Settling in Durham as an International Student: Part 2

As a recent Fuqua alumnus, I have reflected back on my year in the MMS program and all the new experiences I came across. It was intimidating in the beginning as an international student having to adapt to life at Fuqua and America in general. Hopefully with some guidance, including what I’ve provided here, you will realize that settling in Durham is not as daunting a task as it seems. This is the follow up to my previous post about starting your MMS program on the right note.


Student visa

Once you’re admitted and make the decision to move and come to the US for school the first thing that should be on your mind is getting your visa. In general most students are issued either the F-1 or J-1 visa. Your admission packet will contain detailed information on the procedures, but in general you will need to fill out an online form, provide proof of funding, pay a SEVIS fee (visa administrative fee) and be issued an I-20 form. The I-20 form is particularly important and you should keep it with your passport throughout your time as a student in the US. If you leave the country during your time here, you will be required to show this form upon re-entry. Refer to Duke visa services for more detailed instructions.


Health insurance/vaccinations

Duke requires all international students to join a mandatory Student Medical Insurance Plan (SMIP). You will be automatically enrolled and charged for it. Your admission packet will also contain information about filling out a registration form. The insurance card you receive and registration information can be picked up from the Student Health Center upon arrival at Durham. Incoming students also need to fill out a vaccination history form. There is a list of countries that require certain vaccinations if you’ve resided there for a number of years. You can ask your family doctor to complete the form for you, and any additional vaccinations you need can be done either in your home country or at Duke’s Student Health Center. This exact process could change year to year, so follow the instructions in your admission packet and for more information visit student health.


Setting up a bank account

This was the first thing I did after moving into my apartment in Durham. All you need to set up a bank account is your passport, visa paperwork, an address in the US and some money for the initial deposit. A copy of your housing leasing contract with your name on it is sufficient for proof of a US address. They may ask you for your social security number, but this is not necessary to set up the bank account. After that, you can deposit any cash that you carried with you to America and have more wired internationally as needed. I chose to bank with Bank of America because of the accessibility of a branch near Duke’s campus. There is also a SunTrust and Wells Fargo branch close to campus.

Around here, people don’t tend to carry too much cash around and prefer swiping their debit card like a credit card. It is directly linked to your bank account and can be used at most stores and restaurants. A handy tip is that grocery and convenience stores often have ‘cash back’ options after you pay at the register. Simply put, this is another way to take cash out of your account like an ATM. Ask for $20 ‘cash back’ from the cashier and they will give you $20 in cash which is deducted from your bank account. Duke’s International House has more information on banking in Durham.


Phone cards

I had a 4-day layover in New York City before I headed down to Durham, so I bought a prepaid SIM card there. In general, I suggest going prepaid, meaning that there is no annual binding contract and you simply pay once a month for a certain number of fixed minutes and data. Note that texts are free with most of the telecom providers in the US! It also doesn’t matter which state you get your SIM from, but your number will start with that specific state’s area code. Do make sure that your provider has good service around Durham.  Most international students I know use AT&T’s GoPhone plan, and in general I have never had an issue with getting reception in Durham (they have good service across the country as well). Look up Verizon, Sprint or T-Mobile for other options and plans that may suit you!


Getting a drivers license

Following up on part 1 of this post, for those of you thinking about getting a car in Durham, you will need to get a North Carolina license regardless of whether or not you have one in your home country. The procedure is quite simple, but try to get it done as soon as possible, especially before the MBAs and other Duke graduate students begin to arrive in August and September. The waits at the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) can become excessively long and could go up to two hours. Also from experience, its better to arrive half an hour before they open at 8 am. That way you can get in and out of DMV before the longer lines form.

You’ll need to first pass a written test before taking a driving test. If you drive in your home country then this shouldn’t be a problem for you at all. Usually the driving test takes place in a quiet neighborhood and parallel parking is not tested.

Even if you don’t plan to drive, getting a license just as a form of identification may be worthwhile. Laws related to purchasing and consuming alcohol are very strict in much of the US, so a license will prevent you from having to carry your passport around! For more information visit the DMV’s web site.

