From Peace Corps to INSEAD: How I Got Here

It must have been sometime in early February, one afternoon while sitting in my office at World Vision Georgia in a small town east of Tbilisi, when I received the call that I had been admitted to INSEAD’s MBA programme. I quickly betrayed the cool I kept while on the phone with the INSEAD admissions representative by sending my fellow Peace Corps friends all cap messages using my agency-provided, T-9 typing Nokia phone.

I was ecstatic that I got into the one programme I had truly wanted to attend for years, but equally nervous of the prospect of taking on an opportunity I had sought after for so long. Since that February day, I’ve slowly but surely become more comfortable with the idea of taking on a one-year MBA at one of the highest-ranking schools in the world. I am also more sure of my motivations to do so.

The first time I heard the name INSEAD was four years ago, during a summer internship for an impact investing firm in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. My supervisor at the time had taken me onboard due to my academic background in economic development in the Asia-Pacific region. He proved to be a great mentor, guiding me as I learned the ins and outs of financial statements, conducting due diligence and market research. For me, it was an incredibly rewarding experience, being able to combine my interests in development and private enterprise.  

Reading the INSEAD publications my mentor would send me about impact investing and working in emerging markets, I became convinced that impact investing was the field I wanted to pursue. I also became convinced that INSEAD, with its international ranking, global scope of study, and connections in emerging markets, was the ideal MBA programme for me.

Since that internship in Cambodia, I most recently served as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Republic of Georgia. For the past two years as a volunteer, I served in one of World Vision Georgia’s field offices, helping develop projects catered to over one thousand sponsored youths and their families in rural villages. As one of fifty or so Peace Corps volunteers in my cohort, I trained, bonded and collaborated with some of the brightest, most hardworking Americans I am proud to call my friends. Throughout those two years, I learned, made mistakes, and succeeded in assisting my coworkers and friends, by being present, listening and acting on ideas to improve our surroundings.  

The work I did affirmed my ambitions to pursue a career fostering entrepreneurship in emerging and frontier markets, while teaching me a lot about those I hope to serve through such a career. Through an INSEAD MBA, I want to learn how to better mold my ideas into valuable services catered to overlooked segments of the population. It is my hope that by addressing the needs of those at the bottom of the social pyramid not as burdens to look after, but as an opportunity to tap into a market of customers with unique demands, I can more ingeniously pay it forward.

INSEAD and fellow 18Js, see you next week for an unforgettable year together...