Monday, June 27, 2011

Never Seen Days Like These

Maybe the cloud cover is beginning to loosen, even though tomorrow's weather predicts a thunderstorm.  No matter what the case, I woke up this morning to piercing sunlight and a sense of insignificance.  Or was it nervousness?  I do not really remember.  But the cause was quite simple - it is the first day of school.

No orientations, introductions, opening handouts of the sort.  Oh no, this was the first real day, full of work and confusing lessons.  Today was no different, from the long walk to class to the office hours that closed our day.

My professors, Reneta and Mark McCarthy (who prefer to be called by their first names), gave the class a very interesting overview of the class.  They covered the essentials of the hotel industry, such as occupancy rates, average daily rate and the revenue per available room, all of which deal with the profit the hotel makes, as well as variable expenses, part of the quintessential "spend money to make money" clause.

I do not remember keeping up with the time throughout our lessons and lectures.  It was quite an exhausting experience, and the ideas sort of flowed through my mind as the words flowed through the air.

Another interesting thing is that the class is very enthusiastic when it comes to asking questions.  So much so that the lecture had to be rushed at certain parts, which did not really impede on the content that was being passed on.

At the end of the day, I was placed in a group, consisting of my fellow students Andrew Zhou, Daryna Deedee Dvirna, and Pearl Schroer.  The professors gave us our assignments and sent us off to our mandatory office hours, which were longer than I had thought.

To be quite honest, I was really not expecting to be this exhausted at the end of the day.  Furthermore, I do not think I have felt this sort of nervous fear/excitement before.  Maybe it is because of the first day, maybe because of the interesting material, maybe because I am just doing something or maybe, something else.  I just  want to find out.

Succeeding on the First Day of Class is No Easy Task

I have never had such a demanding first day of class in my life.

In elementary school, middle school, high school even, first days of class consist of not much more than receiving syllabi and reuniting with one’s peers. Not so in Hotel Operations Management. Of course, we did participate in ice breaker activities today, but only for a tiny portion out of the school day.

During the course of our first day, Hotelies discussed some of the brands and business models of the major players in the industry, including the Four Seasons, Marriot, Hilton, Starwood, Hyatt, Fairmont, International Hotel Groups and Accor, among others. I was intimidated by how much the other students knew about the different hotel companies and their brands. We discussed the benefits and drawbacks of exclusively managing hotels instead of owning them, and the benefits and drawbacks of franchising. We learned the difference between income, revenue (top line), and expenses.

We learned how to calculate Revenue per available room (RevPAR) and Average Daily Revenue (ADR), and also how to differentiate between the different types of hotels: luxury, upper upscale, upper scale, upper midscale, midscale, economy and budget. Corporate structure and its different positions were also covered.

After 3 hours of lecture followed by an hour and a half of lunch, we headed back to the classroom for three more hours before we had a three hour break for eating dinner and resting. After that, we attended mandatory lab hours from 7 to 9 PM, which is when we read about the history of the hotel business and practiced calculating RevPAR, ADR, and occupancy percentages. Professor Mark McCarthy, who also goes by his first name, briefly showed us how to use Microsoft Excel to organize and calculate the same problems instead of using a calculator.

In short, it was an incredibly intense first day. Anyone who said this class was “rigorous” was 110% correct. I know this class will be a challenge. It already is a challenge for me. I found many of the business concepts covered today to be difficult to understand. I’ll have to do some extra studying tonight just so I can keep up. (It’s the first day!) But that is also what makes the course exciting, and so, I am confident that I won’t be having any trouble waking up bright and early tomorrow morning.

Definitely Not "Summer Camp"

There’s just something about Mondays.

Well actually, our first day as Hotelies was alright, especially considering this is probably the one night that we aren’t completely loaded with schoolwork. The class seems pretty intense and that’s not just referring to the hours we’re working. It’s going to be a big challenge; my advice to future ILC students, is to pick a program you’re really passionate about.

It’s so amazing that a lot of the students know so much about the hotel industry. This is class filled with remarkably talented people, a place where no one is afraid to ask questions. It tells me that I really have to step it up to have a shot at being successful here.

