Friday, August 31, 2007

Boot Camp Wrapup


Ok, Orientation Week is over. I must say it was very tough, and if it is an indicator for what's to come, it will not get easier.

We just came to the campus, passed through the boothes, read a lot of messages, got a password to the intranet, and assigned to a group (6) and a section (E1).

There are 4 sections (75 people each), and each section is devided to 15 groups of 5-6 people. The groups are as diverse as they can possible be, both in nationality and in background. Group can have 2 or 0 women (as there are 27% women in the class). There can't be only 1 woman (it's a wierd but reasonable policy).

In my group there is an Indian (Market research with engineering background), a Japanese (Insurance, sponsored by his company), a Bulgarian (Project manager with a background in finance, who lives in Germany, female), and a Lebanese (Advertisement, who lives in Dubai and has a British passport, female). Of course I am Israeli with engineering background (probably not many engineers in the class who asctually worked in engineering). Now isn't that a diverse group?

We had some welcome lectures (languages, library, and IT). Then we had the opening ceremony in the evening.

Wednesday - Exemption Exams, and Partners Welcome

I had my Spanish exam in the morning, and then we had the introduction to INSEAD lecture from the dean.

In the evening there was a partner welcome gathering, where p4 partners explained what activities can partners participate in (there are some pretty nice clubs for partners). There are some places were partners can contribute to the school. After the meeting, there was a cocktail in the restaurant (not as "fancy" as the welcome cocktail, but pretty much the same).

Thurday - First Lecture and group assignments

Fun time is over. First we had the Drive Safe campagne. INSEAD students have an infamous name for driving drunk (and there were some horrible car accidents in previous years), so the school decided to take several steps to raise the awareness for this phenomenon. One of those steps is the campaign. Basically, each group had 2 hours to suggest an idea for a poster. The winning groups will have their posters published and hung around the campus. We saw some very clever ideas from previous years (For example: 2 views of feet - one is a corpse, and the other is a couple making you know what - "What position would you prefer?").

So we sat together and came up with a poster, where I sat on the PowerPoint, and we all looked for images in the internet (after we came with a concept - obviousely contributed by our own advertising expert).

After that we had our first lecture. A very charismatic british professor taught "Introduction to general management", and it was really funny (he is like a comedian). He tried to show us what MBA is really about in general management point of view - that you can be sent to a hell hole in the middle of sweden and try to fix a seemingly impossible company (i.e. the Arthur Keller case that we had to read and analyse prior to class. I actually fell asleep the day before in page 4 out of 30).

Then we had to prepare a presentation "What would we do instead of Keller?" - for tomorrow morning. The professor said that although only 3 groups (out of 15) would present, there is something called Murphy's Law, and "Hello, I am Murphy). So we sat for 3 and half hours and prepared this presentation.

You have to understand, I am an engineer. I have no idea how to analyse financial reports, lines of products, human resources and so on. But, non-the-less we managed to come up with a reasonable presentation.

At night, we came to friends' Mint House (a beautiful mansion with several apartments and shared living room, just on the Seine). We saw the Israeli Idol final of yesterday over the internet.

Friday - Lectures, Lectures, and some more Lectures

We had a packed day - 2 courses from 8:30 to 18:30 straight up! First we had the second part of yesterday's lecture. Guess what - our group was picked to present (Boy, this professor really is Murphy). The 3 presentations seemed very professional, and I can really tell that everybody here is really really smart! Great presentation skills.

Then we saw what Keller really did to fix the situation (we were not so far off).

After the funny lecture, and 15 minutes break for lunch, we had the "Culture and Values lecture", really interesting stuff about business ethics, non-profit, and cultural differences. Of course there were some reading to do prior to the lecture, and there was a chinese fellow who did not read it and had the professor all over him.

At night we had a wonderful dinner (organized by Inna, my wife and another partner) with several of the Mint House residents, and other students who simply showed up - lot's of fun. We could discuss the first week, and some differences in cultures.

Saturday - Outer Bound

All of us went to the forest and did some group exercises in order to get to know each other. It was great. We actually joined with another group of 5, and spent the entire day playing leadership games with a facilitator monitoring us.

The first task was to tell someone about me for 1.5 minutes, and listen to him. Then to switch identities and talk to someone else about that person. We did the switch again, and we then we regrouped and describe our current identity to the entire group. It was funny to see how things got twisted - I had two brothers (although I had a brother and a sister), and someone was described as a musician (he simply said he like to sing), and another was looking for a partner (even though he/she had a partner already).

