Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Sir Paul Judge party

Sir Paul Judge is the major benefactor of the Judge Business School (therefore the name of the school). Every year he invites all the MBAs to a big party in his flat in London. This year was no different. This year it was held on the 1st of December. It was a while ago but the last weeks of the Michaelmas term were insane, so I had no time to blog.

The party was a black tie party, which means everyone was looking very sharp. It’s very nice to see everybody in tuxedos and dresses for a change. So JBS rented some buses for us and we all went to London in our best looking outfits. The party was very interesting and lively and a great opportunity to take tons of pictures.

The party was cool but the most exciting part was after the party. Some of us decided to go around London and take some pictures with our nice outfits with Big Ben and some other landmarks as backgrounds. It was great fun and despite the cold it was completely worth. How cool is it to have pictures in London by night in dresses and tuxedos? We also stole some balloons from the party so we looked even more ridiculous holding balloons, in our tuxs, taking pictures in the middle of the street. Well, I guess this is all part of the MBA experience.

Back home

After a hectic three month period I’m back home again. I think everyone was in need of a rest by now and being back home will give me the opportunity to slow down the pace and relax a bit. It will also be a period of reflection and assessment.

These three months were very intense and my initial goals and views have changed a bit after going through the experience. For instance, in the beginning it was quite obvious to me I wanted a financial career. After seeing all the entrepreneurial opportunities and getting insights from people who work in the field, I’m not sure if investment banking or asset management are really what I want. I guess part of the MBA experience is getting to know the industries and getting the feeling from people who are there. So for now, I'm not worried by my change of heart.

So I will use these holidays to go through this adaptation term and prepare myself for the times to come. I will also try and update the blog with some stories and events from this term, so stay tuned!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Queries time!

I remember last year when I was thinking of applying to some MBAs, I really felt the need for information and there were few blogs and contacts that were reachable. I know by this time there are many people wondering where to apply. So I'll try and do for some of you what I'd like to have at the time.

I'll be happy to answer any questions some people might have about the Cambridge MBA and I've had some queries already. Just be patient as time is not an unlimited resource :)

But I will answer to everyone who asks questions either through comments (and leaves their email) or through the email I use here (

The Cambridge Venture Project

Many things have happened since I last wrote. I promise I will update the blog during my Christmas holidays. For now I just want to write about one of our big assignments for this term, the Cambridge Venture Project.

Basically it is a real part-time consulting project made with a company based in Cambridge. Its main focus is marketing analysis and as I said before, it is a part time project. It lasts the whole November along with our classes and other assignments.

Obviously, it is hard work to cope with everything at the same time and we have to cut on some things (like the blogs!). But this kind of projects was the reason I chose to come to Cambridge and not go to any other MBA. I think these projects are a very good opportunity to see how things work in the real world.

However, I don’t think this project is much different from the studies and projects that are made in class. I’m sure the Global Consulting Project in the Lent term will be much different as it is full time. Nevertheless, this is a very good opportunity to make us realize what is like to work in a multicultural team with people with very different experiences and backgrounds. It is also a good opportunity to learn something about ourselves and how we deal with some difficulties, like time pressure and miscommunication.

This week all study groups did their presentations and the general feeling was it went well. It means people worked hard to deliver something with quality and were prepared to face the question and answer session with their clients. As for me, it was an interesting experience to work with such diverse people.

What stroke me the most was how very different people can come together when facing common adversities. That was what happened when we knew our client would give us a hard time during the Q&A. We came together and we did a great job in the end.
To my team I have only one thing to say: Thank you and we did it!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Time is a relative concept

I don't know what happened, but I just stop having time for simple things like writing here. The last couple of weeks have really been overwhelming.

Lately I found time really is a relative concept. I've been here for a bit more than two months but sometimes it feels like a year. I got to know many people quite well and I've developed relationships and connections that really seem impossible to built in so little time. I guess that is what happens when we spend so many hours together everyday.

I believe that is also part of the ethos of the Cambridge MBA. I would say its collaborative nature really distinguishes it from most MBAs. That means there is no competitive environment. Instead, there is a really friendly environment where we can all learn from each other and have fun at the same time.

Time is really relative...and so many things have happened since I've been that it is almost impossible to explain it to someone who hasn't gone through the experience.

But I think that is what the MBA is all about...the experience. At least, that was one of the things I was looking for. And I'm trying to make the most of it!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Time to get focused

Up until now I think I have tried to enjoy all Cambridge has to offer, that is, enjoying great social events, getting to know all the new people and all that. I have been doing my assignments and homework but that’s pretty much it. Still, it seems like I have no time to do so many things I’d like to do!

But today I had an 1:1 finance coaching session and I think it made me think about my goals and what I should be doing by now. The thing is recruitment for financial institutions has already started and within a couple of weeks some application periods will be over. It’s a little bit odd that everything starts so soon. We barely had time to learn anything about finance and we are already supposed to be preparing for interviews. I think that is the disadvantage of the one year programmes. We have little time to figure out what we want and even less time to prepare ourselves for all the crazy recruitment processes.

