An INSEAD MBA is widely considered to be a prestigious degree. Applicants usually compare all the INSEAD campuses before they settle on one.
Today we're introducing a new INSEAD student blogger from Singapore. Ruch will be sharing his experiences throughout his MBA this year at the INSEAD Fontainebleau campus.
Where did you work before you started your INSEAD MBA?
I was working for a small consulting team housed within a larger business intelligence firm and I advised pharmaceutical clients.
What made you want to get an MBA, and attend INSEAD in particular?
I felt the need to add to my skill set to be able to run my team effectively in a global environment.
INSEAD was the only choice for me as it checked all the boxes I was looking for: It is a great school; it is global and has the most diverse student body (and has 4 campuses); it is a one-year programme; it has a very informal/ unpretentious environment.
What were you most excited about, and most nervous about for your INSEAD MBA?
I was excited about the prospect of pressure-testing myself with a bunch of high-achieving peers and sharing experiences with them and learning alongside them.
I was nervous about living in the forest (Fontainebleau) since I've always been a city-kid! I've been here for close to a month now, and life at INSEAD has been great so far!
What would you like to do following your MBA? Do you think you'll return to your home country?
I'll move to a larger consulting firm with a pharma practice area. I want to operate in the corporate strategy space in the pharma industry. I have spent the last 7 seven years in London (over 2 stints) and Dubai. I'm originally from Singapore and look forward to living in a new country (my 6th country of residence)...
What kind of funding obstacles did you face, and how did Prodigy Finance help?
I received a loan from my sister and brother-in-law. However, due to exchange rate fluctuations (the sterling pound weakening vs the Euro), this amount decreased and I did not want to experience a situation where I would be three-quarters of my way through the INSEAD MBA and short of money. I applied for a Prodigy Loan to mitigate any such risks.
What are you missing the most about your previous country of residence, now that you're in France?
I miss the diverse food options available; the nutritional information on food packaging and my gym (Virgin Active Tower Bridge)….
If you could have brought one food from your home country to France, what would it have been?
Probably some instant noodles. Considering how hectic the programme is, instant noodles are a perfect bite after a late night out (in the library/ bar)...
September 26, 2013
So I've been in Fontainebleau for 5 weeks now, and am probably one of the few people who've not left the forest since getting here! Life is pretty different here from the other cities I've lived in (Singapore, London & Dubai) since it's my first time living in an actual rural setting.
I live at Club 16, a 16 bedroom student house that's the famous after-party spot, for the bars close by 1am here. And we joke of the Fontainebleau village as the "city" where the tall buildings are at (i.e. The Chateau Fontainebleau - which isn't very tall really!).
Anyway, INSEAD student life has been interesting predominantly because of the people I've been hanging out with over the past 5 weeks. Everyone's from everywhere; everyone has lived in more than one country and speaks more than 2 languages - much like me. It's interesting how we've all got so much in common (the stuff above), but our experiences have been vastly different!
There's nothing an INSEADer enjoys more than a refreshing pint/ glass of vino on the grass when the sun is out and the weekend beckons. It was the end of my 3rd week in school last week; I had two quizzes on Thursday and Friday morning. At 10am on Friday, shortly after the microeconomics quiz, I felt euphoric, almost as if I just graduated from INSEAD with my MBA.
The end of the first period
October 23, 2013
What an unbelievable 7-8 weeks it has been now at INSEAD! I've only really known my friends here for as long as I've been in Fontainebleau, but I feel like I've known some of them for 7-8 years. Others I know less well, but I guess that's just natural. So, I've been having loads of fun.
I think I might have set a record by a new INSEADer for the most number of days spent in the forest (Fontainebleau) without leaving. Guinness has yet to verify this, but until a few days ago, I had spent 50 days without stepping out of the realms of the forest.
So what do I enjoy most about being at INSEAD?
Working hard and playing hard.
We spent last weekend on tour in Lisbon with the Rugby Club. We dressed up as Frenchmen (berets, a white long-sleeved top with stripes, and a red scarf around our necks). One of the girls used her eyeliner and drew curvy 'taches (to complete the look!).
At the security check area, the officer opened my bags and was looking at my Gillette shaver, so I "twirled" my fake 'tache; which got him laughing! We had a blast in Lisbon and I got to know some of my friends better.
I planned to be serious last week since our finals are next week. There's the saying, plan your work and work your plan. I’ll admit, I struggled a bit with the latter. I went to one of the chateaus (Tavers) on Monday night for dinner. Interestingly, the INSEAD tables were turned because the ratio of boys to girls at the dinner table was 30: 70 (a cool 180 degree spin from the normal ratio in school). We had a fantastic evening and danced into the night in the Chateau's dungeon. I spent more time in the library for the rest of the week. But on Friday, one of my classmates, Mark (Dutch guy) organised a Black-Tie Do at his house. We dressed up for the night in our finest suits and bow ties. I armed myself with a box of Cuban cigars I'd picked up in Havana last year and thought it'd be the perfect occasion to enjoy Cuba's finest.
On Saturday night, I found myself in the library, where the rest of the weekend would be spent. We march towards annihilation at one of the five 3-hour long exams between Monday and Wednesday. Till next time, if I make it beyond the exams.…
A trip to Istanbul (Wed-Sun) is my incentive for survival...
My INSEAD journey continues
November 25, 2013
I find myself in Week 4 of Period 2 now. Three weeks to go till the exams, and we'll be 40% done with our INSEAD MBA coursework. Crazy huh?