Then we had to construct a shield of david out of a huge looped rope. Not an easy engineering task. After that we had to climb a 5 meters wall using our own body. Later, we had to walk on ropes, and other fun (and difficult) tasks.

At night we had the official welcome party, sponsored by Bain and Company, so it was free of charge, in this chateau, and free drinks all night. It was a blast.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Opening Ceremony and Welcome Cocktail


Well, this is a night to remember. First there was a 30 minutes welcome speaches from the dean, Prof Antonio Fatas, and some other speakers. I liked the speech of the head of alumni , Mr. Daniel Labrecque, who said "When I sat in your places, 25 years ago, there was a guest speaker as well, but I can't remember his name or what he had to say". Basically, he said that it is going to be an intense and interesting year.

After the speeches, there was a cocktail party. We all dressed up in suits (except for some wise guys who decided to come in Bermuda shorts and moccasins). There was champagne and Kir Royale (apparently Kasis with Champagne) - but not enough. Well, after 2 glasses my head spun anyhow.

The intention of the evening was to meet the other students, so they packed the 300 students in a room with no air condition, so after 20 minutes everybody ran outside to the balcony where there was not enough room for everybody.

I am not used to talking to people that I don't know, so I followed the lead of the other students (mostly the Amercian ones - do they teach mingling in school over there?). Basically, you see someone standing alone, or a group of people that has an open space between them, go ahead, shake hands, say your name and where you are from and ask the other gentlemen or women their name and country. Then you can circle through these questions:

  • What did you do before you arrived to INSEAD?
  • What are your plans after the school?
  • When did you arrive to France?
  • Where do you live around here?
  • What is your section?

I shook a lot of hands (almost like a politician), and put on a smile all night. If I was lucky then the person I was talking to was interesting and we had some common ground, so I could actually enjoy myself in the conversation.

I was impressed with the diversity of the students. I knew it will be like this when I applied, but seeing it with my own eyes was amazing. Almost everybody in the room was born in one place, but lives in another. A lot are managers and consultants, some of them 26 years old with already a rich international backgorund.

This was hard work, and I was exhausted in the end. So we went to the restaurant, where we met a very nice guy from France, who shared his religous and professional point of view. It was the best time of the night.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Registration Day


Today was registration day. I am in the letter H, so my turn was in 11:00. Actually you could have come in any time you wished. It all starts in the Upper Gallery. I dressed nicely, with a buttoned shirt and off-white pants, but it wasn't really called for, and people came in a variaty of customs.
First I met Mrs. Isabella Ramos, finally being able to connect the face to the name. She congratulated me, and gave me a very big file with tons of papers to read. I will probably finish reading it by the end of the semester.

I got a badge (finally), and could wear it around my neck like a marked sheep. I tried to be creative, using other mechanisms to hang my badge, like clipses on the pockets, but all the other students (with no exceptions) wore the blue reabon, so I wore my badge like everybody - around my neck (I hope it will not suffocate me). I also got a checklist of things to do. I had to fill some forms: Code of Conduct (only signature), Personal details (address and stuff like this) - I needed my passport for this one, An agreement to use my picture if they take my picture on campus (?! a well-known model is studying here, why would they want MY picture?), a pole of how I got my apartment, and details about my health insurance.

Apperantly you need to be covered by the ammount of 200K Euros or you will have problems with the Card De Sejour. Lucky for me, I brought with me the insurance policy I issued back in Israel (which was ok).

Overall I spent today more than 200 Euros. I paid 100 Euros to the BDE (student association), 115 Euros for the Spanish exam on Wednesday (this will be deducted from the language tuition if I attend one), 50 Euros to load into the INSEAD account (the badge is an elecronic wallet), and 30 Euros for the internal phone and fax services (actually a great service offered by INSEAD). Since I don't have a chequebook or a card yet I had to pay cash.

The phone companies did not show up as promised (they actually told us to go to Rue Grand to check them out ourselves - like we haven't done that already). But all the banks showed up to collect our money. It wasn't really relevant to me as I already have a French bank account.

