A handshake. Sitting in a classroom. Going to ‘Freddy’s’ bar. So many things we have taken for granted have now changed.
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.
As I write this, the 'circuit breaker' in Singapore has been extended to June 4, a big blow to the student and faculty morale. Invariably, this will be another post amongst the 1000’s detailing the disruption COVID-19 has caused albeit with a focus on leadership. Specifically, I will touch upon the ‘act’ aspect of leadership from my perspective of the faculty and students. Students
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 […]”
The journey of the MBA class of December 2020 is probably not what we were expecting, when we started it. And yet, this year might turn out to be one of the most consequential times in our life. As the class of December 2020 gathered in January, in steamy Singapore, I was first struck by the diversity, open and well-meaning of the class.
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.