Over the last weekend of February, three other classmates and I were in Barcelona for a three-day case competition hosted by IESE and sponsored by Roland Berger. Less than two months into the MBA and there we were: our first competition facing teams of MBA students of five other world-class institutions in the US, Europe and Asia. It was a humbling experience to exchange with brilliant people, and it was thrilling to practice solving a complex case under such a short time constraint.
“A stunning first impression was not the same thing as love at first sight. But surely it was an invitation to consider the matter. “ - Lois McMaster Bujold, American author My first impressions of my INSEAD MBA course, as I hurtle towards the end of P1 after fifty days and nights with barely a moment to think, is of a whirlwind. A stunning, life changing, life-affirming whirlwind, a relentless storm of opportunity and challenge, taking place as if life is a dream viewed on fast forward.
I’m in Singapore for my last few weeks at INSEAD. I’m not over there, not on the ground. I can’t feel the emotion and local vibe. But it must be palpable. In this precise moment, I miss the outdoor patios or ‘terrasse’, French food and bistros, romantic atmosphere of a late night walk in Montmartre or the 19th century feeling of walking past the bookstores along the Seine River on a windy sunny day. I miss Paris.
Here we are, at the middle point. Five months ago, we knew nothing of these grounds; we hadn’t even set foot in this forest. Five months. That’s all it is, and that’s all it takes. So what has changed? I’d like to say a few grey hairs and perhaps a few extra pounds, but that would probably be half a lie. Or half the truth for that matter. B-School for the world where we study with 90 other nationalities: this surely is bound to create a certain disorder—even a mess. Or does it?
Who would have thought I would come to INSEAD to learn how to dance hip hop, discover the European après-ski, or get to hear the faculty gossip in the sauna every Friday afternoon? It’s the small things in life that make INSEAD unique. They help shape an experience that make the school, settled in a quiet town in the middle of a boar- and deer- infested forest less than 45 minutes away outside of Gâre de Lyon-Paris, come to life. Business School for the World. Focused around food.
One week into the programme, we had our first quiz. Then, six weeks later, a frenzy came along: the final exam frenzy. Only then, when you take a look at practice final exams do you realise the amount of material covered in such a short amount of time. (I heard the second term takes this concept a notch further, with an extra class in the schedule, but I digress. Let’s keep this topic for, perhaps, a few weeks from now.) We all do an MBA for different reasons.
“Well, it’s not so bad! I think I’m even going to have time to read a couple of novels along the way.” These are exactly the thoughts I shared enthusiastically with my friends back home when I received the course schedule a few days before kick-off. Then the first week hit, leaving me with only a few hours of sleep and a whole lot of networking and career workshops.
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.