I registered to the library, picked up the material for p1 (a pile of pamphlets), and then went to my personal locker to set put everything inside. It's cool to have a locker in campus. It has a combination that you can set at any time. On the way I went to my pigeon hole (that's what they call the mail boxes - because they are really narrow - I'm NOT kidding), to find a present from Bain & Company - a really nice bottle openner. Also there was an invitation to a party on Sep 1st. The student association put a note that there is a big meeting on Saturday, right after the Outbound thing.

We got a sticker for the car, with a bunch of instruction. There where boothes for the languages, alumni (where I entered the draw for a free Summer Ball ticket), partners (where my wife - I am sorry "Significant Other" - signed up again and got a temporary badge), and some more.

In retroperspective, I had to bring: cash (I don't have my debit cards yet), my passport details, my health insurance paper, and believe it or not - a pen (they didn't provide one in the file, so I used a pen I got from NYU a while back, talk about irony).

While waiting in the lines I met many of my fellow students, and was really amused to see 100 people sit with laptops and try to install their IT disc (provided in the package). With so much computers I almost felt at Elbit. The blend of cultures, languages and a bit overwhelmed faces puts you right into perspective of where you are, and that everything actually begins now.

Monday, August 27, 2007

How to Get to Paris By Train


We went to Paris by train today. The ride takes 35-50 minutes (depending on the train station). You need to know where the train stations are, and what ticket to buy.

The Line

The destination in Paris is Gare De Lyon station. The first station is Thomery. 4 minutes later is Fontainebleau-Avon station. In 7 minutes you will be in Bois Le Roi. From there in 35 minutes you are in Paris (through Melun).
The way back is the pretty much the same.

If you choose to use Champagne Sur Seine station, you will need go through up to 6 stations until Melun, which takes about half an hour, then switch trains (which might take additional 10 minutes), and then go to Paris directly (28 more minutes) - Less convenient, but me less difficult to arrive to this station in the first place.

Train Stations

There are 4 train stations in the area. The main one is in Avon (closest to INSEAD). The problem with this train station is that there is no free parking, and not a lot of spaces. Leaving the car for the whole day is out of the question. If you only plan to pick someone up, it is the best option (it is 5 minutes from the school). There are several buses that come to the train station. Line D will take you from INSEAD (so you can leave your car there for free).

The second train station is Bois Le Roi, which is 10 minutes drive from INSEAD. This train station has several parking lots for free, and is very convenient. The problem is that unless you leave in Bois Le Roi it can take some driving time. But this train station was the one that we used. The ride from here takes 35 minutes.

The third train station is the one in Champagne Sur Seine (our village). This is the closest one to our home, and there are parking spaces for free (it is 10 minutes walk or so). The problem is that you will need to switch trains in Mulan. The line splits in Mulan – the main line goes through the other stations, so the trains that do pass through Champagne will not go all the way to Paris. The good thing is that the trains are really coordinated, and there is not long waiting in Mulan. The ride should take about an hour with the switch.

The last train station is in Thomery. This station is located in the middle of nowhere – Only the forest around it. There is a small parking lot for free. There is no-one in this deserted station, and you will have to buy the ticket in the machine (bring cash in coins) – knowledge in French is required. I will not recommend on using this station, unless you are comfortable with riding the train, and you know how to use the machine.

Funny story about Thomery station – when we wanted to leave the station, suddenly from out of nowhere came a bunch of police, ambulances, and fire cars, starting to unload equipment, and all of this without anyone but us in sight.

The Ticket and the Ride

A single two-ways ticket to Paris – Gare De Lyon station – cost 15.20 Euros. Order a ticket of 15.90 Euros and you get a free Metro pass for the entire day! This is really worthwhile. Don’t forget to write your name and the date on the ticket. Also stamp the ticket in a machine that is located on the deck.

The ride is not so comfortable, and the train is pretty old, but it’s a short ride.

From Gare De Lyon station runs Line 1 of the metro, which takes you through Champs D'elise to La Defance. (When you come back to the station go up 1 or two floors to the train station). There is tourist information in the station, where you can get a free map. You can ask around the station, people are mostly friendly and know English surprisingly well.

Parking in INSEAD

There are a lot of parking spaces, and there should be no problem. There are two underground parking lots (I parked under the library) , and you can also park in the street surrounding INSEAD (near the swimming pool). It is free for everybody, and the receptionist told us that there is enough space to suit everybody.

If you park at an illegal parking space or a reserved one, you might get a fine.

