MIM Batch 1 Module 1, Checked!

Hello from Sheremetyevo Airport, Moscow, Russia!

You readers are lucky today because I am stuck at this airport for 20 hours of layover and I have no other better things to do right now. Haha kidding! I was planning to post this on the plane a few hours ago and I’m going to do it now before holiday kicks in and I would be too busy having fun to write.

So Module 1 of MIM was over and the winter holiday starts, finally! To say “finally” is somehow a bit of a bluff because now that it’s over, I sort of think it was like last week when I set foot on Berlin’s cool, hard ground. Things happened so fast (as we all know) here at ESMT and before we knew it, we have tackled 7 subjects + language course + a series of skilled and career workshops. It looked as if we would never make it, but we did. Now, that reminds me of what Francis (our beloved Decision Theory professor) said one fine day: “I’m not here to make you feel comfortable about yourself. I’m here to challenge you and push you beyond your limits.” He was right. I guess we all need a bit of pull, and push, and maybe a kick once in a while too.

Well, if you ask me how my experience was here at ESMT, I would say it has been a life-changing experience. I’m not going to talk about what I’ve learned or how great ESMT is because we all know that. At a personal level, I have made great friends. There were ups and downs, and as time goes by we’ve grown to share more and more meaningful things. There were tears of frustration, tears of joy, and even tears of laughter. I still remember one fine evening on the U-Bahn to the language school when we looked at each other’s tired faces and we just laughed and laughed till we cried. There were days when everyone’s eye-bags were a little bigger than usual. There are other days when the girls stop wearing even the slightest make-ups or even bother how their hair looks like or what clothes they were wearing. There were also times when tension rises, group dynamics flipped and the air seems less friendly. But hey, we got passed that with high spirits! I absolutely enjoyed the Christmas Dinner last night and the Secret Santa’s events hosted by Blanca and William. It was relaxing, fun, and yummy. Great company, great wine… Now what’s more to ask for? Below are some of us who managed to squeeze into the picture:

MIM Christmas Dinner

Before I get carried away, I would like to send my regards to all my fellow MIMs out there who are either travelling or getting ready to do something fun this winter holiday. Spend your quality time wisely before coming back for the second amazing race, alright?

With Love,
(and sleepiness)

My First 3 days in Berlin

So Anne did mean it when she told us few weeks ago that “It will get better”. Yes, we were somehow complaining about the workload, of how we barely survived all those Decision Theory homework and statistics problem sets (mostly), getting the study group together to accomplish certain tasks, and last but not least: seeing the beautiful Berlin. When I signed up to be one of the bloggers here, I told Claudia that I could write two or three times a week. Look at me now: writing my second post after 7 weeks of my first one. But this also means that life is getting better now. I am not sure whether the schedule is getting more relaxed or we simply got used to the schedule. Maybe the latter.

So now that I have a bit of time before Monday kicks in (I thought I only dread Mondays when I was working, but it haunts me now still!) I would like to narrate a little story of my first month in Berlin.

If you read my previous post, you would see how excited I was. I arrived in Berlin two days before the program started, which was 7th of September. It was 9am when I landed at Tegel, and I took a cab to a shared apartment that Bar (our awesome Israeli MIM) has found for me. I was to share with an Israeli lady of about 50, living alone in her two-room apartment. We agreed that I will stay for one month and see how it goes before deciding whether to continue my stay. So she welcomed me warmly to the reasonably cozy room with shared bathroom and kitchen of course. There was no living room so she made me tea and offered me cookies in her own room. She was kind and warm, in general. I did not really mind too when she told me I couldn’t have access to internet now because there was something wrong (in which she couldn’t explain) and that she will “borrow” the internet connection from the neighbor for me. I was still ok when she told me I am not supposed to use the washing machine without her there, because she was afraid it will break down. Even when she told me to make sure I don’t use warm water too much when washing my dishes because it will mean more electricity, or when she told me I was not supposed to cook a lot “because Berlin’s food is really cheap!”, I was still ok. After all, I already got the vibes that I should find a new place next month and for now just be nice and do whatever she says. She was pretty considerate though; she even offered to show me the nearest bahn station and the neighborhood. She said she felt like she was having a little daughter at home again.

So the next day after I slept off my jetlag, I went and give her the rental and deposit of 1000 euro. I changed all my money in Phnom Penh, my hometown, in a local currency exchange center that is supposed to be the most trustworthy among all in town. I did not have a bank account yet, so I gave her the money in cash. Then I was off to ESMT to meet Anne and was supposed to meet Bar later for the first time. While talking excitedly to Anne, I got a call from my landlady “Where are you? You need to come right now, your money is fake and the police is here. I don’t care where you are or what you are doing, just get here right now.” I was stunned. She gave me the address and hung up. I couldn’t even remember the address, being on my first day in Berlin and not speaking a word of German. I called her again and she started repeating the same dialogue before I managed to spell out the name of the street from her. I immediately hopped on a cab, not wasting even 1 minute. While on the cab, she called me two more times. It took only 15 minutes to get there, and the last call was when I was right in front of Deutsche Bank – where she was with two policemen nearby. I went to her, before she could say anything I said “I am really really sorry”. She replied “You better be, you better be. This is your last day in my apartment. I sensed the anger, so I turned instead to the policemen and ask what I could do. They informed me that one 100 euro note (not all) was fake. They needed my passport and information for record purposes and that was it.