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MMS Program Launch

The Master of Management Studies program is 10 months long, and there aren’t many who get to experience the excitement of going through orientation twice. But as a recent graduate, and the current intern with the Career Services team, I’m at Fuqua this month to welcome the MMS Class of 2015 exactly a year after my own orientation.

It all starts at MMS Program Launch. A year ago, I was still astonished about how the twists of my choices brought me to the program and was nervous about classes and teams and everything I didn’t know. Thankfully I had met a few people leading up to orientation, but there were so many still to meet!

HCA Auditorium is ready for the Class of 2015 to arrive

HCA Auditorium is ready for the Class of 2015 to arrive

This year the familiar tunes of “Wagon Wheel,” “Happy,” and a few other pump-up song staples sing out from the speakers to set the mood, but it wasn’t necessary. I feel the students’ excitement, anxiety, and eagerness that mirrored my own when I was in their place as they file into HCA auditorium, looking for the spot with their name among the sea of 145 seats—the most in MMS history with the addition of the inaugural Duke Kunshan University (DKU) class.

Dean Bill Boulding formally welcomes the newest members of Team Fuqua. Bill and the MMS Orientation team, including Program Directors, members of Admissions and the Career Management Center, explain the paired principles we hold at our core as members of the Fuqua community: authentic engagement, loyal community, collective diversity, impactful stewardship, supportive ambition, and uncompromising integrity. I reflect on my peers and our shared experiences that gave those principles value beyond their weight in words this past year. I remember planning a documentary film viewing with my classmates Ashima and Audrey to raise awareness on the impact of girls’ education, cheering on wildly gifted MMS dancers and singers performing at the Fuqua’s Got Talent competition, and proudly representing MMS with 10 others at the MBA Games to raise money for NC Special Olympics. I look around the room and wonder how this next class will leave their mark at Fuqua.

Program launch has begun

Program launch has begun

Because I am the most recent MMS graduate, many students ask me questions that I remember asking a year ago. Teams and sections are a big uncertainty early on and there is a lot of build-up to when you find out who you’ll be working with for the next few terms. As always the big reveal of the teams was exciting, but even more fun with insights from students’ 25 Random Things application essays. After a rough showing last year, I am happy to watch the Blue Section, my own as a student, win the first event and later the honor of the overall Section Olympics championship.

Section Blue preparing for the Section Olympics

Section Blue preparing for the Section Olympics

I also reassure many to power through the summer term. At a networking workshop social at 6 p.m. after their first day of classes, I empathize with them on the long days and the difficult work. I think back to my long hours in team rooms and in the library, deciphering accounting language and working on quantitative cases without any prior knowledge. I hint to those with science and social backgrounds that hard work eventually pays off and encourage the more experienced business folks to start practicing leadership through tutoring early.

Looking back I can’t help but laugh at how foreign everything about Fuqua felt just a year ago.

How these first few weeks of summer term felt lonely and quiet on campus, but how quickly things filled up as First Year MBA students started their orientation, and how warm it felt watching Second Years greet each other.

How I didn’t know the best places to study or to eat or to have fun, although I’m sure that one year really hasn’t been long enough to experience everything the area has to offer.

How I wasn’t sure how I fit into this Team Fuqua, trying so hard to hide whatever it was that kept me from feeling comfortable at first.

But now it’s nothing like that. As one of the lucky ones here to help the Class of 2015 get acquainted, I feel at ease saying: Welcome Home.

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The Duke Start–Up Challenge: Are You Game?

One of the great things that’s constantly emphasized about Fuqua is that it is a risk-free learning environment. So does taking the element of risk out of speculative ventures enhance the learning potential? According to the participants of the Duke Start-Up Challenge 2013-2014, the answer to that is a resounding yes!

A significant number of students coming to business school aspire to be entrepreneurs one day. And so, the Duke Start-Up Challenge was set up in 1999 with the aim of providing budding entrepreneurs with a platform for them to showcase their ideas, and to receive guidance and mentorship for refining them into viable business models. While all the participants who go through the successive rounds receive extensive coaching, the winners also get a cash prize of $50,000 to kick-start their business!

