Teodora Chatzisarros - February 10, 2014
Teodora from Targu Mures, Romania blogged her way through business school, sharing the highs, lows, challenges and celebrations that are all part of the London Business School MBA experience
Prodigy Finance blogger
Where are you currently working?
ISI Emerging Markets (Euromoney Group) in Poland, Business Development Manager for Southeast Europe
What made you want to get an MBA and to attend LBS in particular?
I wanted to do an MBA so I could put myself back in the driver’s seat of my career. I chose LBS for the top-level education, the culturally diverse group of bright individuals, the diverse and lively forum of experiences and for the sterling brand name that will forever be a mark of global excellence.
What are you most excited and most nervous about for about your MBA?
I am most excited about meeting and building relationships with my future colleagues, who will come from all around the world. I am nervous about the advanced Excel skills I need to have for the Finance courses!
What would you like to do following your MBA? Do you think you'll return to your home country?
I would like to move into the luxury industry or new media and have an international career. I don’t think I will come back to Romania, as my family is ready to follow me around the world! I also plan on being involved in supporting charity activities, like raising funds for young artists.
What kind of funding obstacles did you face?How did Prodigy Finance help?
In Romania there are very few options for scholarships, the amounts are very low and they require you to return after graduation. Additionally, banks do not have customized products for MBA studies, which means it is impossible to find a suitable loan scheme.
I heard about Prodigy Finance from a friend working in London. The loan programme is a great help for international MBA students and the process is customized to their needs. This loan programme made it possible for me to do the MBA. Otherwise, I wouldn't have had the amount needed for the tuition fees.
What will you miss most about leaving your current country?
If you could bring one food from your home country to England, what would it be?
The food called "sarmale", cooked by my mother. They are rolls of minced meet covered in pickled cabbage.
July 01, 2013
On the evening of 7th June, I left home for London in order to attend the Admits Weekend event organized by LBS. On my way to the airport and while packing, I had a very specific feeling, forgotten for a while. It was the emotion before the first day of school and before moving in a new place, unknown to me. I had been to London 4 times before, but this did not prevent my fear of things like, "Will I be able to find my way with the tube to the school?" :) In the end, I had a very smooth travel, and the maps in the tube stations proved to be very helpful.
The second day, while I was on way to the school, I met my future colleagues. Somehow I understood that they were going to the same event. The excellent organization of LBS made it very easy for us to interact and get into the vibe of MBA student life at LBS. Current students gave us useful tips like what is not to be missed (the treks in spring terms), what the busiest periods are, and how our agenda will look, and told us about student clubs. The afterparty at Sundowners made me believe we will have a lot of fun together. Everybody was very open and friendly, willing to know and chat. And the band that played was really good.
With this trip to London, I also solved also some administrative stuff involved in moving abroad for business school: I opened a bank account, checked offers for laptops and phone (I will choose Apple for both), and visited the studio that I booked in advance, located in Kilburn.
All in all, it was a great trip and I can't wait to start school again. The people I met there were simply amazing!
August 02, 2013
Me and my husband decided to have long holiday this summer, as next year it is uncertain how much time we will have available with my student duties. We chose to go back to one of our favourite Greek islands in the Cyclades, Kimolos. We discovered it some years ago when we were sailing. It is the kind of island I prefer: tiny, with character, with nice beaches and tavernas. We have departed already and I am actually writing while enjoying my Espresso fredo at a cafe in the port.
Before coming here I spent one month in my parents house and there I completed what the school asked us, the leadership assessment and other questionnaires. We were provided training online courses in Excel, finance and accounting. I would like to go through them during my holiday or in the Orientation week that will start on August 19th.
I wish you now "kalo kalokairi", as the Greeks would wish you "have a good summer". I'll hit the road for the beach!
September 03, 2013
So the day has come! Even though 6 months, 3 months or even 2 weeks seamed quite away in time, I started my MBA programme and the third week has already commenced.
I arrived in London very last minute, I wanted to spend as much time as possible with my son. I had my flat booked already.
