The story of a French guy and his lovely Belgian wife gone to Barcelona to get the IESE MBA.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The eye of the storm

After an endless silence period due to very heavy activity on my side, I take advantage of a somehow less crazy period to write a few lines.

A lot has happened since the last time I wrote. First, holidays in Belgium. Excellent, end of course too short to see everybody, go back to France, see my family more than a few hours and even less my French friends. That's very frustrating but it's the issue with living abroad and having your base in another country. I sometimes have the feeling that I am abroad everywhere... Or at home everywhere, depending on the mood.

Emilie's pregnancy is going well. Here is how she looks now (as you can see, the baby is growing, and he is moving a lot also!) :

And here is another one of the full model ;-)

We got the grades from the 1st term and I am quite happy with mine. Not a stellar performance but a very steady one. I even managed to understand accounting and get a pretty decent grade, thanks to our amazing teacher. I've always had an issue with soft skills classes, like "Leading people in organization" during last term and Human Resources Management this term. It sounds like BS to me. But I guess that's mostly me as some people really like these subjects.

This term is much more numbers oriented. I have the feeling we're getting into the real MBA core courses, while the 1st term was the -necessary- introduction. How would you study finance without knowing how accounting works?

We are still working a lot. From what we know from exchange students, they are surprised by how intense the pace is. Frankly, it is quite intense but it's not boring at all. The subjects are very interesting and at least you get what you've paid for. The case method is a double-edged sword: what you get out of it is proportionnal to your personal investment. No pain, no gain...

I have applied for a few consulting firms for my summer internship. Mostly in Brussels. For the moment I have good returns but it's not over yet so I can't say more.

The last week has been quite hectic. First, I have participated in the VCIC competition, which is an international venture capital competition where B-schools compete. My team won the IESE internal competition among 5 other teams. Next step is at London Business School against the other European schools. Very exciting, but very demanding because it is over 48 hours and you don't sleep much.

[one week later]
I think I have not really understood the concept of a blog. Instead of writing kilometric articles, I should write smaller ones. That would spare me the issue of the same article being outdated before being published.

This week, I have secured a summer intership at the Boston Consulting Group in Brussels and my mid-term exams are over. I am very excited about going back to Brussels, especially for the BCG! The unfortunate consequence is the lack of preparation for my mid-terms: "una carneceria", in Spanish!

Finally, we're going to a new appartment tomorrow. More quiet, and much better in any way, but less expensive...

All right. Enough for this one. I think I've caught up with most of the stuff!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Always look on the bright side of life...

I've been singing that song quite a lot recently. Actually, I think there should be a spanish version of it. At least it would be something useful to learn by any foreigner coming to live here for a significant time.

When I really discovered Spain 4 years ago, it was in a small town of Andalucia (Tarifa), where I spent 6 months. I quickly became used to the famous "Mañana" (key)word used by many there. You want anything? The answer is very often:
- Si, si, claro. Mañana...
Yeah, sure.
But I thought this was a direct consequence of the heat of Andalucia.

I was surprised to see that such a high level of service is the common rule in Spain.
A few examples from my experience, which is by the way not much worse than those of my classmates:
- 3 months to get a foreigner ID (still waiting) whereas I should have got it within 4 weeks (I'm sure they lost it)
- to open a bank account, we went to the biggest bank in Catalunya, namely BBVA. We chose the biggest agency, on Passeig de Gracia, the local "Champs Elysées". Can you believe that no one speaks english there?! They do mistakes at every single step of the process. For example, when I registered, I told them not to take the address mentioned on my French ID, since I don't live there for more than 2 years. Yes, you got the picture. They sent everything there, including my new credit card and pin code...

I could go on and on for 3 pages but I will just focus on the best (or worse) example. The 4th of September we sign a contract with Ono, an Internet cable provider in Barcelona. They call a few days later to come and set it up. Bad luck, there is a power shortage planned for that day in our building. I call Ono to postpone the appointment. Here comes the funny part...
- They take note of my cancellation but tell me that someone is going to call me back to set up another appointment (can't they do it at the same time?)
- That person calls... 3 weeks after...
- A technician comes. He sets up the Internet and the Telephone but tells me that the phone doesn't work. When I ask him what I can do, he tells me that I have to wait (and pray?) one week and then call the technical hotline and that they may send someone... I look at the guy and wonder if my spanish is good enough to understand what he just said...
- Of course, the phone doesn't work a week later. I call the hotline 5 times in two weeks and they don't know what is happening. Every call costs me at least 5 euros on that stupid prepaid phone. One month later, I still have no telephone. Hold on, the best part is coming.
- One night, Internet stops working. I call Ono the day after and the person I have on the phone tells me that my contract has been cancelled!!! She doesn't know why. Nobody knows. I spend a few days and a few tens of Euros more to try to sort this mess out. They tell me they have to re-open my contract and send someone to... set up Internet again at our place! We agree on a date.
- We're already deep into the twilight zone but it's not finished yet. First date, the guy doesn't show up. Needless to say I'm utterly pissed off and I would lightheartedly smash anyone responsible for that mess. But I call them, stay calm and take another appointment...
After 3 no-shows, a guy finally agrees to show up and fix everything. He's my god and I kiss him lengthly and passionately.
Obviously, no apologies from anyone at Ono for that major fuck up, nor for the money we paid during all that. I could of course sue them but I have neither the time nor the money and even less the energy to start dealing with any Spanish authority...

