Cambridge

According to The Economist magazine, only some 5% of students at Harvard Business School come from poor families.

Studying at renowned business schools isn’t a cheap adventure. You will need to have $50,000 in your pocket if you want to study at Cambridge, for example. For Harvard – $60,000. That being said, those schools provide scholarships for not-well-off applicants [like you and me], who otherwise would struggle to pay the tuition fees.

One of the first requirements to get admission to Cambridge or HBS, as well as to win a scholarship, is to achieve a decent score on GMAT.

When my friends ask me what the heck GMAT is, I ask them in response “Have you ever heard of such thing as Google?” Jokes aside, it stands for Graduate Management Admission Test [sounds fancy, huh?] That’d be a short explanation. The longer one would be: it is a test designed for those who are willing to study MBA or at a Masters program related to Business/Management. Nowadays almost all reputable business schools require a good GMAT score to be simply considered for their programs. They say it is one of the hardest tests ever.

I solved GMAT problems until 1 a.m. yesterday. After I woke up in the morning and brushed my teeth, I started solving GMAT problems again. Today I have a meeting in the afternoon. Do you know what I will be doing before and after the meeting? You’re absolutely right. I’ll be solving GMAT problems. Why am I investing so much time in it? Because it’s the only way for me to work my way to Cambridge.

Last month I was honored to talk to an Uzbek who studied there in 2009. Also, I’ve heard of several Uzbeks who happened to study at Harvard. Each of them, though, was self-financed. The ones who studied at Harvard took a student loan to pay their tuition fees [to do that you need to be an American citizen or at least a Green Card holder]. The one who studied at Cambridge was financially supported by her family. Incidentally, the daughter of the former President of Uzbekistan studied at Harvard too. I wonder, where did SHE take this whopping amount of money?

When I told one of my family members that I dream to study at Cambridge for my Masters and I’ll be applying to it next year, he said: “I’d recommend you to apply to other graduate schools as well, just in case if Cambridge doesn’t accept you. Also, where are you going to get money to pay the tuitions?” To be honest with you, I expected a little bit more encouraging response from one of my closest people.

Thank God, I have a roommate who supports me and by no means criticizes me when I sound silly; who says “Just do it!” when I tell him about my dreams of Cambridge.

I am unfazed by the problem of paying the tuition fees, because I’ve found at least 10 full-scholarships for those international students who get admission to Cambridge. Also, there are certain ways to take a student loan [without being a citizen or Green Card holder]; or I could find a way to earn that money on my own before starting the Masters program. Where there is a will, there is a way, right?

The only issue that I am REALLY concerned about is the crazy competition to be admitted to Cambridge [even Brexit and Mr Trump are secondary issues]. Thousands of the brightest students who come from the UK, America, China, India, Russia, the Middle East, the Far East, and all over the world will be applying to the program that I am interested in. That program accepts only 40 students. Only 40 students. I will do my best to be among those “Fantastic Fourty” in 2019. I should JUST DO IT! Oh, speaking of “doing”… I have to go back to my GMAT problems. I’ll see you next time! 🙂

Book: How to make an impression on men

“I have started reading a new book yesterday,” she said, when three of us were walking towards a restaurant in downtown.
“What book?” I asked.
“It’s called ‘How to make a good impression on men’. The book starts with a story of…”
“You don’t need a book for that!” the English gentleman that was walking with us exclaimed with elegant British accent. “You are a beautiful, smart, and modest woman. You don’t need to read a BOOK to learn how to make an impression on us!”

The gentleman said this with quite a positive tone. He was smiling and even laughing at some point. He went out of his way to persuade the lady. To support her. To raise her self-esteem.

“But I don’t have a boyfriend…,” the 26-year-old said, almost whispering, looking down. I could feel that her heart rate swiftly increased. She suddenly started breathing more quickly and deeply.
“Oh, dear… Don’t you even worry about that. You are young…”
“You know, my ex-boyfriend…,” the lady interrupted the gentleman. “He is not single any more. He’s living with his girlfriend now.” To my surprise, fresh tears squeezed between her lids. “So, I’ve started thinking: perhaps the problem is in me.” She gave us an unconvincing smile, barely showing her teeth just under her glasses, but her eyes betrayed her. She was not feeling happy at all.