The first week, focused on orientation, was quite incredible; many people to meet and chat with. On Friday we had outdoor activities. We had to climb a 11m pole and then in pair jump to hold and swing on a trapeze. I would not have chosen to do such an extreme activity if I had the choice. The fact that I was successful at it made me realise how important it is not to have fears; when I got closer to the end of the pole I actually got frightened and would have jumped off. What I did was to control the feeling and focus on what I had to achieve. I managed not to have fear again, even on the top of the moving pole and managed to fulfill the exercise! I must mention that my colleagues contributed to that as well, with morale support and keeping me safe (they were holding the ropes:)).
Second week proved quite intense. On Monday we had corporate finance sessions, and then on leadership. I've already done business simulations with my study group, which I must say I like a lot working with! We are a mix of a Romanian, Bulgarian, Chinese, Australian, Lebanese and Mexican. Quite a mix of cultures and backgrounds!
Have to leave you now, I am at school and the next class is about to start ;)
October 01, 2013
The current challenge at school is to cope with everything that is going on. One not only needs to attend all the classes and prepare in advance for them. We also have to submit more and more assignments, prepare our CV according to LBS standards, work on the cover letter, attend the kick-off events of clubs and apply for the executive positions. In addition to that, you may decide to go on treks on the weekends (Ibiza, Hungary, Morocco, Scotland, Ireland, Portugal or Singapore, to name a few). For next year we should be ready to board for Japan, Asia/Pacific (Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand), Brazil and many others. There are career oriented treks and fun/cultural ones.
As we were told in our strategy class, we need to make choices, smart ones. It is impossible to do everything. You need time to study and do your assignments, follow and attend the events of the clubs you are interested in, socialize with your colleagues and travel.
I have included a photo that I took during a break. I love this photo because of the gentle weather we have had since moving to London and because you can see how every person laying down and relaxing is reading, preparing for the next session in class. Somehow MBAs are very good at managing their time and energy for both the academic and social sides.
November 05, 2013
Yes, I am an MBA student and the mother of a 1.5 year old baby boy. And he is back in Romania with my husband. The questions that may arise immediately in your mind is… 'How is that possible?' 'How do you handle it?' And the statement that I don't need to listen to, and I am told by every single person when finding out about this scenario is…'It must be very hard for you'.
It is, it is very hard. And the parents can understand the feelings that I have for my own child. What keeps me going is the activity at school and my colleagues. When I'm busy, I'm fine. I really enjoy the school and I am grateful for all the people I met here. The difficult part comes when I happen to have a more relaxed day and then I have time to think about my family and to realise how much I miss them.
To overcome this, I travel back home every two-three weeks. This month I faced the challenge of being away for 5 weeks due to exams and other school assignments. It is like going on a trek every month. This keeps me away from some events at school, parties with colleagues and trips they go to..But you cannot have everything.
I am the happiest when I go home and I see my family. I can't wait to spend a full month with them in winter! And to load the bottom of the Christmas tree with toys for my boy. This is what I was dreaming about while studying for my midterms. Four exams in two days.. it's not an easy task to handle.
If you ever wonder if it is feasible to go back to school, to do an MBA and be the mother of a toddler boy, I am the living proof. I have to mention though that it is possible ONLY with the support and commitment of all the family involved.
I will come back with updates on the topic and am open to any questions from parents that are thinking to undertake a similar journey.
December 03, 2013
I joined the MBA at LBS with the goal to pursue a career in the industry I am most passionate about - the luxury goods industry. If you don't have experience working with luxury brands it is a challenge to make the transition. I believed LBS can be a complement to my skills and professional background, and with this recipe I can be successful with my plan.
Clubs at London Business School
LBS helps us through the professional clubs it offers, like the Retail&Luxury Goods club, in my case.
