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Please notice this was first posted in the period 2012-2014 and can be outdated

At the beginning of the academic year we had a bonding trip to Hua Hin, where the main goal was to get to get drunk and get to know the people who will occupy the same classroom during the coming year a bit better. While some of the students of the class of 2011 were present during that trip, which is not strange since they co-organized the trip, we never had a good chance to get to truly know them better. To change this there will be another bonding trip coming up at the end of this month where both the classes of 2011 and 2012 will participate. To make the most of this bonding trip the activities leading up to this trip already started weeks ago.

Sasin assassin

All students of the classes of 2011 and 2012 are divided, maybe randomly maybe not, in 6 teams consisting of about 12 people from the 2011 class and 12 people from the 2012 class. As a team we have to fulfill some assignments, with which we can earn points, which will result in a ranking of the teams. The winning team will have first pick which CSR activity to do during the trip, the runner up second choice, etc. For once I was positively surprised when they explained the games, even though the rules of the games seemed to change a little in the first few days if I compare the interpretation of the rules people walked away with from the initial announcement with the rules that were days later posted on Facebook.

An overview of the assignments to complete to earn point for the bonding trip CSR activity

In general there can be points earned in two different ways; on one hand we need to make group pictures at certain spots in Bangkok where we get one point for each team member visible in the picture, plus some opportunities to earn bonus points, and on the other hand there is an assassins game running for a week where we can kill each other in the hallways to earn points.

For the group pictures there are three assignments; one is to take a picture at a certain dessert place on Khao San road with 5 different desserts in the picture. This picture was rather easy to make since KSR is close to Sasin and not many people object to eating desserts. The group I was part of improvised that same day the solution for the second assignment, where we have to take group pictures with 5 living animals, by taking a picture with a soi dog on campus, a picture with a cat outside the dessert place on KSR, and 3 pictures with living sea animals at the place we went to next for seafood. The third and final assignment was to go to the movies with the whole group, and make a picture with all the movie tickets attached to each other. Due to other responsibilities I was unable to attend that part (costing my team one point) but I heard not that many groups took this assignment too serious anyways: some groups bought tickets for different movies at once so the tickets are still attached together but you don’t have to watch the movie together, while other groups just bought 20 tickets for the picture and then all went their own way not caring about the wasted 140 baht for a movie ticket they didn’t use.

The Sasin dog, who always hangs around the entrance of the building, was our first target for a picture with a living animal.

The assassin game is a rather original game I had never heard of before; apparently some Sasin students who went on exchange before learned about this game at another university and now brought it to Bangkok. In this game each group gets a list of names of people they can kill and one clothes peg. The point of the game is to find one of your targets and put the clothes peg on their clothes which kills that person. To stop possible discussions you are obliged to provide proof of your kill by taking a picture of the result or just videotaping the action with your mobile phone. Once you are killed you cannot kill others anymore and everybody is only allowed to kill one person from the target list. To make sure the game does not disrupt any of the classes there are some rules about where you can kill others and where not, which comes in essence down to that you are only allowed to kill in the hallways or the common room. Near the common room is also the score board where you can follow who killed who and who is still alive. For each survivor a team gets 1 point, for each dead team member one point is subtracted, and for each kill your team earns 2 points.

The scoreboard for the assassins game – when you kill somebody you cross out their name.

On Monday the 6thof August the end results were revealed on Facebook and my group, group 1, came in third mostly due to a disappointing score in the assassins game. Of course we did not went down without a fight and after whining and complaining about the scores, mostly done by me, the mistakes were spotted and due credit was giving for our killings putting us in the second position.

It is clear every group, except one, did their best on playing the games in the past weeks.

Now that the scores are in, each group can in turn decide on which of the CSR activity they want to do during one day of the bonding trip in Khao Yai. In general there are two types of CSR activities available, one is spending a couple of hours with school children; entertain them, teach them something, and try to keep them quiet, and the other is to revamp part of the school they go to.

An overview of the available activities and the preferences of each group.

To my surprise the learning activities were not the most popular with the ladies in our group, which I expected because kids are always cuuuuuute, so now we are supposed to do some revamp activities during the Khao Yai trip. Let’s see if we can get anything done in the limited time of 3 hours we have to do our stuff in that school.

