Monday, October 6, 2008


It is time for finals, yet I feel less stressed out.

Yup, because the first semester of the Carlson MBA is on the quarter system, it's time for finals and it is only October. The last few weeks have been sort of nightmarish, as we had to plow our way through midterms as well as work on group projects that are due right around now. We have finals this Friday, and then next Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. As my test taking strategy involves studying 3 or 4 days before the test and all of my classes, save Strategy class, have no more readings or assignments, I am sitting here on a Sunday with pretty much nothing to do.

Even though I feel less pressure than I felt in the last few weeks, I still am not completely relaxed. After weeks of going full throttle, I keep having these nagging thoughts like, "You must be forgetting something," or, "You can't just sit there and do nothing. There must be something you can do!"

Man, I need to learn how to relax a bit.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Feminine hygiene

One of my classmates pointed out this link the other day. Its a link to the Urban Dictionary's entry for "douche bag". Apparently, the author of this entry seems to think that anyone that either teaches at or attends the Carlson School of Management is a douche bag. I'm guessing that it was written by someone that was rejected by Carlson and is taking his or her anger out in a juvenile manner. I got a little chuckle out of it and clicked the link to Carlson School of Management to find a response from who I can only guess is a member of the CSOM. Now, a normal, mature adult would read this little childish entry in the Urban Dictionary, chuckle at its stupidity (I have to admit, the comment, "Douche bags have been known to add small numbers with calculators and call it "business math," is kind of funny), and move on. To my horror, the student from the CSOM gave the most "douchey" response possible in saying the Carlson School of Management is:

"A school of high achieving students that are hated upon because of their future wealth.

I hate Jim, he is going to be making so much money because he goes to the Carlson School of Management."

Oh. My. God. This person is part of the reason why business school students, particularly MBA students, carry the stereotype of being pricks that value money over everything else. Although there may be a reason for this stereotype, it is certainly not true in all cases. I think around 20-25% of my class wants to get into either microfinance, non-profit, sustainability, or like myself, is pursuing the MBA to improve their global mobility. Even if one isn't going into one of the aforementioned fields doesn't necessarily make him or her a money grubbing douche bag.

Whatever the case, if you are an MBA student, please don't act like the student that posted the retort on People like that just ruin it for everyone.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


I would say things are in full swing now. In the past week, in addition to class, I've attended a career panel, 2 club kickoffs, 3 company information sessions and one company tour. Today I had my first midterm and I've got another on Tuesday followed by yet another on the 23rd. You can definitely say one thing: even if you take nothing else from an MBA, at least you will come out of it with enhanced time management skills. If you are not on top of your game, you will definitely fall behind. I've pretty much resigned myself to the fact that I won't be having a life this semester.

Oh well. What doesn't kill you...

Monday, September 8, 2008

MBA-a haiku

Value creation
Three generic strategies
Core competencies

There you go. If you are contemplating an MBA, I've just saved you $100,000. You're welcome.

...I think if I have to read the word "value" one more time, I might have to go on a killing spree...starting with Phillip Kotler.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

And so it begins...

After all of the orientation days, the Accounting boot camp, and the team workshops, this has been the first full week of "real" classes. After getting a taste of MBA life, I now know why many first year MBA students liken the first semester to drinking water from a fire hose. It's been pretty crazy. For example, my team was given data on Monday and we were expected to perform an analysis and present our findings on Wednesday. I finished my last 2 years of undergrad in a year and a half, taking 6 classes per semester while working full time and still managed to maintain an A average. Before the MBA program began I thought, "Well, even though I will be completing Master's level coursework, I won't be working. It should be cake compared to working 40 hours per week and going to school full time." Although I am no stranger to hard work and am not one to complain about having to put forth an extra effort, I have to admit that this semester is going to be taxing. The core semester at Carlson is broken up into 2 halves and 19 credits are crammed into 18 weeks. For the first half of the semester we take 4 classes and in the second half we take 3 more classes. 4 classes might not sound like much, but try doing it in half the time, topping it off with group projects sprinkled here and there along with required leadership seminars. I've got my work cut out for me, that's for sure.

A quick recap of what's gone on so far:

My group
Carlson breaks up the class into groups of 5 or 6 and these teams stay together for the duration of the core semester. I would venture to say that my team is pretty sweet. We've got 2 internationals AND 2 women in our group, 2 groups that are pretty scarce in this year's class. In all we've got a Finance guy, a think-tank guy, a techie guy, a marketing girl, a JD/MBA girl, and an "other" (me). Not only is my group made up of people that I can get along with, but more importantly it is devoid of slackers. All of us are shooting for A's, which is pretty important to me. I think we are going to work well together this semester.

Data Analysis for Managers
This class is taught by Norman Chervany, and so far the class has been interesting. He utilizes something he calls "In Progress Learning Assignment". It's kind of like a pop quiz, but much better. He gives us a 3 problem quiz and around 20 minutes to solve the problems on our own. After completing the quiz on our own, we then get into our groups and try to come to a consensus on which are the correct answers. After the group decides on the answers, we then scratch off our choices on something that resembles lottery ticket you can buy in a gas station. If we are correct, you can see a star. The group gets 4 points for a correct answer on the first try, and 2 points if it is correct on the second guess. The grade for the assignment is 75% individual and 25% group. The benefits of this method are two-fold: First, we get to hash it out as a group when deciding on the correct answer. This enhances our ability to work in a group. Secondly, we get instant feedback, so the learning process is a lot smoother. On top of that we get to use Minitab statistical software to perform statistical analysis. All I have to say is.....where the heck was this when I was in undergrad??? Rather than having to work out all those cumbersome equations by hand, now I can just enter the observations into Minitab and it spits out a nice statistical summary. Nice...

Financial Accounting

Well, what can I say about this class? The teacher, Frank Gigler, seems like an intelligent guy that is capable of cracking an occasional joke, but accounting is accounting. No matter how you present it, accounting is about as exciting as brushing your teeth. I've got to give the professor an A for effort, though.

I must say, I have freaking nightmares about this class. A large portion of our grade is based on class participation and how well we prepare for the cases we discuss. This means that we must wave our hands fiercely in the air and hope to god that he calls on us when we are confident about a certain topic and cower in fear while praying that he doesn't call on us if he brings up a topic we aren't so sure about. I swear, after that class I feel like I just completed 2 hours of aerobic exercise because the class is 2 hours of non-stop pressure to produce a few substantive comments or insights. The fact that I feel like this is not the professor's fault at all, it is just my nature. In reality, the professor, Aks Zaheer, is very positive and supportive in class. If a student gives an answer that is totally off base he says, "Yes, and...," rather than ripping into said student. Dr. Zaheer is a very well traveled man, having taught in China, Poland, and something like 3 or 4 other countries that I can't remember. He has a deep baritone voice with a high class European-type accent. I think if the whole "professor thing" doesn't work out for him, he can definitely make a lucrative career out of doing voice overs for PBS history specials. All joking aside, he is a great teacher and a world renowned researcher. I'm going to learn a lot from him.

Take the vibe from Strategy class and reverse it and you will get the Marketing class. The professor, Wayne Mueller, is extremely laid back. His class feels like a 2 hour chat with a friend.
One interesting tidbit is that the professor is a 9-11 survivor. He was actually across the street from the towers when the planes hit. Crazy.

The first week of classes have been interesting. I'm curious to see how the semester progresses...

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Carlson Full Time MBA Orientation Debrief

On Friday our 5 day orientation came to a close with a final dinner. Here's a recap of the activities that went on during those 5 days:

Day 1
On the first day we had our kickoff dinner, a time for the members of the class of 2010 to meet each other while the assistant dean tells us all how great we are. In our class we have someone from the Counter Terrorist Unit (that's right...the same CTU that employs Jack Bauer), a couple of Chinese diplomats, and a Bangladeshi pop star to name a few. I have to admit, after hearing the list of some of my classmate's accomplishments, I felt rather average. There was one statistic that rather surprised me, namely the fact that our class is only 19% international. Two years ago Carlson's Full Time MBA class was 40% international and last year's class was around 30% international. I wonder why there was such a drop this year...

Day 2
During the day the MBA office staff introduced themselves and we were given an introduction to the case method of teaching. I found the "mini-case" class thoroughly enjoyable and I'm definitely looking forward to participating in such classes in the future. In the afternoon we all headed over to Camp Iduhapi for some team building exercises. I had a good time despite the fact I HATE the outdoors or anything that remotely resembles camping and that the activities the camp leaders made us do were kind of cheesy. Near the end of the day, we all split up into groups and did various activities that involved being strapped into harnesses and cavorting 30 feet above the ground. While other groups got to climb a huge wall or jump off of a pole, my group was stuck doing some lame trust exercise in which we had to lean on each other in order to cross a set of tightropes. Oh well, sometimes you just get the short end of the stick. After the camp outing the class all met at a nearby pub for drinks and appetizers.

