Pressurised choices

Except probably for introverts with a steady job and without underlying health conditions in a comfortable lock down arrangement, this has not been an easy year.

My lock down experience has been both healing and growing. Crazy homesick for Yangon, separated from loved ones and physically alone, fending for myself here in London. With a ton of walking; so the new HAIM album is literally my quarantine summer anthem this year.

All this time in hand and a dearth of distractions make for a perfect storm for self-reflection … and overthinking of my life choices dating back to my college graduation year. Down the rabbit hole of the Quarantine Subconscious, I wake up at 5am these days when I’d rather stay asleep with questions like:

  • Is impact investing a hoax? Is climate-financing the new green washing? Is it too late? If so, should I be caring more about money?
  • Should I cut some slack with boys, or am I right to protect myself? Did I fold too soon when I could have just checked? Would I care without quarantine?
  • Would I have been happier as a suburban mom in the American South vs. my lonely quarantine existence in London with an expired Schengen visa?
  • How would my life be different if I had taken the offer to work for a hospital chain or a Fintech company close to family in Myanmar?
  • Have I been living my best life? Have I been true to myself?
  • AM I DOING ENOUGH?
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Shan State: Chickpea Tofu Fritters

I am not going to sit around here and pretend I have always known how to make chickpea tofu. I do not. This is something I poked around and made calls back home because I got desperate and needed to satisfy my Shan / Burmese food cravings while being quarantined here in my East London flat. Not sure who even visits this old site anymore, but I am bored out of my mind right now and will just post my cooking misadventures here.

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Yangon Snapshots

Oh hello!

It’s been a while.

In the two years that I was gone, Yangon seemed changed but remained the same in so many ways. I had managed to drop by every 6-8 months, and each time, the change was incremental, yet drastic. This post is just me taking note of the sentiments I have noticed personally, from the sidelines, behind the major headlines you may have seen in the news.

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The Well Curve

Now that I have a London zip code, a UK bank account, a Giff Gaff number, and a national health insurance code, I am about 90% set on becoming a London resident.  I believe that this relocation process will be officially complete once my Apple App Store is switched to a UK account.

Mixtape

As a born and raised Yangonite, I will always carry a part of Yangon wherever I shall live in the next couple of years.  As much as I enjoy my new life in London, with its very British way of calm and collected energy, the chaotic Yangon is always in the back of my mind.

And I started dreaming about being back at my family home since the very first week, which is NOT how homesickness normally works.  When you are homesick usually, you get really excited and high on the new place for the first few weeks or even months, and a sense of longing kicks in later.  In my case, I am having this parallel experience of thoughts about home, an excitement about London, and a hectic beginning of the orientation modules at school, all at the same time.  This has not given me much time to decompress.

What will become of this blog?  No idea so far.

Listening to Karen’s Mixtapes floods my flat with Yangon nostalgia.  And I also found a playlist I gave her last year, titled The Well Curve.  Here is the same playlist on YouTube.

“It’s called The Well Curve because it’s low on the middle and high at the extremes, which is how you feel when you go through a negative experience. These 5 songs are supposed to accompany your journey through The Well Curve.”

Enjoy your Well Curve journeys!

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!