So I’m now trying to get a bit more focused and I hope to start sending some applications soon enough. I guess the partying days couldn’t last forever, right?!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Prisoners' dilemma

Most people with an economics background have heard of the prisoners’ dilemma. It is a very widely spread example of how people will end up in the worst possible situation because they didn’t cooperate and just behaved selfishly. It’s used to demonstrate that maximizing the individual happiness may lead you to a position that is not socially optimal. The story is simple: Two burglars are caught by the police and put in separate cells. Each one is told that if he confesses he will be free to go but the other burglar will get 2 years. If they both confess, both will get 1 year in prison. If no one confesses, they are free to go because there is not enough evidence to persecute them. It is obvious that is better for both not to confess and go free. The thing is they can’t communicate and each one knows that if the other confesses, the other will be free and he is going to get 2 years. The conclusion is that they both confess if they are rational.

This is only one of the games that are used in Game Theory, a subject of Economics that uses simple games to model people’s behaviors.
Anyway, the point is many people know how to solve these games and that is not hard. But few people have actually been in the position of the players and played with limited information.

That is exactly what we did in a course called Management Practice. We were divided in groups of four and we played a Prisoners Dilemma against other groups that were in different rooms without communication for 10 times in a row and it was very interesting to see the outcomes.
Everybody in the class knows the game but still there were lots of different outcomes. Some groups started cooperating since the beginning whereas others started to compete since the beginning. Others changed strategies somewhere in between. We were allowed a meeting with the other group at the 4th play. It was interesting to see how groups agreed on cooperating but still broke the deal and others didn’t.

The point is, one thing is solving the game assuming everybody is rational. Other thing is actually playing it and being in the game’s conditions and seeing that people tend not to play rationally and to add emotions and prejudices to the game. Many people feared for their credibility after the meeting and kept their word of cooperating. Some people saw the exercise as just a game. Others looked at the other groups as their class mates and they didn’t want to hurt them. Others just wanted to do “the right thing”.

It was a very enlightening experience and I must add I enjoyed it and it sums up the spirit of this MBA. It’s about seeing things happening and applying them to reality rather than just look at the books.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

One month

I’ve been in Cambridge for a month now and i’m still loving it. For those of you who think Cambridge is a small and boring city, I must say you are mistaken. It is a small town and it might be boring in other circumstances, but not for doing an MBA.

There are always lots of things going on, and when we are not in classes there are always so many things to do. Pub gatherings, dance classes, thematic parties, college events or punting trips….is so hard for me to attend everything I’d like to that I must say is highly unlike anyone will have time to get bored. But even if you do, London is 45 minutes away.

Anyway, classes have been interesting and the work load is steadily increasing. There are many readings to do and some cases to prepare. There are also some assignments and we are already thinking in our Cambridge Venture Project. Besides, all the Special Interest Groups that have been created have been really active and there are always career events happening.

Up until now I’d say the main difficulty is being able to cope with the amount of information that they give us. For instance, I always take some time during the weekend to go through my schedule for the next week so I won’t miss anything important. It’s hard to put together so many events (including parties or special college events). And the week is very dynamic because there are always many unexpected events happening so we really need to know our schedule.

And of course, that’s why I’ve been writing much less in the last days. However I’ll try to write more often and add some daily life stories too.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The first week

I must say the first week was really nice and ended even better. We started our Economics classes, which is a 2 week pre course with not exam that aims at giving some basic economics tools to everybody. The lectures where interesting but I must confess I didn’t open any book yet. Having an economics background gives me some advantage at least for now.

Aside from the lectures, there were multiple sessions designed to clear many different aspects of the MBA. For instance, there were sessions about using all the great resources available in the library or about the rules for delivering assignments and group works or about the fantastic service JBS’ career department has to offer.

But the best part was the end of the week. On Friday we had a Spanish fiesta going on all afternoon long and the night ended in a local pub and then in a local disco. It was great fun and it really proved MBAs can move on the dance floor.
Saturday there was the Alumni Gala Dinner which only 1/3 of the current class attended but it was a night to remember. Guys dressed in their tuxedos, girls dressed in their gorgeous dresses and we had lots of fun. It is always nice to have these different dinners were everybody looks very smart and were we can take really nice pictures. I wouldn’t say it was a great networking opportunity but I had a blast.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Reality check

Two days, two posts. Not bad. But these stats are deceiving just like this week’s schedule is. This week is very light and is still really all about adaptation. We finish classes early, we don’t have assignments and everything is still new. Everything looks wonderful so far.

But tonight I had my first reality check. I went through the schedule for the next two months and I can see lots of hard work coming. I must say everything seems really well planned and JBS has done an amazing job as far as I’m concerned. But the truth is I see some days in the near future starting at 9 a.m. and ending at 8p.m. among lectures and presentations, I see lots of group work coming, lots of reading to do and very little time for all that. I really would like to be able to eat and sleep too, if possible!

I suppose that’s what I’m here for. But I was getting used to the fantastic days I had so far and the idea of being totally emerged in work now seems scary. Also, this is a one year program so one should expect a really intense year with many things to do and lots of things happening at the same time.

Still, last week was so great it’s hard to think things will be very different in the near future.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The first day

As we usually say, today was the first day of the rest of my life. But I feel the saying applies because everything will change from now on. Today classes started, so all my routines will change very quickly. No more lunches, dinners, parties, soccer matches and all that stuff I’ve been up to since arrival.

But let me describe you the first day. It started at 8.30a.m. with a gathering at the main entrance of JBS. The usual stuff happened, meaning, I got a name badge, a case with some papers and info and I got to know some of the people I hadn’t met yet. I must say JBS’s building is really cool. I had seen it before, but being there as an MBA student is a different feeling.

