I consider myself a citizen of the world as there is no one country I particularly call home. These words that introduced my motivation essay for INSEAD are also the words that made my choosing the school a no brainer. I wanted to live the excitement of a diverse student pool: an environment in which like-minded and open to the world people, from various professional backgrounds, would spend an intensive transformational year together. Where else could I meet a Caucasian Lawyer from Zimbabwe, who holds an Australian passport, yet could be easily mistaken for a French countryman when speaking? “Hello Rory, and thank you for the biltong! ;)”

My name is Alda, I am excited to be part of the incoming INSEAD 18J batch, and quite thrilled to be blogging and sharing my INSEAD experiences with you!

Under the humid skies of Kinshasa

I am from Congo DRC, the hefty country in the center of Africa. A rather large yet unknown 2.3 million km² of land, except perhaps for its infamous Ndombolo dance. DRC also happens to be one of the lucky few countries to be colonized by the Belgians—and yes, proudly so :). It is adjacent to the other “French” Republic of Congo—not the same country—, and just north of the “Portuguese” Angola. Now that we have mentally located DRC, we can move on.

I was born there in Kinshasa, a city that I left at age eight for Nairobi, Kenya, which I ultimately also left, seven years later, for my stunning adoption country, France. I am also French. Well, we all know about France, so moving on. Point is, the continuous geographical changes rewarded me with among other things, five languages—a rather positive side effect—, but most importantly with the ability to adapt and a keen interest in other people’s cultures. There, INSEAD was a no brainer.

I have worked for the past five years in Finance in Paris: first as an Equity sales, then as an Equity research analyst on the European Real Estate Sector. I am now eager to leverage my past experiences for the benefit of Africa. Private Equity on African assets, IFC, or Consulting in Africa, all currently sound quite palatable. Wait and see where I’ll ultimately land.

I am IN-SEAD, now what?

On November 23rd 2016, I received the call. My Admission Officer said YES! Such a relief! So excited! I could finally get rid of the books piling up in my life and make my dining room great AGAIN! Awesome you’d say, but now that I was IN-SEAD, I still had 8 months to go until August 2017! What do I do?

Well I network, I make friends, and I get ready to hit the ground running!

I remember reading more than once that at INSEAD you learn in and outside of the classroom. That the people you meet, the relationships and particularly the deep ones you build, are as important as —if not more than—the classes themselves. Then, I also read a post from a 16D who was eager to get to campus, for orientation week, and hoped to make a good first impression. I definitely couldn’t bring myself to wait that long to ask the famous trinity questions: “Where are you from? What did you do before INSEAD? What do you plan on doing after?”

Paris: when 18J meets 17D

So we connected directly after round 1 admissions and started knowing one another. We have had various meet ups all over the world—Paris has been particularly active—, and with those we couldn’t meet, we chatted. We had chat dates with a different person every day “have you met x?”, thank you Federica and Nourhan for coming up with this. We have assisted one another in searching for funding solutions, housing, opening bank accounts, …, and our consultant friends are already eager to help with case preps. Thank you guys! Friendships are being built, and sometimes long-distance ones without ever having met. It is just striking how INSEAD masters the art of bringing like-minded people together.

Paris: when Round 1 meets Round 2 meets Round 3

I am glad to say that 18Js almost have the introductions part covered. This will not only make our first day at school less daunting, but will also allow for relaxed conversations from the start. In other words, we will just get to be ourselves.

Living together: Arbre Sec House (ASH)!

I absolutely wanted to share a house with other students. To me, this was the best way to get to know my batch and live the INSEAD experience to the fullest. I will be starting in Fontainebleau and will be living at ASH:#besthouseinfonty, (just saying ;)), with some awesome housemates! ASH is strategically located between school and the Fontainebleau center, but it is also close enough to Club 16 that I can actually get to spend all my days there :).

Arbre Sec House

ASH will be hosting 7 of us from 9 different nationalities. Diversity to the core! We are currently scattered all over the world: Middle East, Asia, North America, Europe. Charlie (Aka Pierre-Louis), our INSEAD alum landlord, has been offering topnotch services to us from the get go. Audrey, Nourhan, Rosa, Philippe, Sam, Mohamed, #notAtilio, and I, are quite eager to get there!

Planning and working together:

One of my interviewers’ advice to me was to get as many things done as possible before school; the programme is just too intensive to also have to deal with the things we could have done before. We have wisely put that into practice by doing a great deal of planning in advance:

  • Saniya Tandon, Akhil Kejriwal, and I, are organizing our pre-MBA trip to Barcelona. A week prior to school, 120 of us will have a great opportunity to get acquainted. We will also be meeting Spanish INSEAD alums, thanks to a 92D alum, Laura, who kindly offered to bring former INSEAD students to share their experiences with us.
  • I am also organizing La Parisienne Run for September 10th. Please come cheer 30 courageous 18J ladies while we rock the Parisian tarmacs on that day.
  • Oktoberfest with Air-INSEAD is on— legend has it, we filled that Lufthansa plane in 2 days! 200 of us will be heading to Munich, rocking Dirndls and Lederhosen! Thank you Audrey Gaffet for the idea and for the outstanding execution!
  • P1 Fonty break trip to Portugal is also on with our excellent multitasker Saniya Tandon! You rock girl!
  • A shout out to our Singapore friends who will be heading to Bali for the Pre-MBA trip, led by Céline F. Dufresne and Pierre Courgeon.

18Js are fun, diverse, eager to experience new things, and step out of their comfort zones. INSEAD clearly delivered on this promise and I am loving it! I am personally looking forward to the P2/P3 trip to visit the new tech hub in Rawabi (Palestine) and the Za’atari economic zone (Jordan), a trip I would have never thought of doing on my own in a million years! Yes, I am enthused by my new normal of having the world in the palm of my hand. Thank you Zachary Gidwitz and Mohamed Ashgar for coming up with this.

All in all, my INSEAD journey started 8 months ago and I have enjoyed every moment! I am now eager to extend the experience for an additional year and share it all with you. Next stops: pre-MBA trip and then orientation week on August 23rd.

Wait for it!