Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Holiday Season

And then Thanksgiving came, I had final exams, the exams were over and my parents arrived in DC. I still can't believe how fast this semester has passed. Let me give an overview of what you've missed the past month while I was too busy (or too lazy) to update my blog.
Thanksgiving with my friend Jasper in Boston was a lot of fun. While most Americans have stuffed turkey on the last Thursday of November, the vegetarians can fill their stomach with something called Tofurkey (yes, a tofy-immitation of turkey, even though I'm sure it doesn't get close). And while being in Boston, of course I had to go to a Boston Celtics game. Quite a difference, to go from the last team in the Eastern Conference (the Washington Wizards) to the number one - oh, and of course they won the game.
Another highlight of that trip was a visit to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, arguably the best science and technology institute on the planet, where Jasper is getting his PhD at the moment. Just imagine, being paid to continue being a student, while you can play around with the best research equipment you can get. It showed that Jasper was having a lot of fun there, and I was happy to contribute to his very important research by making sure that his cells would not grow out of their petri-dishes.
Back in DC I had to sort of focus on my final exams that would start soon, but I was also setting up a new Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) team at the George Washington University. I managed to get it officially recognized by the Student Activity Center, so that took me some time as well. SIFE is basically a student organization that stimulates entrepreneurship through the transfer of knowledge and in cooperation with the business community. We still have to make sure that the business community wants to cooperate with us, but I'm sure we'll get some back-up sooner or later. Right now we've got nine students and a faculty member devoting their time to SIFE GWU, but from next semester I hope to increase that number to 20 or 30.
The last couple of weeks I could also attend some interesting events. It was especially interesting to hear Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google, announce his proposals for the Obama administration regarding technological innovation. Not surprisingly, he pressed for the expansion of the broadband network so that all Americans could take part in the www-community (and become his clients). The similar view was repeated later at the Google office during a talk about technological innovation through information technology, full coverage of which can be seen on YouTube.
Another talk hosted by the Washington International Trade Association featured Bernard Hoekman (yes, a Dutchy), the head of the International Trade department of the World Bank. According to him, international trade will see a dramatic decline in the short run (the first decline since 1982, as you probably know), but will increase again in one or two years. And developing countries are not in such big trouble because they weren't integrated in the international financial system anyway. Not having much money can turn out to have some advantages after all. Oh, and the CEO of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, Mr. Robert Mosbacher Jr. honoured the Consulting Club of GW with a visit and talked about OPIC in an informal setting. Quite amazing to hear how OPIC had funded a power-plant on the Gaza strip and had to contact Israeli defense forces to prevent it from being bombed to boulders.
And in the meanwhile I had to make sure that I would pass my exams. As during the mid-terms, many students showed great dedication, forming study-groups, doing exams from previous years, solving problems to practice etc. so there was no lack of study-opportunities. It helped that I had one take-home exam and one exam that would contain 4 questions of a list of 30 that was announced beforehand. For my econ-classes (Econometrics, Trade Theory and History of Trade System) this resulted in an A-, A- and A (that's not that bad for American standards). I'm still waiting for the results of my Arabic class, but I'm not worried about that.
So what's up next? First of all, I'm going to enjoy the holidays with my parents and sister. They should all have arrived by now, but the plane that should have taken Marieke from Berlin to London seemed to have some engine failure (luckily they noticed before take-off) so she's spending the night in London and will arrive in DC tomorrow. I'm sure we'll have a great time all the same.