This year, there will be 150 of us. That means an increase of class size by roughly 30 people. Like previously, they split the class in two groups for the term to come and will mix us again next term, thus allowing us to meet everybody in the class well.

Although I’m exhausted, the first day was really light and it basically consisted of introduction. So we actually had to introduce the class with another student randomly chosen. It was really nice and amazingly enough everybody emphasized the marital status. It was a fun exercise that looked like an online dating promotional scheme with lots of laughter and it helped us to be at ease.

We then had a coffee/tea party to mingle a little more and the day ended with the class photo. It was an original photo because instead of being taken as usual, it was taken from above with the whole class looking up.
I know the course won’t be as light as it was today but I’m enjoying every bit of it and looking forward to things starting to happen.

PS: Thank you for the cheering and encouraging comments I’ve been receiving. But for the record, my name is not David. David is a former MBA student and a link to his blog is available on the right side of this blog. I will however try answering your questions and post about your doubts so feel free to keep commenting my blog and emailing me.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

In Cambridge

Finally! After many months of waiting I’m finally in Cambridge and Monday it will all start. For now, I’ve just been settling in and making sure I have everything ready for classes to start.

So I just had to open a bank account, which wasn’t very difficult. I just had to ask a letter from JBS stating my personal data and the course details and that was it. I also got a bike to move around easily and I have even tried riding it, which was quite an adventure. I suppose after some days I’ll get used to it.

But the most fun part of all has been meeting all my colleagues. Although classes will only start next Monday, there are already many students around. So I’ve been meeting all these interesting people and at the same time, getting to know many nice places to have meals and to go out.

I’d say these first days have been really amazing. Lots of gatherings, lots of pub nights and lots of catching up to do with my new colleagues. And the weather has been really great. This place is really nice especially with sunny weather. For far, I have been having a great time and there’s always something fun to do.

I guess from now on I’ll get to what matters the most: the course, living in Cambridge and all the weird and funny stories about it. So stay tuned!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Hopes and expectations

This is it. After nearly six months of waiting, I’m finally heading towards Cambridge. It means this is my last post in my home country. It also means this blog will now get into a new phase. So far I’ve been talking about my application and all the things that happened ever since. From now on, if I have the time, I’ll be posting from Cambridge and soon enough, I’ll be posting about the course itself.

And for my final post of this stage, I’d like to share with you what my hopes, goals and expectations are. My expectations and goals have been evolving over time as I got to know more about the course and, specially, as I got to talk with future mates who provided me with their insights.

But I still don’t have much information and I still didn’t go through the whole experience, so I thought it would be fun to share my expectations now and maybe come back to them in the future and compare them with the reality.

So, here are my main expectations (regarding fun and work).

  • I expect the course to be hard working, challenging but not very difficult academically (I have a strong mathematical and economical background);
  • I expect to be challenged and to be among a very active community with access to innovative ideas and very close to where the actual action is;
  • I hope I can improve my managerial skills and my social and networking skills;
  • I believe I will meet lots of interesting, fun and active people;
  • I expect to make friends for life;
  • I hope I have the time to do some sport;
  • I expect to ride a bike a lot (and hopefully, with not too many rain pouring);
  • I hope to be offered a fulfilling job somewhere along the course (ideally, more than one nice offer);
  • I expect to attend lots of parties, dinners, cocktails and social events;
  • I want to travel a lot while I’m there;
  • I want to learn how to cook Chinese, Thai, Indian or Japanese food (I’m relying on my colleagues on this!);
  • I hope to participate in the MBATournament in some sport with my colleagues against other business schools;
  • I expect to have very little time and some sleepless nights;
  • I hope I can have access to many different opportunities;
  • I expect to get depressed sometimes with the weather;
  • I believe I’ll grow up a lot as a person.

Obviously, I’m expecting new opportunities, new things and ideas, hard work but also lots of fun. I’m just hoping Cambridge is all that and more!

Thursday, September 6, 2007


Despite what the title may suggest, this won’t be my last post in my home country. At least I don’t think so because I planned the subject of my last post while here some time ago.
I just felt like writing about all the farewell parties, lunches and dinners of the last days. I usually don’t like farewell parties or, at least, I don’t like thinking of them as farewell parties. Nevertheless, my departure is an excellent excuse to have some fun gatherings and take some crazy pictures. And that’s what I’ve been up to in these last days.

It’s nice to be surrounded by friends and feel their support when embracing such an adventure. It’s also nice to hear their plans to visit me while I’m there although I don’t believe I’ll have much time for those visits. These times have been crazy, running around trying to get everything done, packing up everything and still going to parties at the same time.

It’s pretty exhausting but by the end of the day, it’s worth it.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


If you don’t know facebook, it is just another networking tool like Hi5 and so many others. I didn’t know facebook until I was told it was almost mandatory to join it while in Cambridge. So, instead of waiting, I just joined it a couple of weeks ago.

And I’m glad I did so. There are already some groups formed, like the Cambridge 2008 MBA group or the Judge Business School incoming class of 2007 and they have been growing as time passes by. The cool thing is that I have been reached by many future students from many different parts of the world who also seem to be very excited with the coming year. And not only MBAs, but students that will read other courses at Judge. I must confess I didn’t even think about all the other interesting courses Judge has to offer. That just means the Judge community is much larger than the MBA community and will allow me to get to know much more people that I expected.

I think it will be a great year!