Oh! I was about to forget... One week ago, my brand new computer has been stolen near Placa de Catalunya in an Internet Cafe (Easy Internet Cafe). No violence. A stupid set-up that worked very well in distracting me. Good to know that these guys are at least good at one thing. Too bad it is stealing. No more Vaio, no more wallet, credit cards, papers...
The only thing that the police told us to supposedly comfort us was that there is a theft every 2 minutes in Barcelona, and that some places are famous for pickpockets...
Thanks for the info...

Of course, I'm drawing a very bad image of Spain and it should not be taken as such, especially because I'm still angry for my computer. The good sides outweight the bad ones, overall. But first, I think I've had my lot of bad luck since we are here, and second it's just a different culture and I have to get used to it without looking for the same things as in more northern countries.

I am almost sure of one thing. Next year, I will probably don't pay attention to these "details" anymore and I will want to live in Spain forever! ;-)

Sing with me: "Always look on the bright side of life..."

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Catching up, part II

How to be in Barcelona and not talk about the Barça, one of the best football team on the planet!?

2 weeks ago, we took advantage of the birthday and the visit of my friend Rodolphe to all go to Camp Nou and see the Barça play. Even though most of you know I'm far from being a football fan, I was quick in adopting the local uniform:

We were blessed by 2 great goals from Ronaldinho. Amazing guy. The difference with the other players is so visible that they seem to come from another league.

Even the girls, Emilie and Camille, enjoyed the game! So you can believe me when I say it's magic ;-)
By the way, if you want tickets for a Barça game, you better know some members of the club. This is the most cr@ppy booking system I have ever seen for any event. Anyway, when you live in Spain you quickly become used to that level of service...

Emilie already came with me to check out Camp Nou some days before:

We will of course try to see other games, which shouls be relatively easy with people from the school, as I'm obviously not the only one who got hooked by that team!

Catching up with the flow... and a great news!

No, I'm not dead. One month without news, that's bad.
It's been a tough one from a work perspective. But let's put things back in order.

Four weeks ago, we've been to Sitges, a nice little town 30km south of Barcelona. It was a wonderful break. It was on the 29th of October, and the temperature was 25 degrees Celsius. Working like hell, I really needed that break.
But for you readers there is nothing particular to know about that small trip except that picture of Emilie (sorry if I cut her head, for once it's not the most important detail on the picture...) :

No, she's not the victim of a new tapas addiction, she's indeed 3 MONTHS PREGNANT !!!
Thats' right! We're gonna have a baby! We are both very excited even if it will be difficult to manage this in parallel with the MBA. Luckily, the delivery is planned for May, which is almost the end of the year.
Emilie will go back to Brussels for the summer and I don't know where I will be, since it will depend on my internship. I hope to go back to Belgium as well but we'll see.

I'm anxious to celebrate that news with everybody!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Mayday! Mayday! We are sinking!

2 weeks without writing... It's getting embarassing!
The least I can say, it's that the year has really started.
3 cases a day, it doesn't seem that long, but it is, believe me. Each case can take from 1 to 4 hours.
So a day in my life, right now, is quite simple. I wake up at 7, have my team meeting from 8:15 to 9:15, then two classes in the morning and one in the afternoon.
I am actualy lucky because I don't have spanish anymore. So I go back home, and I start doing my case studies, until more or less midnight.
Not much time to do anything else. Anyway, this is what I wanted, so I'm not going to complain now! Overall, the courses are very interesting and I'm learning a lot.

Last week, we went to London for the investment banks tour. We saw the eight main ones and it was very interesting, at least to learn more about that job and that industry in general.
"Only" 100 students had made the trip and sometimes it was quite funny to see this big group going from one bank to another in herd. The guys from Citigroup gave each of us a red umbrella (it's their logo). You must imagine 100 people in suits, all with a red umbrella whereas the weather was... a perfect clear blue sky. Quite unique.

This is a how it looked... (thanks Theresa for the picture).

This week-end, I'm going back to Brussels,and I'm really glad because I miss you guys a lot.
All right, it's time for me to get some sleep.
I hope I will be able to write again soon, but now I stop doing promises... See you all soon.