During the application process, I have always been curious that what INSEADers find the most rewarding during their one intensive year. One common answer is PEOPLE.
Thanks to the current technology, you can get a preview of your class even before the program starts. Once you get the admission letter, you will soon be invited into different groups in Whatsapp, Wechat, Slack, Facebook, and Linkedin (maybe even more media). Welcome to the Information Explosion Era! Hundreds of conversations are posted daily, with topics covering almost everything you might think of, such as student visa application, travelling plans, sports, even Games of Thrones. If you cannot find the topic you want, just create one. People will follow immediately. Then, online chats will be upgraded to face-to-face meetups worldwide. Even pre-MBA trips and trips between periods will be organized. INSEADers often make fun of ourselves that INSEAD means I Never Stop Eating and Drinking. It is partly true, because this is how alumni start to share stories and know each other.
If you happen to take a business trip or arrange a short stay out of your hometown, don’t be shy to request a meet-up. No matter which region you are heading to, your request will probably be satisfied. Your classmates will take you to the best local restaurants and bars, and you will enjoy both the food, the drinks and the conversations.
If it is your first time to the city or town where the campus is located, it is also helpful to take the language class or Business Foundation Program. They provide good chances for newcomers to mingle with more alumni (including both MBA and EMBA) before the program. You can have enough time to explore the place, to take care of housing and bank accounts, and to discover local cultures (for example, your favorite chateau, wine and cheese). It is also an ideal period that enables you to arrange trips without worrying about your academic performance or recruitment events.
For me, after several meet-ups in China and the following three-week French courses in Fontainebleau, I have been able to order food in restaurants in French and have simple conversations with my French landlady. I have also been acquainted with more than 40 classmates and heard many fantastic stories from them. We talked about how to open a night club, how to find a job in Africa without existing connections in that region, and how to enjoy a job in the middle of nowhere. We tried new restaurants and bars in France. We also watched parades and fireworks on French Bastille Day. In August, I had my three-week trip to other European countries and met some classmates there as well.
But don’t get too relaxed, the assignments and webinars are coming in one by one. You are supposed to complete some essays and tests regarding your experience and your plans. It is also better for you to collect information and find out how to take good advantage of the abundant resources provided by INSEAD. The choices can be a little overwhelming, so take your time to think about your personality, strengths and the field you are enthusiastic about. The good news is that the assignments can be helpful tools for you to clear your thoughts about future.
During the warming up stage, everyone has his/her own theme. Some are spending more time with their family, some are travelling, some are working on their start-up ideas. For me, the warming up period is a combination of getting familiar with new classmates, learning a new language, and blending tasks with fun life.