5 February 2015

Life in Los Angeles: Week 2 of my Industry Placement Program

Eric Xu is an undergraduate student at the University of Sydney Business School. He is currently in the United States as part of the Los Angeles Placement Program, offered by the Business School in partnership with the United States Studies Centre.

We’re two weeks into the program and the time has simply disappeared. Our days and nights have been jam packed, so I’m writing this on the bus to uni tonight (or college, if you’re American).

Buses are kind of a menagerie of the weird and wonderful, with surprisingly eloquent individuals wearing fox skin hats on a hot day and performing monologues at the back of the bus, ranting about the disparity between the rich and poor; to the older man wearing 3-D glasses for sunnies. But hey, we’re in LA and who knows, maybe 6-D is the next big thing.

The program has been exhausting, but I’m having the time of my life. Even when I get up in the morning, way too groggy to do anything but just sit there gormless, I pinch myself to remember that I’m here studying and working in the City of Angels. It’s an exhilarating thought, and my biggest fear is getting complacent and not making the most of my time here.

I’ve been trying therefore to travel as much as possible, and experience as much of America as I can. I’m not going to bore you with all the details of the two weeks travelling around America with my friends on the program, Nicola, Dan and Edison after my trip to Chicago, but suffice it to say, we had an awesome time. We explored New York, rode out a couple of ups and downs at Disneyworld, nerded it out at Harry Potter World in Universal Studios, celebrated New Years in San Francisco, and drove down to LA. It was so intense, but so much fun. After that, we got straight into the swing of things with our first class at UCLA.

On our way to bike the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco

Literally soaking up the Brooklyn Bridge in New York

Most of our week is pretty structured, with work from Monday to Thursday, and class three nights a week. On Monday nights, Heather takes us through what we need to do for our research assignment, so it’s a good chance to hang out with the others and catch up on all that's happening.

Our Tuesday and Wednesday classes are run by professors at UCLA, who teach us about doing business in the US and leadership communication strategies. Although they sound fluffy, the classes here are actually really interesting, as they’re so different to those at home. Run akin to seminars, there’s about 30-40 people per class, so it’s much more interactive and we get cold called all the time.

I’m working with two other students, Lisa and Nathan, at Cappello Capital, a boutique investment bank based right across the road from the Santa Monica beach and a five minute walk from the pier. The view from the office is amazing, sometimes it’s hard not to get distracted when we’re trying to learn financial modelling or build lists of potential strategic partners for various transactions. We sit at the Australia desk, surrounded by buckets of Vegemite and boomerangs. Everyone here is cool; they’re fascinated with anything “Awwssie”, especially when we tell them about drop bears and riding kangaroos to school. Weird accents and even stranger words are a constant source of banter with the guys there, so we broaden our accents and turn up the bogan sometimes.

The view from the board room

I’m living with three other boys, which is great. The four of us are generally having a good time. In saying that, however, our place looks quite similar to what it looked like when we first moved in, actually, with a bare cupboards and an empty fridge.

However, we’ve made some changes around the place; stocking the pantry with a pack of chips, microwavable popcorn and some UCLA Jell-O moulds (how do these even exist?!). Just the essentials really. Oh, we also bought brown rice and whole grain spaghetti to stay somewhat health conscious.

Well, that’s entry two of Eric’s not so wise words: Get organised. There’s a ton of work coming up and I’ve been remiss in keeping on top of things, so I'll learn from my mistakes and get with the program.

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