Applying for MBA from Yangon

You probably have been thinking about it for some time.  You might have even bought a few GMAT books in a fit of inspiration.  As with any good ole MBA application process, it begins with opening your least disliked GMAT book.  But what about other resources?  How could you best prepare for yourself with limited resources of Y-town?

First of all, do you  need to fly to Bangkok or Singapore to take a test?  Definitely not.  I took my GMAT at Hlaing Township in the MICT Park.  The Yangon-based GMAT Center is not only convenient and quiet, but the staff are also extremely friendly.  One female exam staffer even served me a cup of coffee during my bathroom break out of her sheer generosity and kindness.  The Burmese Way to GMAT test-taking!  Do it.  Highly recommended.

Myanmar Inspiration GMAT Center at 01 652 316
Building 7, Room 6
MICT Park, Hlaing Township
Yangon, Myanmar.

For preparation, there are a few teachers popular with local students.  You could enroll at MAY International Education Center (http://www.mayeducation.com/), but that school simply was not for me.  Because I have had an extremely strict work schedule even on weekends at the time, the school’s relaxed attitude with cancelling classes last minute did not sit well with me.  I cancelled eventually and had them refund me for all the last minute class cancellations and delays (I paid my bill in August and could not take my first class until October!).  Do not do it.  Not worth your time.

Now, there are no Kaplan or Manhattan Centers with free tests or workshops you can go to like in big cities like New York or London, but there are a few websites that really helped me with this process.

https://www.manhattanprep.com/

Manhattan Prep guidebooks are really easy to follow and great for freshening up the basic concepts from high school.  You could also take Thursdays with Ron online courses, which give you a good insight to how the exam works.

There are also sites such as http://gmatclub.com/ the Economist GMAT app, or the Veritas.  I also started a Facebook messenger group of GMAT study buddies, all of whom are better at math than I am.  We would work at our different pace, then meet up for coffee to discuss harder problems.  I actually had fun.

In the first few weeks, it helps to also start writing down your personal statements as you prepare for your GMAT.  Some acquaintances often come up to me and ask me to share my essay as a reference, and I have always politely declined such requests, mainly because personal statements are hugely personal.  It is supposed to explain your psyche, your post MBA plans, and what this particular school means to you.

Not to generalize, but most local candidates are far more competent quantitatively than me, so I devoted most of my time on GMAT math, and wrote my statements with a little help from my friends.  A colleague of mine did one official GMAT guide, took his exam within a month, and got something like 760.  If personal statements are your main point of weakness, start this process early, brainstorm your thoughts, write down notes in little post-its, and get feedback from friends and mentors, as well as people who understand how these things work.  Select advice smartly.

If you have an interview invite, cough up and take a plane!  Perhaps not to the U.S. or the U.K. but schedule something with an alum in the region.  I did my MBA interviews in the same day in two different cities back in March, and trust me, the sangria I drank that evening was by far the most delish.

The last bit, there is the livewire and the decision wire from Clear Admit.  Even after everything you have done, these things are such a crap shoot, so check out http://www.clearadmit.com/livewire/ and see where people are at.  It certainly helped me.

The whole process took me five months (September-January) and I applied for Round II deadlines.  A few people did it from Myanmar last year.  There are two enrolled at MIT after a few years of work experience in Myanmar.  There is one going to Yale.  I am going to London Business School.  There’s one non-traditional profile who took her GMAT in Bangkok over Thingyan.  One person left Myanmar, moved to the Bay Area to prepare, and got into Berkeley Haas.  A friend prepared her applications in Yangon entirely, went to INSEAD and just had a huge signing bonus with Boston Consulting Group.

So lighten up!  You can do this!

 

Fail

Urban Outfitters, also known as the hipster fashion store, has a clothing line called Urban Renewal, marked with the all-too-familiar recycling symbol. The intent of this fashion line seems sincere – the department store claims it to be “vintage,” “recycled,” and “remade.”

However, not only does ‘urban renewal’ as a concept have hardly anything to do with recycling, but it is also laced with controversy. At its heart, ‘urban renewal’ sought to bring ideals of suburbia into the decaying urban cores with a hope to reignite economic activities. Many low-income neighborhoods, or slums, were outright removed to bring in highways and expressways into the city. Many things that Urban Outfitters’s target customers cherish, including the luxury to walk instead of driving around, would hardly be available if urban renewal projects had taken over. To see a flashy, sustainable-looking “Urban Renewal” banner off of a downtown Manhattan department store seems rather messed up, or just how the world should be, depending on your world view.

People need to buy clothes and love fashion aesthetics. Businesses like Urban Outfitters fulfill that role, including their brand management department, which bridges customers and the right products. This is how markets work and marketing is a great communication method. That’s why when there is the retro buzz in the fashion world, many stores have jumped in to add vintage-inspired clothing lines. Even Forever 21, which changes their merchandise swiftly and generously, has added Heritage 21, the section in the store with lights intentionally dimmed. Part of the marketing effort is to create an ambiance around an item for people don’t just buy products, they also want to buy the ‘lifestyle.’

Many customers of Urban Outfitters, me included, feel the same way when we buy their nature-inspired quilt or an old-looking wallet even though we also know that the products are brand new and perhaps made in some sweatshop in India (or sometimes even after hearing some fishy stories like this). I may have gone with the flow with other marketing campaigns, but the store should know better that these aren’t just a bunch of air-headed consumers. In the business of persuasion, the play of seemingly similar concepts may in fact cause confusion, which is already the case with ecological products with so many labels and certifications to sort through. I am all for business and establishment, but I may finally stop supporting Urban Outfitters after all.

A bow, A blazer and a bob

A bow, a blazer and a bob

I cut my hair short today.

On an unrelated note, I am a third world girl with obvious first world fantasies … still deeply self-absorbed in the idea of learning for the sake of learning. Davidson education is not for girls like me from Burma. It’s rightly for my privileged American peers that can afford to be rebellious, play Smash and get high. Davidson campus is a little Disney land, where people enjoy prolonged adolescence, talk about saving the world, and later return to their 5,000 sq feet homes for holidays. I, on the other hand, am one of the 5% of Burmese girls that are fortunate enough to have finished high school. I should be doing something that’s more grounded on reality, shouldn’t I? But I am not.