We arrived at the restaurant. Sat around a table. The British ordered a glass of beer. The American lady ordered some coke, justifying her choice of drink by saying “I allow myself alcohol only on weekends.” I ordered coke as well, simultaneously thinking how to justify my “non-alcoholic life”. In the Czech Republic you are traditionally supposed to make a valid excuse if you decide not to drink when you go out in the evening.

“I got divorced with my wife after four years of marriage,” the gentleman held the lady’s left hand with his right hand on the table and continued defusing the tension that the lady was experiencing. I’d say he was around 50 years old, but he looked much younger than his age. Maybe because he was energetic and positive all the time.
“Then I got acquainted with another wonderful woman. Do you know when it happened? 10 years after my divorce with my ex-wife. 10 years. You never know when you will find that right person. Besides, life is not only about relationships. You should enjoy other spheres of your life too.”

The lady nodded at each point he was making, sometimes looking into his eyes, sometimes looking down, and again at him. She seemed to feel rather uncomfortable because all the attention was solely on her. She didn’t want to be felt bad about. She didn’t want to be looked at, like one would look at a broken girl. “Let’s change the subject!” she finally said. “Let’s talk about you, guys,” she wanted to be polite and smiled at us.

Then the waiter came up to our table and distributed the ordered drinks. We changed the subject. After a while we changed it once again. And again. And again until I noticed that it was late and realized I had to go.

Am I the only one who doesn’t understand women? One of my cousins, before she got married, had constantly been depressed because “no decent man was making a proposal” to her. Because she was part of my family I inadvertently felt depressed just like she did. “You are smart, pretty, and modest girl. Just stay this way and you’ll be fine,” I would tell her, being frustrated. “Thinking about marriage all the time isn’t going to help you find a husband. Actually, you don’t even have to find him. He will find you. Just relax! You won’t die alone, I promise!”

She got married a year after that talk. Currently she is expecting a baby. Why do some women assume that if they don’t find a husband until the age of 23-24, they will never be able to find one in the future?

Perhaps I am still too young to understand those relationship issues now. Maybe one day you will find me in a library searching for the book  “How to make an impression on women” [googling, rather]. As for now, however, please tell me where I can find the book “How to make an impression on my Math teacher at uni.”

What to choose: money or passion?

I heard someone playing the guitar when I was fiddling on Youtube in my room at the dormitory. The music was quite close to hard rock to my ear. I know only one student on our floor who can play the guitar. So I thought “That must be Sheikh” [Sheikh is his name]. I don’t have any problems with him playing music so loudly, because I have my solution for those kind of neighbors: headphones! [I know. I am so innovative].

After several days I met him just outside the campus. I guess he was going to a shop. It was dark outside.
“Hi, Sheikh,” I said.
“Hello,” he said shaking my hand.
“How are you?”
“Good.”
“How are things with your music band going? I sometimes hear you rock-and-rolling in your room,” I said messing with him.
“Really?!” he seemed to feel bad for disturbing his neighbors.
“Yeah,” I smiled.
“What is your room number?” he asked.
“207”
He turned his eyes to the side thinking how far my room was from his room.
“It is on the other side of the corridor,” I said messing with him again.
He looked into my eyes, put his palm on his forhead, and said smiling: “Oh, sh*t! Sorry, man!”
“Ahaha!”

I told him that it was okay and no harm was done.
“I understand that you don’t have any other place to practice your instrument,” I said in order to defuse the tension.
He kept silence and just nodded.
“Do you enjoy playing music?” I asked.
“Yes, I do,” he said with a big smile. I noticed how his face shined when he said that. He really meant it.
“Would you agree to play the guitar even for free?” I asked.
He laughed at my question and said “I am already playing it for free at bars. Well, they pay me sometimes, but I am not doing it for money. I just enjoy it.”