You get a sticker from the school, which you should put on the back window, and so they can know when you are at school, so if you don't come they can lower your grade (or they can call you in case of an emergency).

Especially funny is the regulation that you cannot park your car at INSEAD for more than 30 straight days. Why the hack did I buy a car if I am not going to use it?

Second Visit to INSEAD


On the second day we were very eager to use some internet, and since the apartment does not have internet yet, we came back to INSEAD cafeteria.
This time we explored the place some more.

Yesterday I wondered how I am going to survive on sandwiches in the year. Well, by going up the stairs from the cafeteria, we came to the restaurant, where food from all flavors is served for reasonable prices: Italian, vegetarian, meat, sea food, and much more. It all looks quite good.

I went up from the cafeteria toward the fitness center. On the way we checked out the cubicles for group study. They give the place a real serious look – each one has a board and a computer connection and a small meeting’s table – almost like a small office. They are built with the same red stones as the building. A note with the cubicle’s policy is hanged on the wall – “How to achieve cubicle’s heaven” or something. Apparently this is a valuable resource that everybody fights over, so students used to save cubicles for later, use them for things other than study in groups, so there are norms that the university tries to enforce.

I also saw an amphi where classes are given, and it looked very sophisticated.

The fitness room is on the 3rd floor, and it is not very big (it's pretty disappointing) but fully equipped. Outside the window you can see the other facilities that INSEAD has to offer, including the Tennis courts and the swimming pool (25 m). There are group activities, such as walking in the woods, Yoga, and more (but those are expensive).

Bank Account in France

Today we opened a bank account in France. We went to Rue Grande (the main street of Fontainebleu), and went to BNP Paribas, one of the many banks in the street. We waited for 10 minutes for the guy who works with INSEAD students, Shafik, and in 30 minutes we had a bank account. Apparently it is essential to deposit 4300 Euros for the Card De Sejour, so we will do it soon.

We should receive Visa Debit Cards (which is like Credit Cards, but the amount is deducted on the spot). And it is possible to put the money in a Savings Account – 2.5% interest. Not much but it is better than nothing. Since I am not a French citizen I cannot invest in stocks – I guess the 2.5% will have to do.

You pay each month a discounted sum of 5 Euros. If a friend names you as a referral, you will not have to pay even that. A student volunteered to arrange a list of all people coming to the bank, and so with this arrangement everybody will be refered to.

The most amazing is the loan deal. You can get a loan up to 45000 Euros with 2.7% interest rate, with grace for 1 year, and you can pay it in 24-72 month. I wasn’t planning on taking this loan, but it is so cheap so I might take it just in case. Put the money in the Savings account and if all goes well, you will pay 0.2% interest. It’s like the bank gives you money for free and tells you to pay it back whenever you can. Better – you can put the same amount of money (or slightly more) in an Israeli savings account for 4% or so, and actually make money!

All I needed to do in opening the account was to give my attestation form from INSEAD and my passport (my wife’s also since this is a joint account). I had to sign some papers and write some words in French in several places, and that was it. I am now the proud owner of a bank account in France. Too bad I wasted all of money on INSEAD…

First Visit to INSEAD


In my first day in France I had some spare time (probably something I am going to miss), so I went with my wife to see INSEAD in my own eyes. The GPS took us right there, and we only had to circle the complex twice to find parking space. Then we walked for half an hour trying to figure out where the main entrance to the building is (that do not require a magnetic card to open).

We finally found it and were very hungry (don’t forget that we didn’t eat anything good in the past 24 hours) so we went straight to the cafeteria (and still we haven’t eaten anything good). We found out that there is free internet there, so refugees as we are we decided to hang around. We spent half an hour to send and receive emails, and I took notes of addresses of banks and telephone companies in Fonty, then we drank a crappie cup of coffee and even worse sandwiches for 6 Euros (I hope it will not cost as much once I am a student). Also, I hope that INSEAD students don’t eat sandwiches everyday cause I am on a diet.

INSEAD is a bit of a gray place. The buildings are old built with red stones, giving them a New-Yorkish appearance, that someone installed on them a lot of high-tech windows, so it appears almost modern. There are several buildings but the place is not very big. The main building contains several amphis were lectures are taken, and many many cubicles for group study. Also I found lockers for the students, fitness area (with a pool), the cafeteria, and a reception desk where we were issued a temporary visitor tickets. The building is equipped with WiFi, but you must have an INSEAD username and password in order to login (or you can just go to the cafeteria).