Please notice this was first posted in the period 2012-2014 and can be outdated

Every normal human being knows that accounting is quite boring; even Professor Mark Finn, who has come over from Kellogg, dares to admit that at the beginning of the course “Accounting for Decision Making”, which he himself teaches. So instead of going through all the similarities and differences of US GAAP and IFRS he tries to make it more fun by just giving us the big picture and connecting it to real-life situations like newspaper articles and big accounting scandals. And if you already have a background in accounting you would even notice he has a sense of humor that is probably going lost on the majority of people at an average cocktail party.

One of the answer options was that they see him as a liability. If you don’t get the joke it might be time to learn the basics of accounting, or watch more soccer.

Unlike the course “Microeconomic Analysis” by Professor Richard Kihlstrom  which we also had this first hexamester at Sasin, the grading for this course is divided into several parts. Of course there is an exam at the end of the course (which weights 55% of the total grade), closed book this time, but during the weeks leading to this exam we are also supposed to do multiple choice quizzes online (weighting 10%), do a group assignment where we take an actual look at the annual report of GMM Grammy (weighting 25%), and participate in class when questions are being asked (for the final 10% of the grade). This participation part is just added to keep people alive during class I suppose, and Professor Finn never made it a secret he will try to give everybody a decent shot at getting this 10%.

Perfect score; sir, you are a genius (or your classmates are). But, as you can see, we are allowed to discuss the quiz with each other before sending in our answers.

While the quizzes we made during the course were pretty hard for the people who have never done any accounting before, I doubt if anybody scored very low, or even mediocre, on these quizzes. Fact is that there are several people in the Sasin MBA class of 2012 who have extensive working experience in accounting and we have a Facebook page where all classmates have access to. Combine these two facts and you can image that the average score for the quizzes would be somewhere near 95% with a standard deviation of only a couple of percent. Let me point out, just to be sure, that the rules for making the quizzes set out by Professor Finn state that it is allowed to conspire and discuss the questions with each other.

While you might expect a free-rider problem when answers are shared this way, I guess the people who did not put in the time to understand which answer is the correct one to each question would find themselves in trouble later on because the final exam, which counts for 55% of your final grade, was totally based on the quizzes made during the course. This means that some of the numbers in the questions were changed to make sure that people did not learn the answers by heart, but besides that it covered the same subjects, in the same way, with the same techniques.

Finally there was the group assignment, which had to be done in groups of 5, where we had to go through the annual report of GMM Grammy and answers a total of 13 questions about the balance sheet, statement of cash flows, profit and loss account, and the notes at the end of the annual report. In this case no sharing was allowed between groups but the questions were not so hard that we experienced real trouble finding the correct answers. Looking back I guess the aim of this exercise was to show that even though we did a lot of things during class, the things can also be applied in real life.

While this course was fun to follow and it was good to go over the concepts again, there was one big thing missing that was mentioned in the name of the course: the decision making. So we now know how to calculate the D/E-ratio of a company, how the type of leasing has an influence on many ratios, and how to use the indirect method to come to the cash flow of operations, but we still have no idea how to use this to make an actual decision. Between what range should a D/E-ratio be? Is a higher cash flow from operations always better than a lower? What does the method of leasing chosen by a company say about that company? While these questions are nearly impossible to answer generically, it would have been nice if the focus would have been more on the decision making part instead of just on the accounting. They could of course also just chose to drop the “for decision making” from the name of the course and then I would have nothing to complain (it reminds me of the course “Management Analysis” we had earlier this year where the name of the course also did not cover the content of the course).

Please notice this was first posted in the period 2012-2014 and can be outdated

Most universities divide their academic year in two parts, and call each part a semester, or divide it into 4 parts, and call each part a quarter. At Sasin it works differently; we have quarters but there are only three of them which makes me wonder why they call it a quarter and not a trimester. And to make it even stranger, they divide each of the three quarters into 2 parts resulting in an academic year divided in 6 parts – each part should then be called a hexamester?

The main reason to have the courses over a shorter period of time, more intensively, is that many professors are being flown in to teach at Sasin and even though they probably enjoy a trip to Asia every year, I doubt they would want to spend months in a row here away from home and family. Last hexamester two professors were flown in from the US to teach us two different courses; one was Professor Richard Kihlstrom from Wharton who gives the course “Microeconomic Analysis”.

Professor Kihlstrom teaching at Sasin

During the first class Professor Kihlstrom  extensively explained what we could expect the coming weeks and the schedule did not look too demanding to me. But he also gave good reason for the seemingly low pace by asking about the background of the class by show of hands. It appears only about 30% of the people are familiar with, at least, the basics of microeconomics, but an even larger group, about 40% of the people in the class, has never done anything related to supply and demand curves for as far as they can remember. The advantage of this diversity is that we, as a class, are able to hear many totally different points of view in group discussions, as soon as everybody starts participating actively at least, from people with totally different backgrounds, but the disadvantage is that courses in the first year will be very low pace and everything needs to be explained from the beginning.