I admire such people. The people who pursue their passion no matter what criticism society has prepared for them. No matter whether they are paid or not paid for what they do, they never abandon their passions.

For almost all of our lives our governments have dictated to us what subjects we have to learn at school; our families have told us what uni we have to attend; our parents have told us their expectations of how much money we have to earn to make them happy; and our uncles have decided where we have to work in order to make that money. Or did you have a different experience? If so, then you must have grown up somewhere close to La La Land and I’m envious of you.

The reason why Bill Gates spent years to learn how to program in a computer lab of his school [according to his own words] was not because his government told him to do so. The reason why Cristiano Ronaldo spent his entire childhood kicking a ball was not because he wanted to make money out of it [at least in his childhood]. Both of them simply enjoyed doing what they do. Now you can find their names in the list of the richest people on the planet.

Interestingly, another commonality between those two incredible personalities is that both Bill and Cristiano are known for being huge philanthropists. Why do you think they are able to give away their fortunes to the poor so easily? I guess that’s because their goals were not to make fortunes in the first place. Their goals were simply to program and to kick a ball. Money simply followed.

A popular saying in my country goes: “Don’t run after money. Let money run after you!”  When choosing a career path, consider all the passions you have. Pick the one that is currently most demanded. Go deep into this sphere. Master your passion. And perhaps one day your name will appear in that fancy list, right next to Bill Gates and Leonel Messi [or Cristiano Ronaldo, whoever you prefer ;)].

Video: A day with an American business leader

This week I met an American business leader. He is a Harvard graduate and the President of a huge international company. As a part of the American leadership program, to which I was accepted some 5 months ago, I and dozens of other student participants received a two-days coaching session from this incredible man.

Mom wants to marry me up and she asks no questions

We arrived at the airport. I checked her in. Submitted the baggage. After that we got her boarding pass for the plane that would take her to Belorussia, and then home to Uzbekistan.

Then we walked slowly towards the gates where we had to separate. We both understood that we were not going to see each other for at least a year after that.

As we were slowly walking towards the gates, she said: “Thank you! I enjoyed my stay in Prague very much.”
I smiled not looking at her and said “You are most welcome!”
She went on: “If you come to Uzbekistan next summer, I will marry you up.” [What a twist of subject!] She said the last phrase with such an intonation that you could assume a marriage was an exciting reward for me for coming back to Uzbekistan on holidays.
“Mom, you don’t understand. Please do not rush me. I have plans that I want to accomplish before building a family. Let me tell you my plans for the next five years. Let me tell you my dreams,” I told her in my imagination. In a perfect world this would be what I’d tell her. But this time, given the current circumstances, I just said “It’s too early.”

Notice how my opinion is not even consulted on this important matter. She does not ask questions like “WHO do you want to marry?”, “WHEN do you want to have your wedding?”, “Do you want to marry, anyway?” She rather makes a statement: “I WILL marry you up.”

Don’t get me wrong though. I want to build my own family [Who does not?] I do understand that my mother didn’t ask me those questions because she knows me probably better than anybody else. But what’s frustrating to me is that she just doesn’t let me communicate my thoughts and feelings.

“Early?” she exclaims playfully. “Maybe it is early for you, but it is getting late for me.”
“What do you mean it is getting late for you?”
“I am getting old. I want to see my grandchildren.”
“Mom, come on. You are not old.”
“And I want a daughter. Do you understand? I don’t need a daughter-in-law. I want to have someone in our house, who will be like a real DAUGHTER for me.”

In most of the cases the relationship between a mother-in-law and a daughter-in-law is not particularly warm. I even heard such extreme cases when mothers made their sons divorce just because those mothers “didn’t get on well” with their daugthers-in-law. I remember how often my grandma would give a frowning look [sometimes even shouts] at my mother, at the time when she lived under one roof with my father’s family. This problem of “women-in-law” has always been one of the most common and painful ones.