However, my landlady kept repeating how embarrassing it is for her, and that it was her first time getting into such situation after 50 years of life, and that “she deal with bad people and bad money”. She kept repeating how well she welcomed me, how she thought I was a good person. No matter how many times I apologized, she just did not care. As a background information, she has German citizenship but does not speak German. So one banking staff was there to interpret what the policemen said to her. So now, the fake money issue is done but the policemen and the bank staff were busy explaining to her that this kind of case are pretty normal and they face it almost everyday. It’s not her fault, and it’s not my fault either because fake money is everywhere. They were arguing, somehow. I was there, watching the bank staff and policemen arguing with my landlady on my behalf. I felt really overwhelmed by her attitude and I already had watery eyes, almost crying out loud. Fortunately, Bar turned up on time and explained to her in their language. After a while, she calmed down a little and said I could stay with her as long as I need to get a new place. I politely said it’s ok, I do not want to bother her. She kept insisting until I said “You felt bad right? I also feel bad, so NO thank you!”.

After the event, since Bar was there, we all went for a cup of tea nearby the bank. She kept repeating how nice she was to me, and now that she calmed down, she was saying nicer things. I offered to pay for the 2 nights that I have stayed, but she refused, and gave me back 900 Euro that were not fake. I moved out later that evening to Bar’s couch in her living room which felt so comfortable after such a dramatic day. For that, I can’t thank Bar enough for her rescue. Bar later explained to me that the reason why it was such a hassle was because the landlady did not carry an identification with her, while claiming to be legal German citizen but does not speak German. The policemen also told Bar to help to try to calm her down because she was too emotional about it.

Ending: I stayed at Bar’s couch for a week, then found a pretty room (but expensive) to stay for 3 weeks, then moved to another place for one month, and now I’m blogging from my “permanent” room. I still remember the email she sent to Bar wishing her to “have a nice life” after we parted.

So that was my crazy start in Berlin. What’s your story?

MiMs – Gladiators in Suits


6 weeks have whizzed past since the inaugural MiM programme took off on the 9th of September 2014 at the ESMT. Time certainly flies when you’re having fun!

We’ve crunched through Statistics, Decision Theory, Operational Behaviour and Business Economics. Starting next week, we’ll be taking on Financial Accounting and Decision Making.
I just did the math, and it turns out that in the last 44 days, we have done 9 handed-in assignments, 13 case studies, 3 exams and 3 presentations (not forgetting the 2 photo shoots :-).

As Olivia Pope would say in my favourite TV series, Scandal,
“We’re gladiators; gladiators in suits.”
The MiM programme is definitely not for the feint-hearted. Coming from a purely, maybe even dryly, technical background, the MiM has had a demanding and rigorous start.
The midnight oil has certainly been burnt on many a night in the past weeks. So feeling like a zombie in the morning is now somewhat normal. The other day I jokingly said,
“I’ll probably walk onto the graduation podium to the Thriller soundtrack in the background in June 2016- dance moves and all.”
I must take my hat off though to my fellow MiMs who are generally a very jolly lot. So even on days when we’re groggy and could do with extra sleep, we can still afford to laugh and at least be happy zombies.

34 students, 19 nations, 5 continents – that’s our MiM class.
Being in a class of people who hail from all corners of the world and bring different experiences, perspectives and flavours to the table has made for a very rich learning experience.
[Side-bar: I must add that I am particularly impressed that nobody has asked me if I speak ‘African’ – that’s always a good sign.]

‘Til the next blog entry:
So long, gladiators!


What I did not expect in MIM

Hello Europe!

Hello Germany!

Hello Berlin!

Hello ESMT!

Helloooooo MIMs!

MIM Outdoor Day
Excited MIMs ready to start their outdoor day – 18 September 2014

I could not put into a few words or sentences how excited I was to be coming to ESMT. It is my first time in Europe, Germany, and Berlin. I was in the sky when I got the email from Admissions saying I am a successful candidate. I still remember how I was jumping up and down in my small room in Kuala Lumpur in the middle of the night, trying to find someone to tell of the good news. I still remember how I couldn’t keep my mouth close the next few days simply because I was so happy. “Sopha, I think you’ve been smiling too much”, one of my friends told me. Whatever. “You have no idea”, I told him.

That was roughly seven weeks ago. I did whatever it takes to get to Berlin on time to start the orientation with my fellow classmates that I was looking forward to meeting so much. 34 students of 19 nationalities from all over the world come together to form the most amazing class ever! This is not, however, what I did not expect in MIM program. Our awesome school had us all linked up in a platform called ConnectTo and we got in touch weeks before school starts. It was still exciting to finally get to meet everyone in real, though. Everyone has a story to tell, an awesome experience to share, and everyone brings in different flavor to the class. This is still NOT what I did not expect from MIM though.

Ladies & Gentlemen, let me present to you two things I did not expect when I signed up for the MIM Program:

  1. How well-structured the program is: well, you could say I have not much experience in professional business schools in Europe whatsoever, but I am telling you – this is the best pioneer program I’ve experienced in my life. I am amazed that even if this the first time MIM is launched, it feels as if everyone has been doing this their whole lives. Credit goes to the MIM team who have been doing a great job so far and we could not be happier to be a part of all these.
  2. Now comes the sour part: How intense the program is. If I were to run a poll on this topic, I believe 100% of my fellow MIM classmates will agree with me. Most of us come from engineering background, and even those who are from business and economic background also were expecting a more “relaxing” program. Most of us knew that MBA Program is intense, and we thought MIM would be less intense because it’s a 22-month program. WRONG. We are now in Week 3 of the course and we barely have any time to go around Berlin yet. Some of us even have to spend the weekend at school, and that explains a LOT.

I hope we will get used to this exciting and busy life very soon. I need to complete my Decision Theory homework now, so enjoy your Sunday everybody!