INSEAD – A Home Away From Home

Aish Dale

They say, “Wherever you go, it becomes a part of you somehow”.

And it couldn’t be truer for INSEAD, the business school for the world.

The first three months at INSEAD have been about embracing and getting exposed to different cultures and varied beliefs like never before. INSEAD is THE most diverse business school of the world, that’s a fact, but a lesser known fact is the way in which diversity is celebrated and embraced here. Following are a few glimpses of the kind of experiences we get here, which would probably need multiple lives to experience if it was not for INSEAD :).

Academics: The biggest chunk of the cross-cultural diversity we get to experience happens during lectures. The mix of cases from India to USA to France, the kind of perspectives people bring from their cultures to the lectures is astonishing and humbling. How something like corruption, which is normal for me as an Indian, is astonishing for people across the Western world. Or maybe just how unfathomable it is for Americans to believe how high-context and hierarchical we Asians are. These are just few tips of the giant iceberg of perspectives we reveal together every single lecture!

Our class E2, with 40+ nationalities during one of our happier lectures

National Weeks: National weeks at INSEAD are all about celebrating a culture in its full form – an entire week dedicated to one nationality - from costumes to music to food and drinks. As I pen this article, we are in the middle of African week and I can’t wait for the African dinner (Hakuna matata: D). We finished the Latin American week last week where we had some delicious breakfast in the form of quesadillas, guacamole, corn pancakes and Brazilian brigadeiros. And I can’t even describe the fun we had creating buzz for the Desi week with the first ever flash mob of the '19J batch.

Some glimpses from the National Weeks

DASH: Not exactly a cultural exchange but arguably the most memorable day of the INSEAD year. People dress up in all sorts of crazy costumes, start a march from the Chateau to the class with booze to add flair to our strides, and the classes couldn’t be more fun! I believe more than the crazy and fun side to us, it brings home an important fact about the culture, inclusiveness and coolness that comes at INSEAD, and it truly sinks in that why the professors use this phrase so often “I can do this only because we are at INSEAD”.

House parties: I know you will say, so what? We all know INSEAD is known for parties! But the beauty of these parties is the kind of authentic feel we get from them. Be it the attempt at Egyptian belly dancing, celebrating Halloween in its full force or us Indians celebrating Diwali with lights, colours, Honey Singh and a tilak welcome for everyone. People bring their cultures and their values, and experiencing them makes you feel so enriched and truly happy!

A glimpse from a few house parties

The takeaway: INSEAD is literally a home away from home. The way we preserve and relish cultures, traditions and stories from around the world is makes you closer to your roots. The INSEAD journey is a grand saga featuring INSEAD family members who are so different in their cultures, yet so integrated in the way they celebrate each other together. Finding those like-minded people, organising these events, people heartily appreciating your efforts is truly gratifying and emotionally overwhelming. I am sure you will develop an understanding of your own culture, your own values and your own self in a way that no religious institution or textbook could teach, and that for me is the AHA moment of the experience.  

Thank you INSEAD, thank you my fellow 19J’s for creating this family, this secure space, this homely feeling in the forests of Fontainebleau, and looking forward to being much more enriched and humbled in the months to come.