Day 3
On this day we stayed indoors and were lectured to about personality types and critical thinking for half of the day. The first half of the day was quite boring, but during the second half a group of improv actors came in to talk to us about communication. The main presenter was freaking hilarious and he definitely woke the class up a bit. After that we broke up into groups and completed a team exercise in which we were to pretend that we were stranded somewhere in the Canadian arctic with only 15 items. We were all briefed on the situation and then were made to rank the 15 items from most to least important as a group. I basically learned that if I were stuck out in the wilderness, I would most likely die a horrible death. After that we had a nice little class on business meal etiquette.

Day 4
The day started with an introduction to the MBAA (MBA Association) and a couple of writing classes, then moved on to the introduction to the Core Class professors. They all went on to introduce themselves and assure us that we all had made an excellent investment decision by deciding to attend Carlson. I found this interesting because I had just read an article written by a professor here at Carlson concerning fading optimism in products (you can download it here). The basic gist of the article is that if a consumer buys a product that is to be delivered later, the consumer's optimism about the product's performance declines as the date of delivery nears. Right after the purchase, the consumer is more optimistic about the product because he wants to reassure himself that he has made the right choice. As the product's delivery date approaches, the consumer lowers his optimism in the product in order to not "get his hopes up" in case the product does not perform as he expected it to. One of the obvious applications of this research would be for companies to reassure customers shortly before the delivery of a product. Were the professors here at this school employing this technique on us? I guess it would make sense for Carlson professors to utilize research that came out of the Carlson school.

After the lunch break, we were broken up into different groups and given a case for a mini-case competition. We were given 10 hours to read the case, perform analyses, and put together a presentation to be delivered the next morning. This was a tremendous learning experience, as I had never participated in anything like this before. I left at the end of the day (11pm) simply exhausted.

Day 5
In the morning all the teams gave their presentations and in the afternoon the best 4 presented for the whole class. My team wasn't selected to be in the final 4, but it was still a good learning experience nonetheless. I found that I have a lot to learn from my classmates when it comes to the business world. Although I have a degree in Finance, I received it almost 3 years ago and went into a non-business field after graduating. I was rather impressed by the presentation skills displayed by the top 4 groups. I've never given a formal "professional" presentation, so I can definitely gain from sharing a classroom with these people.

After the best 4 groups gave their presentations we had a break and came back for the closing dinner. Again, we were all told how wonderful we are while being treated to a mediocre dinner.

All in all, I would say that the orientation was a positive experience. It really opened my eyes as to what to expect in the next 2 years. If these 5 days were any indicator, I should be a better person after completing the MBA, and that's all you can really ask for from an education. Well......that and a better job.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


Let's face it, when it comes to academics, the MBA is on the bottom of the totem pole of graduate degrees. Unlike in other graduate degree programs, where your place in the class and performance in the classroom have significant bearing on your placement after graduation, in an MBA program grades are almost secondary. It may be difficult to finish at the top of an MBA class, but it is damn near impossible to fail out of one. Many top MBA programs have grade non-disclosure policies, meaning that Student A who gets C's and Student B who gets A's will be the same in the eyes of potential employers. Other programs give pass/fail grades. At Carlson, the grading scheme is set up so that the median GPA of core classes will be 3.33, or a B+. What? Finishing in the middle of the class will automatically get you a B+? Call me crazy, but I always thought that finishing in the middle of the class makes one average, and last time I checked C=average.

Check out this video that underlines my point:

In defense of the MBA, one of the reasons that academics aren't emphasized is that in order to be admitted to an MBA program, students must have achieved a certain level of success in their professional lives. The MBA is the only graduate degree that I can think of that actually requires applicants to have work experience in order to be accepted. In essence, MBA students have already "proven themselves" before they even step foot into the classroom, lessening the need to validate aptitude through grades.

If grades aren't emphasized in an MBA program, then what is? Networking and recruiting. Attending networking and recruiting events is just as necessary as going to class. In fact, it may be even more important given that grades are given a diminished role. At first glance, it may seem like an MBA is really a $100,000 schmoozefest with classes sporadically sprinkled here and there as a bonus. This isn't totally the case, but after researching MBA programs and talking to MBA students, I've learned that academics take a back seat to making those all-important connections in the business community.

Networking....sounds like a dirty word, doesn't it? Its like socializing, but with an agenda. Whenever I think of networking, the most negative scenario comes to mind. First of all, I picture a room full of insurance-salesman type guys--the kind of guys that call you their "best buddy" after meeting you for the first time and are always ready with a cheesy one liner in the wings. They are all standing there in ridiculously expensive clothes drinking the most expensive liquor with big fake smiles on their faces, laughing a bit too hard at jokes that aren't funny and discussing their golf scores while throwing around business cards like shurikens. Next to them are standing the female versions, who are just so uber-excited about everything. To be honest, I equated the words "networking event" with a simply nauseating situation: people acting fake and using each other in order to make more money or to land a better job. I think I would rather have a Doberman gnaw off my left foot than attend an event like that.

You can imagine my apprehension as I accepted the invitation to attend the first Carlson "meet and greet" that was held yesterday. I thought, "Oh god, here we go. Let the schmoozing begin." I already had a plan devised that would allow me to make an early exit, but I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that my classmates are a diverse group of down to earth, well-rounded people that I could see myself enjoying spending time with. The event was to be held from 5-7 PM and instead of sneaking out the back door at 6:30, I was having such a good time that I didn't want to leave at 7! Actually, I think I was the only one that left at 7. Everyone else stayed behind to continue drinking and socializing, but I told my wife that I would be home at 7:30 and being the good husband that I am, I was home at 7:30. Oh well, there will be plenty of other opportunities to hang out with my classmates, as we are going to be spending the next 2 years together.

If this is considered networking, then maybe it isn't as bad as I thought it would be.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Home sweet home

Tomorrow I will be on a plane back to the US. I can't believe that it has been two years since I came to China. The time has just flown by. Part of me is eager to get back to the States, but another part of me is sad to be leaving.

Things I'm going to miss about China (in no particular order):

1. Food - The food here is delicious. Not only is it delicious, but there is also so much variety. One could try a new dish every day and never eat the same thing twice for years.

2. Convenience - In China, most anything you need is within walking distance. No matter where you live, there is most likely be a few stores and restaurants within a 10 minute walk from your doorstep. If you happen to need something that you can't buy near your home, the public transportation is great. It's not like the US, where you need to drive everywhere you need to go.

3. My students - Some of my classes are a joy to teach. The students in these classes are enthusiastic and bright, making the 2 hour class seem like 15 minutes. It may seem cheesy, but it really does feel good when you can see the positive impact you make on their lives.

4. Receipts - Whenever you dine out and ask for a receipt, not only do you get a piece of paper detailing your purchases, but also little scratch-off tickets that give you the opportunity to win money from the restaurant. It's a nice little thrill at the end of the meal.

5. The Chinese people - According to Chinese culture, guests in one's home are to be made very comfortable. Foreigners in China are always considered "guests" even if they have been living in China for years. In many instances I have had people in China go out of their way to make me comfortable or provide assistance.

6. Environment of change - China is changing so rapidly that it is hard to keep track of all the changes. Take my wife's city for example. One time we went to her city to visit her parents. Even though only six months had passed since the last time we visited, the city had completely changed. Smaller buildings had been cleared away and beautiful apartments were built in their place. We counted at least 20 new businesses. I could actually see the city mature right before my eyes. I'm sure everyone has seen those overused, clichéd pictures of China that show a luxurious apartment building with a shabby shack town next door or a BMW parked next to a donkey cart, but these pictures don't totally convey the atmosphere of change in China. Its one thing to look at pictures depicting change; it’s another thing to actually experience it, to be an active part of it. It is rather exciting.

7. Lifestyle - Although teaching English might not be my career of choice, I have to admit the lifestyle is quite nice. I must teach X hours per week, but all of my other work (grading, lesson planning, meeting with students, etc) can be scheduled as I see fit. For example, I have the choice to squeeze all my work for the week into one hellish Saturday or spread it throughout the week. Also, my school provides me with an apartment that is only a 3 minute walk from where I teach. Very convenient, yes?

8. Ability to feign ignorance – I hate small talk. Whether it is in English or Chinese, I don’t see the point of chatting up the person in front of me in line at the supermarket or the guy sitting next to me on the bus. In the US, I have to engage in small talk if prompted or run the risk of looking like a prick. In China, I can simply say “听不懂” (I can’t understand what you are saying.) and since I am white nobody questions it. If I don’t feel like small talk and someone uses English, I can magically become Russian. It’s great.