We definitely come from a huge variety of different backgrounds, and everyone has their own unique set of skills. This one kid I sat near was a wizard with Excel. I’ve always been a fan of the calculator, and never imagined how easily Excel could calculate, formulate, organize, and input data equations all at once with a click of a button.

There is just so much I have to learn and so much potential for learning in this environment. Mark and Reneta McCarthy are incredibly engaging professors, and students hang on to their every word. Plus, the to-do list is never-ending, so I know I’ll never be bored taking the Hotel Operations and Management course.

I was not expecting that I would enjoy office hours so much. It’s really more like a place for after-class studying in the company of your peers. There are still assignments to complete and reading to be done, but in good company, time passes quickly, and I never feel like I’m going it alone. The resources and outside insight available will be a big help, and of course, eighty three minds are better than one.

Well, it is that time. Midnight is my cue to study for the first quiz tomorrow on calculating ADR and RevPAR (definitely some new words to add to my vocabulary) in relation to occupancy, and start prepping for that presentation on Interstate Hotels & Resorts, a corporation I know next to nothing about. But, I told my group mates that I was willing to learn. By the way, they are an awesome, hilarious group of people, and I cannot wait for all our adventures.

The "Best Eastern" Hotel Program

Today was obviously my first day of class and like many before me, I had no idea what to expect. Only with nervous thoughts of people reminding me of the rigor, work, and time the class takes, I was both scared and excited to see what this first session will bring me. We assumed that it would be wise to get to class early, and we happened to see one of our professors walk up the staircase as we entered the building. Because we visited the place yesterday, we knew our way around and we actually had twenty minutes to spare when we arrived.

Looking into the room were name-tags neatly arranged in front of every seat. I searched high and low for mine and found it in the side of the room. After everyone began to flow into the room like a symphony of backpacks and bags, the class actually commenced. Reneta and Mark McCarthy re-introduced themselves to the class and went into orientating the students to adjust to the specific course. We got a lecture on the norms of the class and what is expected in our nuances and behaviors, how the mandatory office hours from Sunday-Friday work, and the iteration that Hotel Operations Management is certainly not anything near a summer camp.

Our first lecture revolved around what the various types of hotel companies exist (franchising, ownership, and management), brand titles and how they can make or break a hotel, and specific strategies behind rates. While the book on Four Seasons and previous research have made me comfortable with the differentiation of the three lodging activities, the McCarthys further reinforced what they represented. They also went into detail as to what the major players and brands are in the industry such as Starwood (which we had a reading assignment of), IHG, and Accor. The brands were broken down in a list representing how many hotels they owned, how many they franchised, and how many they managed. And according to the top brands, the hotel industry is a predominantly franchising market.

I also learned of valuable terms including the "bottom-line" which is your raw revenue before expenses, variable and OTAs (online travel agents e.g. Expedia and Travelocity). The distinction between rates and rooms were absolutely distinguished in the latter half of today's lecture as well. People don't sell rooms, but rates, and more often than not, the rates are associated or linked to rooms. However, hotels are sometimes willing to sell more rates than there are rooms to accomodate guests, and when this happens, it is not uncommon for hotels to "bump up" or upgrade a guest's room into something better.

During our breakaway sessions between lectures, we participated in a Champoux survey to help optimize group combinations for the course. I was considered a Persuader-Stabilizer who cares sincerely about others in his group, but when it comes to communication, he always tries to avoid a specific point and just attempts to go around it. I feel it reflects me just well as I try to be everyone's friend, but there are always people who just can't get along with me no matter how I try.

Office hours topped off the cake of this very interesting day. Because of the three-hour block between class and office hours, I absolutely felt like time was my enemy. I only really had time to eat dinner, but at least it makes everything go by fast. Office hours was a good experience as this is not only where you can do your assignments, but this is an environment in which they should get done. Reneta and Mark McCarthy go through all of the rooms to see what everyone is doing, and the TAs are more than certainly willing to share their vast knowledge to assist us when the need desires.

I have learned that a smart professor doesn't necessarily make a good professor. By no mean am I trying to put down Reneta and Mark McCarthy since I find them to be very intelligent people, but they understand their audience. They know that many of us are extremely unfamiliar with how business and economics works and they tailor their program to ensure not that everyone catches up with the latest and most advanced lessons, but that everyone catches up because the lessons are amazingly refined.

