Living the INSEAD Life with Gratitude in the Year of COVID

Cecily Liu


Starting an MBA amidst the COVID-19 pandemic is a decision that requires some courage. I still remember the feeling of my heart sinking six months ago, when I first learned the reality of how the COVID outbreak had impacted campus life all around the world.

So many questions flashed across my mind: "Will I be able to interact with classmates?", "Will I be safe from COVID risks on campus?" And more importantly, will this really be “the best year of my life” as so many INSEAD alumni have told me?

But when I arrived in Fontainebleau, I was saying hello to a new campus life filled with laughter, kindness, warmth and encouragement.

My dear housemates at Club 16, a co-living house for INSEAD students, gave me a big, warm, welcome. Most of them were in 'the 20D intake, which is one class before mine, but they all took the time to help me settle in, invited me to their gatherings and activities, and took extra care to make me feel included.

My classmates on lunchbreak during intensive French lesson

Soon, I met more of my '21J classmates, and we eagerly hugged each other, treasuring the joy of having a conversation in person, after months of virtual talks on telegram. Sure, classes are conducted with a strict mask policy, but we smiled and laughed with our eyes and facial expressions, in a way that zoom calls just wouldn’t be able to convey. We all felt deep gratitude for INSEAD to have opened its campus despite the obvious risks and challenges, and took great care to look after our well-being with weekly COVID tests, maintaining distances between our seats, and gym visits on a sign up schedule.

Fonty life is a great combination of tranquility and liveliness.

I love going for a run after class in the park of the Château de Fontainebleau, feeling the warm sunshine on my skin, admiring the clear blue sky and magnificent Garden of Diana, and laying down on the soft grass to reflect at sunset afterwards. I love hiking in the lush forest, climbing high onto the mountain to admire the beautiful view of Fontainebleau afar. I love buying local fruits and vegetables from the Fontainebleau farmers market, which taste so fresh and so sweet.

2020 has been a challenging year for all of us, but emerging from the COVID fear, I feel we are all living life with gratitude.

Gratitude to appreciate the little beautiful details in life, gratitude for the opportunity to learn new knowledge and meet new friends, gratitude to finally start the incredible “best year of our lives” MBA journey at INSEAD.

Celebrating my classmate David's birthday in the Château de Fontainebleau

If I was feeling anxiety about my own MBA experience six months ago, I now think differently. Life in Fonty is full of smiles and laughter, kindness and acceptance. Ending COVID will not be the ‘once and for all’ solution, as we will always face new challenges in life, both on an individual and societal level. But I feel that the strong unity, trust and mutual support deeply embedded in the culture of the INSEAD community will give each and every one of us strength to shape our own lives and lead incredible changes in the world of tomorrow.