Welcome Letter to MIM'22
One week (nearly) done – and what a week.
It is a true honor to meet you and get to know you, and I can tell you for sure that many are envious of the situation in which you are.
Stepping in INSEAD maybe for the first time, feeling lost and overwhelmed, meeting so many people, all different – this feeling will stay with you your whole life. Make sure you record it mentally; you will look back fondly at it.
Now is also the time for you to start dipping your toes in the highly diverse environment INSEAD offers. INSEAD is a place like no other on that aspect.
There is a quote I adore when it comes to diversity. It is from Audre Lorde, American writer, feminist, womanist, librarian, and civil rights activist. She wrote:
“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognise, accept, and celebrate those differences.” - Audre Lorde
I love this quote for many reasons. First, because it captures very well how I feel about diversity at INSEAD.
Diversity is one of the drivers that led all of us to join INSEAD. But as much as we all love the concept of diversity, its general idea, most of us will come to experience it actually does not makes things easy. You will often hear me say: Diversity is hard. It makes us challenge how we think, who we are, how we treat others. Maybe this is already obvious to you – and you feel distraught by how different some of your classmates are. Maybe you are on the other end, and you do not see yet how deeply different your peers are – and focus on the surface. Maybe you will need a bit of time to adjust – and that is ok.
I love this quote because it provides me with a clear guideline. A process, even. A reminder that there are differences I do not recognise. Differences I do not understand. Differences I cannot understand.
“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognise, accept, and celebrate those differences.”
To breach the divide, we must first see it. Recognize the differences. Ask ourselves: “Am I creating a safe space for others? Am I being respectful in the way others expect to be respected? And if it was not the case, am I creating an opportunity for my peers to tell me that?”.
First, we must recognise the differences. Learn from each other so that we can spot them. Learn how politeness is so different from culture to culture.
Then, we need to accept it. This goes both ways.
INSEAD is the ultimate “meet me in the middle” place – where INSEADers adapt to others while giving others enough room to act according to who they are – or how they were raised.
Maybe some of those differences rub us the wrong way. But who in their right might would set off to transform another culture to suit theirs?
Finally, we end up celebrating the differences. As proof that the World is an incredible place. And that there is always more to learn from each other.
Celebrating the differences, for me, means restarting the cycle – because we are never done with discovering how others differ from us. I learn from all of you every day. I know you do too.
So join us (Audre Lorde and me) in a world where we all make the conscious effort to search how others are different. To understand and accept how this is. And to celebrate our ability to meet each other in the middle.
Embrace the community!