I first learnt about INSEAD when I was doing my research for MBA programs back in 2011 while working at Unilever Pakistan. As someone who has lived in 8 cities across 4 countries in the span of my lifetime the global appeal of the program resonated strongly with me, and so it didn’t take long for INSEAD to become my dream school! However, that dream was put on the shelf as life decided to take me on a unique roller-coaster ride for the next few years.
In 2012, 3 years into my marriage, it came as a sudden jolt to us when my young, smart, handsome and healthy husband was diagnosed with a brain cancer; the most aggressive kind there was. Needless to say, my life came to a standstill. The next few years as I tried to balance my brand management role at work alongside my caregiver role at home, I realized that my priorities in life quickly started to change. My husband’s journey as someone battling a terminal illness coupled with my journey as his spouse and caregiver, put us center-stage into a life and world that we had never been privy to. After diagnosis, we frantically tried to educate ourselves about the disease and search for the best treatment available. We experienced first-hand the immense care and the extreme challenges of navigating through the healthcare system both in Pakistan and abroad. Two years after diagnosis, as the disease started progressing, I chose to take a sabbatical from work and focus all my time and effort into my husband’s care. This was, by far, the best decision I have ever made as it allowed me to dedicate myself completely to my husband’s care who needed it most at that time. A year later, in November 2015, I lost my dear husband to brain cancer.
As a young widow re-fitting the scattered pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that my life had become, I came to terms with where life had brought me and tried to re-align my internal compass to do what matters most to me. I started volunteering countless hours at the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada to support those still battling the disease, with the hope of making their journey easier than it was for my husband and me. I realized I needed to steer my career towards a role and sector that resonated with these personal goals.
This brought me to re-visit my shelved dream of attending INSEAD – a global, diverse MBA program which could potentially connect me with other like-minded individuals with a keen interest in the social impact sector. The application process felt overwhelming at first, but for me the main challenge was to open up about my personal story and let my essays truly reflect what inspires me to do what I do. I believe everyone’s story is unique and compelling. Even though it is not always easy to share our stories with others, it is important to understand that in doing so we can inspire those around us. The application process allowed me to dig deep into my story, to come to terms with it, and to share it in a way that could inspire others. I knew that only good things would come out of this process; aside from it forming a critical part of my application it also gave me the courage to start sharing and speaking about what I went through. There is a certain level of healing that comes with acknowledging loss and writing about it, and applying to INSEAD has in a way helped me as I heal.
Choosing Singapore as my starting campus was an easy choice. Coming from Toronto I simply wanted to start in a place where it would be warm – and boy, is it warm here! I packed all my summer clothes, made the trek across the globe on a 22-hour flight and arrived here on December 10th just in time for the Business Foundations Program (BFP) and the pre-MBA trip to Krabi! My INSEAD journey has already commenced and I wouldn’t trade this for a thing in the world! I figured out housing through the Facebook groups before I arrived which was not a very difficult task, but I still haven’t met my future housemate (she arrives after New Year!). However, I’ve already bonded with some of the most fantastic people through the BFP course and the Krabi trip and I cannot even begin to imagine what it will be like once I meet the rest of our batch in orientation week in January. The best part of this program is that INSEAD chooses individuals with such compelling backgrounds that no matter how inspiring your own story is, you will always be surrounded by those who inspire you further.