The INSEAD MBA: Week 1

Hello hello! Since my last post, things have picked up a lot. Last week was completely consuming- socially, mentally, physically. I had no time to even think about anything else. I’m not quite sure how to start telling you about it… so maybe I’ll start at the beginning.

The first few days were all about getting to know eachother- but on a very superficial level. I had the same conversation with hundreds of people: where we’re from, what we did pre MBA and what we plan to do after. Whether or not we’re planning an exchange to France. I love meeting and chatting to new people, but after a while I got tired of the small talk and really wanted to engage in some real conversation. As time progressed, we got to know each other a bit better and quickly moved past the formalities. That said, I was impressed at how easy it was for everyone to approach a stranger and introduce him/herself- it soon became easy for me too.

The people in my class are amazing. There are 89 nationalities all together. Both in and out of the classroom, I’m exposed to international insights experienced by these people first hand, from the war in Israel at their doorsteps, to how they do business in China. This kind of thing is really hard to come by, and after only 1 week I’ve learnt so much.

Generally, you could go up to any random person in the class and have a really great conversation with them. By virtue of the fact that they got into an INSEAD MBA, everyone is intelligent, but not in a nerdy way. They’re sociable, fun loving, warm and great company. We spend a LOT of time together. Lectures all day, lunch together, sometimes dinner after campus, and then there’s bound to be at least 1 weekend activity happening. Like this weekend, there are at least 4 weekend trips happening- we’re off to Bangkok, others are going to Hong Kong or islands in Malaysia or Indonesia.

An average INSEAD dinner- having to move tables together and completely confusing the waiters

An average INSEAD dinner- having to move tables together and completely confusing the waiters

Back home, everyone would tell me that my life is so exciting. I can tell you, compared to everyone else, this is the norm. In fact, my life is probably among the most boring in the class. Most people spent the last few months pre MBA travelling the world, they all have had incredible career growth over the past few years (most have lived and worked outside of their home country) and they’re also quite free spirited (I guess you have to be if you’re prepared to sell everything you own and move to a new country.)

So the social aspect has just been amazing. We’ve been drinking almost every day and partying a lot more than normal. It seems like there’s always something going on. I think because it’s so safe here at night, and there’s no need to worry about drinking and driving, we’re more inclined to be out every weekend rather than staying home. And the weather is perfect. No need to wear anything more than shorts and flip flops to beach parties or bars. I love it. I’ve somehow been transformed into a student again, so the idea of partying has become appealing.. whereas at home the most I wanted to do on a Saturday night was go to dinner- I always stayed away from clubs.

Beach party last weekend, hosted by PWC

Beach party last weekend, hosted by PWC

View from drinks at Ku De Ta

View from drinks at Ku De Ta

In terms of the actual reason I’m here, the MBA, I’ve been impressed with the quality of lectures so far, as well as INSEAD’s professionalism. They seem to be on top of everything, particularly around career development. There are around 80 companies coming to campus to recruit in the next few months, including some that I’m really keen on learning more about, like Apple, Google, Amazon and L’Oreal. It took me a while to get my head around the fact that companies really want us to work for them- they sponsor everything from our notebooks to our parties. I had a look through the job opportunities that are posted on our bulletin board (there were at least 350 jobs) and I had a bit of a moment where I realised how accessible all of this has become. I was exploring the job market for a good 2 years before I left SA, and came up with close to nothing that I even wanted to apply for (let alone actually getting into a company.) I keep trying to remind myself that there are no guarantees, but I’m pretty excited about my future career. It’s going to be tricky to manage because I think it’s gonna be impossible for both Rishav and I to find our dream jobs in the same location but if we end up in a large metropolis like London, New York or Hong Kong that would help.

It took me a few days to forget about the comforts of my old home, well more necessities really, like an oven and microwave, but now I’m used to it. Apart from missing those things, I haven’t missed home or wished I could go back, not once. I haven’t felt like I miss anyone back home either- I speak to everyone important to me regularly- on Skype, WhatsApp, FaceTime and Viber, so I don’t feel out of touch. If anything, I wish more of the people close to me could have this experience, at INSEAD or elsewhere, because I think so many of them would love it. I am in my element- exploring a new city, being free and not bound to an office, hanging out with fun, stimulating people all day, and partying it up in between. They say an MBA is the best year of your life, I can totally see why.

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I’m sure the work will pick up soon, but I’ve heard that the MBA is not that academically challenging, particularly for people who have Finance backgrounds. I definitely don’t plan to spend all my time studying, so I’ll need to manage that along with getting involved in student clubs and the like. There are some that sound amazing- like the retail, consumer and luxury goods club where they organise treks to Hong Kong and London to meet with influential people in the industry. LV, Chanel, Gucci, Burberry- what a dream it would be to work somewhere like that 🙂 I’m also super keen on VINSEAD (the food and wine club) and Women in Business. Our schedule isn’t too bad- today, for example, I only start at 12pm, so I’m currently writing from Starbucks 🙂

I'm so not a library kind of girl. I love hanging out in coffee shops. My happy place.

I’m so not a library kind of girl. I love hanging out in coffee shops. My happy place.

So that’s it for me for now.. and maybe the end of my Singapore posts for a while. Actually, why don’t you tell me what you’d like more of on this blog? Do you want more personal accounts of my experience here? Or travel/ food reviews? Let me know- your wish is my command 🙂 I also have a huge backlog of posts to write from the 2 months I spent travelling before I came here, so look out for those.

Until then, stay happy. xx H