In another week’s time, it will be three months since I arrived in the town of Fontainebleau. There’s a bug going around the '18Js at the moment and I am down with a flu. Which is a good thing because it resulted in me sitting at home drinking soup, watching fall colors out of my window and generally musing about life. Time is a beautiful thing, for when keenly observed it seems to be barely flowing, and yet turn your back and it seems to fly by.
I glance at my Monday time table. One of the entries on it reads: 12:00 – Cabaret Practice, 12:00 – Group Assignment and 12:00 French Lessons. This pretty much sums up what happens at INSEAD – choices. Whether to attend that weekend trip or to go hiking in the forest, whether to join a club or start your own club, whether to attend that interesting talk or work on the assignment, whether to attend the tutorial or just wing it, gym or inertia, raise your hand or not raise your hand.
I browse my school mail. There are a bunch of mails – A reminder saying the electives selection are due next week, another from my OB professor explaining the grading scheme for the exam results (also due next week), a bunch of club invites for an acting workshop, a financial modelling workshop and also one on Bloomberg. I quickly scroll through these and shoot off a couple of replies.
WhatsApp group buzzes; I missed the class today because of the flu. The section group is alight. The case discussion in our Principles of Operations Management class today is on a hospital specialising in Hernia. The thread is splashed with extremely meme-worthy pictures of students presenting in front of a giant screen reading - ‘HERNIA’. I feel a twinge of FOMO and realise with a chuckle - I actually like attending classes here. Another WhatsApp group buzz – there’s a brunch plan for Sunday and I am at my wits end what to cook and bring over. That is if I feel better enough to get out of bed. More group buzzes – plans of a Paris trip, another from my study-group wishing me a speedy recovery and another one on the Desi Group. National’s Week plans are in full swing and I am excited with the ideas being thrown around for the Desi Week - Holi, Indian street food, Bollywood dance. Everything to show the world what Desi’s are all about for one full week. We have big shoes to fill though – the Italians did a venetian masquerade theme party. In the middle of the forest. In a chateau.
I quickly google the weather forecast for Warsaw. It looks chilly. Next weekend will be Warsaw along with my study group mates. Almost like a family trip. Hell, actually a family trip – I love those guys. Gandalf, Aragorn, Sailor and Nitrous Oxide + Sugar. These were the metaphors I had given them in our last Personal Leadership Development session. Probably the closest bunch of people I have here. A German, a Spaniard, an American, a Vietnamese and an Indian. Almost reads like the start of a joke. But far from being a joke. A group I am immensely proud of not just because of its work-outputs but more importantly because of the camaraderie.
The thought trail is interrupted by a call from a friend – she asks me about my life here and I excitedly tell her all about the parties, the travel and the people. She scoffs and says it seems to be a school meant only for that. It’s my turn to scoff and I patiently tell her a few anecdotes. The Prices & Markets class on cotton subsidies which left me deeply moved, the Uncertainty Data & Judgement firing assignment which bamboozled me with its counter-intuitive solution, the sessions with my career coach which nudged me to explore loftier goals. I think she is convinced. But for good measure, I send her class videos from our Strategy course where our Professor dons a bandana and cuts an avocado and another one from Organisation Behaviour in which we climb to the top of a building to drop eggs.
I decide to take a nap. But first go through some more pages of the Walt Disney biography I am reading. I marvel at the audacity of the young Disney and his resolve in the face of failures after failures he faced in Kansas. I muse about risks in the real world and realise that my student life although intense is nothing in comparison to the challenges faced by entrepreneurs who dream to change the world. All the more reasons to experiment now and take risks within the school. I pop a paracetamol and sleep.
Naptime over, I open the binds to see a clear blue sky after a long time. Fontainebleau for all its charm becomes rather dreary in the winter. But not today. Pale streaks of orange mark the early setting of the sun across a beautiful powder blue sky. I glance at the leaves once more - not all of them are gone. It’s still early days so most of the trees are still full. There is still more to come. A lot more to come.