We saw that people wore badges, so we asked the receptionist to give us one. We only got a temporary visitor badge for the week, which fell off after a couple of minutes.

The library is the building near the main building. It has a room with copy machines (you must pay by loading your magnetic card) and some payphones.

The campus is surrounded with grass and green, and it is quiet, peaceful, and beautiful. Overall it is built in a way to help the students study all day every day (if in lectures, groups, or alone). It is not as beautiful as Oxford, and not as modern as LBS, but it sure has its grace.

My New Best Friend

Here is Bahia - the Boxer (or something) of our landlady.

She did a nice welcome to the mansion when we arrived and ever since we adopted her. She doesn't do much except drulling all over me and jumping on me with her muddy feet.

Update: the dog bit me, so it is no longer my best friend...

Monday, August 20, 2007

My First Day in France


Our flight was at 1 AM, and we almost missed it (duty free…). That’s a wonderful start, wouldn’t you agree? After I settled down in my Exit seats on the plane (which appeared to be actually the row in front of the Exit, so we couldn’t lower the seat backs), I thought a bit about the day to come.

In order for everything to start well the first day must go smoothly. There were several obstacles to overcome (yes, I know, too much application essays…): the overweight (or how to send 100 kilos on the plane when I am only allowed 50), the car (or how to pay for something in advance and still get it), the ride (or how to use a GPS and to avoid making the 60 km trip in 3 hours), and the apartment (or how to see pictures of a dreamy apartment and end up in a hell hole).

Well, the overweight (we actually managed to send 20 kilos above the limited weight) was all done with, after the nice receptionist in the airport agreed gracefully to allow us on the plane with a trolley and a huge backpack.
As for the car, I was just charged 4000 Euros for the leasing (which was done by a company in Lebanon from all places by email), without getting a receipt, so obviously I couldn’t help myself from thinking that I will get to Charles De Gaul Airport, and no-one will know who I am and what the hack I want. How disappointing, the guys from TT Cars were great, supplied the car on schedule, and even explained to me in perfect English how to get to Fontainblue. Talk about two birds on one strike. The car – a Citroen C3 - is a real piece of crap, but that’s another story.

We arrived to Champagne Sur Seine on 9:30, amazingly enough (I was almost certain that everything will go wrong, so I had notified them the day before that I will arrive at noon if not later), and even managed to find the house (with no address).

The landlords actually knew who we were, and the apartment looked just like in the pictures. It is a gorgeous little place, with 2 sunny fully-equipped rooms. The huge balcony has amazing view of the Seine and the village that lies beyond it, Thomery. The church gongs every hour, and we are located in the middle of the forest. The only things to disturb our peace are the train that goes every hour, the August winter that suddenly came upon us (with no heating because this is supposed to be summer, and not rainy with 13 degrees), and the smell of the apartment that made us spend the entire afternoon cleaning it furiously (after we visited INSEAD and bought groceries for 40 Euros in a local supermarket – ATAC).

I must say that overall the day went perfect, and tomorrow we will make the errands to connect us to the rest of the world –the internet, phone, TV, bank and so on.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Preparation to INSEAD

I was admitted to INSEAD in May, and it's been a couple of crazy month since. There were a lot of things to arrange. Here is the list.

Accept INSEAD's Offer and pay the deposit of 4500 euros (they accept cheques and bank transfers).

Login to NetVestibule – Upload a picture, update my profile, and read all the guides.

Arrange a loan (if you need one) - There is a special loan for Israeli students through Bank Leumi, but the interest is a bit high. Some French banks offer loans for aroung 3% interest rates, but only if you have French underwriters. Check out INSEAD website for more details.

Make the second tuition payment – 29000 euros.

Rent an apartment - There were three sources of information that I used for this:, and NetVestibue Message Board. Bonapart is a website intended to rent a place near INSEAD (in the surrounding villages mostly) by contacting the landlords directly by email. City-junction is an agency which offers some apartments in Fonty (mostly) for a special fee. In NetVistibule Message Board you can contact students from last year who recommend on apartments. Some people flew to Fonty to check the place out, and rented the apartment there - It is a bit costy approach, but safer for sure.