One of my countrymen [who is soon getting married] said the following about a month ago: “Our wives are not going to live only with us. They will live with our families as well. So it’s not only you who has to like your wife. Before making a proposal I will make sure that my wife suits my parents too. Otherwise, there is no way for me to marry her. Besides, there are thousands of girls out there, but we have only one mother and one father.” His arguments are quite cogent, except the last one: What if I don’t need thousands? What if I need only a single girl?

Once I read somewhere: “Marriage should not be an emotional decision. It must be a rational one.” Now, this one makes sense, doesn’t it?

Anyway… After giving me a long and warm hug, mom entered the gates. After an hour she left Czech Republic and after four hours she messaged me “We’ve landed safely in Minsk. Waiting for the transfer to my next flight [winking emoticon].”

Now I have to go back to my studies after 3 weeks of travelling and chilling with mom. I will probably study the whole summer too, because I am afraid of going back to Uzbekistan for my holidays. You never know what plans mothers have for their sons.

Lady whose daughter lives in Switzerland

We noticed her just at the entrance to the metro station “Mustek”. She had a heavily stuffed plastic bag in her hand. It was so heavy that she could not even raise it. The bag was on the ground and the old lady was barely pulling it towards escalator, wiping the floor with the bag.

“Perhaps we should help this lady?” my mother said feeling bad about her.
“I don’t know the Czech expression when offering help,” I mumbled.

I always feel reluctant whenever it is time to help the elderly, for example when I have to give a seat to them on public transport. On one hand, I have no problem standing for a while. On the other hand, I am daunted by the possibility of insulting them as if by saying “You look so old that I’ve decided to give you my seat, you old woman!” I don’t know how to deal with it. Usually I end up not giving a seat to them. My way of thinking is probably wrong. I guess I ought to change it.

Our eyes met as we were passing her. “Perhaps you should help that woman?” my mother repeated with the same voice tone as before, but this time her voice seemed to convey the message “I read in her eyes that she really needs help.”

Mom was right. She needed help not only with her heavy bag [it was at least 6 kilograms. I wonder how she wanted to bring it home on her own], but she was also longing for a warm heart-to-heart conversation with some understanding person. She was craving for empathy.

“Vam pomoc?” – I said this half-Czech-half-Russian expression [which I made up right there] smiling into her face trying to be polite and not to offend her.
For a moment she stopped moving and looked at me opening her eyes wide open, as if thinking: “Is this guy talking to me?”

The old lady made sure that I was talking to her, not to somebody else, only when I approached her saying “Can I help you?” and pointing at the heavy bag with a logo of Albert supermarket chain.

“If you can…” she finally responded. Her response was in Russian. So we realized that she was not local.
I took her bag on the left side. My mother held her by her right arm to help her walk.

All the way until we reached the metro station “Hradcanska”, where she had to step out, the two women kept talking. While we were standing on the platform waiting for metro, I asked for permission and took a photo of the lady with my mom [I figured I would need that photo for my blog].

The lady told us how long she worked in the Middle East [in Iraq and Israel]; that she got married to a Czech; that she came from Russia; how Europe and Middle East are different.

“My only child lives in Switzerland,” she started an interesting talk about her daughter. “With her husband and my granddaughter. Nataliya [her daughter’s name] is too far away… I wonder if something happens to me, who will take care of me?” she smiled. I think she forced that smile. I have noticed that people sometimes smile when they have really bad emotional meltdown.

Neither my mother nor me knew what to say. There was an awkward silence for a moment. The old lady was wise enough to break it by changing the subject herself.

I thought to myself: my mother must be having the same feeling about me. Even if she does not feel that way at the moment, soon she will definitely want us to live in one town [or even in one house].

It is incredible how random lady in the street is able to change my future plans. I would not even be brave enough to offer her a seat on bus.

Grandfather’s death

He passed away in September 2016, at the age of eighty-seven, leaving behind 3 daughters [including my mother], 5 sons, 24 grandchildren [myself included], 17 great-grandchildren, 2 apartments in the heart of Tashkent, one big country house in the village he had grown up [he longed for his village even at the end of his life], and eternal memory of the amazing father of the huge family.