That many colors in one graph? This is probably not made by a man.

During the classes we cover perfect competition, monopolies, Cournot-Nash equilibriums, and demand and supply curves. Since Professor Kihlstrom is from an older generation the concepts are explained with the help of an old-fashioned overhead projector – it surprised me Sasin still has these things available – instead of a slick Powerpoint presentation. In one of the sheets he even showed a demand curve for VCRs but when he noticed the blank faces in the classroom he started by explaining what VCRs are.

While we mostly used Excel during the exam, the lectures were totally covered by overhead projector.

For the course we had the same book as we used partly for the class of Management Analysis by Brett Saraniti, but looking back there has never been the necessity to open the book; everything you need to know is available in the thumbs thick handout and available on blackboard.

The exam for the course Microeconomic Analysis is open book, but during the exam I did not even had the urge to open a book to find something I was unable to remember. I didn’t even bring any books into the exam room since the exam mainly consists of finding equilibriums in different market situations and is therefore mostly a test if you can create adjusted supply and demand tables and decide on the actions each participant should take. Luckily we were allowed to use a laptop with Excel, but on the other hand there was no printer available so we had to manually copy each applicable table on the exam booklet when answering a question.

All the Excel models can be made before the exam, so all that is left during the exam is to enter the prices and quantities in there and interpreting the results

For future classes taking this course at Sasin I can recommend to start looking at past exams early so you know what is being expected from you on the exam and you know what to focus on. Besides the Excel spreadsheets and shortcuts to finish each question on time it is also important to understand the concepts behind what you are doing because this was the first exam where I was positively surprised by a question where we were asked to analyze a situation not earlier discussed during a lecture or in a previous exam. The question surprised more people around me, less positively though, because many hands were raised to ask the professor to come over to explain what he was asking here exactly.

Please notice this was first posted in the period 2012-2014 and can be outdated

Doing an MBA can come at a high cost, especially when you make long days filled with lectures, sit with your nose in the books till the sun goes down, and party all night long. To make sure most students survive those 2 hard years, Sasin has a recreation center on the premises where you can go for a workout every now and then.

The pool around noon: totally empty. It looks exactly the same in the morning and late afternoon, only the lightfall from the sun will change.

Sasin is one of the few universities where they have a private pool for the MBA and EMBA class, and the climate in Thailand invites for a refreshing dive in the water at least two times a day. So you would expect lots of people in the water at every hour: in the early morning for a wake-up swim and in the afternoon to cool down after a heated debate in the classroom about management styles or economics.

Nothing is further from the truth though; at the beginning of the year I used to go for a swim in the early morning, before class starts, and that was a relatively busy time with a total of about 3 people swimming at the same time. Later on I became too lazy to get up that early, and my stamina increased enough to be able to swim longer than 30 minutes, so I decided to move my swimming time to the afternoon so I could stay in for an hour without being in a hurry. And I am always the sole occupant of the pool at that time.

One morning I arrived at 7AM and was not the first one in the pool; a cute little frog just jumped in when I wanted to jump in. But normally you can have the pool for yourself.

I guess there are four reasons why not many people make use of the pool at Sasin: first of all not everybody is willing to be less than fully clothed in front of other people they might not know so well. Second, not everybody is interested in exercising. With average temperatures of above 25 degrees all day and night long exercise might result in sweating and that is not everybody’s cup of tea. Thirdly, most people have parents so rich that if they want to do some sports they don’t have to do it at Sasin; they just build their own pool or gym and hire a private trainer. Finally, the pool is getting exposure to the sun during the day meaning you might get a dark skin if you spent a lot of time in the pool. While I don’t mind my back getting darker every week while my ass stays white as milk – it is not allowed to go in without trunks on – the average Thai probably would mind.

Here you can lift weights and make as much noise as you want when doing it, you will not disturb anyone.

Running with a nice view over the empty swimming pool.

Also the small gym, which can be used for the mere cost of only 30 baht, the same price as the pool (you will get a towel for that money to use), is normally totally abandoned. But I must say that the gym does not really invite for a good workout, especially not when there are large, brand spanking new, well-cooled, and well maintained gyms available all around Bangkok. The one thing that is up to par at the Sasin recreation center, besides the swimming pool, is the sauna. Unlike the lousy sauna I used to use when I trained at the gym in Nakhon Ratchasima, this sauna is able to reach such a heat that it is not necessary to do squats in the sauna while wearing a sauna-suit to get the sweat going.