Rent/Buy/Lease a car – I used leasing (there is a tax reduction for students), and it costs 4000-6500 euros for the year. In this option you can get a new car with insurance and garage services for an ok price. You can have diesel and automatic Citroen C3 for 4000 euros. The other option is to buy a used car from one of the students (check out NV Message Board). This option is much cheaper, but you get a used car with potential problems.

Career Leader test – one month before the studies begin you take this computerized test. It should take a couple of hours to fill this (somewhat annoying) questionnaire.

Learn a third language – I chose to study Spanish (because it is easier then French). It is best to study a bit before the school and by that maybe to reduce some of pressure during school. Some students come one week ahead of time and take a full week's course in the third language, and need to take only 2 semesters.

Order the preliminary reading books – I asked alumni and they said it is not worth it. Everything will be covered during term. So I chose not to order them (I will let you know if this was a smart choice).

Pay and come to the Preliminary Week - I asked alumni and they said that for my background (engineering) it would be a waste of time and money. So I passed.

Get health insurance – There is couple of options (through French agencies, and Israeli ones). I chose "Harel" insurance – an Israeli standard insurance for those who live aboad.

Issue a student Visa – for you and your partner.

Order a flight to France – if you need a specific date I suggest you do it well in advance. An open ticket for a year cost me around 560$. If you are flexible you might want to wait for the last minute when you can perhaps get a cheap one-way ticket for around 200$.

Buy a Laptop - this is a must for an MBA student (or so they say). It should cost you 1000-1500$ .

Buy a suit - you will need it for events and job interviews. I bought a nice one in Zara.

Deliver your stuff to France - There are several ways to do it (by air or by sea). You can only carry to the flight 20Kg each (+5Kg handbag). This is obviousely not enough, and overweight is overpriced, so you will have to send your stuff through a mail service. I found EMS, the Israeli Post Office service, very cheap (55$ for 20Kg box, and delivery is in 2-3 business days) - so this is what I will use. In addition I had to buy some suitcases.

Open a bank account in France - You can do it in advance. Simply email the bank with the request, and send a copy of the passport and the attestation form of INSEAD (that can be printed) . This can be done also in France.

Issue an international driving licence - Just in case.

Meet your fellow MBA students - It is nice to know who comes with you to study (and speaks your language). Also, everybody does things a little differently and you might even save time and money by following other's advice.

Disconnect from cable TV, internet, newspapaer and other liabilities.

If I remember something else I will add it here.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Buying a Laptop for School

One of the things I had to do while preparing for school was purchasing a laptop. This is a must for any MBA student. There were several options, such as a tablet PC or a notebook. I decided that I personally will never write on the computer screen, so a tablet was out of the question.

In Israel the prices of laptop are high. In the price of an old generation computer you can purchase a new model notebook in the states. One more problem is that you cannot assemble your computer - you must buy what the supplier delivers. If the supplier provides only notebooks with Window Vista, then you cannot get a Windows XP computer. So I decided to focus on buying the computer in the internet, and have someone deliver it to me.

After some research I had to decide between Dell, the Latitude D630, or Lenovo, the T61 model. I purchased the Dell in the end, and it seems really good, but I guess the Lenovo would be just as good.

Here are some parameters that I considered when I purchased my laptop:
1. The laptop will be in use for only one year. After that if you need a computer at work, they will probably give you. I have a strong computer at home, so the notebook is not a suitable desktop replacement for me (from my experience laptops are never as strong as desktops). So for 1 year, spending more than 1000$ on a computer seems like a waste.

2. Well, you can get a decent computer for that price, but not the models I described earlier. I like my computer to be fast. I am a software engineer, so I know what I want from my computer. I am willing to go as high as 1500$ in order to get good specs for my computer.

3. I don't trust Windows Vista. Don't get me wrong, I like new technologoes, and I am always the first one to use them, but doing my research I got a bad feeling regarding Vista. The demanding requirements for video card and memory, the consumption of battery, the problems connecting to some hardware such as printers, and the lack of backward compatability to software from the XP generation - all were red lights. I guess I will wait for a year or two before I use Windows Vista. So I wanted Windows XP Pro - this way I don't have to get familiar with a new operating system, and I know the requirements of the hardware.

4. I wanted to get as much memory as possible, ie 2GB. It's not worth to save money here - because for the extra 100$ you boost your performance. I like to run a lot of processes at once, and memory is an important factor. You can never get enough memory.

5. Battery Lifetime is also very important. So for extra 40$ I got myself a nice 9-Cell battery - which lasts for about 4.5 hours.