This past year, teams that included students from the MMS:FOB program participated in the challenge. The business ideas submitted by teams from our program ranged from setting up a sports community to an alternative airline hub model. Though the competition was intense and 150 teams from across the university participated, one of the MMS teams–Sportsmode–was among the top 30 teams that moved on to the second round.

I spoke to the team leader of Sportsmode, Kawa Zhang MMS ‘14, and asked him what were the key lessons he learned from this experience.

Kawa has a background in medical sciences, and was working as a registered nurse in Indianapolis before coming to the MMS program.  According to him, while it is fairly common to meet people who have interesting ideas, it’s the people who can process the necessary technical knowledge to translate those ideas into a sound business plan who are hard to come by. This ability is what sets teams apart, and is what the MMS program helped him develop.

Without a background in business, Kawa was initially unsure of how to give his idea shape and form. With the help of the courses in finance, strategy and marketing, he was able to prepare a mold for Sportsmode.

“At the beginning, while I was interested and had an idea and experience, I did not know where to start. The MMS program helped me to gain insight and develop my idea.” – Kawa Zhang

Howie Rhee, the Managing Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, is the main man behind the challenge (the incubator for students) and helps the students with resources and aids, such as writing a business plan, preparing presentations for investor acquisition, designing marketing campaigns, etc.

One of Kawa’s greatest challenges was putting a team together early in the year, while balancing school work and recruiting with competition. He also felt that the best part about the challenge was the support system that had been created for the students. Regardless of the final outcome, the ideas that deserved attention were being given an opportunity.

Finally, even if you don’t end up winning, you still come out with a more structured idea, a great experience and a lot more confidence!

Ashima Sehgal

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MMS, Class of 2014. Find out more about me...

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Corporate Tour Opportunity: Welcome to Facebook!

Palak - FBSign edit

Outside Facebook Headquarters in Menlo Park, CA

What a great way to end Spring Break this past year by touring around the Facebook campus in lovely Menlo Park, CA! The Career Management Center (CMC), with the help of Career Ambassadors (students who assist with career-related activities), provided us a great opportunity to be able to either job shadow or take a company tour of MMS alum’s current workplaces. Two current MMSers and I were fortunate to visit Lucas Chapin MMS ’11 at his workplace – known as none other than Facebook!

As we entered through the main building, we logged in as guests through their internal Facebook system, and met Lucas in the lobby. We began our tour by walking outside in the fresh air. It’s very similar to a college campus where there are buildings surrounding a central walkway, and people walking, or even biking, everywhere.

As we walked towards the other end, we saw many exciting places! First, we saw a cute dessert shop, where we visited later in the day for some dessert following lunch. On the opposite side was the main cafeteria, Epic. Epic provides a different cuisine almost every day, and always has a salad bar. There were also free drinks that could be found all over the campus if we were thirsty. In addition, there are other places to eat such as Burger Shack, Harvest (where local produce is used), and coffee shops.

Facebook Arcade to unwind with some fun games!

Facebook Arcade to unwind with some fun games!

In addition to providing employees with the convenience of food and free snacks every day, Facebook also has an arcade, a wood shop, rental bikes, a health center and gym, on-site health professionals, and even dry cleaning services. Having all these amenities present on the Facebook campus allows employees to focus on their work without having to worry about traveling far to get food, doing their laundry, or getting a gym membership.

Marking my spot on the Facebook Wall!

Marking my spot on the Facebook Wall!

Work hard, play hard. This mantra seemed to be the overall feel of Facebook. There was definitely the fun portion of the workspace, but the employees are also very hard-working people really committed to what they do. We were able to meet with a few Facebook employees, and they absolutely love what they do and enjoy being a part of Facebook. I’m so glad we were given this opportunity to be able to visit Facebook’s campus over Spring Break.

Palak Bavishi

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MMS, Class of 2014. Find out more about me...

