Thursday, May 17, 2007

Forté Fellow

Dear Hairtwirler,

Congratulations! Upon recommendation of the Scholarship Committee of the McDonough School of Business, we have reviewed the list of women who have received merit-based scholarships. We are happy to notify you that you have been named as a Forté Fellow! The Georgetown MBA Full-Time Program participates in the Forté Foundation, a consortium of major corporations, top business schools, and influential nonprofit organizations that work to educate and direct talented women toward leadership roles in business...

I first learned about the Forté Foundation last fall when I was googling for women MBA networks. I attended an event in Boston in the fall, before which I had a voluntary interview with the Georgetown admission rep. They are a growing network offering career support, networking and outreach to woman interested in business. This is a very exciting opportunity. Just when I was feeling a bit complacent about starting school (the India trip is edging out b school as more exciting at this moment) I received this email!

So even for Americans dealing with financial aid is a pain in the rear. Everything with Georgetown is set, but trying to figure out the details for my previous loans is annoying. Finding basic information is easy, but once you want to get into any type of specifics (definitions of terms, dates of deferrals, etc.) it becomes a maze. A Georgetown rep should be calling me this morning to discuss my questions, hopefully all will be cleared up.

T-minus thirteen days until India! Have I started packing- no!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Boston nostalgia

I am in the midst of my last full week of work. My roommate asked me if I was having any "last meals" or other such events in Boston this week. I had not really considered this and decided I don't intend to be sappy and visit the last sites, etc. I have hit a few favorite spots in the past month but for the most part, I will really miss the people, not the places. A few things I enjoy and will possibly miss:

Cambridge 1 in Harvard Square, Upper Crust in Beacon Hill and Pizzeria Regina in the North Enf: delicious pizza.

The crazy Chinese man who sits a park bench from spring through fall saying hello to everyone, clapping when you respond and sometimes throwing in a "happy today!"

Walking to work.

My wine budget (no salary = no wine) and having three bountiful stores around the various corners of my apartment.

Newbury Street- for people watching.

The Common and the Gardens.

Having an airport 30 minutes from my front door.

As a related list here are my favorite Boston quirks:

There are at least five Beacon Streets in and around Boston. None of them connect.
The silver line goes underground in a one lane tunnel. But it's not a subway, it's a bus.
It is almost impossible to get an apartment in Beacon Hill with straight floors.
The accent of the natives.
Hollywood inspirations like The Departed and Boston Legal.
Weatherman Al Kaprielian.
Did I mention the accent?

Monday, May 14, 2007

Stamped, sealed and ready to go

No, I'm not talking about Georgetown. Besides turning in my deposit I have done approximately nothing to prepare myself for the upcoming year. That is part of the reason I'm going to math camp. I really don't want to spend all summer reading accounting and statistics books. Which leads me to what I AM doing this summer- my passport came back with my Indian visa this weekend! After this summer my passport will officially have no blank pages left and a paltry three blank spaces for stamps. I haven't even traveled that much, but the U.S. government is stingy with passport pages so I'll have to get a new one sometime in the upcoming year- a full four years before the thing expires.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Visas, immigration, and the CIS: Part 1

Hello all,
Before you dive into my immigration guide please be aware that I AM NOT AN ATTORNEY. I am not qualified to give legal advice and nothing I say can be construed to be legal advice. Any examples I give on this page are fictionalized accounts of work experiences. The details have been changed to protect the innocent (Law & Order style.)

That said...

The F-1 visa
Most international students will obtain an F-1 visa to study in the United States. This is a strict nonimmigrant category. This means that you have to promise to return to your home country and should have no intent other than to do so after you complete your degree. In the alternative you must convince the consular official of the aforementioned nonimmigrant intent even if you want to get an H-1B, marry an American and live happily ever after.
What you need:
- I-20 issued by your university
- Proof of ability to pay
- All the other stuff (see the DOS website)
In order to obtain the I-20 you have to prove to your university that you can pay their estimation of tuition and living costs. Even if you swear you will only eat cereal for two years the school will require that you show you can pay for their outlined budget. Most students show proof of ability to pay through personal savings, loans, family funds and scholarships. For many international students family funds form and important part of this equation. I recommend your supporting relatives transfer money into an account in your name, or other similar action to demonstrate support. A letter of support only goes so far, particularly if it is from a non-parent relative. Once you are issued the I-20 you have to prove ability to pay all over again to the consular official. See the above linked website for helpful tips on what to bring to the interview (income tax forms, bank statements, etc.) The government is big on original documents.

There are several interrelated organizations that you will deal with in your quest to come to the United States to earn an MBA. Here is a brief run down.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
Overarching cabinet level (it has a secretary that advises the president) organization that fights terrorism, protects our borders, etc. Citizenship and Immigration Services is the division of Homeland Security that handles immigration. It was formerly known as the INS.
Other DHS agencies include:

ICE: The people who track down illegal immigrants, illegal drugs, and handle other customs and immigration enforcement issues. They come up with clever phrases like "Operation Return to Sender." Confusing priorities. If George Bush is the Decider, ICE is The Enforcer.

CBP: The people who check your papers when you enter the U.S., amongst other duties. The frontline of security, immigration, and incompetence.

SEVIS: This is the wonderful little system used by universities to transmit information to the government for the purpose of tracking international students. This organization is under the control of ICE. Ice, ice baby.

Department of State: (DOS) The state department oversees and manages the U.S. consular posts. This department oversees the issuance of visas. Visa forms that start with "DS" are department of state forms and deal with some sort of nonimmigrant or immigrant visa application.