Reasons I’m looking forward to going home (in no particular order):

1. Family – I’ll get to see my family.

2. Food – I will finally get to eat some REAL Italian pizza. Here, Pizza Hut is as good as it gets. Forget about getting a good steak.

3. Foreigner issues – Being a foreigner in China can be nice, but it isn’t all roses.

a) Staring – Everywhere I go, people stare at me like I’m a zoo animal, which leads to…
b) “Halllloooo!” or “LAOWAI” – When someone “spots” a foreigner, this is how they announce it to the world. Here is how it works: I walk past a group of teenage punks. After I pass, one or two of them will mockingly shout “Halllooo!” at the back of my head and the others will giggle like school girls. “Laowai” means “foreigner”, and this word is usually shouted at the top of one’s lungs in conjunction with an extended arm and a pointed finger. These things happen EVERY day without fail. At first it’s funny, but after the 10,000th time…..
c) White tax – Sometimes things cost more for white people than they do for Chinese people. Taxi drivers might take the long route if the passenger is a foreigner. Etc. Etc. Etc.
d) Racism – Like I mentioned in an earlier post, some ultra-patriotic Chinese don’t take kindly to foreigners. I’ve been spit at and called names just because of my race. As a white person in America, I had no clue what it felt like to be on the receiving end of racism. In China I’ve been able to get a little taste of it.
e) Inability to perform simple tasks without a big fuss – In China, Chinese speaking foreigners are rare. On top of that, Chinese people are taught from a young age that their language is so complex and mysterious that only Chinese people can possibly understand it. Following this logic, any foreigner that can speak Chinese is a genius. Of course, I don’t agree, but that is how many people here think. As a result, if I perform even the simplest task in Chinese, like ask for ketchup in McDonalds, it is greeted by giggles, gasps, and sometimes applause. Quite often this initial response leads to the following conversation:

Chinese person: Wow! Your Chinese is so good! (remember, I only said one or 2 words)
Me: Nah, not really.
Chinese person: How long have you studied?
Me: X
Chinese person: You are so bright!
Me: Nah, not really.
Chinese person: Where are you from?
Me. X
Chinese person: Do you like China?
Me: X
Etc. Etc. Etc.

This was ok at the beginning, when I was looking to practice my Chinese. Having the same conversation over and over again was good for me. However, after having this same conversation 10,000 times…well, you can probably understand how it feels. I am definitely looking forward to getting home and being able to do everyday, mundane things without causing such a fuss.

4. General feeling of chaos – Sometimes things here feel so unorganized. For one, Chinese people are notorious for jumping the queue. Nothing is more infuriating than waiting in line for 30 minutes only to have some guy with a “man purse” (these are all the rage in China) elbow his way in front of you. Walking on the street or sidewalk is like a never ending game of Frogger, as the cars and motorcycles drive not only on the streets, but on the sidewalks as well. Think that because you have the green light to cross the street you are safe? Wrong! You still have to look out for crazy drivers that have no regard for pedestrians. Let’s say that you safely make it off of the street and into a store. Buying things in the store can be a huge pain, as you must first get a ticket from the salesperson, then walk halfway across the store to the register where you pay and get a receipt, then walk back to the original spot to show your receipt and pick up your purchase. This general feeling of chaos extends into how the Chinese people arrange things or make appointments. For example, May 1st is a national holiday when students get a vacation. Guess when we found out how long the vacation was going to be and when we would have to make up classes? April 28th! The school knew that May 1st was coming for a whole year, but waited until April 28th to make plans. This is a good example of how things are done here. Plans are made at the last moment and people take it in stride.

Chinese people seem to thrive in this sort of chaotic atmosphere. Actually, it has been good for me to live here, as I am usually a “make a plan” sort of guy and China has taught me to loosen up a bit. However, I am looking forward to the more “orderly” feeling of the US.

5. Minneapolis’ clean environment – It is going to be a nice change living in a city that was voted 5th cleanest in the world. Where I am now, there are days when it is hard to breathe outside.

6. MBA – I’m really looking forward to starting the MBA program at Carlson.

Ok, so this should be the last of my China posts and, as promised, this will turn into more of a “proper” MBA blog in the next few weeks.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Its jail time for a stupid young girl in China

Repression of free speech is necessary in China. I can already see the self-righteous anger building up in the mind of any American that reads that sentence. "WHAT???? Free speech is a basic human right!!" Actually, I agree. Every time I see a violation of free speech, I have to fight the knee-jerk American reaction of outrage. In fact, in order to read my own blog I must use a proxy because blogspot is often blocked in China. Even though I am against repression of free speech, I think that it is a necessary evil in China. Do you really think it would be possible to run a country of 1.3 billion people, maintain breakneck 10% annual economic growth, and sustain social stability if the government let everyone freely speak their minds? Nothing would ever be accomplished and there would be constant protests and riots. The population is simply too large and a large percentage of it is uneducated. To keep order and maintain economic growth, China needs nationwide consensus...even if means forcing unity down the throat of the people through monopolized media and censorship.

Having said that, I think that today's events regarding a young girl in the city of Shenyang are going a bit too far.

Tonight, while I was watching an episode of Frasier, my wife and her mother (she has come to visit and send us off next week) were watching a video on the internet. They were laughing hysterically and I thought for sure that they were watching a comedy, but when I came over to check it out they were just watching a video of a girl giving a monologue. As I am sure you know, there was a horrible earthquake in Sichuan province on May 12th. This past Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were declared official mourning days in China. Across the country there was a blanket moratorium on public entertainment. Movies on the internet were blocked. Movie theaters were closed. Every TV channel was covering the earthquake 24 hours per day. Online games were closed down. A girl named Gao Qianhui was not happy about her entertainment being taken away, so she made a totally inappropriate video:

Here are some highlights. Maybe the translations aren't 100% correct, but I think they are pretty close:
-"God, stupid old lady trapped under a building for over 100 aren't dead yet?"
-"You guys in Sichuan are being punished for bad Karma. See what happens when you boycott French goods?"
-"The aftershocks were caused by all the people in Sichuan farting so much."
-"Maybe your eyes were destroyed by the earthquake, but I can still see. I want my entertainment back."
-"You guys in Sichuan always come up north to beg. Now you are just using this opportunity to suck some more money up."

This girl, out of frustration due to the fact that her entertainment was taken from her, made a completely tasteless attempt at being funny. She uses dark humor and sarcasm to create something that people laugh at when they really shouldn't be laughing. As you can see, the girl next to her is about to die laughing.

I think what she did was totally wrong, and I can understand why people would be mad. What she did would be the equivalent of some club queen, angry that her favorite clubs downtown are closed because of 9/11, cracking jokes about people jumping out of the twin towers and making fun of the firemen that died.

Yes, this girl did a horrible thing. Yes, many Chinese people are justifiably outraged. These alone aren't newsworthy items. Why am I bothering to mention her in my blog? Because she is going to jail! She is being brought up on charges, including destroying national stability. Huh? Some foolish young girl makes a stupid video and she is destroying national stability? Young people say stupid things every day, that doesn't mean that they should go to jail. I'm guessing that Gao Qianhui is going to disappear in the Chinese political prison system simply because she made a few tasteless jokes. Crazy, huh? Chinese netizens seem to agree with this course of action, but I can't help but wonder how many people disagree but are too scared to publicly say anything. My wife and her mother are included in this group. After they finished laughing at what Gao Qianhui said, they agreed that what she said wasn't nice, but they saw her for what she is: a stupid girl that said a stupid thing, not a threat to national stability.

Most of the time, I don't even realize that I live in a communist country. I go about my life and this fact doesn't really affect me. It's when things like this happen that I get a reminder that I'm not in the US anymore.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Foreign Specimens in China Part Four-"The Party Kids"

Note: This is part 4 of a series. Click here for part 1, part 2, and part 3.

In China, there are laws concerning the conditions under which a person from a foreign country can teach English. Technically, one needs to have a college degree (not necessarily in English) and two years of working experience before being able to teach. As with many laws in China, the further you get from Beijing, the less these laws are enforced. Out where I am, it seems like the local authorities completely ignore the section of the law that pertains to foreign teachers. It is quite common to see 18 or 19 year olds that are here in China not to study, but to teach. These kids consider a one year contract to teach as a one year license to party. Given China's lack of drinking laws and the fact that 18 year olds can be shameless punks (I know, I used to be one.), this leads to the creation of the fourth species of foreigners in China-the "Party Kids".

