people narrate their related personal experiences. Almost every case we find few people related to the industry or the function or sometimes having had a similar experience. We not only learn the text but also learn from each other’s experiences. We learn to communicate better, to listen, understand and empathize. Videos, games and presentations make the class even more interesting.

Come ‘Thursday’ and the party starts with TNDC – Thursday night drinking club, an unofficial but obviously popular group. We had great fun partying till wee hours in the morning with other ‘dardenities’. Not a good idea considering we had an 8am class on Friday. Second years, as you expect, were chilling after their internships. We kept the parties going on Friday and Saturday. We also had an entire day of ‘team building’ activity. Learning teams were grouped into 2 and faced off each other in a variety of events to accumulate ‘feathers’ for prizes. The event was based on historical ‘Lewis and clark’ journey. Though it was pretty hot, we enjoyed our day in the sun and the healthy competition that accompanies such an event. In the end it came down to interesting and fun-filled poetry competition to decide the winners. The purpose was to get to know your ‘learning team’ better and build some team spirit and I guess this went a long way in addressing that.

We had some time to relax over the weekend (though not a lot) and came back to learning teams on Sunday. This would the first full week of the ‘Darden boot camp’ and we were all anxious to see how we fare. Things were not as bad at our learning team as we finished relatively early 9:30 – 10 pm and we even managed to start our own unofficial ‘ACDC – after case drinking club’. We’ll see how long that lasts. I hear that things weren’t as sweet across all learning teams. As the week passed we began to feel the pressure of the hectic schedule. This week we were fitting additional stuff in the afternoon including club meetings, 2 per day 30 minutes each. We were getting used to having no time to ourselves, sleeping very late and getting up early. Before we realized, Friday was here and with only one class followed by a section norms discussion, we got off early. Tomorrow we start the ‘Darden cup’ sports activities with ‘Flag football’. All the sections got together for some practice. I have a feeling that like everything else this is going to be good fun but little more competitive. Let’s see. Anyways, I need to get some rest before I head out. Ciao!


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