INSEAD is known as the business school for the world. What some may not know is that one of our core values is closeness to the international business community. This means that we partner with the international business community to explore and disseminate management knowledge as we believe in the role of business as a force for improving people's lives. This is also why INSEAD has multiple campuses beyond the original location in Fontainebleau, France.
My only experience in the Middle East had previously been in 2014. I was heading to Europe for a vacation, and had stopped over in Qatar. There, I saw the sun – a flaming ball of red – rising over an endless desert. The locals breezed by in long, flowing robe-like attires that are mostly in hues of white or black. A kaleidoscope of accents greeted me as I entered shops and restaurants, indicating that a huge number of foreigners worked there as well.
When you hear, “Chateau party with 500 of your closest friends!”, do you wince a little inside? Would you rather enjoy wine with one close friend instead of hitting Glasgow? Do you retreat to quiet corners of campus during breaks? If you answered “Yes”, you just might be a fellow introvert. “But I’m not anti-social,” you may protest. Well, that association stems from a myth. Introversion has nothing to do with shyness; it refers to where you get energy from and how you recharge.
A good Egyptian friend once told me, if you want to learn how to build cities from scratch, go to the UAE. Having spent the last two months in the Abu Dhabi campus, I couldn’t agree more. Geographically, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) might be as far as possible from Peru and I had previously never set foot in the MENA region (Middle East and Northern Africa). The possibility of spending a period there (January and February) seemed like the right opportunity to explore. Cultural Understanding
Today is Sunday, February 3rd. It's the first work day in February in Abu Dhabi. The official first work day of our second half of the INSEAD MBA programme. The 40+ of us in Abu Dhabi just spent an entire eight hours in a Crack the Case session with David Ohrvall, and about 1/5 of the class was filled with GEMBA students. Because we are a much smaller class than on the other two campuses, David said he could give us one more session hence bring us to a next level of cracking case interviews.
Before the campus exchange to Abu Dhabi, I had little knowledge about the UAE. The impression was limited to desert, oil, shopping mall, hot summer and religion. Although I sometimes saw my friends showing their excited selfies with the exotic backgrounds in Abu Dhabi or Dubai, I never thought about taking two months to explore. However, my curiosity arose rapidly when hearing more and more classmates describing their moments living in this region.
After 10 days of travelling through the relative wilderness of East Africa, my Etihad flight made a smooth landing at Abu Dhabi’s International Airport. My journey to a brand new continent had just ended, but another, entirely different adventure was about to begin. Aside from the sprawling lights from buildings and cars, I was greeted by a vast number of tower cranes erecting the new terminal expansion of the Abu Dhabi Airport - probably three times the number used to construct the new Vikings stadium in Minneapolis.