In the US, many 18 year olds take advantage of their newfound liberation from parental oppression by doing as much damage to their liver as possible. However, laws keep the teenagers somewhat bridled in. The minimum drinking age, public drinking laws, and the barring of admittance into bars and clubs do a somewhat decent job of restricting teenage partying to small events that take place in the privacy of someone's home after a "cool" older friend buys a couple of 6-packs. Financial restrictions also keep a lid on the festivities. Most 18 or 19 year olds are broke, so they can't afford to go out on the town that often. China doesn't have any drinking laws, but the culture keeps Chinese teenagers from going crazy. Like I mentioned in an earlier post, Chinese teenagers are more childlike and innocent than American teenagers. Put a few 18 year olds from America, Canada, Australia, etc. in a place with no drinking laws, give them enough money to support a 5 day a week drinking habit, and what do you get? The "Party Kids." As if teenagers don't feel invincible enough, living in China only exacerbates the problem. Relatively high salary and the attention given to foreigners combine to create little pimply-faced gods. Not only can these punks easily get their hands on alcohol, but they can also drink it in public AND have a crowd ooohhing and ahhhing at them while they do it. Because of their foreign status, the "Party Kids" can get away with stuff that would never fly in their home countries.

The "Party Kids'" behavior can be downright appalling. I'm not even going to mention what they do in the confines of a bar or dance club, as these are places designed for debauchery. The problem lies in the fact that these kids don't keep their bar behavior in the bar, they bring the party to the streets with a vengeance. In the city where I live there is a pedestrian street lined with stores and restaurants. In the middle of this street there is an open air area that serves food as well as beer. The atmosphere in this place should be family-orientated, as families that do their shopping on the pedestrian street stop in this area for a bite to eat, bringing their children. The "Party Kids" like to turn what should be a family friendly area into a raunchy redneck bar. On one occasion, my wife and I saw a group of them bring out a guitar and drunkenly SCREAM out songs as a group. Of course, this piqued the curiosity of the locals and many people passing by were stopping to stare and take pictures. Fueled by the extra attention that they would not have received in their own home country, the "Party Kids" proceeded to sing louder. (Note: This species of foreigner is closely related to the "Attention Seeker") Another time, my wife and I managed to catch the spectacle of a "pissing contest". No, I don't mean that we saw an argument, I mean that we saw an actual urination contest out in the open air. The "Party Kids" were standing on tables, peeing into pitchers to see who could produce the most urine. So classy....Much to my embarrassment, the Chinese people were all staring.

Whenever I see these kids galavanting around, ruining the image of foreigners, I want to snap their necks. However, if I did so, I would be a huge hypocrite. When I was 18, I was a stupid punk as well. If I were 18 in China, I might have participated in the very same idiotic activities that the "Party Kids" engage in. Kids will be kids. Even though kids will be kids, these kids prompt Chinese people to tell me, "Foreigners are all crazy," or ask me, "Why are the foreigners in China of such low quality?" The "Party Kids" probably don't realize, or care, that they represent the WHOLE foreign world in the eyes of the Chinese. Until every city in China begins to enforce the laws concerning foreign teachers, the "Party Kids" will continue to flourish.

"Party Kids", we salute you.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Random thought--Media

In China, the government controls the media. Everyone knows this; it's not exactly a secret. It is also very obvious to any outsider that the Chinese government utilizes the media to push its agenda, glorify China, and demonize America and the west. Ask an American about the portrayal of America in the Chinese media or the Chinese media in general and he or she will most likely, without even thinking, quickly blurt out something along the lines of:

"It's all brainwashing bullshit!"
"The Chinese government is just trying to control the people!"
"It's so obvious that the media in China is biased. The Chinese people can't see this?"
"They are just trying to make China look good and America look bad. So unfair!"
"What the hell is this crap they call news? At least American news is balanced and free from government influence!"
"It is in the government's interest for the Chinese people to fear the west. That's why the news is the way it is in China."

Wow...those poor Chinese people! Constantly subjected to manipulated news! Ok, now think for a moment. When was the last time you saw an American media story that put China in a positive light? I am not talking about the many articles that extol the virtues of investing in China; I am talking about a report that actually praises China for something other than its economic growth. (Actually, even most stories or articles that praise Chinese economic growth predictably mix in a jab or two concerning the environment or corruption, citing these factors as reasons that the growth can't possibly be sustainable.) Can't think of any? Maybe one or two? Ok, now try to think of media reports that criticize China or lead people to believe that the Chinese are out to get us. Oh, that one's easy...Contaminated food...Hidden military expenditures...Corruption...Pollution...Human rights...Computer espionage...etc...etc...etc...

Why is this the case? No can debate the fact that the above topics are newsworthy, but is there really NOTHING positive to report about China? Of course, there are positive things happening in China, it's just that the American media conveniently forgets to mention them. When it comes to China coverage, is our "free and liberal" media really all that different than the communist state-controlled media in China? Americans are quick to label Chinese media as government-controlled, propaganda nonsense and are just as quick to hold up the American media as a paradigm of unbiased and fair reporting. Where is the "fair and balanced" coverage of China? Apparently, the American media can dish out the propaganda just as well as the commies can.

What it all boils down to is that when a Chinese person bases his or her opinion of America on the one sided news that he or she is exposed to, that person is considered "brainwashed", but when an American bases his or her opinion of China on the one sided news that he or she is exposed to, that person is considered "informed". Kind of hypocritical, isn't it?

Just something to think of as you take in the never ending media reports concerning the "yellow peril"...

Friday, May 9, 2008

Helpful MBA links

For any future MBA applicants reading this, here is a list of links that I found useful during my GMAT and application days.

First of all, I would start by checking out GMATclub. If I were to choose one website for GMAT preparation and help with the MBA application process, it would be this one. In addition to helpful study guides, it also has a forum where people share their GMAT and MBA application experiences.

After taking the GMAT, you need to begin to really focus on which school you want to attend. Besides reading a school's website and getting in touch with students and alumni, another way to research MBA programs is to read student blogs.

A list of student blogs
A list of applicant blogs
A list of alumni blogs
The Clear Admit blog
Admissions 411-Not really a blog, but a collection of MBA admissions stats

I would say that writing the application essays is the hardest part of the application process. Even if you have a 780 GMAT score, if your essays don't make you stand out you will probably be rejected. GMATclub is chock full of suggestions concerning application essays, but to get you started here is a free guide to writing application essays.

If you are lucky enough to be selected for an MBA interview, here are a few interview resources:
A list of common MBA interview questions
A collection of interview experiences for each MBA program

So, there you go. I hope you find these links as useful as I did. Good luck!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

It's a beautiful May 1st...but I'm not going outside

Because I'm an American in China, I feel almost obligated to make some sort of comment regarding the recent events concerning Tibet, the Olympic torch relay, CNN, and Carrefour. Since these topics have already been discussed to death elsewhere, I'm not going give a full length commentary. Instead, I will provide you with a few good links and pictures to explain why my wife and I are staying indoors on this beautiful May spring day.

All the recent trouble has been focused on Tibet. I have found an article by Peter Hessler best sums up the problem and presents both sides of the issue. Click here for part 1, part 2, and part 3. If you are too lazy to read this well written article, here are the main points:

Chinese side:
-Tibet has always been a part of China
-Before Chinese rule, Tibet had an oppressive feudal society with a few powerful figures (Dalai Lama, etc.) enjoying a good life while the rest were practically slaves
-China has invested a lot of money in Tibet, improving the infrastructure
-China has provided free schooling for Tibetans, allowing them to have an education that they would not have had otherwise
-Overall, Tibetans have a better life than before
-Tibet needs to modernize and the Chinese are helping them do it

Tibetan side:
-The level of Chinese control over Tibet has fluctuated throughout history
-Religious oppression-Atheism "for a better socialist society" is taught in schools even though most of the students are Buddhists. Also, it is believed that Beijing has taken the liberty of choosing their own Panchen Lama (an important religious figure in Buddhism) for the Tibetans rather than allowing the real Panchen Lama to take his rightful place.
-Free schools, but Chinese language, culture, and love for the Communist Party are forced on the students, in the process diluting Tibetan culture
-Lingering resentment over the destruction of their temples and the murder of their people at the hands of the Chinese during the Cultural Revolution
-Even though life may be better than before, without the necessary connections in China, Tibetans are still second class citizens in Tibet

So, as you can see, Tibet is a rather complex issue. It isn't as simple as the "Free Tibet" or "Tibet is a part of China" protesters would have you believe.