I applied for a position in the committee and I had success even though it was very competitive. I am in charge of business development for the luxury beauty segment. In my role I will help students network with luxury beauty brands and improve their knowledge on the subject. I already got in contact with two important names in the industry, who I will organise events with on campus in the next term. The club has other important and useful activities like visits to luxury brands in Paris and Milan, and the E-Commerce and Luxury conferences that will take place next year, among other speaker events. So far I had the chance to go to talks with the CEO of LVMH China, Tory Burch, and today I attended the British Fashion Awards.
Working toward my final goal
LBS has recently launched the Walpole Management in Luxury programme and I am proud to have been elected as one of the 12 students that will attend it. It is a very attractive and interesting programme. We will have executives from the industry as lecturers, and we will be allocated a mentor that will guide us in becoming successful managers in luxury goods industry. The programme will be combined with internships we will do in the summer of 2014 and a number of electives like Brand Audit, MBA Independent Project, Brand Management, and Strategy Innovation, just to name a few. We have a list of electives we can choose from and we can tailor it according to the type of function we want to pursue.
I am looking forward to starting the programme in January and I will come back with interesting stories regarding my journey towards luxury industry. I feel I am on the right track to achieving one of my dreams.
February 10, 2014
I must first say that what everybody tells you about the second term of the MBA - that's it's much easier than the first one - is a myth. Indeed, formulas stop being thrown at you but you face a new challenge and that is finding the perfect internship for the summer.
The most structured process is for my colleagues interested in finance and consulting. In less than one month of recruitment, important banks made already offers. Quite frustrating for the ones willing to try an internship with corporates. I am part of this category.
It's funny to read on Facebook posts of my lucky colleagues that may already enjoy their time before the summer. There are many holiday plans flying around. For the rest of us, the sky is not as clear. If we are lucky, we may lock the internship by April or May. This is because the peak time for recruitment in industry is in March.
Network, network, network
To make your life easier during your MBA and to increase your chances to find your dream job, you need to start early.
LBS gives us all the resources and highlights to us from the beginning of the programme the importance of networking and involvement in the LBS community. If you have an idea of what you want to do after the MBA, I advise you to join the relevant clubs (professional and regional ones), try to get a position in the Committee and then be active by organising events for the LBS community. This will certainly offer you many networking opportunities.
Very famous at the MBA are the "coffee chats" :). I believe that if you are original and keep focus on what you want to do, your chances of success are high. You also need to be realistic. There are companies out there that are not ready for MBAs and do not see us as valuable human resources. Do your research well, so as to focus your energy in the right place to find the best internship opportunity for you.
March 12, 2014
I am happy to say I am writing this post from the beautiful mountains of Italy. I decided to extend a trip done with LBS in Milan and the surroundings, to enjoy the spring on the slopes. But my fun days are not the subject for today. I would like to share with you the outstanding career treks that LBS offers.
Career Treks for the Luxury Industry
Interested to join the luxury industry, I joined the treks relevant for my ambition. I have therefore been to Paris and Milan. In addition to speeches from top executives and HR managers, we were invited to the production sites of Van Cleef & Arperls (in Paris), and of Gucci, Fendi and Ermenegildo Zegna (in Italy). We also had a dedicated guided tour of the Cartier Exhibition in Grand Pallais.
I believe the treks are a great way to find out insights of the history of luxury brands, and their current strategy. You get a feeling about their work culture, you meet key managers and find out about real opportunities within their companies.
Van Cleef & Arpels took us in their workshop and showed us how they do handmade the unique jewellery pieces. Gucci showed us how the prototypes for the iconic mocassins are born, from the pieces of leather carefully chosen to the last finishing details - all done handmade. Fendi introduced us into the world of leather bags; the crocodile and snakes skins were in flashy colours and we could get a feeling of the made-to-measure work and of the one for catwalks. Zegna family welcomed us in their Trivero production site where we were shown the complete process of wool being transformed into textiles.
One doesn't usually have the chance to access the behind the scenes of luxury brands. It is such a special and memorable experience!
April 07, 2014
I wish I was writing this post from an exotic beach - still, I am happy to say I've had almost two weeks spent with my family.
