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mba diary

Linda Chew is a finance professional enrolled in the two-year, full-time MBA program at Columbia University in New York.

Linda Chew is enrolled in the two-year, full-time MBA program at Columbia University in New York. Originally from Vancouver, she is a graduate of the Commerce program at Queen's University in Kingston. Linda began her career at Deloitte LLP, where she spent four years in its Toronto and Vancouver offices, most recently working in mergers and acquisitions. She is a chartered accountant and a chartered financial analyst charterholder. This is the third entry in a series on her MBA experience.

I'm writing this entry on my flight as I'm heading back to NYC for my second year at Columbia. The first year of the MBA program just flew by, the last few months in particular. Over the summer, my classmates and I were literally scattered across the globe interning at various companies, from consulting firms to investment banks, movie production studios to tech startups.

I spent my summer in Silicon Valley, trying tech investment banking for the first time. It was a fantastic learning experience trying to absorb as much as I could about the industry, but the best part was having the opportunity to work with highly intelligent, motivated peers from other MBA programs. Our Summer Associate class was composed of MBAs from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, University of Chicago's Booth School, Berkeley, UCLA and Stanford. All of us, having just completed a year of endless classes, school trips and social events, were ready to dive back into the office environment.

Being in Silicon Valley was a unique experience. Instead of relying on the Metro to commute, I got a bike off Craigslist and rode 20 minutes through residential neighborhoods to get to the office. It was perfect, sunny weather every day, though I still carried an umbrella with me for the first month like a true Vancouverite. The tranquil, suburban atmosphere of Palo Alto is a fascinating juxtaposition to the region's rapidly evolving tech scene. On the surface, the culture is so relaxed compared with New York that it almost belies the intense motivation and entrepreneurial drive ingrained in so many people there.

There were also some fun encounters with other Canadians in the area. It always astounds me how small the Canadian community is in the United States – most of us are connected by at least one common contact. In fact, it seems as though whenever I'd meet another Canadian in the past year, we had common friends or former co-workers 80 per cent of the time! To be able to connect to a stranger immediately through a familiar name from home was an incredible experience.

Just about a year ago, I started at Columbia partly excited, partly apprehensive. There's no way I could've predicted how this past year has actually turned out. As I'm returning to school, I can't wait to see the new experiences and connections that will unfold.

Linda can be reached via her LinkedIn profile.