Monday, August 27, 2007

The two sides of packing

Less than two weeks to go, it is time for packing. I packed bags many times in my life, but never before in this type of situation. This time, I am going to be away from my home country for quite some time. I’ll be living in a different country for some time and I must be prepared. So these last days have been spent shopping for things I want to take with me, mainly I’m talking about nice warm clothes.

I now have officially begun the hard task of packing. Right now I’m putting all the stuff I’ll need in boxes so it can be shipped to me. Stuff like books, clothes, bedding stuff, shoes and even suits. I know I’ll need one or two suits for interviews, formal halls and, of course, parties. Of course, there are many things I’ll buy once I get there because they just aren’t worth sending.

Packing is never easy. But this time packing has two sides. One side of excitement for all that will happen in the next year. All the new people I’ll meet, the new experiences, the knowledge and even all the opportunities that may arise. That’s really fantastic.

But there is also another part. I’m referring to all the things I’m leaving behind. For the first time in my life I’m leaving my country for a long period of time, which means I’m leaving all the things I’ve always known my entire life….family, friends, places. I must say it is a weird feeling.

So…with these mixed feelings I’ll just keep on packing and hopefully in the next couple of days I’ll have almost everything ready!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A thousand times

It has passed five months since I started this blog. In it I tried to describe some of the phases I went through in the whole process of being admitted to Cambridge. Today this blog has registered its 1000th visit which means it has been visited, on average, around 200 times each month. Although I don’t get many comments on the blog it seems like there are many people out here visiting my blog and hopefully getting some relevant information.
In these five months I got visits from all over the World. From places like Georgia to Korea, or from Malaysia to Peru. It seems however that most visitors are from the United Kingdom, the United States, India, Japan and the Netherlands.

The most popular post is the one explaining why I decided to take an MBA. I guess there are many of you out there still thinking whether it is a good option or not. I hope my view is helping somebody out there.

Now that this pre MBA phase is coming to an end I would guess the blog will become more interesting as I’ll be able to post the actual experience of being there. I just hope I have the time and availability to keep posting.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Career Leader

As stated before, one of the reasons that made me choose Cambridge over other options was the feeling of being unique and having a very personnel approach due to its lower class number.
I haven’t started the program but it feels like it has already started. After connecting future students through Camtools Portal, enabling us to access an enormous career database and giving some reading suggestions for the summer, we have been recently given a new task: completing a set of tests which are part of a Harvard developed tool known as Career Leader. Its goal is to highlight our main motivators, strengths, weaknesses and awareness of ourselves and try and match our personalities with the most suitable careers for us. The results are given to us and to Cambridge’s careers team so that they can meet with us on arrival and discuss the possible paths and best strategies. It just gives me the feeling they are all working very professionally and that comforting.

As for the test, it seems pretty reliable and its results were no surprise to me. They just reinforce what I know and what I want.

Interestingly enough, as time passes by and I’m more aware of what each career means and implies instead of being surer, I’m having even more doubts. I guess I’m realizing this year will be so intense I shouldn’t even have any predefined ideas. I should keep an open mind and try to seize the opportunities and make the best out of this year.

I’m hoping things will just come naturally.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Private accommodation

After giving a lot of thought about the accommodation issue, I decided to go for private accommodation. The reasons for this can be seen in my previous posts on this matter.
Instead of going for college accommodation, I decided I wanted to share a house with some MBA mates. And I’m very happy with my decision as the house we will be living in is awesome and really seems comfortable.

It is very important when being in a foreign country to be well settled. It is important to have a nice place where you can relax, study or even give parties. And I’ll be able to do some stuff otherwise I couldn’t, like cooking whenever I feel like it or doing the laundry without having to leave the building.

So I guess I won’t have to keep my promise of posting pictures of college accommodation here!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Why an MBA?

Some posts ago I explained why I chose Cambridge out of all MBA options there are around the world. What I didn’t explain is why I wanted to do an MBA. I probably should have started this whole thing by explaining that.

However, for some unknown reason I didn’t. This is probably because my whole decision process was totally reversed to begin with. I didn’t decide I wanted to do an MBA and went to do the GMAT. Instead, I decided I would try and do the GMAT and see what happened (as explained in an earlier post).
Of course, if I went to do the GMAT it is because I thought this was a possibility. So what did I have in mind? Basically, I wanted two things: i) Change careers; ii) an international experience.

As for the first one, I felt my studies wouldn’t do me any good without having a hands-on experience and global management knowledge. I wanted to move to Investment Banking (at that time...not so sure now). I was already at a PhD level, but it was really hard for me to switch jobs, as many companies were already thinking I was overqualified. So I had the academic background but not the experience (not at least for IB). That means I would be too expensive for a trainee. So I thought I had a good shot if I did an MBA. That way I would add global experience to my technical knowledge, thus being recruited not as a trainee, but as an associate or at least for a position with some seniority.

Secondly, the international experience. This would be a plus in any job hunt, but it really isn’t about that. It is about enjoying a onetime life experience. It is about experiencing so many different things. It’s about sharing experiences with people from all over the world, seeing different cultures, living in a different about broadening horizons and gaining perspective.

Friday, July 20, 2007


I have spent the last weeks thinking about accommodation. After exchanging some emails with my College and reading many opinions and discussing forums I realised I should consider other options.