It is the time for the spring break between terms 2 and 3 at LBS. Very exciting break as there were many treks organised to Japan, Brazil, Africa or Ghana. I appreciate even more the social networks, as they allow me to get a feeling of what my colleagues are doing.
A trek home
I chose to come back to Bucharest to spend time with my 2 years old son. Luckily, spring is at its best and we have a great time in the park with friends. I bet parents understand what I mean. The joy of watching your kid thrilled by jumping on the trampoline, running around after other kids and enjoying their laughter. You witness such pure emotions when they choose to hold their hands or when they hug. I don't see new places this time but I am lucky to notice the discoveries of my son. The words he picks up on and the day-to-day improvement in his communication, which I find impressive.
Among all the important decisions we have to take regarding the big change in our lives that will come (new jobs, new location), we also need to decide on the type of education we involve our son in. He seems ready to join the nursery. There are several methods that you can choose from and tons of literature about them. The question is, how do you know what is the best fit for your kid? I just hope we don't have to go through interviews and tests so that he gets accepted in a nursery; he doesn't need to do an MBA at a such an early age :)
May 02, 2014
There are so many emotions in the last term of the first year of our MBA. Some of us are still trying to conclude recruitment for the summer internship. I'm happy to say I will join a major tech company.
At the same time, we realise that we have little time left to enjoy our MBA 2015 class. And this leads to a very good vibe at the social events. Everybody is really enjoying the moment! Many treks still going on (and at LBS we have plenty!), and we have already built very good friendships that have all the chances to last forever! I may say that NOW you understand what you are told on the first day of MBA - why it is such an amazing experience. You feel accomplished due to the intellectual stimulus you had in classes and due to personal experiences - of living in a new city and having travelled with friends in so many places.
I feel nostalgic as I am aware that I won't see my peers as much. I will be in Dublin for the summer and then on exchange in Hong Kong after that. I can't believe there is so much little left of student life in London.
October 03, 2014
Boston-NYC-Ibiza-Formentera... This is what my September looked like...
I began with the Global Business Experience of LBS that took place in two prominent destinations within the US. I had the chance to visit those two beautiful places and gain important business insights from important names like Wellington Management, Morgan Stanley, US Securities Commission and Federal Reserve. Plus, I attended an excellent lecture of prof. Andrew W. Lo at MIT and visited Harvard campus.
I then continued with another trek of LBS, a fun related one, with about 70 colleagues of mine. We explored the island of Ibiza with the best parties it can offer, concluding on the beaches of Formentera. It was a late summer holiday for me, as I've been working.
My internship continues until the end of December. I have had a truly interesting experience working for Google in Dublin. It's great to discover it's outstanding organisational culture. I am also learning a lot as I work on two projects - an analytical one on the retail market for large customers portfolio and on the business planning for digital mobile advertising. As the internship experience is very close to my studies at LBS, it's great to use the knowledge acquired in the past year, the global business thinking and strategy frameworks. I am just half way, there is still more to learn and discover during my working experience with Google.
Even if not in London, the new academic year has started and I got involved in the activities of the Retail & Luxury Goods Club of LBS that I co-preside. We have many plans for this year and I believe we'll have a great team working on: the treks to Paris, Milan and London, the many speaker events on campus and the eCommerce next year.
And, now I am ready for a very active autumn 2014!
February 25, 2015
I feel like I've been on exchange since I started the MBA. First I moved to London for a year, then to Dublin for 6 months and here I am in Hong Kong for the actual MBA exchange, at HKUST. I expect 2 intense months. Besides taking classes and passing exams, the city has such a great vibe that you want to be out there all the time. Plus, it is a terrific chance to explore Asia more and I just love this part of the world!
The great thing about the MBA at LBS is that you can tailor your 2nd year as you wish. I took a term off and worked, then went on exchange and then I'll be back on campus for another few classes. Others take many classes in the first term and then travel for some months until they start working. The freedom of choice of how you want to spend this year just makes you not to want the student life to stop!
I'm really excited to be back to school in an awesome campus like that of HKUST.
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