Week 1 of our INSEAD journey is in the books, class of July 2018 is officially in session and I am already struggling to synthesize my thoughts, impressions and emotions.

I could go on for many paragraphs, from the inspiring words at the opening ceremony and the unthinkable amount of non-academic services that INSEAD provides to the impressive organizational support that helped us all to make the transition into business school so easy. However, I want to dedicate my first impressions to my new fellow classmates.

If you read the blog posts of the other students, I am convinced that you could stop reading here. You already know, what I am going to write about. It is amazing to read everyone’s passion and uniqueness. I can say without any exaggeration, that my first “real-life” impressions were even more astonishing and that I am incredibly humbled to be able to spend the next 10 months with this impressive group of people.

Normally, I am a very structured person, 5 years of engineering studies and 2.5 years of management consulting do that to a person. However, while trying to make sense of my impressions towards my cohort, I seem to be unable to do so. Sorry for the “stream of consciousness” that is coming instead…

In my last blog post, I talked about being “scared to compare myself with the amazing group of people at INSEAD”. After only a couple of days, I can ensure you that I not only underestimated the level of my classmates in every single aspect, but I also misjudged the most decisive point: It is not about comparing yourself; it is about learning from each other or to simply quote Joey Tribbiani from Friends: “It’s based on giving and receiving.” The student community at INSEAD will be growing together.

INSEAD is of course a place of friendships and “networks”. I cannot even count how many interesting discussions I had between classes, at barbeques, during hikes or simply in a pub. While this is all just the beginning, I am convinced that all the stories about “making friends for life” are true. But this is something for a later post…

Right now, I want to focus a bit more on the “professional/academic side”:

The nucleus of everyone’s learning experience at INSEAD is a group of 5 or 6 students. The school’s administration tries to maximize diversity in those groups. What at first feels a bit “forced”, it directly pays off. As a representative of group “E02-G03”, I can say that having colleagues from all over the world with different academic and work backgrounds is truly inspiring.

Working as management consultant, I am exposed to new team settings every 6-10 weeks. I thought that a new team at INSEAD will just be another new team and not such a big deal for me. Boy, was I wrong…

My new team is packed with experiences, cultural influences and working styles from four different continents, five different industries and a myriad of goals and ambitions. This is an environment like I have never seen it before and I cannot wait to see the effects of this on our learning experiences.

To start our journey, we had a marketing poster challenge that turned into a funny photo shooting and editing session during which we already could sense the different approaches of the team members to a relatively abstract task. The real first glance of our differences in values, emotions and goals however came in form of two sessions of the “Professional Leadership Development Program” (PLDP) and a first discussion about our career themes by the “Career Development Center” (CDC) that are both integral part of the INSEAD MBA.

I don’t want to go into too much detail as this would diminish your personal experience from the sessions when you will take part in the, but I can try give you a rough sense of them: We discussed on the one hand our roles and challenges within teamwork sessions and our dedications to improve our leadership capabilities and on the other hand our career ambitions as well as the natural conflicts that we all have within our minds.

For me, it was a great experience to have four different “mirrors” that can support me in analyzing my passions, goals and learning targets.

All my teammates took these sessions with a staggering amount of mind power, concentration and dedication. I always had the feeling that everyone truly cares about me and my path and I gladly tried to give everything back that I could. It was a rare moment of “magic” that brought our discussions on a new level and within 2-3 hours we could discuss topics that one normally only shares with very few people. The level of emotional and analytical intelligence within this group is epic.

I don’t know if the famous quote “If you are the smartest person in the room, then you are in the wrong room” can be attributed to any great Greek or French philosopher, but I can say that I am definitely not in the wrong room for the next 10 months! Thank you very much in advance.