Dispatches from UCLA: Q&A with Mark Daniel Chan

One of my classmates who is part of the International Student Exchange Program (ISEP) is Mark Daniel Chan. (If you've seen this name before, you might have seen it in the class honor roll)

Mark is doing his exchange at UCLA's Anderson School of Management. I had a chance to ask him a few questions about his sunny UCLA experience:

The AIM Blogger (TAB): How's life in UCLA?

Mark Daniel Chan (MDC):  I had never been to the west coast before this experience and it has been such a great thrill so far to be here. Life in UCLA is fun but expensive. My average meal expenditure is about $7, so that's roughly 320 pesos, as compared to 110 for Reyes Barbeque or 71 for a full course AIM cafeteria meal. I cooked a lot during the first two months but then I stopped doing it because I had too much to read.

By the way, if y'all are ever planning to live in LA in the future, do yourselves a favor and get a car :) It's so hard to live without a car here. I've been doing it for 3 months and I think I lost 10 pounds unintentionally. I have to walk 2 miles to class and 2 miles back. The first 2 miles are up a hill called Thayer Avenue. It's brutal. The incline is pretty steep. But going car-less has its benefits. The lost weight is one. And I don't have to spend as much.

Rent is pretty expensive in the Westwood area. That's because the campus is in Bel-Air (remember the show, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air?, yeah, that one). Rent for a one room place for me is $875 a month and that's considered a steal. My classmates are paying $1000 and up a month to live in the vicinity. I think we technically are in Beverly Hills although my zip code isn't 90210. But yeah, UCLA is great. It has all these classes that you won't find anywhere else (and like a dummy, I didn't take them). There's a lot of focus here on Entertainment and marketing celebrities. One of my classmates is a world-renowned popstar. She is in my class can group and she has a top 5 single in the UK. You get to meet interesting people like her. And I also got star struck once, not from a celebrity (they are not given that much special treatment here, which is cool), but from a guest lecturer. The guy who spoke at our class was Bowen H. McCoy, author of the famous HBO case "The Parable of the Saddhu." He was a very cool guy. Just one of those dudes that knows a lot about business since he's been there and done that. But he was still very humble about it. 

TAB: Cool! How's UCLA different from the Asian Institute of Management?

MDC: I guess the first obvious difference is that UCLA has a ton of undergraduate students and so we get to bump into a lot of people on the way to class. Anderson is a set of buildings within the UCLA campus but the undergraduate students still hang out there every so often (I'm not sure why although I know it's definitely not because of the cafeteria food...maybe it's because of the library). I get to play basketball with the undergrad guys. Some of them are absolute beasts (the 6'5 230 lb variety) and so it was quite a shock. Luckily, I still haven't gotten dunked on but it's only a matter of time.

Most of us are used to rolling out of bed, (somedays we didn't even wake up early enough to shower) and heading to class. We pretty much can't do that here. It takes me 30 minutes to walk to school, 18 minutes if I jog. But AIM does have some sweet things about it. For one, the cases are part of the school fees we pay. What I mean is that they get dropped in our pigeon holes and we don't pay for them. Here, I have to pay $98 (man! that's a lot!) for an elective casepack for the quarter. That's the reason why I'm broke. I paid so much for my textbooks (the $98 doesn't include the textbooks, which can cost anywhere from $45 to $120 each). They make up for it by letting us print anything we want at Anderson for free. But if you ask me, I'd rather pay 6 pesos per page of printing and get my cases and textbooks for free than having to pay all that money for the material and be able to print for free. That's just me. And Anderson students at UCLA pay so much more in fees than we do. I think they pay about 6 times as much. So, we're pretty blessed, I guess.

The one cool thing I really like about LA is all the things one can do in this city (if you get a car, you can even do more things). Rodeo Drive is about 3 bus stops away from my place, there are all these museums and shows to go to. You can actually sign up to watch a TV show taping near Universal Studios for free. I had tickets to "The Old Adventures of New Christine (Starring Elaine from Seinfeld)" but I ended up not going (the commute was too long). And, I get to watch not one but two NBA teams. I still despise the Lakers (even though I think they are the best team in the league right now) but I do love the Clippers. They're entertaining as anything. They always find new ways to lose games. Add to this college sports (football and basketball) and you've got a pretty cool backyard. And did I mention that Las Vegas is a mere 5 hour Greyhound bus ride from here? (Sweet!)

TAB: Sounds very interesting and fun. I've only seen those things on TV. BTW, the Lakers are the best. :P Last question: How did your AIM experiences prepare you for your exchange program?

MDC: This is a bit of a tough question for me to answer since I had a lot of "episodes" at AIM. I mean, I can sort of laugh about them now since they are in the past. But I guess at the time it was hard for me. I ended up neglecting my emotional side at the expense of just building on IQ (so, for any readers out there, multiple intelligences are valuable to us all). But I think those episodes helped me see that it's important to have good relationships with your classmates. If there's one thing I can be proud of is the fact that my classmates were gracious enough to accept my apologies (some of them had to hear it more than once). And they were very supportive of me at the end. I really appreciate them for that. I remember this one time I got really mad at one of my Can group mates but we have since patched things up and I have nothing but good things to say about that person now. And yeah, I owe a lot to my friends here at AIM. They kept me out of trouble for the most part. They were there for me when I needed them and it's a real privilege to be able to have people like that in one's life.

If anything, the AIM experience has helped me grow up a bit. I'm still not all there. I mean, there are times when I still get really frustrated. But at least now I've learned how to be a bit more happy and cool about things, even if they're not going my way. The good news about having those experiences at AIM was that they helped me gain perspective. Living in a fish bowl (let's be honest, that's what AIM life feels like most days) isn't easy but it does help you mature. I think what I got out of the AIM experience is that I have actually become a good group mate and a good classmate at UCLA because of it. There were times that I was frustrated at group mates because we didn't see eye to eye but I learned to laugh about some of our disagreements and we actually grew really close as a result. I have had nothing but fun times here. In a sense, I feel so much more relaxed. It's because I think AIM brought out the best and worst in me. I learned to learn from my mistakes (hope that statement makes sense...it kinda does, doesn't it?) at AIM and to keep striving for excellence. That's a very valuable life lesson that I think we can all really benefit from.

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If you want to know more about what Mark has been up to, visit his blog.

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