Of course, protesters in foreign countries have seized the opportunity that the Olympic torch run presents, using what should be a non-political event to make a political statement. The Chinese people are taking this personally, protesting both CNN for its biased coverage of Tibet and statements made by one of its journalists, and Carrefour (a French version of Wal-Mart) for allegedly supporting the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan separatist movement. Like I mentioned in an earlier post, the Chinese people are very patriotic. On top of this, the Chinese people are not used to hearing international criticism due to the fact that the media in China is heavily censored. These two factors combined can lead to a volatile situation. Here are a few links that sum up the mood in China right now:

From the Economist:
"Flame On"
"Manage That Anger"

This is a forum that my wife reads where Chinese people discuss living in other countries. If you can read Chinese, you will see that the discussion is now (as of May 1st) 90% patriotic drivel, totally off-topic. This is the case in quite a few Chinese online forums.

CNN/Western media protests-The Chinese people are angry over the biased reporting displayed by CNN and other western media outlets. To top it all off, Jack Cafferty of CNN made some disparaging remarks about China, further fanning the flames.

-A petition with over 3 million signatures protesting CNN a website dedicated to exposing the western media lies. I have to admit, if what is on this website is true, some of the things that the western media did were downright deceitful.

It is just my personal opinion, but I find this stuff is simply hilarious. First of all, the Chinese government is stooping to the level of someone that is essentially a "shock-jock", demanding an apology from him and CNN. This really shows how far the Chinese government is willing to go to pump up Chinese patriotism. "Look how powerful we are! We can force Jack Cafferty to apologize to us for hurting our feelings!" This just gets the Chinese citizens worked up over the fact that some nobody editorial commentator in the US gave his own personal opinion. If the American people protested every time someone in the Chinese media criticized the US, the protests would never end. If George Bush made derogatory comments regarding China, I could understand national outrage...but Jack Cafferty? Secondly, it seems like nobody here in China sees the irony of protesting the western media over unfair coverage. The Chinese media never censors the news or presents a one sided view of things, right? Yeah............

Another victim of the Olympic torch relay is French retailer Carrefour. An unsubstantiated rumor got out that Carrefour is funding the Dalai Lama and everyone is getting all hot and bothered about it. To tell the truth, if the Olympic torch was not extinguished in France, I don't think that the Chinese would have a problem with Carrefour. The rumor concerning the relationship between Carrefour and the Dalai Lama magically appeared right after the protests in France. I would show you some examples of Chinese netizens protesting Carrefour, but the Chinese government, in an attempt to control the patriotic fervor that it has created, has blocked the search for "Carrefour" in Google.
Translation: You cannot access the results for
your search term. Search for something else.

Trying Yahoo yields the same result:
Translation: Your search is not in accordance with Chinese law

Just yesterday the internet was full of anti-Carrefour rants, but today it is illegal to do a search for Carrefour and all cyber-discussion concerning Carrefour has mysteriously disappeared. Seems strange... Why is the government trying to calm the Chinese people down by directing attention away from Carrefour? Why am I staying inside today? Because today is the day that massive protests against Carrefour are to be staged. The buildup has been brewing for weeks and today is the big day. Given the anti-foreigner sentiment in China right now, and the fact that a Carrefour is only a 5 minute walk from our home, I think its best that my wife and I don't go out today. People are starting to behave irrationally. For example, recently my wife received a crazy QQ (Chinese version of MSN messenger) message from one of our friends telling her to always trust the Communist Party and to stay away from anything foreign. This person attended our wedding and ate dinner with us many times, so we considered her a good friend. I thought that she approved of our marriage, but I guess that deep down she didn't. Our "friend" is a college educated, seemingly rational person. It makes me a bit nervous that this sort of person can get caught up in the patriotic fever currently sweeping through China. Just 2 months ago this person was fine with our marriage. Now she is anti-foreigner. Crazy, huh?

Grace Wang-Click this link to see what happens when a Chinese person is perceived as disagreeing with the "Chinese people". I don't want anything like this happening to my wife. Some people call her a "traitor bitch" for holding my hand on a regular day. What could happen on a day like today?

Here in China everyone has seen the picture of the French protester attacking the Chinese wheelchair bound torch runner, along with commentary telling us how savage the foreign protesters are. What we don't see in the Chinese news are pictures of Chinese protesters/supporters of China acting in the same manner.

Destruction in a Carrefour...actions praised in Chinese discussion forums

These photos were taken in South Korea. The people we see being attacked were protesting China deporting North Korean refugees back to North Korea.

Although today is supposed to be the "big" protest against Carrefour, there have already been many smaller ones.

Here is a story about an American volunteer that was harassed by a mob protesting Carrefour in Hunan Province

Some quotes from the article:

"Last night, a Zhuzhou volunteer walked into Carrefour despite the fact that there was a sizable protest going on outside. This volunteer chose not to become verbally or physically involved in the protest, but like I said before, choosing to shop at Carrefour while protests are going on is making a statement in and of itself. When the volunteer finished shopping and tried to leave the store, the protesters did not let him leave at first and a mob mentality quickly ensued. The volunteer was forced to run through the crowd to safety while a couple people threw punches at him and others were chanting and verbally threatening him. The volunteer managed to jump into a taxi and close the door, but the mob surrounded the taxi, trying to break in, tip the taxi over, and smash the windows. The police were finally able to get the volunteer to a safe place and the situation was settled, for the time being."

"网友最新回复:昨天被打的外国人是我们学校的外教别个是美国的,周末到家乐福买东西,结果被打得上不了课了.今天的课全改自习了.作孽呢?他平时蛮好的一 个人很活泼,估计以后都不敢来中国教书了.呵呵.多讲道理,少动手.今天接教育局通知:所有学生都被戒严了,不允许出校门,要家长来接才可以哦.
Response from Netizen 1: Yesterday the foreigner who was attacked was a foreign teacher from the US who works at our school. He was buying something at Carrefour, but ended up getting beaten so badly he was unable to teach today. All our classes today were changed to self-revision. He is a nice guy and normally quite active. I guess he will never dare come to teach in China again. Hehe. Talk more reason and use less brute force. Today, the Ministry of Education imposed a curfew on all students. Students now can't leave school unless their parents come pick them up."

So, as you can see, Chinese protesters can get just as nasty as foreign protesters. Therefore, my wife and I are not leaving the house today. Its possible that, like the protesters in Hunan, some Chinese protesters might take their anger towards the western world out on anyone with a white face. I know that the chances of getting hurt are almost nil, but why take that risk given our close proximity to Carrefour?

My 2 years in China have been a wonderful experience. I have met so many nice people that I can't even begin to count them. It is sad that my last days in China are under these tumultuous circumstances. I won't let recent events change my mind about China or the Chinese people. I still think that China is a nice place and the Chinese people are generally good. However, I have to admit that I am grateful that I won't be here during the Olympic Games. If this much anti-foreign sentiment can be generated by people protesting outside of China, what is going to happen if some crazy protesters hijack the Olympic games inside China's borders? I am hoping that the Games come and go peacefully, and that China can get back to normal as soon as possible.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Foreign Specimens in China Part Three- "The Man Sluts"

Note: This is part 3 of a series. Click here for part one and click here for part two.

It's just a regular Thursday at the office...or is it? What is this? A new guy from England? He seems nice enough; I'll go over and introduce myself. seems as if I can't. He's surrounded by all the female employees. They all seem to be hanging on his every word. For some reason he just seems wittier, perhaps more charming than the other guys in the office. On top of that, everything he says has an educated, high class ring to it. The women are just eating this up. Damn him to hell...

Maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration, but I think we all have seen this happen. The new guy or girl from Australia/South Africa/France/etc. enters the fold and everyone of the opposite sex goes bonkers. The new person's accent is just so sexy, so exotic, so different!

Take this effect, multiply it by 100, and you get the situation that foreigners in China are in. In China, foreign men not only sound different, but also look different and act differently than the locals. If a Londoner is considered exotic in middle America, just imagine how a white man in China is seen. Not only can foreigners in China play the "exotic card", they are also on average much richer than the average local citizen. For example, English teachers that work in the city where I live make 4 to 5 times more than what is considered a white collar salary. If an English teacher is this well off when compared to the locals, you can probably imagine the position a business expat is in.

The result? Every foreigner's "attractiveness quotient" increases by approximately 2.5 just by stepping into China. If one was a "5" back home, he or she is a "7.5" in China. If a guy was a "7" in England, he becomes a studly "9.5" in China. Predictably, many guys take full advantage of this situation. It is quite common in China to see a foreign guy, that in theory has no business having a girlfriend, walking around with a girl on his arm, or a foreign man that is only mildly attractive surrounded by 3 or 4 girls all vying for his attention. The men that become full blown man sluts are usually the ones that were around a "7" back home. In their home country, they were able to pick up ladies at a decent clip, so in China they become full blown male model studs. Many foreign men in China have 3 or 4 Chinese girls in the rotation at any given time.

