Vancouver, Canada

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

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There's no better word to describe the past semester in school. The speed, the intensity, and the constant running-around-like-a-headless-and-really-sleep-deprived-chicken; there was always so much happening all at once, and I don't think my physical state of mind could quite keep up with the mental one. Yet, I wouldn't have it any other way. 

Looking back, this semester was really memorable. There is so much to be thankful for (hindsight is such a powerful thing haha), but I shall save that for another post. This one, though, is a long-overdue piece from March and it encapsulates one of the key highlights of the semester that brought me fulfillment and personal growth. 

With a whole lot of luck, I found myself in a team with three seniors from biz school, put together to participate in the Sauder Summit Global Case Competition, organized by the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver, Canada, from 3-9 March. This was my first international case competition and I was beyond excited to be given the opportunity to represent the school and to challenge myself in this manner. And the travel - oh boy, the travelling! I've never been to Canada or anywhere near that part of the world so this was quite exciting for me. 

I won't be delving into the competition details in depth but the entire journey, right from preparation, was a really steep learning curve for me - having to learn case-cracking skills from ground zero and having to get over my fear of impromptu public speaking was quite a challenge - I've always been cool with presentations but I've actually never gone without a script or copious amounts of preparation. Now, I can safely say that I'm comfortable doing so. Anyhow, I felt that the two five-hour cases were a nice warm-up for the final, long case. 

Receiving feedback from the judges following our second case presentation.

Can I just say that the taste of Japadog (this Japanese-influenced hotdog chain) serves as such an amazing respite in the middle of a 24-hour case cracking period especially when I got mentally tired. And despite the fatigue and time pressure, it was still so much fun. I'm really appreciative of the team - thank you so much for taking me under your wings, giving me so much encouragement and imparting your knowledge and skills - I'm blessed beyond measure. 

This was when they announced  that we made it to the finals - four teams out of a total of twelve. 

At the point when this photo was taken, all four of us have been up for forty hours straight without sleep - and were about to rush to the airport to catch a long-haul flight. 

Right, now that we've gotten the whole competition bit out of the way, let's move on to the leisurely moments of the trip, which I will be recapping in chronological order, mostly with the help of photos. 

The madness started even before we reached Vancouver. Our seven hour layover at Manila airport in the Philippines deserves its own story airtime but to sum it all up without giving too much away: intermittent Wifi signals (sorry, boys), overbooking scares, really sad and miserable hot dog and chicken pau dinners, and the best and most pleasant way to cap off the whole experience. We were definitely relieved to reach the Vancouver airport in the end - where we were greeted by our ambassadors and yummy donut holes from Tim Hortons. 

After checking into our hotel, we made a late night team supper dash to Chipotle downtown. Warm Mexican burritos and tortilla chips, coupled with lighthearted conversation - I was feeling pretty toasty that chilly night. 

The next morning (3 March) was also spent with the team as the competition programme only started in the evening. We headed downtown to do a little eatin' and explorin'. 

First stop: Brunch at Joe Fortes Seafood and Chop House. 

Lobster roll was pretty mediocre - I enjoyed the buttery and lightly toasted brioche buns though. And the fried oysters were amazing (for someone who steers clear from oysters, that's saying something). 

Soaking up the sights and sounds along the Vancouver streets. 

Such beautiful weather - clear skies, sunlight and a chilly breeze.

Second stop: Coffee at Nemesis Coffee. 

The ambiance here was really chill - we sat beside a tall glass window and I people-watched as we talked. 

This was the view from Nemesis. 

Third and final stop: Ice cream at Bella Gelateria.

This place is apparently super popular, and we saw a whole ton of accolades and media articles framed and hanged up around the store. There was also a constant stream of people coming in to get themselves a cone while we were there. However, I found the ice cream to be of good, but unexceptional, quality. It's insanely overpriced to boot. 

We then headed back to the hotel to wash up before the event started in the evening. There was a pub night at The Morrissey Pub where we enjoyed burgers and beer in a really dark environment. The next morning (4 March), we had a welcome breakfast of pancakes at De Dutch before making our way to Mt. Seymour for snowshoeing. 

The waterfront was stunning. 

Huddling together for warmth - it was freezing. This was after the snowshoeing activity was over, where we got to warm up with cups of hot chocolate. 

My first time seeing snow! What a momentous occasion heh. 

In the evening, we headed to UBC for the Welcome Reception (yes, the competition was finally starting for real). The next two days were occupied by the preliminary case rounds, which culminated in a party at the Celebrities Night Club at the end of the second night. And the following day was left free for teams to explore the city together with their international ambassadors, and also to rest up for the 24-hour case. 

We decided to grab brunch from Cafe Medina, and were surprised to find the place so crowded on a weekday morning. Is this the way to live life - to take a break on weekdays just to slow down, take a step back, and savour brunch with a bunch of close friends? Count me in. 

I ordered a really carnivorous-looking dish - and regretted it. Even for someone who loves meat, this was a slight overkill. 

With our bellies filled, we took a bus up to the Capilano Suspension Bridge. While I was underwhelmed by the attraction - "the bridge" - itself, I found myself completely in awe at the beauty of nature. I was definitely better able to appreciate the outdoors when the weather isn't stuffily humid and hot, as in Singapore. The discomfort of my body reacting to the heat by sweating and flaring up sometimes takes away from the full experience of admiring little botanical wonders. This was a wonderful place to relax and take in the sights. 

Immersed in a game of checkers outside the souvenir shop. 

Hey there, stranger-with-the-cowboy-hat. 

Hedwig, is that you?  

Aboriginal influences. 

 Hi, kiddo. 

We had dinner at a Japanese restaurant called Guu before heading back to the hotel for an early night. Then came the 24-hour case the next morning, and presentations the following morning. In between presentations and the announcement of results, we decided to explore UBC. What a breathtakingly gorgeous campus - I'm honestly not sure if the weather contributed to my forming this impression but the place was simply stunning to me. 

Apparently the UBC campus is always used as a location for movies, and I can totally see why. 

Awards Gala at the Sheraton Wall Center to end off the Sauder Summit 2018 experience. 

Looking back, it does seem surreal that I skipped a week of school in the middle of the term for such an enriching experience. Just within one week, I found myself being surrounded by and interacting with a whole bunch of talented business students from around the world, I found myself constantly stimulated and made to step out of my comfort zone, and I found myself having a whole lot of fun taking in all the new sights and sounds.

Above all, I am immensely humbled to be a part of this team. Thank you guys for making my first international case competition such a memorable one. 
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