T.P.O (Taylor’s Profound Observation)

Today was the first day for class, and like most first days of class it was spent introducing the course, the structure of the course, and the students in the course. There was no Freedom and Justice lecture only a note taking lecture. I must admit I was very grateful for Professor Kramnick’s “note taking 101” lecture because I have found that the only class in high school where I fine my notes useful for studying is math and I think that is because in math we do so many example problems whereas in my other classes I just try and fill the page with my notes in artistic styles, which isn’t useful. Professor Kramnick touched on the idea that not everything he says is note worthy and that he usually gives subtle hints when he is about to say something note worthy.

After Professor Kramnick’s lecture we, the 60 Freedom and Justice students, were divided into four small discussion groups. (Joe and I happen to be in the same group because we have last names that are located relatively close to one another in the alphabet). Once we were broken into groups we met with our TA (teaching assistant). My TA is named Simon and he was born in England but is both British and Australian. I have to admit he has an amazing accent, which keeps me engaged in class not that he is boring at all. In discussion Simon had us introduce ourselves to the group and then gave an overview of what discussion was all about. He told us that we would be discussing the topics Professor Kramnick had lectured on and would be asking clarifying questions and ultimately trying to fully immerse ourselves in political thought.

Then came lunch. I finally found my burrito place. I must admit that the burritos were not amazing, nothing to write home about (even though I guess this constitutes as writing home) but nonetheless it was a burrito and I had been craving one. For people reading this who don’t know me too well I love burritos, I would say I eat burritos every day. In my house we always have burrito makings so it is a common every day snack so going without burritos for more than a day is odd for me. So I found my burrito place.

Later on we had a writing class where we were given the question: “What does Freedom mean to you?” For me this question really made me question my own definition. I had never really thought about what Freedom means; I had merely just used it in conversation and class but never had I ever been asked to define in my own words. When it came time to write down what Freedom meant to me I realized that my thoughts were mostly formed from reading George Orwell’s 1984 in my AP Lit class. I realized that the point Orwell makes through a Party slogan: “Freedom is Slavery” captured what I was thinking. I don’t want to bore you with my pessimistic views on freedom but I was happy that the first writing assignment I was giving challenged me to draw on my knowledge as a whole and form my own idea.

Off to the gym to keep in shape! Until Tomorrow, Over and Out blog readers.

Freedom and Justice begins...

Today was the first day of classes and I am pleased to say that I actually enjoyed it. The class began at 9:00 AM in what I would call a medium sized lecture hall (I will try to get a picture soon), and started off with professor Kramnick's hour and a half long lecture regarding what the course is about and how it would be run. At the end of that, we took a moment to take roll and learn where everyone was from (I can now add Israel and the Netherlands to the list of foreign children).

For the next part of the class we were broken up into four discussion groups of fifteen kids each (sixty kids in the class) and moved to different rooms around campus. Each of these groups was assigned a TA who would oversee our discussions, give us topics, and coach us through our conflicting ideas. My TA's name is Simon, and I suppose I can add Australia to the list now too, because Simon is Australian and British and has an accent that somehow molds the two together. It was funny because at first I was really trying to figure out where he was from and I kept going back and forth between Britain and Australia, depending on what word he had just said, and then it turned out he was from both.

Our discussion began instantly though, as Simon gave us our first topic: What is freedom? He broke our group of fifteen into smaller groups of four (he included himself in one of them) and we began arguing about what makes a person truly free. The definition of freedom that I came up with, despite the views of some of my group members, was that freedom is the possibility to think, act, and be as you please. I don't know how someone could argue with that, and I certainly don't know how someone could beat me in an argument against that, but a girl in my group tried nonetheless and I thought it was extremely helpful to get someone else's point of view so I could better understand the different stances that people could possibly take on this matter.

After the discussion we had a rather long lunch, and then came back to our discussion rooms for a writing session. This portion was great for me, because going into it, I thought that we were going to be taught how to write and how to think, even though we all know how to do both of those things, but instead, we were told simply to write our views on the topic at hand. Our writing did not have to be structured, and it did not have to follow any person's opinion but our own. As much as I hate to admit it, I loved picking apart other people's arguments and showing how mine was better. I feel like I had some very good points and examples and I am very excited for my TA to read it. He said that we would be revising these papers as well, so that just means that I get to make a good paper great, which I also love to do.

