The INSEAD MBA is an intense 10-month rollercoaster and the COVID-19 pandemic seemed to put a sudden brake at the very summit, jolting us back to an unfamiliar new reality. But despite our self-administered physical fences, the unwavering support of our INSEAD friends shone through, reminding us that we were in this together.
The year 1775 in pre-revolution France was the best of times, and it was also the worst of times - at least according to Charles Dickens. “[…] It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us […]”
I recently had a session with my career coach. Our meetings often have a straight-forward agenda. This one in particular was to talk about how to highlight my leadership abilities in my upcoming interviews. But, as usual, this session would be one where we choose to meander our way around this agenda and take the scenic, reflective route instead. She’d let me give an account of how I was feeling, what I’d been up to since we last spoke, and would then proceed to respond with a series of questions that would kick-off our hour-long session.
This week marks the third week I’ve been following INSEAD’s classes online less than a kilometre away from INSEAD’s Europe campus, and so far the experience has been better than I thought it would be. What I miss the most in online classes are mini interactions that happen in hallways, in the bar, in the restaurant, or anywhere in the city. Last month, a trip to the supermarket or a restaurant would involve me bumping into 3-4 INSEADers along the way. Now, a trip to the restaurant is around eight steps and surprise! I’m the chef, waiter, and guest. “Bienvenue Monsieur!”
How the world has changed over the last two months. In early February, my classmates and I were still planning to go on the China trek over the P3-4 break and now, even those in Fontainebleau, who are 9,000 miles away from Wuhan, are quarantined indoors.
A million years ago, when the first hunter gatherers formed, the single largest threat facing them was being cast out from the tribe. A lone human was no match for the dangers lurking outside the safety of their group. Naturally, the humans who craved acceptance and feared rejection survived through the ages and became the modern-day humans. To this day, one of the greatest fears in our human experience, is the fear of rejection.
How times have changed! Just a month ago, the biggest challenge for me was exams. I was on the INSEAD campus for most of the weekend, wearing slippers and frantically studying in a discussion room on-campus. Look at us now! The INSEAD Fontainebleau campus has been closed since 16 March 2020, and we have started our classes using Zoom. It is non-debatable that this is a crisis that no one had expected before. Thus, we need to understand that everyone is trying their best with whatever resources they have.
Arriving in Fontainebleau in January 2020 was a hassle for many of us who were eager to start the MBA journey at INSEAD. Paris had been on strike for almost a month as unions were protesting President Macron’s proposed pension reforms. The city was nearly paralysed, and few trains were running to Fontainebleau.
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. This article isn’t a cliché about how to look for opportunities in times of crisis. Neither is it about the sadness and problems at this critical moment in our history. It is a message of love and caring. It portrays tiny and simple examples of how you can embrace people around you, even if you just met them a couple of months ago.
The first two months at INSEAD fulfilled all my expectations. It all looks so normal now for everybody to be here, but when you remember all the efforts you had to make before coming here to get admitted, it all pays off. Each person has a different unique, interesting and inspiring story… I love to hear each and every one of them! Fontainebleau