6. Screen size - 12 inches is small. Too small to work. If I could I would have gotten the 15"4 (widescreen WXGA+), but then the computer would have weighed 3 Kg. the 14"1 screen that I got eventually weigh only 2.5 Kg. This is important, because as a student I would carry the computer everyday. I can tell you that the difference between them (in screen size) is very small, and the 14" screen is great.

7. Processor - I selected a Intel Dual Core 2 2GHz. I could have chosen a faster one, but I did not see the need for Win XP. This should be enough (a better processor cost more).

8. Connection to TV - OOPS, my computer was delivered without S-Video output (this is the 21st century, right?). Now I cannot connect my computer to the TV! I have to buy a very rare adapter, which is very hard to get, and cost around 70$. The pitfalls are always in the small details!

9. Warranty - For about 100$ I get a full warranty for 3 years, including if I spilled my drink all over the laptop, or I scratched the screen.

To summarize this, you can configure the laptop that you need (including all the parameters) in the manufactor's website. For 1500$ you get a fantastic computer with warranty. All you need to do is have someone send it to you from the States.

I will follow-up on this, and let you know if the computer is any good, and what useful software I installed on it.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Issuing a French Student Visa (Israeli Version)

A disclaimer first: Yesterday I issued the Student Visa for France, and I will write here everything that I did in order to get the visa. All in all it’s a friendly process, and can be done quickly if you bring all the documents to the consulate. You might not even need a visa. I suggest you contact the consulate to verify everything I wrote here (I'm no expert). Their phone is: 03-5208508. It's best to call after 14:15.

The Consulate
You must come to The French Consulate in TA (1 Ben Yehuda St. - Migdalor Building) in order to issue the student visa. Office hours are: Mon-Thu 8:00-10:00 (at Wed 8:00-12:00). There is a parking lot in front of the building.

The Documents You Need To Bring
You need to fill some forms. You don't have to come to Consulate especially to take the forms, because you can download the forms here. You need to fill them in two copies (in English or French). A translated version (English) you can find here. You can fill the forms at the Consulate when you come with all the other documents, and they have a Hebrew version of the forms there.

In order to fill the forms you need to know INSEAD's address in France , and your permanent address in France. Also you need to write your employer's address.

Additional documents you need to bring (for all the documents you need the original and a copy):
  • The forms (2 copies, must be original).
  • Copy of your passport (you need to also bring your passport).
  • 2 passport pictures (4cm x 5cm).
  • Attestation Form (French Version) from INSEAD (printed from NV).
  • A copy of the rental agreement in France (or some kind of proof) – my landlord faxed it to me.
  • A letter from the bank (in English) stating that you have more than 7300 euros, or 680 euros per month.
  • A Previous student card.
  • Medical insurance for 3 month in France (I did it through "Harel").

The arrangements you need to do prior your arrival to the consulate:

  • Go to your bank and get that letter.
  • Rent an apartment in France.
  • Arrange a medical insurance.

You don't need to open a bank account in France for the Visa.

When You Arrive To The Consulate
The consulate is located in the 11th floor. On the 10th floor there is the Cultural Services Office of the French Embassy. You have to bring the Attestation Letter (and passport), and they will give you a letter that you need to bring to the consulate. Go to this office BEFORE you go to the 11th floor. You should call in advance to this office and schedule an appointment (although I did not call in advance and it was still ok).

Once you have everything ready, go to the 11th floor, and if you have all the documents, the clerk will issue you the visa on the spot. You need to pay around 280 NIS (by credit card or cash). It all takes around an hour (depending on the line).

A Student's Partner
If you come with a partner to France (wife/husband) you need to bring some documents on behalf of them:

  • Two forms (original)
  • Their passport (and a copy)
  • 2 passport pictures
  • Some proof of the marriage (the passport was ok).

You can come alone to the consulate (your partner does not have to come). Once you get the visa, your partner will not be able to work, only accompany you. The clerk said that I should arrange for a document that proofs the marriage in English or French (they might want to see it in France). The Partner's visa costs around 560 NIS.

All Done
Once you get the Visa, it is valid for 3 month in which you must enter France. So don't do this too soon! I wouldn't leave it for the last minute also (but I knowL people who arranged the visa in the last week before their flight). Later you will have to get a "carte de sejour" (but that will be done in France).