In one of those days when he felt weak he asked my mother, “Do you have your phone with you?”
“Yes, dad, I do,” my mom replied.
“I want to talk to my friend. He is sick. I want to ask him how he feels.”

Then he would dictate his friend’s phone number. He knew it by heart.
Neither my grandfather, nor his comrade could hear well. Both of them were suffering from hearing loss. Here is an approximate conversation of theirs:
“Assalomu alaykum, my friend!” my granddad greets his comrade.
“Assalomaleyku-u-u-um, Fazliddin aka!”
“How are you feeling?”
“Yes, we just came back.”
“Are you okay?”
“Where are you?”
“I can’t hear. Say it again?”
“At hospital? What happened to you?”
“I can’t hear you well. Take care. Bye!”
“What?”
He took care of his friends. Even at the time when he was unwell himself. I admired this quality of his: loyalty. I’ve probably never known anybody more loyal [to friends] than him.

He was longing for the company of his friends. By that time only a couple of them had not passed away yet. The whole generation of the 1930th had nearly died out. My grandfather wasn’t feeling well either.

Five years before his death my grandfather got half-sided stroke. The right side of his body was paralyzed. He could barely move his right leg when walking. That’s why he had to use a walking cane for the last years of his life.

He couldn’t firmly hold a spoon with his right hand when eating. Whenever my mother offered to feed him, he insisted that he ate on his own, despite the fact that he could barely raise his arm. He hated to be dependant on somebody else. Of course he would. For the most part of his life he got used to be one of the most “independent” people in the country. He held a position of a minister in Uzbekistan for nearly three decades. He was a typical strict Soviet ruler of thousands of government employees. I believe he felt nostalgic about those times.

I loved my granddad. I still do. His lessons will serve me well until the end of my life. The best lesson he taught to me was his personal example. He was my role-model. My leader. My boss. My president.

Spend with parents as much time as you possibly can!  Face it after all: they will not be around forever.

Virginity or how our values are changing

“Are you still a virgin?” a girl boldly asked a friend of mine, when the latter was on work and travel program in the States.
He [my friend] was in a state of shock, when he was asked this brass-neck question from a representative of opposite gender.
He nodded looking straight into her eyes, without knowing what to say. She then laughed at his honesty and asked him again: “Are you serious now?”.
“Yyyes…” the 23-year-old said being rather embarrassed.
“Don’t you have attraction to girls?”

Attraction to girls… The fact that he decided to remain virgin until he marries somebody doesn’t mean that he had lost attraction to women. That merely means that he has certain life principles.

In my culture a pre-marriage sexual intercourse is deemed dishonorable and wrong. In other words, losing a virginity before wedding is equivalent to losing an honor. I mean, it is perfectly lawful to have sex whenever and however you want. But you will have to hide it from public if you want to save your face.

Sometimes when I chat with guys, they boast: “Man, yesterday I had a date with a beauty. I brought her home afterwards and the whole night we… you know what I mean.”
“So do you love her?” I ask him.
“Of course not. I am just sleeping with her.”
“How can you do that without having intention to marry?!”
“Man, she is just a temporary whore to me. My bride will be a decent girl. I am just enjoying my life,” he says with a voice tone of Don Corleone.

Let’s think about this. Is he enjoying his life or destroying it? There is a wise Uzbek saying: “Turmush o’rtog’ing o’zingga yarasha bo’ladi [Your future spouse is going to be just as good as you].” 

My sincere belief is that if I want to marry a decent girl, first I have to be a decent man myself. There is no way for a play boy to marry a modest girl. That just won’t work.

The funny thing about those “play boys” is that back in our counties [I am talking about Central Asia] they used to be the ones who condemned sex-before-marriage. With angry fire in the eyes, they condemned Uzbek or Kazakh girls who had given their virginity to somebody other than their husbands. But when they came to study in Europe, where being a non-virgin is perfectly fine after 18 [sometimes it is a shame not to be one], they started changing girlfriends as often as they change their socks, naively hoping to marry a princess one day.