Here are my thoughts on college accommodation:

  • Bathroom – 4 people in a house sharing a bathroom is not very nice. From what I heard, some college owned houses have some troubles in having hot water;

  • Kitchen – Often too small and badly equipped. Trying to cook things more complex than toasts can be a problem;

  • People – I’d probably have to share a house with students from other programmes. Will I have anything in common with them?;

  • Rent – To tell you the truth, rents for college accommodation are not that low. For the same rent I can go for private accommodation.

Weighting all these factors I came to the conclusion I’d rather rent a house and share it with some fellow MBAs. At least they will be people I can relate to and of course, the house itself will be much better. Kitchens are often fully equipped and there is always more than one bathroom in a 3 bedroom house.
Even the fact of not being living in college doesn’t change my Cambridge experience as I will be living with other colleagues. Probably, it will be much better because we can invite other colleagues in and have parties or socials diners.

I do believe having a comfortable place to live in is very important. The year will be intensive and hard and being well settled is essential to seize all that Cambridge has to give.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Getting a room

The final confirmation letter, stating that I have met all the financial requirements has finally arrived yesterday. That means two things. First, I am officially and without any doubt enrolled in the MBA programme. But it also means I can start taking care of accommodation with my college.
As I said before, I was offered a place at Magdalene College. So yesterday I emailed the college to state my preferences regarding accommodation. And the main issue was having a private bathroom. Although it may sound picky, the truth is there are many MBA students with this request. The vast majority of us has our own home and is not used to sharing bathrooms anymore.

Unfortunately, this final confirmation letter took too long to arrive. And by now, en-suite rooms are no longer available. I read in some forums that sometimes students have to share facilities with more than 6 other students. I hope this isn’t the case.

I’ll try to know more about my future room but I’m starting to wonder if I should decline college accommodation and search for private accommodation.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

My To Do list

I’m a little bit more than two months away from heading to Cambridge and barely a month away from leaving my current job. It seems a lot of time but the truth is there are many things to take care of in the meanwhile. My To Do list is quite big and has all kinds of different stuff.

For starters, I need to buy warm clothes. The truth is I don’t have much warm clothe because winters in my home country are not that cold. And now is not really the time to buy it because we are off season. And I hate shopping…so….I really need time to do this.

I’ll have to leave everything in order at home and prepare many things to be shipped to Cambridge as soon as I arrive there.

Then, there is health. I’m scheduling appointments with all kinds of doctors. And one of the most important doctors is the dentist. One doesn’t want to have teeth issues in a foreign country J

But there are also lots of different small things to take care of, like cancelling gymnasium memberships or magazine signatures, making sure someone will be able to get my registered mail from the post office or having the important mail forwarded to me. And so on....

And, of course, there is work. I have to start passing all the work to other colleagues and I’ll have to clean my office soon enough.

Finally, I also intend to have some nice long holidays. So I have to take care of everything in time of having some relaxed vacation somewhere.

So, leaving everything in order takes time and I’m trying not to forget anything. Let’s hope I don’t miss anything important!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Why Cambridge?

Today I’ll go a little back in time and explain why I chose Cambridge and how I made my mind up.

After getting my Gmat score I realised I could apply to some of the best universities with a chance of being successful. That was a good thought but having so many alternatives made my choice a lot harder. So I shortlisted the ones I thought to be the best and also looked through the MBA rankings (like the Economist and the Financial Time rankings).
So I ended up with the following MBA list (with no specific order):

America - Stanford, Harvard, Yale, MIT, Chicago;

Europe - INSEAD, IMD, Cambridge, IESE, London Business School.

I know there are some top universities missing but this was my shortlist according to rankings and the prestige these schools have in my country.
It was very hard to decide between all these good schools. Names like Harvard and Stanford are part of my imaginary since I was in high school.

But in order to make a good choice, I had to look into the little details and ask specific questions. So my first questions, asked almost simultaneously, were: Do I want to go to America (I’m European) or do I want to stay in Europe? Do I want a two year programme or do I prefer to spend only one year doing an MBA?

And the answers were quite clear to me. Although the thought of attending Harvard or other top American school seems very appealing, the truth is I didn’t want to go to America. It is too far away for me and travelling back home during holidays would be hard and expensive. On the other hand I don’t feel like spending two years studying. After working for more than 6 years it is hard for me to stop working for so long. I prefer a shorter and more intensive programme. And, of course, a 1-year programme has a higher value-for-money and the return on investment is quicker. Usually, American universities offer 2-year programmes whereas European ones offer 1 or 1 and a half year programmes.

So I was down to my European options. I must confess my first thought was INSEAD. INSEAD has a very good reputation where I live in and it is obviously a good school. But there was something that didn’t please me very much. Each year, there are nearly 800 intakes. That’s a lot of students. I find hard to believe they have a personal approach. On the opposite side was Cambridge, being the MBA programme with fewer intakes each year (around 100).

Another thing I looked at was the programme itself. Both Cambridge and IMD had an interesting feature (although a little different from each other): consulting projects. I wanted a programme that had a very practical approach.

Although IESE has a case study approach, it is only discussed in the class room. It hasn’t real life work with real life companies. So again, Cambridge had the thumbs up.

The third question was: where would I like to live? After visiting Cambridge on the interview day I was completely overwhelmed and the answer become very clear to me. That place is amazing. And I would rather live a year in England than in France or Spain because: 1) speaking English all the time will make me improve my English; 2) it is near London, which is the European financial centre. Once again, Cambridge won it.

Cambridge is also a synonym of prestige and tradition. The environment surrounding Cambridge is fantastic and the city seems to have been built from the university. So, for all the above, I chose Cambridge.

