Cheers To The Year That Was – From a ‘20J Partner

Ayesha Tahir

When my husband, Nausherwan, got the acceptance call from INSEAD in March 2019, I felt a plethora of emotions. Ecstatic, because it meant that he would get to fulfill his MBA dream, which also brought a wonderful sense of pride and a buzz of excitement through my veins.

However, at the same time, I also felt a pinch of nervousness and anxiety because it meant that I would have to take a backseat and give up my career for the next year in order to be with him, which was a bit overwhelming and brought all sorts of apprehensions in my mind.

Of course, before applying, my husband had researched incessantly about how welcoming the school is to the MBA partners and how big on partners’ involvement they claim to be. However, despite all of this, it was difficult not to harbour some apprehensions around how the year ahead would unfold for me.

However, as soon as we came here, those apprehensions quickly faded away.

Even before the official MBA kicked off, I could genuinely feel myself be a part of this well-knitted INSEAD community on our pre-MBA trip to Bali. This core group of people on the trip that included both students and partners became some of my closest friends. After all, nothing quite beats bonding around Bali’s magical waterfalls or collectively admiring its beautiful rice terraces or witnessing each other’s bouts of anxiety before mounting on the Bali Swing!

What is amazing is that this was only the beginning. As soon as I set foot on the INSEAD campus, I could just see how welcoming the school truly is towards MBA partners. Parallel to the students, we also had an exclusive Welcome Week that set in motion our own INSEAD journey – a tailor-made programme for partners with an orientation session, mixers and even a tour of the beautiful and vibrant city of Singapore.

And of course, the show does not end here. In fact, throughout the year, the Student Life team continues to support partners’ activities – be it social or educational!

You also get access to the INSEAD campus, gym, café and dining area through your very own INSEAD badge.

The Student Life team also appoints a few Partners’ Reps who help to contribute to the partner’s community by organising and communicating details around meet-ups and activities for INSEAD partners. As a Partner Rep myself in Singapore, I particularly loved getting people together, contributing to the bake sale for the Robin Hood Scholarship Campaign or even participating in National Week activities at INSEAD.

What I have learnt is that, as a partner, you can really extract as much as you want from your year.

If you truly embrace the INSEAD experience as your own, then there can never really be a dull moment! I personally never felt out of place amongst even students – to be honest, you just feel a part of this huge family that is just as invested in you as you are in them.

Being a part of a very unique and diverse circle of people, I have been left amazed by the depth of conversations I have had with INSEADers or their better halves – be it telling my own stories or listening to very captivating ones from others. I realised that despite our apparent differences, we all have the same hopes and dreams. This just helped me get to know people more, learn about their cultures and create the strongest of bonds throughout the year as a result – so much so that after the world went into a lockdown, my immediate support network comprised of the people I had only met six months ago!

In a nutshell, your INSEAD year will set the bar so high that I doubt it will ever compete with any other time in our lives.

I don’t think I would ever have experienced going on a flight with about a hundred other people I know or be on our private island set somewhere in the beautiful waters of Indonesia – if not for INSEAD. I never knew I would be this excited about Ladies’ Night every Wednesday (and even our virtual ones on Zoom as the COVID-19 crisis hit).

Now that our INSEAD journey has come to an end, I feel blessed to have accompanied my husband this year, to have shared his dream and to have lived it to the absolute fullest. I can safely agree with the inaugural words spoken by the INSEAD Dean during Welcome Week that these moments will definitely rank as the most unforgettable ones of my life.