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Electives, electives

Posted by: Ly Le

This week the last add/drop round for electives is over, so for any MiFs who, like me, are not taking the fourth term, that means we have had our final say in the subjects which will appear in our transcript. Now what is left to work on is the grades which accompany them only. Should be a piece of cake! (That was a joke, and before you ask, yes, us MiFs can and do crack jokes as well as anyone)

Anyhow, I thought this a good time to talk a bit about how I got around picking my electives, since it seems to also be a topic of much concern among candidates I have talked with so far. The good news is, the elective portfolio for MiFs currently consists of an amazing 32 courses, out of which we can choose 7 to 10 to add to our program. The bad news is, the elective portfolio for MiFs currently consists of an STAGGERING  32 courses, out of which we HAVE TO choose 7 to 10 to add to our program. You might not think 7 to 10 is that many, but I assure you, when you get down to it, it is actually a lot to choose, also it means that you get to decide entirely for yourself what you are going to do at LBS from the second term onward. To offer you aid in this time of need, LBS has a nice online bidding system, which all of us, despite initial skepticism, have found very user-friendly and tremendously helpful. You will be introduced to the system in due course in your year at LBS, so i will not talk more about it. What I want to do with this post is giving you a few pointers about how to actually pick the electives to bid for, using the aforementioned awesome system. You can trust me, I think, because learning from past mistakes is always one of the best ways to learn, and, as you will see soon enough, I have messed up rather spectacularly with my Spring term choices.

Pointer #1: Balance your schedule. For your reference, the prevailing practice appears to be 4 to 5 electives per term, but that is the nature of such practice, for reference only, because you should not let peer pressure talks you into doing all 4 courses when you are already spreading yourself too thin with job hunt and internships and what-not. If, in Spring term, you have managed to secure an ideal internship, or you want to finish you CFA (or ACCA, as I ought to have done, but was too lazy to), or it just happens to be the recruitment season in your favorite industry, if any of that happens, then it is perfectly okay to limit yourself to 2 electives or even the minimum of 1. Last term there was this week in which I was juggling 4 group assignments just when things were starting to get crazy at my internship (I interned at a designer boutique and it was London Fashion Week, yes, it was as horrific as it sounds). It was an amazingly exciting, highly fulfilling week, but one which I would rather not repeat, seeing how I was mostly dead on my feet for the fortnight following.

Pointer #2: Balance your courses. Among the available electives, there are some we unofficially refer to as “light courses”, owing to the fact that they do not require much of heavy book-lifting and/or intensive case studies. On the other end of the spectrum, there are monstrous courses which require you to, every week, prepare a 30-page case, read 5 research papers and 50 pages of textbooks, swim the length of the Amazon and climb to the top of the Everest. Okay, that was probably exaggerating it a tiny bit, but you get my point, no? Basically, you would not want to study more than 2 of those Herculean electives together in one term. In Spring I innocently, happily, opted to do 3 of them at the same time. People have been telling me I was courting death, and you know what, I wholeheartedly agree.

Pointer #3: Balance your purpose. I am sure, having gone through all the stress of the application process to finally get an offer from LBS, you would want your academic year in London to add as much value as possible to your future career, so, at the risk of being the ultimate kill-joy, I do think you need to choose electives based on their degree of possible usefulness for the job you want to do after graduation. Thanks to our ever thoughtful program office, this pointer is not as hard to execute as it sounds. As you may well know already, there are 3 possible concentrations you can go for within the MiF: investment management & analysis, corporate finance, and risk management & derivatives. So, all you need to do is take your pick and filter the list in the elective timetable to narrow it down to the useful courses.

Pointer #4: Forget balance, let’s have some fun. I am putting myself in great danger here, of course, because there is no guarantee that I won’t be told off for giving you this completely irresponsible advice. But, honestly, if there is something I most highly recommend people to do at LBS, it is to have fun. So, if among the electives there happens to be a subject which truly interests you, do not hesitate to bid for it, even if it has nothing to do with your future career or if you have only the faintest notion of what it is all about. Because why not? There will probably be no other period of time in your life in which you are so totally free to satisfy your academic curiosity. As I distinctly remember, in my application essay, I did tell LBS that the reason why I want to do the MiF is, first and foremost, because I want to study. Up to this point, 2 terms into the program, I find that I can still repeat that conviction of mine with pride (I do have to repeat it actually, you know, people keep raising eyebrows at my choice of doing that Behavioral Finance elective).