Big disclaimer: This is my viewpoint and my opinion. Maybe my idea regarding other schools is not correct but that is my idea and I based my decision upon that.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Contacting my future colleagues

Now that the class is almost complete people are trying to know each other and even meet. Besides being able to share information in the Portal, we now have other discussion forums and, of course, all the instant messaging tools.

So in the last few days my Messenger list has grown a lot and I’ve been able to talk to some of my future colleagues. This is quite cool. We haven’t even arrived yet and we are already making plans on sports, interests groups and lots of other stuff. It seems like the class they put together is really dynamic and I’m getting even more excited because I’ll have the opportunity to be with so many interesting people.

The main concerns among future students at this time are accommodation and visas. Many students are still collegeless which mean they can not apply for a visa yet and some are becoming restless. Others are not sure whether their college is a good one or not. The main issue is distance. People want a college that is not very far away from Judge Business School. I guess I was lucky because I got my response very quickly and I got in a college that seems to have excellent location.

Meanwhile, they have given us access to some career databases where we can browse for information on careers, interviews, resumes and a bunch of other valuable stuff. The main idea is being able to gather as much information as possible in order to narrow our preferences regarding careers and professional goals. Seems like I’ll have a lot of reading to do this summer!

Friday, May 25, 2007

College accommodation

Now that I’ve been offered a place in a college, my next concern is getting accommodation. The letter sent by Magdalene College mentioned it was a provisional offer, conditional to Judge final confirmation of my offer which, they told me, will be sent really soon. I spent the last couple of days contacting Judge and Magdalene and so far, they’ve been very helpful. And I know that many students don’t have a College yet, so I’m fortunate for being able to arrange everything in advance.

At first, I was having second thoughts about accepting college accommodation. I thought I would be cool to have my own flat were I could be by myself. But now, I think being in a college is part of the Cambridge experience. And although it might not be as comfortable as a private flat, I’m thinking it will be much more fun to live in the college and I’ll be much more into the spirit of studying in Cambridge (and it is also a lot cheaper!).

So, college accommodation it is! And the next step is choosing a room, or at least, a rent band. The problem is I don’t know anything about the rooms and their characteristics, so I guess it won’t be that easy to make an informed decision.

At least, now I’m sure to put some pictures here of my room once I get there, so I can help someone in the future. That’s a promise! It would be very helpful for me if there was a webpage or a blog with some info regarding accommodation (with pictures!).

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

St. Mary Magdalene

I have just received a letter from Magdalene College. Looks like I'm heading to Magdalene College. So be it!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Two months

It has passed almost two months since I first started this blog. My intention was to describe my application process and everything that is related to it. I know when I started thinking about applying, I browsed the internet for information and it wasn’t easy at all to get what I wanted. Hopefully, some of the things I’ve written so far can help some people out there in preparing themselves.

In months this blog has been visited nearly 300 times! I must say this is a much higher count than I could imagine when I started it. In these two months of posting, there are some interesting statistics:

- Readers from United Kingdom, Japan and Singapore account for 45% of all readers (I’m not from any of these countries);

- 46% of readers take more than 5 minutes in the site;

- 30% of all readers have returned at least once;

- 25% of all readers got to the blog by googling “Cambridge mba interview” (yeah…I did that a lot too before attending the interview!).

Through this blog I have also been contacted by other future students, which has been quite nice (yes…the email in my profile works).
I just hope it has been useful to some people.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Earning an option - The Gmat

Mid November 2006. I arrived at the GMAT center 15 minutes before the scheduled time. Before entering the room, I had to take all my personal items, including wallet, cell phone, pen and even my jacket. I was driven to a small white room with about 10 computers and one camera in each corner of the room. It is definitely not the most stress free environment.

I had scheduled the GMAT without knowing exactly why I needed it. For a while, I had been thinking about taking an MBA and how it could be an interesting thing to do as means of getting new job opportunities, but I wasn’t really sure about it. So I went to take the test just to see if I could get a bit more than 600. At the time, I thought that was the minimum score I should have if I intended to apply to a good school. Basically, I was trying to earn an option of applying to a good school. If my GMAT score was low, I knew an MBA wasn’t the way.

I think the biggest difficulty in taking the GMAT is managing the anxiety. It is quite stressful being in a small room with cameras pointed at you and knowing that you have limited time to answer each question. Any slip can cost you a lot in the final score.

So I didn’t start it very well. In the first couple of questions I spent too much time struggling against my own fear of failure. After seeing that if I kept that nervous for the rest of the test, I would really fail any chances of having a reasonable score, I switched to “nothing to loose mode”. That is, if I had started well, it meant I had a lot to loose in the next questions, as my score was high at that time. But starting so badly, I thought at that time I had ruined all my chances of having a good score, so my anxiety disappeared completely and I just kept answering questions without fear of failing (cause I thought I had already failed….our mind is a tricky thing, isn’t it? And mine is even worst!).
By the end of the test, we are supposed to click if we want to see the score, and make it valid, or don’t see it and cancel it. I thought a long time before I clicked. I thought I had failed my goal, so I wasn’t sure what the best course of action was. I was thinking of cancelling it….but if I cancelled it, I had to do it again. If I failed, I had to do it again also. Either way, I had to do it again. The only difference was it wouldn’t count for my exam history. So I took my chances and I clicked yes. And I’m glad I did it. Turns out I’m quite pessimistic regarding my performance in exams….and after well, I hadn’t performed that badly. I got a great score (the first digit was a 7!).

