The Journey Has Already Started

Sofia Silva

As a Portuguese engineer surrounded by a social environment where engineers take the majority, the MBA word is not commonly heard.

Therefore, when I was challenged by a senior member and INSEAD alum of my previous company to think about my future and pursuing an MBA, it felt kind of unfamiliar.

But one thing is true: for an engineer, the unfamiliar can be solved by asking many questions, analysing and evaluating the information given to produce a good solution for the "problem".

Hence, I quickly became "familiar" that doing an MBA would lead me to a world of new discoveries that I couldn't reach anywhere else in such a short time. So, my curiosity and perseverance brought me to where I am right now: an INSEAD MBA Candidate about to embark on a 10-month journey in the Class of 22'J. And one thing I can assure you of: I've not landed in Fontainebleau yet, but the journey has already started!

The application

From the beginning, I realised that this journey through the application process would push me out of my comfort zone. Since I had little to zero references of other people doing the same as I was doing, I had to build my own collection of testimonials. Therefore, my advice is to not be afraid of reaching out to school members, alumni, or current students. LinkedIn is a powerful tool that can help in this task since you can search for people, industries, locations, jobs and look for those people you identify with the most and ask for tips and advice. This helped me a lot in deciding that INSEAD was the school I wanted to pursue. Their amazement, their respect for the challenge I was going to face, and their nostalgic testimonies were so consistent over and over that I knew that INSEAD was the school for me.

The goal was set high, and it was both frightening and sometimes unclear.

The application process made me reflect a lot about what I wanted for my future career and taught me that what you think is unreachable is, in fact, just a wrong perception of your real strengths. You just need to have the courage to test them! Yes, you will need to study hard for the GMAT, and you will have to put your soul and heart into your essays, you will have to refuse a lot of weekend plans with your friends, and you will be asked many times, "Why are you doing this?" "What for?" "Why now?". You will, sometimes, doubt and hesitate… but when you build a strong purpose that answers all these questions, the rest can shake you but can't knock you down.

This turned out to be a good preparation for the interviews. After going through this process of presenting the application to both the school and my family and friends, it was crystal clear what my story was and why I was pursuing an MBA at INSEAD.


After the acceptance

Once I got accepted, it was a moment of relief, happiness, and excitement that exploded in just a fraction of seconds.

I need to say that I was accepted in R1 at the end of 2020, and in my mind, I would still need to face a long wait of more than half a year to start my MBA. Oh… I couldn't be more wrong. The INSEAD community is so big, and the minds joined by this programme are so diverse and proactive that it took me just a couple of days to start joining the Telegram groups with my cohort. I started right away engaging with my future classmates. I already know names and faces from every corner of the world without seeing them in person.

So, what I was told is real. It's a fantastic experience right from the beginning, right from the moment you receive your letter of acceptance. Those moments of loneliness felt while building my application to INSEAD suddenly disappeared, and I faced myself besides many other students that have taken the same journey as me.

I rapidly connected with an Indian colleague, and we started looking for houses together. Everything from whether we should take Business Foundations or not to what should be the destination of our Pre-MBA trip is discussed. The anxieties about COVID were shared and eased. And the diverse pool of native speakers of every single language is put into practice to help with the language requirements, and ideas for P0 assignments are shared to leverage our knowledge and networking.

Meetups have been happening all over the globe, and I've had the opportunity to organise one of them with my Portuguese fellows both in Lisbon and Oporto.


Almost starting

I'm now entering my last month here in Portugal before heading to Fontainebleau. My trip to France had to be delayed to catch my second dose of the COVID vaccine. I have been focusing my energies on enjoying the European summer season with my family while studying for the Exit Language Exam and preparing for the Personal Leadership Development Programme (PLDP) assignments.

My last advice was given to me by an alum: set up some goals for your MBA year.

It will be a hectic year full of activities and requisitions, but it is also a unique time in our life to do that one thing that you have never done before.