Obviously the "Man Sluts" are enjoying themselves, but what about the women they leave in their wake? Normally, I think that anything that goes on between consenting adults is fine. As long as both people know what they are getting into, then I think that there is nothing wrong with having a little fun. In the United States, I think that a 21 year old girl you meet in a bar is fair game. She is old enough to make her own decisions and probably knows that marriage isn't implied if the relationship goes to the next level. If a 21 year old girl in the US is fair game, a 21 year old girl in China is as well, right? Not necessarily. In China, people are considered to be children for a much longer time than in America. Therefore, the maturity level of an average 21 year old Chinese girl is vastly different than that of an average American 21 year old girl. Whereas the average American 21 year old girl has already lived on her own, had a job, and been with a few different guys, the average Chinese 21 year old girl has probably not done any of these things. On average, Chinese college students are much more innocent than American college students (although this is changing). Let's look at my students for example. I am teaching a public speaking course to a class of sophomores. Even though I have told them many times not to, quite a few of them begin their speeches with, "Good morning boys and girls." In another class I am teaching oral English. The students all giggle like little schoolgirls any time something even remotely sexual is mentioned. Sometimes during the break between classes, I see the girls playing "patty cake" hand slapping games that pre-teen girls in America play. They still consider themselves to be children, even if they are 20 years old. Consequently, perhaps it isn't quite right for a man to handle a 21 year old Chinese girl in the same manner in which he would handle a 21 year old American girl. Although the girl looks 21 on the outside, she is probably at the emotional maturity level of a 16 year old American girl. I have a feeling that many Chinese girls get burned by foreigners. Yes, the foreigners warn the girls that the relationship isn't anything permanent. Yes, the girls acknowledge this. However, like inexperienced girls in America, deep down they feel like they can change the "bad-boy" foreigner and somehow entice him into a more permanent relationship. Remember, in China, something as simple as walking closely together or holding hands has rather deep significance when it comes to relationships. If two people sleep together, they might as well be married. The "Man Slut" usually doesn't take this into account.

So, what do Chinese men think of the "Man Sluts", or foreign men dating Chinese women in general? Obviously, I cannot act as spokesperson for the Chinese, but I can relay my own personal experiences. My wife and I get different responses in different situations. My students are fine with our relationship. They think we have a "cute" love story. Men on the street are a different story. We have been spit at. My wife has been called a "foreigner loving bitch" or some other variation of the same theme quite a few times. I have had a drinking glass thrown at me in a restaurant. My wife and I feel nervous whenever we walk past a group of middle aged men because they always give disapproving stares and begin talking about us as soon as we pass. I wouldn't say that the majority of men in China disapprove of us, but if you pass 100 people in a given day and one of them throws a glass at you or calls your wife a "bitch" while the other 99 do nothing, who will you remember?

Why does this happen? I think part of it can be chalked up to a lack of education. We can see the same sort of behavior in the trailer parks of the US whenever a black man dates a white woman. Rednecks go crazy whenever they see someone "tekkin thayr wimmen!" Another part can be contributed to the level of nationalism in China. For those of you that don't know, China is a very patriotic country. Some people from foreign countries say that Americans are too patriotic, but I think the Chinese have us beat. The training begins from an early age, starting in kindergarten. If you walk past any Chinese kindergarten in the morning, you will probably hear one of the 10,000 songs that glorify Mao Zedong. My wife knows approximately 1000 patriotic songs whereas I only know 3 (1st verse of our national anthem, "My Country Tis Of Thee", and "Born in the USA"). The programming continues as the child grows up, as cities are plastered with patriotic slogans (For China! For the People!) and children are taught a "politics" course in every grade. You can imagine what is taught in "politics" class. In the USA, it is in college that people usually begin to learn about what is wrong with our country and our government. This isn't so in China, where the indoctrination continues even into college. At the University where I teach, all freshmen must undergo a month of military training, which means that they must run around spouting Communist Party lines in cadence. Even in the classrooms one cannot escape the all-encompassing patriotism, as classroom walls are adorned with patriotic slogans like "我是中国人民的儿子。我深情地爱着祖国和人民!" (I am a son of the people of China. I deeply love both the motherland and the people!) written in calligraphy. I am not saying that all Chinese people are flag waving, overzealous lunatics, but I think an average Chinese person is usually more patriotic than the average American person.

One of the main drivers behind all the patriotism is the fact that in the past 200 years, the outside world has pretty much walked all over China. For those of you that don't know how the outside world has treated China in the past, here are a few examples in the form of a "Quicky-Wiki" history lesson: The Nanking Massacre, The Opium Wars, and the Unequal Treaties. The Communist Party takes a "never forget" stance on these incidents, constantly reminding the Chinese people that they happened. It is hard to make it through a whole day without being reminded of the evil of the outside world. On (State controlled) Chinese television, besides the biased news, there are countless "docu-dramas" depicting the heroic Chinese and the despicable foreigners during the World War. There is a segment called "Red Memory", which is a quick 5 minute program that is placed between shows throughout the day. From the name "Red Memory", you can probably deduce that the segments are about Chinese triumphs and foreign atrocities during the war. If you turn off your TV and open up a newspaper, you will see more of the same. Memoirs of people that suffered at the hands of evil foreigners during the war are commonplace in Chinese newspapers. Even if you put down the newspaper and surf the web, you still cannot escape. Chinese online discussion forums are full of people spouting anti-foreigner dogma. Even mainstream websites like Yahoo regularly feature pictures of Japanese war crimes as well as pictures of foreigners kissing or hugging Chinese girls in public, often with captions along the lines of, "Disgusting foreigner and traitor bitch." Let's say that you want to get away from all the media and go on a trip to take in some culture. Small shrines and mini-museums are constructed to remind the people of the evils of foreign colonialism (click here for an example).

The "official" reasoning from the Communist Party is that this sort of patriotism and these kinds of reminders are necessary to keep the nation strong and avoid a repeat of the past. There might be some truth to this, but I think that the Party also benefits from all this nationalism. If the Chinese people are busy coming together against the "enemy", they will be too busy to criticize the government or notice that they lack in human rights(just like George Bush, the "terrorists", and the Patriot Act).

Anyway, all the aforementioned drivel about politics and whatnot is irrelevant. Being the selfish bastard that I am, the most pressing question is, "How does all this affect ME?" Given that the Chinese people are bombarded with reminders of foreign colonialism, I can imagine how seeing a "Man Slut" might set them off. Nothing smacks of colonialism more than foreigners coming in and pillaging the women, right? When the person that threw a glass saw my wife and me, he probably lumped me in with the guys that come to China to get their rocks off and then go home. Little did he know that my wife and I have been married for almost 2 years and had been friends for many, many years before getting married. Thanks to the "Man Sluts", with a little help from the Chinese government, my wife and I have to endure racist slurs, judgment, and the occasional physical attack simply because we have the gall to hold hands in public places.

"Man Sluts", we salute you.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Carlson Full Time MBA statistics

I have a neat little program called Statcounter running on this website. It allows me to see the location of the people viewing my blog as well as any referring URLs that led them here. I can see quite a few people found my blog through searches for things like "Carlson GMAT" or "Carlson GPA", so for the sake of convenience, I will post some relevant Carlson stats here.

Carlson Full Time Class of 2009 (taken from here)

Class size: 93
Average GMAT: 661
GMAT Range- Middle 80%: 610-720
Average GPA: 3.38
Average Age: 28
Average Years of Work Experience: 4.49
% International: 29%
% Women: 27%
Foreign Countries Represented: 11
US States Represented: 18

Undergraduate Major
Business: 32%
Economics: 11%
Social Science: 12%
Humanities: 11%
Engineering: 15%
Science/Math: 18%
Other: 1%

Due to financial restrictions (my whopping $600 per month salary), I was unable to attend the Carlson admitted students weekend. I can't really provide any insight into this coming year's class, but by looking at the profiles of current students I can see that the Carlson Full Time MBA student body is made up of capable people from all professional sectors and all walks of life. Click here and here for a small sample of the high-caliber students that attend Carlson. A few highlights:

-A financial consultant from Wells Fargo
-A marketer that worked for the largest infant formula manufacturer in China
-A naval officer that trained students in the principles of nuclear power
-A Director of Marketing and Advertising at a non-profit youth camp
-A man that worked with the World Bank to develop businesses that are environmentally friendly

As the competition for spots in the Class of 2010 was even more fierce than that seen in the past few years, I can only assume that this year's incoming class will be as good, if not better, than the class of 2009.

