Saturday, November 3, 2007

A Trip to Loire Valley

On P1/P2 break I went on a two days trip to Loire Valley with my partner Inna. Loire Valley is an area in France located on both sides of the Loire river, and is rich with Castles, Chateaus and interesting cities.

The capital is Orlean, a city located 1 and a half hour drive from Fontainebleau. Unfortunately there is not much to see there, and another hour drive brought us to Chambord, the biggest castle in the area. It is truely magnificant, and the rich architecture of the roofs and terraces is impressive. There is a very interesting stare case with two parrallel starecases allowing two persons to go up without meeting. Leonardo De Vinci was involved in the engineering of the castle.

From there we went to Chambray castle (20 minutes drive), not very exciting.

Then we went to Blois (pernounces- blua), a city of medivial ages, a very impressive view from the other side of the Loire. A line of gray roofs, with several large castles and cathedrals, very dense on the mountain side. The Chateau is from 4 different architecture styles - Reinnesance, Gothic, and others. We walked on stairs that looks a lot like Piaza Espania in Rome, and in the couple of streets full of stores and pasteries.

The next stop was Embois, another small town, with a medivial style Chateau, near the Leonardo De Vinci museum. Again it was nice to walk for half an hour in the European Village style streets of this town.

The last stop of the day, and where we spent the night, is Tours, a large city located 3 and a half hours drive from Fontainebleau. They have a Gothis cathedral in the center of town (a small version of Notre-Dam in Paris?). It was a perfect location for next days' trip.
The next day we started with Azay Le Rideau Chateau, 20 minutes further from Tours. This Chateau is a small but impressive one, located on an artificial small lake, giving a reflection in the water. There is a small garden. Very nice. We came at 11:45 so only the gardens were open for a discounted price. It was sunday and there was a flee market out side the Chateau.

Next we started going back, visiting Villandry gardens. These are probably the largest and richest gardens in the Loire. Different shapes and colors, walking around different vegetables and fruits and a big artificial lakes and tunnels. You can walk up to the forest for a view of the entire area.

We ended the trip by visiting Chenonceaux castle. This is the most touristic attraction, and you can tell from the moment you enter the place. This chateau is the most impressive from the inside (although surprisingly small). It is located literally on the river, with several arcs holding it like a bridge. Pitty that the line of water is low. The gardens are nothing like Villandry but worth a visit. They have an old farm and a winary (the whole Loire is filled with winaries).

A little tip about the cost: Each chateau cost 7 to 10 euros per persons, sometimes there are discounts for students, or for persons below 25 years of age. Fuel (diesel) cost around 40 euros. And the hotel cost 35-100 Euros per night (search the web). You might want to sleep in Embois or Blois instead of Tours, or look for a small place on the way.

And a word about the roads in France: The highways cost money (probably 30-40 euros for the entire trip). Otherwise, N152 (I think) takes you all the way to Tours. It's partly yellow and partly red, but most of the ride is in one lane, and you can get stuck behind a slow car for half an hour. But the road is pretty, so there is an upside. Once you get near a chateau there are good way signs.

Friday, November 2, 2007

What Has Changed in the MBA World

Financial Times has posted the annual MBA ranking. Being the most international ranking there is, I used this ranking a lot when deciding which program to attend.

Global Perspective
Top 10 USA schools according to this ranking (place last year in the brackets)
1. Wharton (1)
2. Columbia (4) - surprised here?
3. Stanford (3)
3. Harvard (2)
6. Chicago GSB (6)
8. NYU Stern (7)
9. Tuck (8)
10. Yale (11)
14. MIT Sloan (10)
17. UCLA Anderson (19)

Top 10 European Schools
5. LBS, UK (5)
7. INSEAD, France/Singapore (8)
11. IE Business School, Spain (-)
13. IMD, Switzerland (14)
15. Cambridge Judge, UK (35)
16. IESE, Spain (13)
18. HEC Paris, France (22)
19. Oxford Said, UK (20)
22. Manchester Business School, UK (22)
24. Esade, Spain

An up trend for European school. Also important is Ceibs from China #11 this year.

Personal Perspective
INSEAD is ranked 7th in the world, up from #8 last year. MIT Sloan - the other business school I was admitted to is down - #14 this year, a fall from #10 last year. Did I do the right decision here? It seems so.

My third business school was Oxford - up 1 place in #19 in the world. Cambridge (the strong competition) is #15.

I was on the waitlist of London Business School, still at #5 and the best European school according to this ranking. But it is not that clear that it is a better choice than INSEAD as I will show next.

INSEAD - A Further Look
Ok, so INSEAD is up to #7. What other things can we tell from this ranking?
Weighted Salary for INSEAD students is 140K$. 2nd in Europe - IMD is first with 153K$. LBS only third with 135K$. Oxford is not legging behind with 128K$.
Top salaries are for graduates from Stanford (168K$), Cape Town (What? 163K$), Wharton (160K$), and HBS (157K$).

Salary Increase - For LBS it's 122%, INSEAD only 94% (poor us).
You wanna get an increase? Go to Ceibs (159%), Yale (151%), or IE (149%).

Will you get a job after the MBA? According to FT you have a chance of 90% if you graduate from INSEAD - pretty low comparing to all the others. LBS is 96%.

INSEAD is the #6 international school. LBS is only 10. The other top 10 schools are no where to be seen. Do you want an international perspective? Come to INSEAD.

Value for money - INSEAD is the 2nd school among the Top 20 schools, only IMD is above. Oxford not too far behind. LBS is one of the most expensive schools and the worst in the world in that category. Being a one year program pays off.

Reputation - Alumni were asked to rate the schools based on whether they will recruit MBAs from that school. LBS is #5 and INSEAD #6. This is a pretty important category so here is the top 10:
1. Wharton
2. HBS
3. Stanford
4. Kellogg
5. LBS
7. Chicago GSB
8. Columbia
9. MIT Sloan
10. Ross
Next 10: NYU, Tuck, Duke, Darden, UCLA, Berkeley, IMD, Toronto, Iese, Kenan-Flagler.

Is this the true ranking? From inspecting the results it might as well be. The American schools are sorted pretty much as I would expect, and also the European schools. Less surprising than the real FT ranking.

It seems that INSEAD is a top 10 school again this year in all categories, an excellent value for money, with great employment future and an international exposure.

Last, I did my own ranking based on the criteria I find most important (I know that's weird but it made sense to me): Alumni recommendation-reputation (30%), salary(30%), chance of employment(10%), international(10%) and value(20%).

Here are the results:
2. IMD
3. MIT Sloan
4. Wharton
5. Kellogg
6. LBS
7. Cranfield (Uk)
8. HBS
9. Stanford
10. Tuck
11. Oxford
12. UCLA
13. Capetown (South Africa)
14. Chicago GSB
15. Ceibs (China)
16. Columbia
17. IE (Spain)
18. Erasmus (Netherland)
19. Iese
20. North Carolina

Told you that INSEAD is number 1 :) .

(I swear that I did not arrange it so INSEAD would be #1. I just picked the most important criteria and put it in Excel. Amazingly INSEAD is the best pick.)