But what I really got with that exam was an option. An option to apply to whatever school I wanted to.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Preparing an application

Most European Universities allow applications until late March and some until late June. In America, most applications must be submitted until January, so it is good to plan ahead.
If you are planning of submitting applications to both European and American universities I think you should start all the arrangements by the end of the summer of the previous year. That is to say, August or September is the time to start over. I guess you should plan everything so that you are able to submit an application in December or January. Even if the deadlines are very far ahead, it is important to apply early. Some universities, such as Cambridge, assess applications as they are received. So, places are being filled even though the application deadline has not passed yet.

Every top university asks for two exams: the GMAT and an English Test (if English is not your native language), such as TOEFL or IELTS. Bare in mind it may take some time to schedule these exams. Where I live, there is only one date per month to take the IELTS. That means if you don’t get the score you need, you’ll have to retake the exam, loosing at least a month in the process. The same goes for the GMAT.

So, I would say you should have your tests made by November. That will give you a month or two to get the application documents and to think about all the essays and amazing questions they have for you. American Universities usually have more essay based applications. European Universities require less effort (and imagination!) to fill their application documents.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

The right profile

Many people wonder about what is the right profile to be admitted by a good business school. Evidently, it depends on the school. For instance, I was told the IMD looks, on average, for more experienced people than other schools do.

So, what is a good profile? I can only give me view from my own experience and from what I saw regarding other fellow future students.
First of all, it is very important to know the average profile of previous classes. That should give you a good indicator of where you stand. Many candidates think only about GMAT scores and, of course, after seeing an average GMAT of more than 680, some candidates with lower scores tend to be discouraged.

From what I’ve seen, GMAT is important, but it is not all. That is to say, if you have a GMAT of over 700, you have great possibilities of being admitted. You will only need your profile to be an average one to get in. But if you have a low GMAT score, there are other issues that can work in your favour and get you in. I think having at least 5 year work experience would be nice, and it should be relevant and demonstrate fast career progression. It is also good to speak more than 2 languages. On average, at this level, students are usually comfortable speaking three languages.

But there are other factors that can work in your favour. JBS wants its MBA to be very international, so being from a country with few candidates can give you an edge. I saw that happening with candidates with low GMAT score but with relevant work experience and who were from countries that usually don’t have many candidates. Of course, if you are from India or China, which are the countries with the highest number of candidates, you’ll really need a good GMAT to stand out.
Some schools, such as JBS, value different experiences. That is to say, every year there are some students whose career was developed in the non-profit sector.
They also prefer diversity of academic backgrounds, so I believe they are more likely to admit people from other areas than economics or management.

Bear in mind their goal is to set a very diverse class so that everybody can learn from their fellow students. If we all had the same profile, it would certainly be less interesting. So, in applying you should think about what makes you different from the vast majority of the candidates. What would your contribution be to the forming class? I would say these other factors may be more important than a high GMAT, at least for JBS. So, having a good GMAT score helps, but there is more to being admitted than just having a good score.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Portal

JBS has a very nice portal to communicate with future students. In this portal, each one of the new students has a profile to fill in so that we can get acquainted with each other before we get there. It’s a very nice idea and a good way of having some knowledge of our colleagues beforehand.

Although the class is not yet complete (and I’m already there, so it probably means I did get accepted) I can already tell this really will be a very international class. There are people from all over the world and with very different backgrounds and life experiences. One thing I find interesting is that Europeans are clearly a minority. Asia and North America are the major contributors so far.

This was one of the reasons that made me opt for Cambridge. At the time, it seemed to me it was one of the most international programmes. And so far, it seems like I was right.

PS: Thanks Javier for your comforting comment. I still don’t have the confirmation letter but being in the portal is probably a sign everything went fine.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Have I accepted?

So, I said yes. Or I least I think I did. I was given a deadline to send some documents, namely, a written acceptance statement and some evidence of good financial standing. I gathered those documents and mailed them a couple of weeks ago to Judge Business School, however it seems like they did reach Cambridge. At least not yet…

And the post offices are unable to track the package due to some technical problem.

So… while the package is wandering around the world, I’m three days away from the deadline and I don’t know if I have officially accepted the place. Let’s just hope I did.

And I always had a good impression of the national post offices. So much for that impression!

Thursday, April 5, 2007

The countdown has started

After giving it a lot of thought, I finally sent the papers. That’s right, I accepted the place and I’ll be heading to Cambridge in September. It was a predictable decision but I felt I needed some time to analyse it very well.

Now, I have lots of things to do. For starters, I’ll have to choose a college from the 31 nice colleges that are part of the University of Cambridge. I’m trying to gather information regarding accommodation and sports facilities of each college so I can choose wisely. I think the next few day will be spent contacting people from Cambridge to set things up.

So…I guess I’ll be heading to Cambridge in about four months. The countdown has already started!

Monday, March 26, 2007


After being offered a place on the MBA programme it is now time to decide whether or not to take it. After all, accepting the place means a huge change in my current life and, most importantly, in my future life. That’s a decision I will have to make until 18 April.

I don’t need to decide where I would like to do the MBA. That choice has already been made. I always wanted to go to Cambridge to begin with and after being offered the place, there’s no need to apply to other places. The big decision is whether I should do an MBA abroad or not.