Just be a decent person! Your spouse is not going to be better than you.

The most beautiful woman in the world

“Did you buy a new luggage bag?” I asked my mother pointing at her nice blue bag with four wheels, when we arrived at the hotel.
“No, it’s not new,” she responded. “I borrowed it from your cousin.”
“How do I open it? What is its password?”
“The password is the birthdate of your cousin’s mother.”
“So, it’s my aunt’s birthdate,” I said being quite amused.

It is so cute that he [my cousin] set the password as the day when his mother was born. Man, that’s so cute. Sometimes, I become too sentimental.

To be honest with you, as Doniyor and I were waiting for our parents at the airport, I was pretty much sure that the time we would spend with our parents was going to be rather boring. Because I did not know what to talk about with my mom, really.

Because we talk so often on the phone, I have always had a feeling that everything has already been rigorously discussed and we really have nothing serious to speak of. Within 10 minutes after we met them, I realized that I was completely wrong. There were so many things to be talked about. We kept chatting the next 5 hours rarely making breaks. It was so much fun.

We had not seen each other since the day I came to study in Prague at the end of 2015, which is a little over a year now. Although she has put on some weight during this period and became a little chubby, she looked really beautiful. Fatness doesn’t necessarily make a woman ugly [against the odds].

She wore light-brown leather jacket that reached her knees. Its soft brownish fur around her neck made my mom look maturely elegant. Let alone the elegant match of her bright-blue suitcases with her handbag. She never wears high heeled shoes – as she once put it: “I don’t like getting too much attention with the noise that come out of those heels when I walk.” Besides, she rather prefers comfortable apparel for her feet. She walks quite calmly, without any sign of rush. When she smiles, she usually smiles with her eyes, withoit showing her perfectly aligned teeth and she tends to bend her head a little bit to the right. My mother is quite modest and usually shy. And she is an excellent listener, which makes her a really pleasant person to have a conversation with.

When I met my mother after not seeing her for such a relatively long period of time, three things became absolutely clear to me:
1. My mom is the most beautiful woman in the world.
2. A real conversation in person can never be replaced by Skype.
3. My mom is really the most beautful woman in the world.

What do you do in library? Read books or watch YouTube videos?

 

I am writing this post sitting in a University library. Guess what, nobody is reading a book in here. When I say “a book”, I mean a regular book made of paper.

Today in the morning I had a lecture on a subject called E-government. When the lecture started, he asked the audience: “Who goes to a public library?” A dozen of students raised their hands.
“Alright,” the lecturer said. “Tell me how you use the library?”
“With a laptop,” somebody at the back cried out with a simultaneously neutral and mocking voice (I guess that was Zeid). For a split second the class giggled.
“Fair enough,” the lecturer said, smiling. “Let me ask you another question then: how many of you read a text-book for university subjects?” Nobody raised a hand.
“See,” the lecturer continued. “This is how technologies changed the world. It changed the way people learn new information, use services, do business and even earn a living.”

I thought to myself “What a great motivation to study this subject.” Unlike most of other University teachers, our teacher on E-government has extensive experience working at a REAL company. So, he knows a thing or two about what is happening outside the Uni campus. I wish all the teachers were able to motivate students to study their subject in this way.

Indeed, the way we learn new material has changed dramatically over the last decade. I remember when I was a kid, my older cousin used to sit in his room at his desk with several books and copybooks scattered around his table. He would say “I am preparing for an exam. Get outta here!” His table looked like a huge unorganized mess of papers and stationaries.

Interestingly, I cannot recall him using any piece of electronics for studies (well, maybe sometimes an old-school calculator), like we do nowadays. I rarely use textbooks to prepare for exams. Google is my textbook. YouTube is my ultimate tutor.

As a modern Uzbek saying goes: “Savolingni Google amakidan so’ra! [Ask it from Uncle Google. He knows everything!]”