As a final thought, despite the jumble I made in picking electives, my Spring term was, on the whole, very enjoyable and I do not regret taking any of the 4 courses I took. I learned an awful lot of new things and I had my fair share of fun too. Bottom line: you can’t go wrong with any of those 32 (and soon to be increased) electives.

That is it, folks, I hope you find these pointers of mine somewhat useful, if not, please be generous enough to consider it a harmless bit of rambling from a student wishing to do something different in this last week before her new school term starts. I am doing 5 electives in Summer, so wish me luck?

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Today I submitted my last take home exam and officially reached the end of my first term at LBS. Thought it might be a good time as any to look back on all that has happened since first I set foot on campus in August.

In the first month, there was a flurry of activities hosted by the school’s Career Services team, which very much took me by surprise, since according to my logic, the job is rather supposed to follow the education and not the other way round. Anyhow, it was a pleasant surprise, because the Career Services team are full of wonderful people and all of us MiFs love them very much. Thanks to their effort, by the 3rd week of September, I was the owner of:

  • A flawlessly written, challenge-action-result structured, beautiful, one-page CV
  • The ability to produce a perfect cover letter for any company, any job, within the hour
  • A range of impressive skills to deal with the most challenging of interviews
  • A new and much improved LinkedIn profile (yes friends, at LBS, you do get help with LinkedIn)
  • Solid networking techniques which transformed me from a socially awkward penguin into an acceptably effective networker (if this result seems somewhat lackluster compared to the rest, it was by no means Career Services’ fault, as I said, I was a penguin)
  • The beginning, and the knowledge to duly figure out the rest, of an answer to the question “is it for me?” with regards to a wide selection of industries
  • An ambitious yet plausible career plan, with a plan A and a plan B and room in the back for plan C

The 3rd week of September also marked the beginning of a series of on campus recruitment (OCR) events, where representatives from a long list of prestigious firms showed up to convince us students they would be the perfect employer, and in turns, we got the chance to exercise our newly developed networking techniques in an attempt to impress them as potential employees. It was an exciting period, and in case you are a sponsored student who does not need to look for a job after graduation (lucky you!), you can still enjoy yourself by sitting back and admiring the air of utmost professionalism and urgency as your classmates dashed from lecture theaters to company presentations to drink receptions, all in their best suits.

Around the time the OCRs were going on, the many student clubs at LBS also started kicking off their agenda for the new school year. The first order of business is usually a session to introduce the club to the new students, which doubles up as a call for applications to the executive committee. The Student Association Autumn Elections and the search for Student Ambassadors are both on the way during late September too, so if you are an aspiring student leader, this is your turn on stage. I myself managed to get away quite well with this period, securing a post in the executive committee of the LBS Industry Club. For your information, the Industry Club is one of the biggest clubs on campus. Our mission is to help people figure out whether a corporate career is ideal for them and if it is, how to land yourself the job. During Autumn term, our agenda centered on the highly popular “What is…?” series, weekly events where we brought in industry experts to satisfy any questions you might have about a plethora of industries and corporate functions. (Sorry for the PR, just thought I should do my duty as VP Marketing of the Club.)

Before you become overly concerned, allow me to confirm that yes, we did our fair share of study this first term too. The term began with 2 preparatory courses in accounting and data analytics (you can get exempted from any or both if you have a professional accounting certification or/and demonstrable knowledge of statistics). Then there were the 4 core courses: Personal Assessment and Development, Investments, Financial Accounting and Analysis, and Corporate Finance and Valuation. With the exception of Investments, which leaned a bit more to the technical side, all the courses were mostly case study-based, the result being that lectures more often than not resembled open floor discussions. The MiF’s diversity assured that no matter the case, there were always at least 3 experts on the subjects to keep the debate heated. Another exceptionally fine feature of the MiF that I have come to appreciate was the fact that whenever a professor asked “Is there anyone here from xxx country?”, almost 100% of the time the answer would be yes. Cheers for the amazing 42 countries represented in our class this year!

