Goodbye London, hello California

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To describe the first few weeks in Berkeley as welcoming would be a huge understatement. I’m not sure if it’s the smaller class size or just the general culture around here but everyone has gone out of their way to make me feel at home.A case in point being how I found myself in Lake Tahoe, just across the Nevada border for Labor Day weekend in a house with 25 fellow MBAs, none of whom I’d known the week before.

The trip was a lot of fun and it was great to get to know more of the Haas MBA cohort and additionally discover the true function of a table tennis table when combined with drinks and cups!

I’ve managed to fit in some of the sites in San Francisco, namely the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz, but the elective course load has ramped up very quickly. Taking core classes with the support of a study group and following the same schedule for assignments actually helped considerably more than I realised last year.

Taking electives is proving to require a lot more self management, probably because almost everyone has a different mix of subjects and deadlines to meet. Fortunately my accommodation setup here has simplified life a lot, given it is next door to the business school and all meals are provided.

I’m staying in an international student building on campus. It is a good facility and boasts an impressive list of former residents including six Nobel Laureates and even Eric Schmidt of Google.

The scale of the campus here is like nothing I’ve ever experienced but I guess with the amount of students here there is a justification for having a 63,000-seat stadium onsite!

At the moment there are some clear standout electives I’m taking. As expected the portfolio is much more technology and entrepreneurship focused than other business schools but the first elective I wanted to talk about is probably more common to all business schools. The class is called negotiating and conflict resolution. It is unusual in that each week we spend Tuesday role playing and then Thursday de-briefing. This is probably the first time I’ve been forced to think about my negotiating style and it’s providing a lot of food for thought, especially as the situations become more complex and we negotiate as groups.

The second standout elective is on venture capital and I’m not really sure how to the give the course full credit, a master class in venture investing is probably the best description. It came highly recommended by last year’s LBS exchange students so it was no surprise that all eight of us on exchange this year are taking the class. Any professor that also works in the field of venture capitalism is a big plus for me and so to have three professors who do so is even better. I should probably expand the ‘works in their field’ comment to highlight that one professor founded a venture capital fund which is now 28 years old, has backed 130 start-ups and has $1bn under management! It’s difficult to remind myself to participate in class as opposed to just sitting there in awe!

I wouldn’t say I’m into the full routine yet, but time is passing at an alarming rate. Every day I feel very fortunate to have this opportunity and so all of my focus is on making the most of it. Please make a comment if you want to talk more.

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