Wednesday, December 26, 2012

How I Graduated With Zero Debt

With 2013 quickly approaching, this is the certainly the time of year that people around the world are creating New Year's resolutions. Since "manage debt" and "spend less, save more" are some of the most common resolutions, I thought that this would be an ideal time for me to outline how I graduated from my MBA with zero debt. I hope that my story enlightens you and teaches you that it is possible to obtain a high quality education without sacrificing your financial status.

It is thanks to the Canadian education system that I was able to do the unthinkable. Though I have heard that many American MBA students can go up to $230,000 in debt to obtain the same degree as me, I was able to benefit from the lower priced schooling in Canada. As an American who resided in Montreal for eight years prior to beginning my Master's degree, I had established Permanent Residency in Canada, particularly in Quebec. Though students were recently protesting tuition hikes in Quebec, Quebec still maintains the lowest cost for education in Canada (and this is of course significantly lower than American schools).

Since I knew that I wanted to take advantage of the low education costs in Quebec, I applied to HEC Montreal for my MBA. Not only was the program one year, enabling me to lose only one year's worth of salary and pay less tuition, it was a public institution (not to mention a well-ranked school). Though McGill University recently privatized their MBA program, HEC Montreal has steadfastly remained public. Therefore, I paid local Quebec fees (as a Quebec resident) which totalled approximately $7,000 for my entire MBA studies.

Because I had previously saved enough money to cover these tuition costs, as well as my living costs for the year, I was able to graduate from my MBA with zero debt. For those of you who might have financial worries and/or dreams of obtaining an MBA, I hope that my story has demonstrated that it is possible to get an MBA and live debt-free.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Go Tell It on the Mountain

Although my office was technically closed yesterday, four of us were there to get work done during this quieter time. So I spent the day working alongside three of my officemates from a startup called ChowNow. We even celebrated Christmas Eve together (pictured below), enjoying dinner and holiday music well into the night.

As I promised myself I would, I spent Christmas day away from work revelling in the beauty of the great outdoors. I felt like a true Californian as I jogged along the beach and hiked the Santa Monica Mountains today. The landscape was unlike anything I had ever seen before and it's hard to believe it's all right in my own backyard. It was truly a magical Christmas.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Winter in Wonderland

I am told quite frequently that I resemble Ellie Kemper from The Office, so I thought it was about time that I create a side-by-side image of the two of us. This is my holiday gift to my blog readers. You're welcome!

Since I last posted, I have been keeping up my busy schedule of work and networking events. During the past couple weeks I've attended the following:

These events have helped to shape my understanding of the LA tech/startup community and given me an opportunity to meet countless people. Now that it's holiday time, it's kind of sad to see my calendar so empty until well into the new year.

Though there are Christmas decorations all around, including the above display at Santa Monica Place, it doesn't quite feel like December here. There are sunny, clear skies nearly every day, which is why I asked my Montreal friends to show me their snowy apartment view on Skype today. While I miss the snow and I feel confused about the season, I am so happy that I made the move to LA. I'm looking forward to spending the next few days enjoying all that I have around me.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Hollywood and Hackathons

My new life in LA has been a whirlwind of work, networking events, friends, and fun. As for work, we had our remote employees in town this week, so my focus was on making their time in LA productive and enjoyable. I am happy to say that our team-building activity on Thursday at the UCLA Outdoor Adventures Center was a huge success and I strongly recommend it for any company in the area.

This has also been a crazy time of networking events! I had two days this week with two events in one day and today was officially the first time in two weeks that I did not have an alarm waking me up. Even my last weekend was spent at a hackathon (photo above), where I was learning and observing the entire time. I'm already looking forward to my next hackathon experience! These past couple weeks have been exhausting, but truly amazing. I attended all of the following, in order:

What has been great about participating in so many events is that I've already made many new friends. The startup community in Silicon Beach has started to feel much like the one in Montreal, in that I see a lot of the same faces.

It's hard to believe, but I've also had time to do things outside of the tech/startup scene, as well. One of my new friends works at Fox and got me a ticket to see Hitchcock on the studio lot. Also, knowing my love of film, he brought me to see Arbitrage at the Aero Theatre, where there was a Q&A with Richard Gere after the screening. I suppose my life of Hollywood and hackathons is not too shabby.