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Setting Sail on the MMS Journey

Welcome to Durham MMS Class of 2015! If you think that orientation week at Fuqua consists of casually mingling among your new program buddies over a drink or sitting in boring lectures hours on end, boy, are you in for a surprise. You are thrown into the deep end and I guarantee that you will be exhausted by the end of the week. But did I enjoy it? I loved every minute of it. Orientation really sets the tone for the 10 months ahead. It isn’t just about learning new faces or understanding how to navigate through the building. Instead, by the end of the week, we weren’t just close friends, but a part of the Fuqua family. Below are several highlights of my orientation week for the Class of 2014:

Program Launch: Following several speeches from the directors of the MMS program and from the Dean himself, we were split into two sections, blue and white. I got placed in the white section and was assigned to afternoon classes. I’m not much of a morning person, so needless to say, I was very pleased! We were also assigned to our first MMS team for group assignments. The MMS program places tremendous importance in fostering teamwork and many of our graded assessments are team-based. Teams include a diversity of undergraduate degrees, nationalities and personalities, which make for very dynamic discussions during team meetings! All of us are able to contribute to our teams in unique ways.

Meeting teammates for the first time

Meeting teammates for the first time

Team Dynamics: With our new teams, we were given our first team-building activity in which we had to create a skit to illustrate how our individual differences combine to create the perfect team. After a fruitful discussion, my team decided that for our skit, we’d each bring in a particular type of food to represent both our personality and ethnic background, with the intention that our food would mesh together to create the perfect dish, representative of our perfect team. Sadly, rice, chicken, yogurt, salsa and kimchi didn’t combine well together … Luckily, our self-inflicted pain cracked up the audience and we were rightly awarded second runner-up for our creativity and humor.

Section Olympics: This was a big, competitive face-off between the blue and white sections. Chubby bunny, limbo, water balloon toss and of course, tug-of-war were some of the activities we competed in. It was a chance to showcase our competitive sides, and at the same time, get to know each other better. My section dominated the entire afternoon and won every single event! Props to the blue section though for being a worthy competitor! It was a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon.

What a close contest!

What a close contest!

Triangle Training: I’m not sure that there’s a more effective way of building trust in a team than to have two people support each other on a high wire, hanging over 10 feet off the ground. There is no way of getting from one side of the wire to the other without the full support and trust of your teammate. Activities like these were what Triangle Training was all about. The organization that runs this event each year for MBAs and MMSers advocates team building through physically entrusting yourself to a teammate. It was an intense full-day event during which we worked through a series of exercises to better understand the components that make up an effective team. My favorite and most challenging activity was building a tower from plastic crates while standing on the crates themselves! Definitely not for the fainthearted.

Learning to trust teammates 10 feet off the ground!

Learning to trust teammates 10 feet off the ground!

End of Week Celebration Dinner: Having had such a long and tiring week, we wound down by hitting up Tyler’s Taproom, a local bar in Durham! It was finally a chance to relax, have a beer and chat with fellow classmates about the experiences of orientation week. It was a great start to my MMS life!

End of week reflection at Tyler's

Week-end reflection at Tyler’s

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Giving and Growing Outside the Classroom

Although the MMS: FOB program will keep you running from the moment you start, finding time to give back to the community will make your experience in Durham so much more valuable. Here are a few on-campus organizations you can join to say engaged outside of class:

  1. The Net Impact Club
    The Net Impact clubs lets you explore the intersection of social responsibility and business. This past year we watched and discussed applicable TED talks, like Michael Porter’s on how social responsibility will lead to long term profits for business. We’ve also gotten our hands dirty during Habitat for Humanity build days and have reached out to the Duke Community with a screening of Girl Rising. Net Impact is a great way to get to know other MMSers and leaders of consequence who have a like-minded approach to business.

    mms students at house under construction

    Some class of 2014 MMS students “building” their skillset at a Habitat for Humanity house in Durham.
    Photo courtesy of Catherine Doktycz.

