George and I landed in Helsinki yesterday after a relevantly uneventful flight (save for a mad cross-terminal dash at JFK). After a good night’s sleep and a full breakfast, we’re preparing to meet with our  Global Access Program (GAP) company representatives at their headquarters in Vantaa, Finland. After a full day of interviews and discussions, we’ll drive 300km north to tour their factory in Aänekoski and interview additional employees.

Over the last several months at UCLA Anderson I’ve taken a significant interest in the program’s study-abroad offerings. I applied to four study-abroad programs expecting to be selected only for one or two given their popularity. It was quite a surprise to learn one by one that I was could participate in each!

Sunset in Helsinki, ~21:30

Of course, the invitations were just the beginning. All told, I could expect a week’s travel for GAP primary research, plus about aweek for each of the study programs. Asking my manager for more than five weeks off through the end of the year felt like quite a tall order. I am incredibly grateful to my managers and employer for giving me the opportunity to take such extended travel and study breaks.

And so it begins. I return to Los Angeles this Friday evening, only to hop on a plane to Seoul for a “Doing Business in South Korea” course at Seoul National University. Two weeks later, I’ll be traveling to India for “International Studies in India: Understanding Indian Financial Markets” with Professor Subrahmanyam, then off to HEC in Jouy-en-Josas, France, to study “Sustainable Investments” and “International Negotiations.” Finally, I’ll travel to South Africa in mid-December to take “International Studies in Africa: Focus on Health Economics” with Professor Victor Tabbush.

It’s a scary proposition to take this much time away from work and spend nearly $16,000 on airfare, hotels, and program fees. GAP is regarded as a difficult course and taking three weeks of travel is likely to make the summer very challenging. However, I came to UCLA to expand my horizons and broaden my career options. My core courses have been solid (I’ll never look at financial statements or queues of people in the same way again) and my electives have been eye-opening. So, in the words of one of the entrepreneurs I interviewed for my Venture Initiation class with Professor Jeff Scheinrock, it’s time to “Plan, Jump, and Commit.” Here’s to hoping that I’ll gain the seed of an idea for a project, business, or career. This is going to be great.

I’d like to express my gratitude to the people who are making these series of experiences possible for me. My thanks to Bonny Kim, Patty Gonzales, and Jamie Saure in the International Studies and Exchange Programs Department at UCLA Anderson for allowing me to participate in all of these programs, and for their patient and kind-hearted logistical support. My appreciation to Michael Fontanez, Tori Blair, and Deb Mincey in the Student Services and Financial Aid office for their help in scheduling and obtaining financial aid. My thanks to Professor Subrahmanyam for his flexibility in the on-campus schedule for his course. My thanks to Danna and my folks for their support. My thanks to David Denton and Mike Dodge at Atomic Online, my employer, for giving me the opportunity to leave work to travel and study. And, most importantly, thanks to my GAP team Ethan, George, George, and Kasia for their support and encouragement. Let’s make our GAP company proud!