First Impressions & Some Advice
How is it possible for time to fly by this fast?! This is honestly the question that every single INSEAD student is asking themselves. It is the first week of P2, and I cannot wrap my head around the fact that P1 is over – it feels like I just landed in Singapore… I will try to shed some light on the pre-INSEAD summer and share some advice on what to expect during the first couple of months at INSEAD.
First of all, if you are like me and have an opportunity to take a break between work and joining INSEAD, I would advise you not only to travel, but also to use this time to prepare for INSEAD. I spent some time in the summer practising Spanish in order to pass A2 level exam. It is really not a huge time investment (I knew basic Spanish before, however needed to revise grammar rules and practice speaking about specific topics covered in the exam), and passing the language requirement exam will give you some very much needed free time once you join. INSEAD also offers intensive language courses, and I have heard only positive feedback from my colleagues.
Also, don't worry if you have no one to practice the language with - once you are at INSEAD, you will have plenty of ‘teachers’. One of my first true diversity experiences here was sharing a taxi to a club with two Spaniards and a Brazilian. Since the exam was around the corner, I ended up practising Spanish with one of the Spaniards, while the other one was practising French with the Brazilian (who is obviously fluent in French… why not?). This also leads to the idea that time is a scarce resource here, therefore my advice is to use it wisely and decide what your priorities are for your experience here.
One of my priorities was to explore my entrepreneurial spirit (this is still ongoing…). For anyone interested in the same, there are plenty of ways to do that: start-up bootcamp, Entrepreneurship club, events and start-up treks, and all the elective courses that start in P3. I ended up joining a start-up bootcamp, which is an intense weekend programme for someone who is very fresh in the start-up world. The whole experience is organised in a way to guide you from idea generation to your business plan presentation to INSEAD alumni.
It was an extremely exhausting weekend (especially knowing that the rest of INSEADers are somewhere on the beach in Thailand or Vietnam), but it was rewarding and inspiring. I would recommend it to anyone who is a total beginner in a start-up world, or for someone who has an idea and wants to test it out rather than going directly to the Venture Capital competition (the difference is for VC you need to have an idea and a team; the winner of VC gets funding to start the business vs. start-up bootcamp is more of a simulation and you join as an individual and you are not required to have a business idea).
The other aspect I want to mention about INSEAD is that you will join multiple WhatsApp/Telegram groups in which you will have to be quick to add your name to some list (as capacity is always a question) for an event or a trip. The beauty of this is that you will be exposed to various events, trips, and clubs in which you can meet your new colleagues.
My biggest advice is do not stick to your ‘comfort zone’. Everyone feels overwhelmed in the beginning and you try to find a group of people to relate to. However, the beauty of INSEAD is the unparalleled diversity of people.
Take advantage of this and join those million WhatsApp/Telegram groups. I have to say that so far one of the best night outs in Singapore has been a party at a Bollywood dance club! You will also learn that the minimum number of people per weekend trip will be around 30. Hence, once you hear about a trip, book it immediately, or you will pay a higher price.
To sum up,
multiple people will describe INSEAD experience as trying to drink water from a fire hose. It often feels like this, but the most amazing part is that everyone around you is feeling exactly the same. Therefore, embrace the craziness and allow yourself to be surprised.
Until next time,