For when Thailand is not hot enough for you yet.

The only thing they forgot when building this sauna is that a sauna should be a complete relaxing experience, and not just a little wooding cabin with a heater. The sauna itself is perfect: hot, large, and relaxing, but there is no cold shower available to cool down after 15 minutes of Finnish hell, nor is there a place to sit down and relax before going in for a second round. So here I normally improvise by taking a luke-warm shower right after the sauna after which I try to get to the Sasin library as soon as possible to relax, since it is always nice and cold there.

Please notice this was first posted in the period 2012-2014 and can be outdated

A couple of weeks ago we got an invitation in our mailbox for the upcoming graduation party for the class of 2010. The name of the class may sound strange, but at Sasin they have a different way of counting and the class of 2010 is the class that starts in 2010, and not the one that graduates in 2010, otherwise the party would be more of a reunion party than a graduation party.

The invitation for the Sasin graduation night for the class of 2010.

The location for the party looked very promising, a 5-star hotel in the center of Bangkok, but unfortunately we had to buy an entrance ticket for about 1,500 baht so again, just as in Hua Hin, we paid for the luxurious atmosphere ourselves. The class of 2011 organized this party with the hopes we will do the same for them next year, when – and if – they graduate, and they even added a theme to the gala to make sure it would become a night to remember. As I later learned the theme was selected in typical Thai democratic style where everybody had the opportunity to vote on the nominated themes, and the theme that was eventually adopted as the official party theme was neither the one that won the vote nor was a close runner-up.

Be over the top; just dress up as a gold digger and make this a real themed party! From now on I know to read this as “wear a suit”.

A themed party is only fun when people take a real effort to comply with the theme, and the class of 2011 made clear to us that they were expecting just that from us. With a theme of gold-digger you can go a lot of ways, from wearing anything gold and shiny to taking “gold-digger” literally and dressing up in a coverall with a pick-axe. I guess this theme would be rather easy for the ladies, since they all already own something gold and shiny or are more than willing to go shopping for it, but for the guys it might be a bit harder since the average straight man does not have a shiny section of shirts and pants in his closet that he can wear outside the bedroom. Here it was time to let my imagination go a little bit, so I just decided to go as a “gold nugget” by wearing everything in yellow.

Since all my golden clothes were at the drycleaners, I opted for a yellow outfit in the spirit of “I am dressed as a gold nugget”.

When going to the party, completely dressed up, by public transport, I got a number of stares from people that made me a bit uncomfortable. Most people probably were in doubt if I am really dressed up for a party or if I am just flamboyantly gay, and one older lady even approached me near the hotel to point out to me that she liked how I was dressed and that I was wearing everything in yellow. Thanks, I hadn’t noticed that myself yet.

When I arrived at the hotel, around 6:20PM, the first disappointment came when I noticed I was one of the first people there. The invitation clearly said it would start at 6PM but the ballroom did not open till 7PM. They probably took the fact that Thais are often late for appointments into their calculations and for the ones who are more punctual it is just bad luck.

The second disappointment came when I started to notice that not everybody had taken the “dressing-up-over-the-top” so seriously. While most ladies did wear something yellow or gold, most guys just wore a suit; some with a yellow tie but some had not even taken that effort. In total there were maybe 15 out of the 250 guests dressed up.

Sasin MBA class of 2012; with a gold nugget in the front

To summarize the evening I would say that the food was not impressive, the photo slideshow of 12 minutes was utterly boring since we knew absolutely nobody in any of those 1200 pictures that passed by, and the speeches and performances were ruined by a sound system that had trouble amplifying complete sentences. There were some opportunities to take pictures of oneself and each other in the hallway though, something every Thai seemed to enjoy to the max. The party ended with live performances of the student band but even the free alcohol being served could not cover up the sound system raping every tonal cord. Against midnight people left the premises in smaller groups to find other clubs and bars for the afterparty, and that is how I ended up in a nice gentleman’s club all dressed in yellow.

Cost savings: instead of letting everyone grab their own raw fish there was a guy cutting it for us freshly. Extra cost to hire the guy for an evening: 1,000 baht. Savings due to small portions and a long line of people waiting: 100,000 baht.

Party location. Shitty sound system is included in the rent.

Live band performance at the end of the evening.

Next year the class of 2012 will be in control of this party, so hopefully it will be even more fun that evening.