Do Not Focus on Academics – Trust Me.

Julian Huegl

My active period at INSEAD is over. After an amazing graduation last week, it is time to pack up my things, take a “one last time” tour through Fontainebleau and then jump into the car and drive back into the future (or at least back to Germany).

INSEAD is just so difficult to describe and even more difficult to sum up.I had the most surreal and amazing experiences with the probably most exciting group of people I will ever have in such a short time frame. I learned incredible things and gained amazing insights from a group of super smart and super caring people from all corners of the earth. I can only say thank you to everyone and I cannot wait to meeting again in the not so distant future.

But now, I want to leave you all with some final thoughts, a “one more thing” (although I for sure did not invent the iPhone), a personal, unpolished and hopefully as honest as possible reflection.

On Thursday, I was awarded the “Henry Ford II Prize” for the highest GPA of the class. I do not want to lie; I was incredibly honoured for the recognition that I had the best grades among those amazing and highly talented students. I was especially touched that people congratulated me the whole evening (and until 5am in the next morning during our goodbye party) and said how happy they were that I won the prize as I participated in activities, parties, trips and did not bury myself in the library (which I in fact have not set foot in during my year at INSEAD). But still, I think I sacrificed some of the excitement of INSEAD because I focused too much on the academics.

I never dreamt that I could be on top of the class; my motivation for academic performance was in the beginning simply fear.

I completed my undergraduate degree in Engineering at ETH Zurich and witnessed very stressful exam periods. I remember that my mother greeted me with “you look like a corpse” when I first came home after the exams. It was a terrifying experience to know that about 50% of the class will simply fail the exams and will not be able to continue studying. I studied like a maniac in order to prevent this.

At INSEAD, I had that feeling again in the beginning. I did not believe people who said “oh well, everyone will pass, do not worry”. I saw these intelligent people around me and often felt that I must be able to master everything to pass this test. And so I fell back into my old rhythm in the week before the exams in the first period. I slept less, I did not eat properly, I felt bad. I started all exams with a stomach ache and shaking hands; I hated it.

The Financial Accounting Cheat Sheet of a maniac
My infamous handwritten Accounting cheat sheet...

After the results of the exams, I could not believe my eyes, I was more than one standard deviation above the average. It was all unnecessary stress. It took me another week or so to calm down. I made it to the Africa Week party about three days before the exams of the second period and I stayed to the end. Two months earlier, I would not have left my apartment to get a calm dinner at that point in time.

I missed out on things because I was scared and too focused on passing the academics.

I would therefore like to re-iterate the words of my alumni interviewer before joining INSEAD that I did not follow consequentially:

“Just do not worry. It will all work out; say yes to every activity that comes along”.

Please, say “yes” to everything, never say “no” because you think you need to understand this final detail in Prices & Markets, and just do not worry. INSEAD is so much more than what happens in the classroom; please take advantage of all of it.

Thank you for reading my posts, there were much fewer than I have thought but I read most of my class mates and I think they make up for everything I left out.

See you soon, Fontainebleau!