Employment Statistics (taken from here)

Accepted Average Salary: $87,118
Accepted Range: $52,000-$122,000
Graduates Employed within 3 Months: 93%

Average Salary by professional function

General Management--Average:$93,834--Range:$66,000-$122,000


Percentage receiving bonus: 70%
Average Bonus: $15,582
Range: $2,500-$30,000

MBA internships

Percentage of students with internships: 97%
Average pay: $31.45 per hour
Range: $12.00-$50.77

As Carlson is a strong regional program, it places most of its graduates in the Minneapolis area. When considering salary statistics, one needs to remember that the quality of life that a $75,000 salary in Minneapolis affords is equal to (taken from here):

$102,336 in the New York City area
$88,318 in Boston
$85, 514 in Seattle
$86, 916 in Miami
$105,841 in Los Angeles
$119,860 in San Francisco

Ok, I hope this helps out anyone searching for Carlson's statistics. This is a nice little summary, but you can always check out Carlson's main website for more detail.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Foreign Specimens in China Part Two- "The Alternate Reality Creators"

Note: This is part two of a series concerning the different types of foreigners in China. To see how it started, click here to see part one.

Moving to a new area is a great opportunity to reinvent yourself. Going to a new place where nobody knows you allows you to try a new haircut, break out a new fashion style, perhaps fudge a bit about your past...Maybe in the previous city your position was "assistant manager", but in the new city it suddenly becomes "manager". I'm willing to bet that most anyone you meet that has just moved from another place has tweaked their life story just a bit. The "Alternate Reality Creator" turns this sort of tweaking into an art form.

The best way to explain the "alternate reality creator" is to just jump right in and give a few examples. Let's begin with "Bob". My wife and I had gone out one night to get a drink and watch a soccer game when we met "Bob", sitting at a table with a girl on each arm (coming up in part 3-"The Man Sluts"). If you believed everything he told you, "Bob" would be a renaissance man of sorts. "Bob" was not only a model, but also had a successful business back in Canada at the ripe old age of 26. His hobbies included traveling to NYC for photo shoots, skiing in Switzerland, and taking trips to France just for the cuisine. To top it off, his father was a member of the Canadian version of the CIA, giving him access to all the latest electronic gadgets (At the time, he had a 350 RMB=$40 cell phone). He had been in China for 2 and a half years as an English teacher by the time we met him, and was planning on staying for another 3 years. Why would such a successful man be teaching English in a second-rate (Without giving up too much detail, I'll just say that I am not in a city like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, etc.) city? To quote him, "To do a good thing and make a positive impact on the world." Right........... Upon further inspection, his story had a few cracks.

Me: "Since you have been in China for 2 and a half years, how do you run your business?"

Bob: "Well, I've got a guy that does that for me. I don't need to do anything."

Me: "I used to live in NYC. Where did you like to go when you visited?"

Bob: "Oh, all over."

Me: "Right, but which places? Bars? Restaurants? Maybe I have been there before."

Bob: "Well, you know...just everywhere."

When my wife and I couldn't take another lie without calling him out on it in front of his little "harem", we left. He gave us his business card. "Bob X, ABCD University, Assistant to the Deam". That's right, his card said "Deam". Nice.

Next up we've got "Harry" from the UK. This guy was a real piece of work. He was over 40, reeked of BO, and I am willing to bet that 90% of the things that came out of his mouth were bold faced lies. His story was that he is an ex-lawyer, teaching English in China for the adventure. He had written a book detailing his Chinese sexual escapades that was scheduled to be published in Australia in the next few weeks. Among his conquests were a CCTV9 (China's English television channel) news anchor as well as a 19 year old student of his that he was currently sleeping with. At that time he was planning on leaving China in the next 30 days to escape the backlash that his book was sure to create and was looking forward to living the high life from his book's royalties. Seriously, this guy's BO was so bad, his face so ugly, and his belly so fat, that I couldn't imagine how he could get ONE girl to sleep with him, much less enough women to fill a whole book. It must be nice to live in his alternate reality.

I've saved the best one for last. The following is the story of "Jake" and the three-year scam he pulled on a girl that lives in the same apartment complex as my wife's family.

"Jake" started to date a girl in my wife's apartment complex in 2003. They got engaged, much to the delight of her mother. When I was studying in Qinhuangdao during the summer of 2005 my wife and I ran into the mother. The conversation between that woman and my wife went something like this:

Girl's Mother: So, this is your foreigner? He is so sunburnt. Not like the one at my house. He always wears sunglasses and sunblock. His skin is so sensitive and nice. Is your foreigner rich?

My wife: Not really. (I was a student at the time, putting myself through school. Of course I wasn't rich.)

Girl's Mother: Well, my daughter's fiance is so well off....etc........

Well, "Jake" had this family going. He had told them that his parents were not only oil tycoons, but also were doctors that owned their own publishing house. "Jake" had convinced the girl that after they got married a 6 bedroom house in Miami was waiting for them, along with 2 BMW convertibles and a Mercedes SUV. The girl's mother just ate this stuff up, bragging to anyone that would listen and becoming known in my wife's city as the lady whose daughter was marrying a rich American and going to America.

As soon as I heard the full story, alarms went off in my head. First of all, this guy was working two jobs, teaching English at two different places. I can see a rich person taking a year off to teach English in China for the sake of traveling, but this guy was busting his hump for the equivalent of $1000 per month. Secondly, he was living with his fiancee and her family, eating up all their food. The son of an oil tycoon couldn't afford $300 per month to rent his own luxurious apartment in the middle of the city? Third, he kept putting off the marriage, saying that he wanted to wait until after she graduated from college. Why? Fourth, any normal potential bride would want to see proof of their future husband's alleged fortune, right? Guess what he provided as proof: pictures of a house and a few cars! He was nowhere to be seen in the photos. I'm guessing that they were just photos that he found on the internet. Also, a wife-to-be usually wants to talk to the future in-laws sometime before the marriage. All the poor girl got was an email that could have easily been written by "Jake". What about the fiancee's visa to the US? "Jake" assured her that he "saved her place in line at the American Embassy" and all they had to do was go and pick it up when they were ready. Oh, just as a side note, "Jake" also had bad BO like "Harry".

Any rational person would tear "Jake's" story to shreds, but for some reason the victim and her family didn't catch on. Maybe they were simply blinded by his beautiful, creamy, milky white skin. After meeting the girl's mother in the summer of 2005 and hearing her story, I hypothesized that "Jake" had no intentions to marry the girl and would be long gone within the year. Sure enough, he was gone within the next few months. After he left, the poor girl he victimized had to have an extended stay in the loony bin and after she got out she relocated to another city for a long time.** Naturally, her boastful mother severely lost face and is now as quiet as a mouse.

The effect that these lying foreigners have on the Chinese opinion of foreigners is obvious. The State media already instills a dash of mistrust towards the outside world and these foreigners only validate that message. I'll offer up my own experience as anecdotal evidence. When word got out that my wife and I were engaged to be married, there certainly was no shortage of people advising against it. "He'll probably just run away!" "He's just cheating you!" "He probably has AIDS!!!" "Jake" had effectively poisoned the community against me. I had to "prove" that I wasn't a prick because the people in the community automatically assumed that I was due to their previous interactions with an American. It was nice to prove them wrong, but I would rather have not had to climb that hill.

"Alternate Reality Creators", we salute you.

**Just as an aside, it seems to me that it is quite common in Chinese people to have their sorrow over being dumped or shame over losing face manifest itself in physical or mental illness. In addition to the example I mentioned above, here are a few more examples:

-Another girl in my wife's apartment complex had managed to land herself a player in the CBA (Chinese Basketball Association). They were living together for years, but the guy refused to get married. Of course, this didn't stop the parents from bragging to everyone that their daughter was marrying a sports star. They even went as far as to redecorate their house to accommodate the CBA player's high social status. If a guy lives with a girl for years and refuses to marry her, he probably won't end up marrying her, right? Right. He ended up dumping the girl for a younger, richer, and prettier girl. Upon hearing the news, the girl's father fainted and required a two week stay in the hospital.

-One of my wife's best friends was dating a guy for years, fully expecting that they would get married. The guy was a bit of a mama's boy and when his mother ordered him to marry an ugly, fat, rich girl he obeyed. When he broke the news to my wife's friend, she came down with a mysterious illness, requiring a couple months of bed rest and causing her eyes to bug out a little bit. Her eyes are still not quite right.