MYTH: All schools can sponsor foreign students.
FACT: Most schools can sponsor foreign students. Specifically, most real schools. I had a client one time who paid $400 for a bachelor's degree from a degree shop based in someone's basement in Minnesota as far as my internet research told me.
There's this thing called SEVIS. In the age of big brother, SEVIS is the U.S. government's way of tracking foreign students. Not all institutions of higher education can sponsor foreign students but it seems that way from the perspective of an American. I have seen many examples of students coming to the U.S. to take English courses and then moving onto a degree granting program.

MYTH: "The CIS is out to get me!"
FACT: The CIS is out to get EVERYBODY.
The CIS and the DOS do not discriminate based on anything. I once got a request for more evidence (RFE) on an immigrant petition for a nun. That's right, a nun. The government wanted a percentage breakdown of the nun's day. Our response went something like this: "30% in prayer. 10% social work with poor and homeless in the community. 15% cleaning the church. 10% cooking for fellow nuns and the poor." etc. I hope the RFE was randomly generated (many are) otherwise whomever sent that is going straight to hell. Probably either the sixth or the eighth circle.

MYTH: If I have been refused a visa I cannot reapply.
FACT: You can reapply as much as you want if your visa denial was not based on something that would make you inadmissible to the United States (having a communicable disease, practicing polygamy, committing a crime involving moral turpitude, etc.) Some of the inadmissibility issues can be fixed or waived.

MYTH: Money
FACT: Money is kind of a myth to me. I don't really have any and given my career goals in the non-profit sector I never will. The State Department requires that you prove financial ability to support yourself in the United States during your studies. Each school should require that you show ability to pay their defined tuition and other estimated costs. No matter what you actually budget for your education, you must show the university and the DOS for your visa interview that you have the ability to pay the full amount through a combination of savings, school based aid, outside grants, loans, and family sponsorship.

My next post will be about the elusive H-1B and staying in the United States after you graduate. I will also touch on how having a U.S. MBA can help you work in the UK.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Holy crap

The bf reminded me that yesterday was the three week mark until we leave for India. Hopefully my passport is in the mail back to me complete with a visa! Unlike the U.S. visa process where unless you are quite old or quite young you have to appear in person even for a tourist visa, I merely popped my passport in the mail with what proved to be yet another horrible passport photo of myself, the application and fee, and my passport is supposed to return to me in the mail in approximately one week. I haven't packed, shopped, or really done much for the trip except buy Best of all... only eleven more days of work!!

Oh yeah... still working on that immigration post. I've been working in the field for 3 years, I have a lot to say. :)

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

My list

My initial list of schools included UC Berkeley, Harvard and Columbia which I eventually dropped for one reason or another. UC Berkeley offers international consulting trips and other related opportunities but you are required to apply for the opportunities. I took a hard look at the application fee for Harvard, the likelihood I would be accepted and the likelihood I would attend if accepted and decided it wasn't worth the time or effort. As to Columbia I was less than impressed when the school sent a male alum to the Forte Foundation event in Boston ill-prepared and well, male!

In developing my final application list and making my decision the important factors were program offerings, specifically international business and/ or non-profit focuses, location, total cost and post-MBA employment opportunities.

This is a highly ranked program, but still comes in second in the UK. Although limiting from my perspective as a one year program, the MBA has two practical consulting projects/ internships integrated into the curriculum. The international consulting project combined with the international composition of the student body attracted me most to this program.
+ : international focuses, student body, global name recognition of larger university, location in the UK
- : 1 year, b school not known in U.S., older class, exchange rate would make it a ridiculously expensive year
End of story: the non-fit factor eventually moved me to accept Georgetown over Cambridge. This program was not a good match for me and I applied partially for personal reasons.

I was really excited about the possibility of studying in a dual language MBA program. The IESE program is a two year U.S. style MBA program top ranked globally but with a smaller class size compared with similar U.S. schools.
+ : international experience, foothold into European job market, Barcelona, case study method, very American friendly program.
- : name recognition in US not very strong though increasing, exchange rate makes it a "very expensive language class" to quote one of my bosses.

I applied to UCLA to give myself a west coast option and to throw in a wild card to see how my profile would be accepted at a slightly larger program with a less specialized program. I was attracted to the international focus and exchange opportunities afforded to students. The international focus looked east to Asia, which is of course an important outlook in today's economy [insert boring fact about China's growth here.]
+ : west coast school, international focus
- : state school, comparatively limited resources

The facilities, ivy prestige combined with a small class size and non-profit focus drew me to this program. When I interviewed I spent a long day around the b school facility with students and touring the rest of campus and the town. I was impressed by the size and scope of the facilities
+ : Ivy. Non-profit focus. Semi-proximity to NYC. Low cost of living.
- : New Haven. It sucks.

I was interested in this program mostly due to its proximity to DC. It was more of a back up school but with enough general positives to induce me to apply.
+ : proximity to DC, great facilities
- : state school, not a regional hegemony for my interests (but a top draw for tech firms in DC)

Notre Dame
I was courted by Notre Dame and applied fee free.
+ : Ethics (in Catholic form), small program
- : South Bend is in the middle of nowhere, the b school is a bit too small and cannot compete for recruiters with nearby Kellogg and UChicago

I am interested in microfinance so the international focus with a fairly strong finance program seemed like a good fit.
+ : international focus, including Global Integrative, location in DC
- : lower ranked than many other cities top programs

I am in love with London. LBS was the only consistently top ten program I applied to due to it's smaller class size, international student body and excellent reputation with recruiters.
+ : London, great program reputation, international student body, top ranked
- : money, the dollar/pound exchange rate is absurd and not in my favor