So wow. How do I begin to describe the last (and my first) month at INSEAD?

 

Let me begin by telling you it’s doesn’t feel like a month – I’d say a solid three-four at least. The time dilation effect of a super-intense academic, career, social and introspective personal development calendar is real! I feel like I’ve known my new town, country, friends, housemates, study buddies and professors for way longer than 4 measly weeks.

Rather than give you a chronology (it would become a book, and I’d want an advance!), I thought I’d use this opportunity to breathe, reflect and write about some of my key experiences and observations the last few weeks. In no specific order of priority:

 

  • Values: INSEAD believes in and lives by its values, and if you align with them (like I do), it’s hard not to feel motivated each time they are mentioned, repeated or interweaved into class, club or project discussions. There is a real emphasis on equality, openness, inclusiveness and diversity, and I sense a genuine attempt from the management to ensure that they all remain a key part of the fabric of student life. It was also interesting to find out that the Admissions Office goes to great lengths to ensure that no one nationality dominates on campus (I think the most represented nationality makes up just 8% of the overall student body!)

 

  • Teaching: I’ve been really impressed with the teaching so far. Although I feel light years behind my more numerically advanced fellow students, the professors of each subject go to great lengths to bring often fairly dry material (sorry, but its true!) to life, and in particular are good at finding ways to apply the concepts to real business scenarios and commercial decisions past and present. The professors also speak to each other and compare syllabuses before term starts, and so the subjects interlink well without repeating or overlapping; good job faculty!

 

  • Career: compared to the student body generally, I feel like a bit of a hippy when it comes to career choices, and I’m still hoping to avoid the masses of MBA-hungry corporates that roam the jungle that is On Campus Recruiting (or “OCR”) when my time comes. But what I have found very interesting on the career front is the effort and thought that has gone into the CDC (Career Development Centre) and PLDP (Personal Leadership and Development Programme) programmes. These courses initially seemed a bit wishy-washy but ended up really helping me understand what drives me as a person, independent of my own unconscious biases; by getting the input of my fellow students and the career advisors, I’ve already identified a few character traits and personal drivers that seem to underpin most of my key decisions and “successes”; hopefully remembering these will help me pick the right career and role when it’s time to re-enter reality again!

 

  • Student body: it’s no doubt already been said on other blogs, websites and in marketing materials, but the students at INSEAD are genuinely an INSANE set of human / other-worldly beings; I can’t remember the last time I had a conversation where I didn’t learn something interesting. If you told me a month ago I would have discussed Spanish politics, Norwegian music festivals, online gaming in India, renewables in China, Israel’s start-up scene and a revolutionary way to book restaurant slots IN THE SAME NIGHT, I would have asked you what you’d been smoking.

 

  • The Bubble: people will warn you about the bubble, but the warnings won’t matter. You’re not ready to deal with it. You can’t be ready to deal with it. The academic, social and extra-curricular calendar at INSEAD is as busy if not way busier than your previous working life, and takes no prisoners. INSEAD will naturally become the center of your world. Loved ones will be neglected, current affairs will pass you by, friend’s messages and emails will get ignored, hobbies will be forgotten. The best advice I can give you on this, and I know it sounds ridiculous, is to diarise all the things that are important to you. Schedule calls to loved ones, use short breaks in your day to respond to friend’s messages, and block out time in your calendar to keep up with hobbies/ activities that keep you centered. Otherwise, they’ll all get away from you quicker than your 200+ person group, 25 message a minute WhatsApp chats!

 

  • Work hard, Play hard: Yes, yes, you’ve done it all your life. You overachieved academically yet were still out till 6am every Saturday, waking only to captain a sports team to glory before grabbing a flight for a weekend jaunt where you hiked an –as-of-yet untraversed mountain before grabbing dinner at the world’s 8th best restaurant. Well, it’s still not going to prepare you! At INSEAD every minute of your time is a decision between multiple options; preparing for your next class, learning about a new industry, starting a new venture, joining a new club (I just joined a new one whilst typing this), attending a leadership summit, listening to an accomplished business titan speak, entering a competition, playing a sport, joining a weekend trip or writing a blog post! I’ve spent the last few days complaining about how there is no time for a lawyer to get up to speed with all these financial subjects, and was reminded today that my “no time” the last month has involved 4 flights, 3 weekend trips, multiple social events and helping to organise a trek! Oops!

 

As I re-read the above, I can’t help but feel like I sound like I’ve been paid to plug the school (maybe I should ask for a discount on my tuition :p). But the reality is that the last month has been a steep learning curve full of amazing experiences; it’s been exciting but stressful, fascinating but exhausting and enjoyable but tough in equal measure – perhaps it will start to settle as P1 exams come up (are they really in under 4 weeks?!) but in any case, I’ll make sure you can read about it on this blog. Happy reading and do get in touch if you have any questions!