-One day my wife and I were out clothes shopping and this crazy young woman came up to me, held up a T-shirt and said, "Esssaaaaaahhhh! Esssaaaahhhhhh! One for you and one for me! Only 90 RRRRRR Emmmmmm Beeeeeeeeee (RMB=Chinese currency)." The shop attendant told us that she used to be considered something of a local beauty until her boyfriend dumped her. After he broke up with her she went insane.

Lesson to be learned? If you date a Chinese girl, you hold in your hand not only her heart, but quite possibly her sanity/health as well! Be careful!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Foreign Specimens in China Part One- "The Attention Seeker"

Technically this blog is classified as an "MBA blog", but seeing as how classes at Carlson don't start for a few months,until the end of August, I'm going to write a few posts concerning life in China. As I am preparing to return to the US after 2 years living in China, I have been reflecting on my time here. The places I've seen, the people I have met, and the things I have done all add up to equal a wonderful overall experience.

I do not intend on turning this blog into a "China blog", as there is already a countless number of blogs (including one of my favorites: China Law Blog) that provide valuable insight into China. However, while waiting for the Carlson MBA experience to begin, I would like to allocate a bit of space in my blog to explaining my take on life in China.

Although one could fill a thousand books on Chinese culture and the Chinese people, I am going to write a series of posts on the various "species" of foreigners in China and how they affect the Chinese perception of foreigners. When considering the Chinese perception of foreigners, two things need to be considered: the Chinese concept of "foreign" and the sources from which they form their opinions of foreigners.

First of all, the average Chinese person views the world in terms of "Chinese" vs. "Foreign" (or "The West", which really means "Everywhere besides China"). In their eyes, all people in the Chinese category are similar and all people in the Foreign category are similar. The logic goes something like this: Americans should be similar to French, which are similar to Brazilians, which are similar to Nigerians...etc. I cannot begin to explain how many times I have heard statements along the lines of, "All foreigners like X", or "Foreigners have an X personality, Chinese people have a Y personality," as if someone from England is just like someone from Argentina simply because they share the "foreign" designation. Along the same lines, many of my students erroneously think that they can improve their English simply by speaking with a foreigner, regardless of where the foreigner is from. In other words, they think that practicing English with a French person whose second language is English is just as good as practicing with a native English speaker just because the French person is foreign. In fact, when discussing the study of English, many Chinese people will substitute
外语 (foreign language) for 英语(English). For example, someone might say (in Chinese), "My daughter studies foreign language very well," meaning, "My daughter studies English very well." The meaning behind this? ALL foreigners must speak English.

Secondly, one must consider the inputs into the Chinese opinion of foreigners. First of all, there is the Chinese State media. Much like the "liberal" American media is decidedly slanted against China, the Chinese State-controlled media is slanted against America or the west in general (i.e. "The capitalist pig American whose hobbies include spreading AIDS…"). Secondly, the movies play a big part in shaping Chinese opinion (think "American Pie" shenanigans or the violence in "Speed"). Lastly, foreigners that are actually in China play a small part.

So, if you combine the Chinese concept of "foreign", the actions of foreigners in China, and the fact that an average Chinese person might only see a foreigner 3 or 4 times in their life, you can see where it may lead. If an Australian acts the fool in public, then Americans must enjoy behaving in that manner as well. If a French person is a prick, then people from the Philippines must be pricks as well. If one foreigner rapes a Chinese girl, then the Chinese media will be quick to show that it verifies the "savageness" of foreign culture. Notice I used the word "culture" rather than "cultures"...

This brings me to the different kinds of foreigners that are in China. Of course, by dividing and putting labels on any sort of people, one runs the risk of over-generalization. Naturally, not all foreigners in China fall into the categories I am going to mention. Conversely, if a foreigner does “fit the mold” of one of these categories, it might only describe one aspect of his/her personality. Also, you must remember that this post is for entertainment purposes only. This is not an academic research paper; it is just my way of explaining all the crazy people I have met in China. If you take into account these foreigners’ actions along with the factors I have mentioned above, it totally explains why some Chinese view foreigners the way they do.

The foreigners that stay in China for an extended period of time can be divided up into 3 groups: Students, Business expats, and English teachers. Most of them fall into the English teacher category. I have met all kinds of English teachers, ranging from intelligent, educated people that value traveling and life experiences over money, to the dregs of western society. Although the range of the types of English teachers is wide, the population distribution is heavily skewed towards the dregs. (Yes, I have been reviewing Statistics for my future MBA classes…) There are the “Attention Seekers”, the “Party Kids”, the “Man Sluts”, and the “Alternate Reality Creators”, to name a few. Today I will be discussing the “Attention Seekers”.

Merely being foreign in China warrants the status of a semi-celebrity. Foreigners stick out like a sore thumb. This effect is even greater in the smaller cities/towns in China. Being able to speak even an infinitesimal amount of Chinese AND being foreign catapults one into the status of demi-god. If any foreigner says as much as "Hello" or "Thank you" in Chinese, the result is a torrent of undeserved praise and wonder. The "attention seeker" not only feels this praise is warranted and takes it to heart, he/she will also take full advantage of their undeserved "status" in China, going out of their way to be seen and heard. You can actually see their chest begin to puff out and their nose slant towards the sky as their ego is stroked 1000 times on a daily basis. Yes, I have seen an "attention seeker" walk up to a group of musicians playing in the square and request a song in Chinese, knowing full well that he will steal the musicians' thunder and all eyes will be on him because (gasp!) he is a foreigner that can speak Chinese. He had no real desire to hear a specific song, he just wanted everyone to praise his Chinese ability. The "attention seeker" will walk down the street talking or singing as loud as possible just to MAKE SURE that everyone stares at him/her in all of his/her glory. The "attention seeker" will constantly go to the various English Corners (places where Chinese people go to practice speaking English) so that he/she can be the center of attention simply for speaking his/her native language. Never mind that the people at the English Corners are just using them as human English-practicing devices. Never mind the fact that these people probably wouldn't have anything to do with them if they weren't English speakers. An English speaking robot would be just as good as the "attention seeker", but attention is attention, right?

Some foreigners take attention seeking to a whole new level. In China, there are a multitude of television shows that feature foreigners. Click here for a perfect example. If you are too lazy to click the link, here is the basic gist: the Chinese have created programs that feature foreigners simply because they are foreigners. 9 times out of 10 these foreigners have no business being on television. They have no talent besides the fact that they can speak some Chinese or perhaps can sing a karaoke song. The producers of the show make the foreigners dance around and sing in Chinese, much to the delight of the Chinese crowd. Sadly, my wife also enjoys watching these shows. The other night we watched one and after a performance one of the "judges" exclaimed, "Wow! It is so amazing that a foreigner like you can master Chinese!" How condescending is that? The stupid foreigner can actually learn Chinese??? Amazing! I just cringe in shame as these talentless foreign attention whores make asses of themselves on TV, taking advantage of the fact that the Chinese are simply fascinated with anything foreign, especially foreign "things" that speak Chinese. I mean, it wouldn't be so bad if the foreigners actually had some talent and deserved to be on television, but if these people were back in their home country, the only television show they could be on would be "Funniest Home Videos". Some foreigners with exceptionally good Chinese skills go on to become national celebrities in China (see Dashan and Da Niu). These are “attention seekers” of the highest order. I’m serious; these guys are household names just because they can speak Chinese and for no other reason. Can you imagine what would happen if they were in the US?

Dashan: I’d like my own television show please.

TV Executive: Ok, what do you do?

Dashan: I can speak Chinese.

TV Executive: And….?

Dashan: Oh, that’s it.

TV Executive: HAHAHAHAHA Security, see this guy out please.

Let's imagine a hypothetical situation. Let's say that a PhD in mathematics is sitting in a classroom of 5th graders studying math. This PhD obviously knows the answers to all the questions and his fellow classmates will be in awe. Should the PhD raise his hand for all the answers to demonstrate his ability? Should the PhD feel proud in the fact that the 5th graders are amazed by his math prowess? Of course not. He has been studying math all of his life and shouldn't try to hog the spotlight. He wouldn't feel the need to steal the glory because there is no glory to be had! The "attention seeker" takes pride in being foreign/speaking English/being able to speak a bit of Chinese even though there is no real merit to any of these things. Does a Chinese person get praise in the US for speaking English? I've never seen it.

What part do the “attention seekers” play in forming the opinion of foreigners in the mind of the Chinese people? They simply reinforce the false notion that all foreigners are outgoing, loud, and love attention. Many times I have been told that my personality is “not like a regular foreigner’s” because I am not loud and I don’t talk simply to hear myself speak. Thanks to the “attention seekers”, I must explain that all foreigners are not like the crazy talkative foreigner they met in the English Corner or like the dancing, Chinese-speaking foreigner monkeys they see on TV.

“Attention Seekers”, we salute you.