Group assignment was an important component in any courses, so we spent a lot of time with our study group (which we were randomly assigned to, and remained the same for all core courses). My study group is one Australian/New Zealander short of representing all the world’s populated continents (Antarctica does not count), and no one used to work in the same industry as any other, so you can imagine the “fun” we had trying to resolve all the (friendly) arguments. That said, we somehow grew so close as a group that when we submitted our last assignment, everyone got so emotional I swear I was able to detect some teary eyes here or there.

In the first weeks of December, up to our choice of electives, we can take 1 or 2 block-week courses to wrap up Autumn term. These block weeks were quite intensive since the format means that we complete an elective during a single week. I chose to take Strategy for MiFs during the first block week (and skipped the second week in favor of a trip to Edinburgh, but pray do not let my laziness get to you). Strategy turned out to be my favorite course of the whole term. My classmates were of the opinion that I liked Strategy so much simply because all the case studies happened to be about my favorite things: coffee, luxury watches, books and fashion, not to mention the simulation game at the end of the week, which involved us acting as managers for football teams. However, I would maintain that the numerous theories of strategy we were taught were equally enjoyable.

I think it would be apt to end this post by showing you the bottle of champagne our group won for arriving at first place in the mentioned strategy simulation game. Our lecturer professor Ioannou specially warned me not to show the world how at LBS we talked about sports and brought alcohol to lecture theaters, so naturally I feel obliged to do exactly that.

Champagne

Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday to everyone. Do feel free to drop me a line if you have any questions about life at LBS.

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Location Matters

Posted by: Ly Le

If you have come across any of LBS’ myriad of web banners, sponsored links, magazine ads (and I am sure you have, what else could have led you to this post?), you must have realized that we are pretty proud of our prime location in London, and we make rather intensive use of it in our marketing. In fact, the title of this blog post is more or less taken straight from a slide in the presentation deck we used in information sessions for prospective students. Does that make this entire post of mine entirely repetitive, therefore a waste of time? I hope not, because when our Admissions Team mention London, they usually make it synonymous with “job opportunities“, “leading financial institutions“, “world’s biggest companies“, and of course, they are absolutely right, but personally when I think London, I tend to think more of “an awesome place to live“. So, as an amateur photographer who is attracted to all things pretty, and an aspiring living contradiction to the general perception that the LBS Masters in Finance is all about numbers and figures, I’d like to present to you 10 photos from my London collection, in the hope to convince you that it’s worthy to come to LBS, not just for working the job, but also for living the life.

First, as a matter of fact, there is the school itself, which is quite breathtakingly beautiful:

LBS

Here’s my view whilst studying in the Nash garden:

Nash Garden

Then there are the classics, Eye, Bridge, Tower:

London Eye

Tower Bridge

Tower of London

That picture of the Tower of London was color edited,  obviously, but the sweeping mass of poppies are 100% real. Those poppies belong to an ongoing display at the Tower to commemorate the outbreak of the First World War. In London, there are plenty of chances for that, you know, to be impressed and to take a picture and edit it to impress your friends at home. Or you can also easily ask someone to take a picture of you and tweak it a bit to make it look like you are in the middle of a classic movie, because London is just convenient like that. This is me at Piccadilly Circus, for example:

Piccadilly Circus

There are also nice, little known things that just happened to catch your eyes, like this wall of wine-red vines that I came across on my way to Greenwich Park:

Red vines

Talk about Greenwich, if you’re in the area, definitely do NOT miss out on visiting the Old Royal Naval College. I was there last month and was treated to a very interesting (and totally free) performance featuring the renowned diarist Samuel Pepys.

ORNC

Now that we mention diaries and such, you guys should be aware that London is a heaven for book lovers. Fact: Waterstone’s Piccadilly is Europe’s largest bookshop.

Waterstone's 1

I went there last weekend, spent 3 hours and a considerable amount of pound sterling, and I fully plan to go back next week, because, well:

Waterstone's 2

The very same could be said for London, you will never reach the end of this city, so let’s get to exploring as soon and as much as possible, shall we?

I will see you at our starting point, the LBS campus, Regent’s Park, London NW1 4SA.

 

 

P.S. Do contact me at any time if you have burning questions regarding the where to go and what to see around London.

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