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!

 

Myanmar Art: Pyithu by Sue Htet Aung

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Artist – Sue Htet Aung
Exhibition Title – Pyithu
Venue – Nawaday Tharlar Gallery behind Park Royal Hotel

Sue Htet Aung’s new politically-charged series makes use of large chess pieces, drawing on an obvious analogy between political games and a game of chess.  This metaphor is so obvious that the painting with a woman easily identified as Aung San Suu Kyi is titled “Strategy and Hero.”  The artist asserts that some games reveal heroes who stand by the people.

Pyithu is a Burmese word for the people.  Ordinary people are at the very heart of this exhibition content.  When you talk about politics, you cannot escape the people.  The word itself originated from a Greek word meaning in relation to citizens.  The spirit of the people is hauntingly there in these paintings.

The one intriguing aspect of this series is its focus on the ongoing religious conflict and the politics behind it, with a trail of religious leaders walking abreast away from the viewer.  At a time when New York Times calls Aung San Suu Kyi a “coward” and a few protestors in Yangon are pressuring the United States Ambassador to leave because of the use of the word “Rohingya,” the portrayal of religious harmony and solidarity in the arts is a brave and peaceful message this community needs.

Go see for yourself at Nawaday Tharlar Gallery!

As my country Myanmar goes through a historic transformation, I have noticed a peculiar thing under the current of changes, and that is the political power play found in Myanmar’s politics.  Of course every nation on earth is engaged in tit-for-tat games, and I as an ordinary person have been engrossed in these games without even realizing.

In a nation, games are played out in religious, social and economic spheres.  At times, these games lead to neatly decided outcomes and stability, but at other times, games lead to conflict.  To this end, I have been witnessing both scenarios unfolding in Myanmar.  In these scenarios, I have seen the major religions come together in solidarity to tackle the social ills in my country, but I have also witnessed the unfortunate birth of religious extremism in Myanmar.  I have seen ordinary citizens like myself become a collateral damage in power negotiations way beyond our control, but I have also had the privilege of witnessing the birth of heroes, who choose to stand by the people in hard times.

It is my pleasure to present all of this sentiment in an art form in this exhibition.

– Sue Htet Aung

ABC

Big Fish

Over the long Thingyan holiday, I spent a week in Ngapali in a village about seven minutes’ walk from the beach.  We hung out mostly at a beachfront gallery along the stretch made up of temporary cafes, where the municipal government leases out space on a public beach on an annual basis for a small sum of money.

Despite its natural beauty, my Ngapali trip was a touch melancholic. There was a severe lack of public beach area for the locals to enjoy.  Most of the beautiful property, and even the surrounding hills are already in private hands, but without any investment put in place.

My host, a Kachin businesswoman based in Ngapali, showed me the immigration checkpoints from one township to another, even within a small territory of one state, Rakhine.  Our market visit in Thandwe began with two prominent signs at the entrance, marked with “969” symbols.

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Myanmar Memories at TEDxInyaLake

On my birthday, I received a note from a former supervisor and a mentor, in a Tyra-Bank style email as follows.  She had then just gotten the organizer license for TEDxInyaLake.

Your mission May, should you choose to accept it, is to be the Communications, editorial and marketing director of the inaugural TEDxInyaLake event.  In this mission, you lead the creation of a strong online presence of the event, including website content, a blog and social media, and promote the event to the public.

Your additional mission, should you choose to accept it, is to be a Curator as part of the curation team to set topics, select, invite and prepare speakers.

This email will self-destruct in five seconds.

Good luck, May.

A year later, here were are, with TEDxInyaLake videos, just edited and released over the weekend.

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Insignificant Others

Parami is a Burmese word derived from Sanskrit roughly meaning talent, aptitude or recollection of a past knowledge.

In Buddhist literature, Parami describes ten sets of skills or virtues, or the inherent aptitude for ten personality traits.  Patience, for example, is a virtue, or a type of Parami.  Some people are naturally more patient than others, but you can learn to become more patient even if it does not come naturally to you at first.

For those who are more familiar with the Western philosophy, Parami can be closely understood as the virtue described in Plato’s Meno, where Meno begins discussion by asking Socrates if virtue can be taught at all.  One idea that stands out to me – or something that comes to my mind at 3AM like right now! – is that Socrates responds to Meno by saying that virtue is a form of knowledge or wisdom you can acquire through recollection, made possible by dialog.  My high school made me read this document as the first assignment to highlight that class discussions, rather than lectures, are critical to learning.  To a young mind, I loosely understood the Buddhist idea of Parami as Plato’s description of the recollection of skills, knowledge or wisdom that is already in one’s possession.

Traditional Buddhist literature often goes on to describe a significant other or a soul mate as a “Parami PyaePhat” – one that complements or hones your Parami.  Your significant other complements you, not because you are broken and need to be fixed, but because by interacting with you, he or she challenges you and helps you grow, bringing out the best (the virtues) in you.  The right partner should make you want to become a better person.  If your partner talks during movies and you have come to make peace with it, your partner has essentially helped you grow your virtue of patience!  You are a better person for it!  (Which by the way is the reason I talk during movies, to make you a better person.)

This is a lovely concept.

In traditional Jartaka stories, men with successful and heroic endeavors often have their female cohorts, often blended to the background and described as “Parami PyaePhat.”  In modern times, you still see this concept at work.  Sheryl Sandberg tells women to choose their life partners wisely, quoting a study of women in the Fortune 500 List crediting their partners’ support as a critical element in success.

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From Mark’s Facebook Status

In modern relationships, people sometimes choose careers and push love to the back burner from time to time.  Trade offs – temporary or permanent – have to be made.  Our lives are so mobile these days that I would be hard pressed to name any individual who has never experienced some form of long distant love.  It’s simply part of the package.  In 2016, “I am not fit for long distant relationships” has replaced “I am not fit for a committed relationship.

When a couple manages to stay together and goes on to achieve great things together, they are “Parami PyaePhat” to each other.  Like the ones pictured on the cover of Time Magazine.

In this sense, if a couple has to sacrifice the union to achieve individual goals, isn’t it essentially a negative Parami by way of supporting each other’s goals in absentia?  You are doing your partner a favor by not being together.  Just like Madeleine and Leonard in Jeffery Eugenides’ The Marriage Plot.  That is the love story of our generation.  

So, make it count.