Preparing for the MBA with my partner

Leonard Van Domselaar

I still remember receiving my acceptance phone call from INSEAD (Class of 19J). It felt like a large dose of dopamine being released in my brain. I murmured “thank you” a lot while stumbling over a chair trying to get out of the meeting I was in.

I immediately informed my girlfriend, Jenn. We have been in a long-distance relationship for a long time, but she has been supporting me every step of the way. When the rush of excitement had cleared, I stared at my PC screen for a while. Getting accepted into INSEAD was a joyful moment; however, I sensed that this was only the beginning of turning this MBA dream into reality. There was still a key aspect that needed to be addressed: How does an MBA impact our relationship, and what’s in it for her?

As soon as I started applying for MBA schools, Jenn and I agreed we would go on this journey together, leaving the LDR behind. 

In preparation I had done a lot of research on MBA’s and how they impact relationships. A good read I found was “The Unofficial Guide to B-School Partner Life: Balancing between the B-School Bubble and Reality” by Mona Bijjani. This book is based on real-life experiences, and even offers some spiritual / life guidance on the side. It prepares you for what’s coming (as much as possible of course).

A key pillar in our preparation was for Jenn to have her own interests outside of the MBA. She needed to have her own job, volunteer or perhaps learn a new language. Something that would be challenging and rewarding for her personally.

In the end Jenn was fortunate enough to get a job in Singapore. The process of finding employment took about five months, from the first contact with an employer to an approved working visa**. It was time well spent, as the job will allow her to take the next step in her career and give her alternatives outside of the MBA bubble.

The last months leading up to our relocation had also been very hectic for us, quitting our jobs, moving out of our apartments, packing up everything we own into two suitcases and, due to our long-distance relationship, coordinating all of this an ocean apart from each other. However, wrapping up all those things also meant the real adventure was about to start.

Pre-MBA trip

Before rushing off to Singapore, we had decided to join the student-led pre-MBA trip to Bali. Here we met up with 30 prospective INSEAD students and partners. Going on this trip was a great decision, as it made Jenn feel connected with the INSEAD community from day one. It allowed her to easily integrate, providing her with her own set of friends and social contacts (students and partners) she could take with her to Singapore. We visited temples, rice farms, monkey forests, beach clubs, infinity pools, basically all that Bali had to offer. But the best thing I found about this trip was getting to know my fellow INSEAD students in an informal setting. We had one student casually walk on stage and pick up the guitar to perform “Wagon Wheel”, followed by someone else showcasing his memorable DJ skills. Not to mention the coordination skills of the students organising the pre-MBA trip and the negotiation skills used to extend happy hour or gain free entry to a club. In Bali I saw merely a fraction of what this 19J batch has to offer, and I’m excited to discover more of these hidden skills as P1 starts taking shape.

I look forward to sharing my experiences with you through these blogs in the months to come, and I hope it will provide you with the insights that I too was looking for when I was investigating MBA programmes to apply for.