  2. Duke Interdisciplinary Social Innovators
    This organization, also known as DISI, is new to campus, but a great addition and one that will likely grow for years to come. I was involved in two DISI projects and certainly learned a lot. The arrangement is simple: DISI gives you the chance to help a non-profit organization while you work with people of different skills and experiences—much like you will at your job post-graduation. There are all kinds of projects to get involved with and new skills to learn. Just to give you a glimpse, my first project was to design a sustainable, accessible therapy garden for veterans and my second was to explore social entrepreneurship in other cities. Full lists of past projects are on their website. If you’re interested in consulting or getting to know other graduate students across Duke’s campus, I wholly recommend looking into DISI. The projects run over traditional semesters, but the workload is manageable, and sometimes enhances your MMS coursework.
  3. Fuqua2Duke
    The best of both worlds, Fuqua2Duke creates mentor-mentee relationships between Duke undergraduates and Fuqua students. Since MMS students are between undergraduate and business school, we have a chance to be both a mentor and a mentee. You can give advice to undergrads who are unsure of what lies ahead after graduation, sharing what you’ve learned on how to network and to create a personal brand. You can also speak to an MBA student about their industry expertise and get tips on leadership, mentoring, and a host of other things for your own benefit.

My involvement in different activities gave me some really rich experiences organizing events and growing my skillset that I can take away from the program—not to mention plenty to talk about on interviews! As you look forward to joining the next MMS class, don’t forget to find ways to grow your leadership skills and enrich your experience!

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Driving in Durham: Tips for Future International Students

Durham is a small city, but at the same time, everything is scattered around. I like to wander, but it’s still a little hard to quickly travel around Durham by bus. So I got a car soon after moving here.

As Kelvin mentioned in an earlier post, you can absolutely travel around Durham with public transportation, and Duke makes it really easy with the GoPass it provides. But sometimes, public transportation is a bit limited. For example, when I have to stay at Fuqua past midnight to work on group assignments with my team, it just isn’t practical to rely on public transportation to get home since many buses don’t run late at night. Having a car is much more convenient. If you would like to see some of the Duke campus and surrounding areas, you can take a look at this short video I made while driving around Durham.

If you’re planning to come to Durham from outside of the U.S., you may be wondering about how to get a car here. Since Durham is relatively small, there are a limited number of car dealers. A new car might be a little bit more expensive than what you might find in other areas in the country. As an international student, you might want to stick to bigger dealers to make sure the buying process is handled correctly to avoid future trouble.

The incoming student website (you’ll gain access to it after you’re admitted to Fuqua) includes links to a couple websites where you can search for cars. Of course, if you plan to buy a brand-new car, I recommend that you go directly to the website of the specific brand you like to find a local dealer. But since most international MMS students only stay in Durham for one year, most of us purchase a used car. Some specific resources for used cars include Kelley Blue Book, usedcar.com, and CarMax – these might give you some great cars to choose from.

After locating the car you want, you might want to call a local dealer to schedule an appointment to see the car. If you are buying from a franchised dealer, which I recommend, they will help you with the warranty and whatever is needed regarding the maintenance and repair of the car. But before that, there are still many things you need to sort out.

A driver’s license (or a Learner’s Permit here in NC—because it is a hard card-type ID issued by the DMV, it is accepted as a legal proof of identity—unlike some other states where the Learners’ Permit is just a piece of paper with no photo) is necessary to purchase a car. The license represents your legal status in the United States as well as your ability to drive a car.

How to Get a Driver’s License in Durham

  1. Visit a local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office to take a written test. You’ll need to take the following documents with you:
    •  I-20
    •  I-94
    •  Proof of residency (ex: a copy of your apartment lease)The written test includes questions about traffic rules and road signs. You’ll also have to pass a vision test. If you pass these tests, you’ll receive a learner’s permit, which is like a pre-license.
  2.  With your learner’s permit, you can drive a car as long as someone over 21 who has a driver’s license is in the car with you. I recommend that you practice driving with your friends to get familiar with the roads and how to drive in the United States. The traffic rules and the way people drive here may be different from what you’re used to in your home country.
  3. After you’ve practiced driving with your learner’s permit, return to the DMV to take the driving test to get your official driver’s license. You’ll need to take the following documents with you:
    •  I– 20
    •  I– 94
    •  Proof of residency
    •  Proof of insurance – even if you drive a friend’s car, you still need to provide proof of insurance for yourself
    •  Car registration – it should be the registration of the car you will be driving, and since you can buy a car with a Learners’ Permit, a lot of my friends chose to bring their own car when taking the final test.

