Takeoff

One week into arriving in Fontainebleau to tackle this one-year MBA, and I am already deep into activities, classes, and social events. It feels like it’s been ages since I’ve put my other ‘regular and normal’ life on the sidelines 6,000 kilometers away but it’s only been seven days.

The “Integration Week” has been the most intense, action-packed week I have ever lived! Three months ago, I received the thrilling phone call from my Admissions Officer announcing the great news. After having spoken to many alumni, but also in light of all the accepted students of my cohort reaching out to me, I had a feeling I was entering a world of its own.

In fact, only a few hours after receiving the official letter from INSEAD, my future colleagues were already contacting me to get acquainted.

I already felt I was right there on campus! Getting to meet everyone over the web, and through reading the different introductions of my peers on different social platforms, I instantly understood I had entered a special community. My future peers were a group of overachievers and self-motivated leaders in their respective fields.

I realised I had stepped in a unique world, an organisation where the sum of all individuals is so much stronger than each single person.

It is in this state of mind that I left snowy Montreal, in the first few days of the New Year. I thought I knew what an intense first week lay ahead me, but it turns out I had no idea.

We had 20 different conference speakers talk to us over the course of the week, all of them passionate at communicating with their audience and involved in the development of the students. The personnel and professors take great pride and interest in contributing to INSEAD, and their doors are always open. Furthermore, you’re encouraged to reach out to them for help or to expand on subjects of interest.

I must also talk about classmates: I wonder how it is that so many talented people as my peers ended up in the same establishment. In my former universities, at work and in different activities, I met lots of driven people, but never that many in the same environment.

The students bond right away, whether it is with your 7 roommates in a 17th century country house, with the previous intake in student clubs, or with teammates from your project team.

Each one is there to help you push your limits, get out of your comfort zone, and support you. This culture of empowerment among the student body comes from each MBA participant, but it is also fostered by INSEAD through policies such as non-grade disclosure and the explicit encouragement for all to have an open mind and an inclusive mindset. Having more than one hundred nationalities on campus helps promote this acceptance culture as well.

During a discussion on general management, I spoke up and mentioned that I was surprised to see as many people interested and curious about so many diverse subjects as I was, and that I could really associate with the student body unlike any other environment before. At this point, the professor addressed the 75 students and made us reflect: “Show of hands—how many of you came here at INSEAD to be led in the group?” I didn’t see one hand stick up. “You are all leaders here. You want to take charge and want to get results, and that’s why we want to help you develop this leadership, and that’s what makes you feel so at home here.” I take it that’s the environment I associate with here, and I’m pretty certain this self-enlightening journey is just getting started.

Not even one week after starting the programme, and I fully realise the depth of what all the alumni are saying when mentioning their year at INSEAD changed their lives.

I am really excited at the prospect of starting other classes next week, and I’m looking forward to sharing different stories with you for the coming year, a year that I am sure will make me a transformed man.