Leaving the things and places you’ve known all your life is not as easy as it may seem. So I think I’ll spend the next few days thinking about what lies ahead and thinking about all my options.

I know the decision seems quite obvious, but I like evaluating all my options before making a final decision. That way, I’ll know it was very well thought out.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The decision

After a wonderful city tour, the interview day was over. We were told the decision would be taken that evening and should be emailed to us immediately afterwards.

Some of the candidates were staying overnight so some of us decided to get together in a local pub to chat for a while. So there we were….five very different people from all over the world talking and laughing and sharing experiences…it really was fun. Thank you guys!

And it was the perfect way to end the day…as the hours (and beers) went by, even though we were at the pub, we found ways to check our emails. Some using Blackberry devices, others calling home….the important thing was…we all got the offer! We all got accepted!

Cheers to us!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The interview day

If you are applying to the Cambridge MBA and have your interview scheduled, you are probably very nervous and anxious. I can't say that I wasn't! So, for all you guys wondering how it is to attend the interview day at Cambridge, I will share my experience with you. I hope you will find it helpful and insightful.

I was asked to be at Judge Business School by 8.45 a.m. Being aware of the well-known British punctuality, I arrived 15 minutes earlier. As I stared at JBS’ magnificent building I was sure that would be an unforgettable day.

I must say it was much better than I expected. Everything was very well planned and the organisation was amazing. As we arrived, we were given a paper folder with all the information we needed for that day and for our decision (whether or not to accept the place if offered one). There was an individual schedule for each one of the candidates and I had my interview scheduled for 12.00 a.m. I guess there were about 15 to 20 people attending the interview day.

Instead of starting with the interviews, we were firstly introduced to several faculty members who shared with us their vision of the programme and of the class they were trying to put together. I must say all faculty and staff members are really nice and informal. These Q&A sessions made us all relax a little bit and we were able to get more comfortable with that atmosphere. And, of course, we got lots of informations about Cambridge and the programme.

After hearing about the programme, the financial and funding details, the career options and prospects we actually had the opportunity to attend a class. I must say I was amazed by the informality and dynamics of the class. Luckily for us, the speaker was the CEO in residence, a very dynamic and funny person.

All the above lasted barely until 11.30. My interview was 30 minutes away and I was getting nervous but excited at the same time. After being there for more than a couple of hours I started to get more confident and instead of trying to look good, I was just enjoying that incredible experience.

After a short guided tour around the building we waited a couple of minutes in the common room for our interviewers. Each one of us had been designated with one or two interviewers.

Finally, my interviewer met me at the common room and we went to his office to go through the interview. I must say he was very nice and tried to make me comfortable. Don’t expect mean people who are trying to get you. As I said, all teachers are very friendly and helpful.
The interview lasted for less than half an hour. He asked me some challenging questions but I think I did well. He didn’t go through the application form neither did he ask the standard boring questions about weaknesses, strengths or hobbies.

I found it a challenging but interesting interview. He didn’t ask me many questions and before I knew he was already looking forward to my questions.

After the interview we had lunch with current alumni and we were able to ask them all kinds of questions. I even found one student from my country and it was interesting to get his view on things.

After that, they took us on a guided tour of the city. How many schools bother to show you their city and explain its history? Not many, I suppose. That walking tour took about two hours and a half and was very interesting. Luckily for us, it was a marvellous sunny day.

And before we knew it…the interview day was over. We knew the decision would be given in the next hours but all of us were overwhelmed with all we saw.

Regardless of being accepted or not, nobody will ever take that amazing day and that exciting experience from me. And the experience was worth every single minute I spent at JBS.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Destination: Cambridge

It was my first time in Cambridge and my expectations were quite high. Many people told me Cambridge is a beautiful place.

After spending there one day and a half I was completely speechless. The city is so lovely and lively. It's filled with history and you are certain to find a department or a college in every block of the city. Needless to say, these beautiful buildings are more than 500 years old. You will be facing places where many of the things you know where actually discovered. Add amazing green parks, a lovely river, a carless environment and streets packed with young faces from all over the world...and you've got Cambridge!

For those of you who are in the middle of many application processes and don't know which MBA to choose, you must visit Cambridge. You can only feel that atmosphere after being there. And I am pretty sure you won't even consider any other places after knowing what Cambridge has to offer as a Business School and as a place to live in for a year.

If you are considering to take the phone interview, available in some cases, think twice. I urge you to visit the place and go throught the experience they have prepared for candidates.

I can only say it was one of the most amazing and exciting experiences I have ever had. It's really worth it!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The journey begins

Saturday, 10th March 2007

11:07....touchdown....I was finally in London (Heathrow) and about to begin an amazing three day journey. As I took the Heathrow Express to Central London I was wondering about what was waiting for me in those three days. I was travelling to England after being shortlisted for the interview day at Judge Business School (Cambridge).

One thing was certain....I was blessed with a fantastic sunny day as I arrived and I hoped it could be a good sign for the days to come.

After a quick stop by the Hotel, I started my all day walk around London. I must say it was pretty tiring but it was worth all the effort. It was not my first time in London but it was, by far, the best. London is a wonderful city, specially if seen under a clear blue sky.

Sunday, 11th March 2007

After a fine morning of sightseeing in London I checked out of the Hotel and went to King's Cross Station to take the train. I must say, at first, it is quite confusing. The station is quite big and it is always very crowded. After finding out how to buy the ticket and which train was the right one for me, I finally started the last part of my journey. Destination: Cambridge.