For the driving test, an examiner will get in the car with you, and you will have to drive along a specific route designated by the examiner. During the short drive, you will be tested on how well you handle the car, how flexible you are when handling road situations, how strict you follow the traffic rules, and other specific requirements like stopping or turning, etc. Most of my friends took the driving test only once, but some people have taken it multiple times until they pass it.

If there’s one thing I need to stress about here, it’s the importance of insurance. Normally people go with the big insurance companies like Progressive, Geico or State Farm, because they have a better reputation and even provide student discounts that are far more reliable than other smaller companies. It is required by law to be covered by at least liability insurance when you’re driving on the road, and the dealers won’t sell you a car without one. I went to my dealer the first time with everything but insurance hoping they may able to take care of it, but was turned down and ended up wasting most of my day. I want to point that out, so you don’t make the same mistake and waste your time.

A license (or permit) and insurance is all you need other than the identification documents you already have to be able to purchase a car. The only step left would be to pick out your ideal car among millions of links online. Good luck with your search and have fun driving around Durham!

Zhi "Frank" Li

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MMS, Class of 2014. Find out more about me...

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A Lesson in (Time) Management

“I am definitely going to take a course on time management … just as soon as I can work it into my schedule.” – Louis E. Boone

This quote very well captures the essence of being in business school, and the single greatest challenge that we, as business students, face – managing our time. When you choose to allocate your time to one activity, you are also actively choosing to not do other things. While this sounded like a trivial issue to us as new students who were easily excitable and willing to put in 20 hours a day at the onset, we quickly learned an important lesson. When we were exposed to the full heat of academics, recruiting, club work and social life, I learned, as my classmate Emma puts it, that I can do everything, but not at the same time. Here are some of the “nuggets of wisdom” that I’ve learned about time management:

  1. Get a planner. Planning out every day and every hour of your day may seem like a very corporate thing to do, but trust me, it’s indispensable when you’re in business school. The most important part of being successful is showing up to the right place at the right time, and not being completely clueless. So get a planner and make notes, or manage your commitments on the calendar on your phone. Having a sense of control over your time will help you feel a lot less overwhelmed.
  2. Get your priorities straight. Getting a 4.0 GPA, becoming president of the club you always wanted to join, picking up an on-campus employment opportunity, landing your dream job, and finding time to socialize and take trips with your friends – this is all an incredible fantasy. The chances are that things won’t turn out to be as you had hoped, and some things will be harder than you were prepared for. You have to prioritize by choosing what is most vital to you, give it all you have, and celebrate your successes instead of obsessing over the battles you lost. Remember what is important!
  3. The lesser evil – budgeting time.  It is crucial to budget time for different tasks you have to do during the day. It’s easy to spend 2 hours drafting an assignment and then 4 more hours improving it. Be careful about spending too much time making everything flawless, unless you want to spend 30-40 hours each week working on assignments alone! Everything can’t and won’t be perfect. Sometimes you have to decide what is good enough, and move on to the other things on your plate.
  4. Make the most of your weekends.  During my first week in school, I tried to finish all schoolwork during the weekdays, so I’d have time to relax and explore Durham over the weekends. I now know that this was a bad idea. Don’t set unreasonable expectations for yourself. Definitely use weekends to unwind, and have some fun, but it’s also the best time to work ahead. Make sure you celebrate your Friday evenings at Fuqua Friday, but also use at least part of every weekend to prepare for the coming week’s assignments and classes!
  5. Bring together what you have to do with what you want to do.  Avoid being in the MMS team rooms for 10 hours a day. When you can, have team meetings in coffee shops, over dinner, or in libraries around campus. If you can’t find any time to discover the campus or Durham because of the workload, then bring them together. It’s not that hard!

Business school definitely keeps you on your toes, but making it an ordeal is your own doing. Get smart about how you use your time, and when you do find that occasional night off with no urgent work or fires to be put out, seize the moment and enjoy it without feeling guilty. It’s a precious, rare gift – make the most of it!

