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"Excuse me sir, have you been helped?" A bank employee approached me moments after I stepped into a branch in Minneapolis. Today I am wiring money to the Swiss bank account of a person I have never met or even talked to. Unfortunately, I am not stashing money in an untraceable offshore account; I am purchasing furniture for our new apartment from a current IMD (IMD Full-Time MBA Profile) student. Such are the moments when my wife and I base our decisions on gut feelings as we prepare to move internationally to Lausanne, Switzerland, where I will begin the full-time MBA program in January.
The excitement of the move is slowly starting to surface as the dates we entered into our shared iCalendar are beginning to show in our monthly view. The prospect of moving to a different country gives us the courage to make decisions without much information and adopt a "let's just trust the system and hope everything will be O.K." attitude. As the logistics of this move slowly climbed up our to-do list, we were able to check off some items, while others were falling in priority and have us concerned about getting on top of things.
Apartment in Lausanne: Check. Searching for apartments has been interesting, to say the least. Once we had entry to a database of units that current students are living in, we immediately researched and filtered the list to our top choice. Since it was a first-come, first-served system, we tried to pick a unit as fast as we could, based on the unit description and some small, low-resolution photographs. Our apartment has a bedroom with a door and is five minutes from IMD and five minutes from the lake. What more can we ask for?
One-way plane ticket: Check. Picking a date to leave the country was a difficult one. We struggled with leaving before or after the holidays. To the dismay of some friends and family, we finally decided to leave earlier, but we will make it up to them, we promise. They can expect a going-away party and an invitation to visit us abroad. The main reason we decided to take off sooner was that we want to have a couple of weeks to settle in and explore the city before I disappear into the dungeons of IMD. We plan to visit our new town and perhaps visit the Christmas market in Montreux.
Visa: Alert! Being a Singaporean citizen, I am lucky enough not to need a visa to stay in Switzerland. My wife, on the other hand, is American and has been patiently waiting to hear back from the Swiss embassy (eight to 12 weeks for processing). We are just past the 12-week mark, and our alarms have started to sound. Now comes the barrage of phone calls and e-mails as we hope to get a glimmer of information on the outcome of the application. As we continue to get more nervous about her visa, we can do nothing more until we get a letter of approval.
Finances: Alert! I have submitted my scholarship and loan applications to IMD and will be receiving results at the end of November. The Sallie Mae loan application has also been submitted, but I will need to follow up on the final offer and disbursement date. So far, I have not received any money, and I will instantly feel better when I have funds in my bank account, so I can actually budget for the coming year. Hope and faith will not pay for cheese and chocolates.
Alumni and current students have been more than helpful in their advice, and we are constantly reading school blogs to find out what life will be like. Although it is never the same as experiencing it for yourself, the entries have been tremendously helpful at shedding some light on the school schedule and what to expect in the year ahead. We learned that the first half of the year will be extremely intense, as students spend most of their time in school, whether in classes or involved in group work. The second half of the year seems to be more manageable, as students dive deep into international consulting projects and maintain a schedule similar to traditional employment. Some students even write about weekend trips to other cities.
I can't help but anticipate how I might feel about certain events discussed in the student blogs, but then I catch myself. In these instances I flash back to 10 years ago, to when I was standing in Changi Airport in Singapore with my two big suitcases, ready to fly across the Pacific to a little town in Michigan in the U.S. Those were simpler times, due partly to pure ignorance and naiveté. I was not thinking about insurance, financial burden, housing, curriculum, the job market, or even immigration laws. I was thinking about heading into the unknown—and cherishing every moment of it. I was in a state in which I was open to all experiences, and as long as I was alive at the end of them, they would have been good ones. By replaying this moment in my mind and feeling the same emotions, I am instantly back to feeling a sense of excitement for this life-changing event. Anxiety, apprehension, nervousness—I say, bring it on. See you in Switzerland.