Friday, September 26, 2008

Pause. Update.

Quick update before I leave town for a 10 day Eid Break trip to Morocco:

Blogging has taken a back seat to applying to business schools and getting my classes in order. Basically my day to day life isn't exactly thrilling blogging material. I didn't think you'd like to know about what alternative career would I pursue if I wasn't aiming for a consulting position or what's my most significant professional accomplishment. Plus, many of these musings aren't necessarily related to living in Qatar. One can find thousands of MBA hopefuls out there, but how many know someone living in Qatar?

I kept thinking this blog had to be 'significant' items or a 'collection' of thoughts/images to revel some insight. It now seems that many of my realizations about life here in Qatar aren't necessarily 'big' revelations or events. Often they are small things that, if put into words, would probably only take up a sentence or paragraph or one photograph. But those items might actually be more interesting to folks (and quicker to read too). So- inspired by the blogging style of Maryam of My Marrakesh, I'll leave you with this little visual before I leave for Morocco.

(On the box of frozen lamb kabobs, made in Saudi Arabia: 'Environmental awareness signifies a civilized society. Please recycle.')

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

GMAT Update

I leave 5 minutes late, sit in traffic for ~38 minutes and arrive right before 8 am (one should be at the site 30 minutes before the appointment). It was at a computer and technology training center on the way to the airport- the only GMAT testing site in Qatar.

I walk in and find.... no one. Only an attendant (sadly, they are mainly called 'tea boys' because that's their main job- we're trying to come up with a less demeaning title) was around and sweeping. Then I saw the counter: 'Ramadan Hours: Open at 9 am".

What?! My test is 8:30! Will I be counted late? What do I do?
I realized things were out of my hands. I went out, moved my car to a shadier spot and brought my Official GMAT prep book to review writing samples. An Indian gentleman arrives around 8:10, also to take the test. He's nervous about testing on time as well.

Five minutes later, someone shows up and starts to head upstairs. 'Oh- you have a test? Which one? GMAT? Ah...Mr. Abdullah does that. Inshallah he will be here soon.'

Inshallah? God-willing? For many Westerners, they often interpret that as 'nope. probably not going to happen.' Uh-oh.

At this point the anxiety was gone. I couldn't do anything but wait. 4 minutes before 8:30, miraculously Mr. Abdullah from upstairs and acts as if nothing is odd.

The Indian gentleman and I are escorted to a little glassed-in room w/ 3 computers. Our pictures are taken, fingers are scanned, and personal items are locked up. We start. My monitors refresh rate drives me nuts at first, but I adapt. A Qatari student appears late, gets set up and then I realize he must be taking another test. He left and re-entered the testing room about 8 times in half an hour. Then left. I don't know what it was, but it didn't help me focus.

Needless to say, the test went faster than I thought. Must have been the adrenaline. And then my score popped up on the screen- 690. Ten points short of my goal of 700. AH! Quantitative 39 (55 percentile), Verbal 45 (98). Should I retake? After looking online, some recommend not retaking, for- if I had gotten 700, would I be considering retaking? If no, then don't. However, my Quant. score is so off my Verbal score and given the high quantitative level of MBA education and my lack of it in undergrad, I think I need to bring that Quant. score up some more. I'm signed up for Oct. 14th, the next earliest I could take the test.

(I later found out, after I signed up to retake the test (GMAC- please, take my $250 again), that I got a 6.0 (perfect) on the writing portion. Ok- I get it. I get the Verbal part. Now I just need that Quant. score to bump up...Inshallah).

Monday, September 8, 2008

GMAT Abroad

This is it. I take the GMAT test tomorrow in preparation for business school applications. I'd ideally like to enter business school in Fall of 2009 and specifically focus on sustainable business. I spent this past summer studying and reviewing things like ratios and percents (and non-calculator math!) and brushing up on my grammar. Carnegie Mellon Qatar was also nice enough to give me a Kaplan Prep Book (although I more highly recommend and prefer the GMAC's Official Guide for the GMAT Review, 11th Edition).

My GMAT experience should be fairly typical compared to a graduate entrance exam in the States, except there's only one place in the whole country where I can test and they only offer the test twice a week. So- not quite as convenient as the States but miles (or should I say, kilometers?) above the GRE for convenience.

See- there is nowhere in Qatar to take the GREs. No place. What so ever. So, any prospective grad students from Qatar (or teaching/working in Qatar) have to fly to another country to take their GRE exams. Carol from Student Affairs took her GREs in Kuwait I believe. I've heard of others going to Dubai. Still another employee, Dave, originally spoke of flying to Saudi Arabia to take his GREs and now instead is flying to Syria. That makes an already expensive test even more costly. In Dave's case, it will be around $130 USD for the exam, $130 for the Syrian Visa, $500 for the plane ticket and then some more for a hotel and expenses. That's probably close to a $1000 for a 4-hour event. Yipes. Makes my $250 exam look tame in comparision.

Supposedly the test centers abroad are not as stringent as in the US. For example, students sometimes get another individual (perhaps professional test-taker) to take the test for them. This could explain why the GMAC is unveiling a palm-reading (not fortune-telling) identification system for test-takers and starting the program in India and Korea. I have no idea what my testing center will be like tomorrow. All I know is that it took a 20 minute drive in the non-existent traffic after sunset, so I'm giving myself 45 minutes in tomorrow's morning traffic.

I'll update you tomorrow on my experience. Send me some good vibes please! :D