Ashima Sehgal

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Experience, Salary, Vacation, and an Offer.

 

mms student

Guest Blogger: MMS Student Michael Xie

Jobless in November

As mid-November rolled around, I was not one of the fortunate few who had already landed a job offer, and therefore able to spend winter break in blissful relaxation. After speaking to my career coach about my resume and career goals, we determined that lack of experience was the biggest problem with my resume. Doing a Winternship was the best option for me to remedy that.

Since I was pursuing a career in strategy/consulting, I limited my search to opportunities that either centered on strategy or business planning in order to gain relevant experience. A couple Winternships fit the bill, but a posting for a Strategy Analyst position at Strayer Education caught my eye. Brand name, strategy, salary, two (out of four) weeks working remotely, around the holidays…Bingo. I applied and reached out to our contact there for some more information about the position. I talked briefly with one of their Senior VPs about the company and the project I would be working on, and received an offer for the internship a couple weeks later.

Strategy, Scheduling, and Modeling

headquarters building for Strayer Education

Strayer Education Headquarters in Herndon, VA.

My Winternship lasted four weeks. I spent the first week at the Strayer Education HQ in Herndon, VA, then worked remotely for the next two weeks. The last week I returned to the office to wrap up my project with them. My first day involved being introduced to people around the office, getting a short rundown of Strayer Education, and sitting in on a team meeting with the scheduling team that I would be working alongside in the upcoming weeks. Work started quickly and I was immediately presented with long-term goals and deliverables.

Over a four-week period I was able to work on a fairly big-picture strategic level, gain extensive experience with excel, and work on marketing and implementation as well as strategic design and planning. I was honestly shocked with the level of engagement in the internship and how much of a contribution I was allowed to make. After doing so many cases in classes at Fuqua, it was really rewarding to be able to work on an actual business case, and create and implement a recommendation. I was not only heavily involved in the project, but I was able to see its launch during my time there.

To Spring and Beyond

In reflection, my Winternship met all of my goals going in—and more. I have now worked in a strategy role that gave me not only solid experience to put on my resume, but helped me apply what I learned in class to a real-world environment. and I also confirmed my desire to pursue work in strategy after graduation. The structure of the Winternship, which allowed me to spend two weeks working remotely, gave me the opportunity to gain experience and still spend time at home in California with family and friends during the holidays. One term later, I have already been able to utilize my experience to get interviews and I have also received my first offer. I highly recommend pursuing a Winternship or a pre-Fuqua summer internship to gain some real work experience and boost your resume with relevant background in your chosen industry or role.

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Habitat for Humanity: Building Houses for the Durham Community

MMS students at Habitat for Humanity construction site

MMS students give back to the community by volunteering for Habitat for Humanity.

On an afternoon in November, I found myself traveling to a small neighborhood on Durham-Chapel Hill Road. As I pulled up the driveway with four classmates, I saw three houses under construction that had “Sold to Habitat of Humanity” signs out front. We got out of the car and were immediately called over by the project leader. The introduction was brief, and in no time, we were given gloves, pouches, hammers and nails. I rushed up a ladder and began helping the volunteer professional builders with the installation of the second floor for one of the houses.

The building project was supported in part by Duke’s Office of Durham and Regional Affairs, which supports the local community and service organizations like Habitat for Humanity of Durham. Habitat is a non-profit that helps to build and repair homes for those less fortunate so that they may have a safe and affordable place to call home. The MMS Net Impact Club called for volunteers to help with local Habitat projects. As Vice President of the club, despite not having any experience in building houses, I signed up with an open mind along with a few classmates. I saw it as a perfect opportunity to connect with the Durham community and to give back to the needy. The Club hopes to build on this new partnership with Habitat and to continue to support the organization in the future.

My classmates and I spent a day on the Habitat construction site. Of course, not everyone was balancing on a half-built second floor framing like I was. For those who didn’t fare well with heights, there were a variety of other roles that people took on—like sawing wooden pieces for the framing or painting. There was something for everyone to do. Despite the hard work, I thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon. I got to know several other Duke students who were there, and most of all, I got to give back to my new home of Durham!

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