I really feel like I am in a college level environment here at Cornell and I feel like the children around me are truly here to learn, unlike some of the kids back home. The many views here will surely stimulate my mind and enable me to expand my own ideas on what is right and wrong in society, since that is pretty much what the course is all about. I look forward to continuing this course and hopefully it will open my mind to new opinions so that I can grow not only as a student, but as an individual.

And by the way, I did laundry for the first time last night! Just thought I should let everyone know about my astonishing accomplishment. Shout-out to Taylor Doty for helping me.

Freedom And Justice For All

The building in which my class is held is on the left.
It's only the afternoon right now, but I feel such a strong urge to blog before I forget anything about my first class and while it is still fresh on my mind that I thought I would get an early start.

We arrived bright and early at 9 AM this morning to room G76 in Goldwin-Smith hall for Professor Kramnick's first lecture. As today was the first day, we mostly just talked about what the course is going to cover, as well as niceties and just plain basic college techniques on how to take appropriate notes during his lectures. Then we broke into discussion groups. Nick and I are in the same one, led by an under-graduate student named Vijay. For the first part of the session, we mostly got to know each other as there was not much material to discuss yet.
Then we went to lunch! Here is a picture of dining in Trillium hall. We got to see all of our cohorts from the Hotel and Management program, which was nice because our schedules will not be overlapping too much from now on as they work insane hours.

The second part of our discussion session was not only very interesting but fun as well. We started with a warm-up question of "what does freedom mean to you?" We had half an hour to write about our own opinion on the topic. I personally believe that there are limits to freedom, and it is more about what do all the rules actually allow you to do rather than ultimate freedom which would to truly always do whatever you wish.

Then we had group discussions about freedom, our TA posing different situations and having us deliberate our different opinions, many of which differed but was great to consider in the whole spectrum of levels and nuances of freedom itself.
On a side note, Ithaca truly is gorges. Haha. In fact today we saw a beaver making its way downstream! Though we have been warned consistently about the dangers of going down into them and even wading in, I can still appreciate their beauty.

My College Career Just Started?

Today I was woken up by my cruel alarm clock at 7:00 A.M. and was both excited and apprehensive to attend the first college course of my life. I dragged myself out of bed and walked in a daze towards food, at the Robert Purcell Community Center. I met up with some of the ever increasing connections at Cornell, and we headed over to the Freedom and Justice course.
The class was supposed to start at 9, but to make sure we were extra early; we headed in at 8:45. When we got in there were already about 20 or so kids, out of the 60 that Professor Kramnick had said were attending, all of whom were already chatting away. Little by little the remaining students filed groggily in, and Professor Kramnick was on his way. From 9 to 10:30 he gave us a lecture covering the basics of the class, and he really stressed the importance of having fun and getting a feel for what college is like. He discussed the overarching questions in the class, such as, “Who deserves to rule?” He ended his lecture talking about all the freedom (a topic we will be covering often) of college, and to try to enjoy it. Before I knew it, the hour and a half had gone by, and we broke off into groups with our TAs.
The 60 students were all broken into groups of 15, and I headed over to a separate room with my group and TA, named Vijay. I am very glad that I have Vijay as my TA, since he obviously knows quite a bit about political thought (he’s a graduate student studying political theory). Since there was nothing to discuss about the professor’s lecture, we did a whole bunch of icebreakers, and I look forward to getting to know my section even better. This discussion section has also kept my streak of meeting people from the Middle East alive, since both a student from Israel and a student from Turkey are in my class, increasing my total to three (including my Jordanian roommate).
After a lunch break at the Trillium Dining hall, which was far and away better than the Robert Purcell Community Center’s food, we headed back to our breakout sections for our first writing workshop. We discussed the concept of freedom and what it meant to us, in a variety of situations, such as if one was free from oneself if say they were a pyromaniac and had to keep themselves in check throughout life, along with many other interesting political philosophy questions. All in all it was a great experience, and I can’t wait to hear Professor Kramnick’s next lecture.