Life here is really what it feels like to be on a super-highway. I used to think that life in London and Dubai was fast, and realised that every time I was back in Singapore to see family and friends - and saw how little things changed with them, compared to my hectic life. In retrospect, life in London/ Dubai as a consultant was pretty slow compared to the pace over here in a forest in the middle of nowhere in France. That's INSEAD for you!
So what's changed in Period 2? I don't even know where to start! So much happens here every few days, the only way to recall what happens is to look at my iPhone photo gallery and look at the evidence: the good, the bad and the ugly!
Going back to what's changed; I've gotten a little more serious about my work - the academics. That's a mixture of getting more acclimatised to being back and school; and the fact that we're doing less quant-heavy courses like Strategy, Marketing, etc, where I have contributions to make about the experiences I've gained over the last 6 years working. There is so much reading to get through before every class, it's not even funny. We absolutely have to fall back on the tried and tested philosophy of Dividing and Conquering. The 6 of us (in my study group) take responsibility for the tasks ahead and work in small teams of 2-3 on each of them. Very unlike P1 when all 6 of us would be cracking each case and spending ages on each of them. We're more factory-like now and bang things out relatively fast. I guess you could call this part of the "experience curve".
There's also lots of focus these days on getting our CV right, so we get a nice one page in INSEAD's famous CV book! So much preparation goes into this. I've had about 40 iterations of my CV so far and I'm nowhere close to completion yet!
What else has happened here since the second period commenced..?
I found out that I'll be going to Singapore for Period 3. And most importantly, running away from another miserable winter in Europe!
We've had 2 national weeks so far: Lebanese Week and Desi Week is going on as I write. I'm brown (being of Sri Lankan parentage) and have a pretty thick 'tache right now (thanks Movember!) and am constantly asked if I'm doing it for Desi Week! It's either that, or not being recognised by friends, who've not seen me since last week (when I sported a beard - mainly to camouflage the moustache and how ridiculous I currently look!).
A few friends and I (9 of us in 2 cars) here did a weekend road trip to Normandy and Mont St Michel. Had a brilliant time...
We also had a Social Impact Week, which included a Charity Auction. I successfully bid for several items - food-related of course. All for a good cause. The 14Js are raising funds for building a school in Kenya.
We also had what I'd call the most-fun-day-ever at the INSEAD campus. National Week bidding day. That was last Friday and it was insane. The countries/ regions bidding were: North America, Latin America, Italy, Dragon Week (China, Taiwan), Heart of Europe (Germany, Austria, Switzerland & Liechtenstein). We had loads of good food and drink. I wish every day was like that. The Portuguese folks asked me to support their bid and I was involved in their presentation. Being a de Silva, I thought I should lend my support. Plus the Portuguese in 14J are a lovely bunch - not that the others aren't!
Ok, time to get back to my readings again! Will fill you in on the gazillion things (or snippets at least!) of what happens in the next few weeks here!
Till next time.....
40% done, out of the bubble, and more changes!
December 18, 2013
So, pretty much 48 hours ago (my computer is still on CET even though I am in Singapore right now!), the last exam was turned in and we were freed from the shackles of INSEAD MBA exams! Monday night was a frenzy of goodbyes since it signalled the end of the highly feared Period 2 of our INSEAD MBA adventure and hello to the highly anticipated campus exchange.
The end of P2 brings us three weeks away from THE BUBBLE. A much-needed break from all things INSEAD. I say that with a lot of love. Life on the superhighway can be pretty challenging and everyone deserves a break. I'm in Singapore now because my family lives here (my sister moved back here with her family 4 months ago after about 15 years away, and my brother just returned after about 3 years!) so the family are all based back here whilst P3 lasts at least. I'm going to spend the next 9 days here and head to South Thailand (Ko Lanta, Krabi, PhiPhi) with a bunch of 14J girls from Fonty; a few guys from Singy (ok, I'm also going to have to get used to referring to Singapore as Singy so I might as well start now!). P3 will bring many new beginnings - we unite with our counterparts from the INSEAD Singapore campus and welcome the 14Ds in true INSEAD fashion!
P2 was pretty brutal. Managing 6 courses and an active social life are hard. But it has been done now and I'm going to enjoy the social life in Singapore for the next couple of months: wearing t-shirts, shorts, flip-flops, searching for "Singapore Noodles"! I'm going to miss some of the friends who are going to be in Fonty over P3, but I really hope everyone enjoys their break and tries to get away from the INSEAD BUBBLE because that'll help us keep the energy levels up and enjoy the last 60% - which I'm sure will go by in a flash!
One school, two campuses
January 24, 2014
So I'm one of the 130+ of us Fontainebleau (Fonty) starters to have moved to the Singapore (Singy) campus. There are bundlers (staying in Singy from P3-5), those staying here for P3&4. I'm the only ONE who's doing it my way (P3&5 provisionally!).
It's been awesome being at INSEAD Singapore. This goes for many reasons: 1) Amazing weather, 2) we wear shorts, t-shirts and flip-flops 3) INSEAD Singy feels like an entirely different school 4) it's so good to finally meet our counterparts (14J Singy folks), and 5) we're finally learning stuff we like!
What an amazing two weeks it has been so far. The experiences here are new for most. They are probably less "new" for me since I grew up in Singy and hung out with the exchange students when I was doing my undergrad at the National Uni of Singapore. So I must emphasise how different it feels to be here (compared to Fonty for the above reasons). It's really amazing and I feel nothing short of privileged to be experiencing all this here alongside my "old" and "new" friends.
Many of us travel every weekend here. I'm taking it easy since I've been to most of the spots around. Still, I have Lombok lined up for the Chinese New Year weekend. Another trip to Pangkil (the private island) with a good mix of INSEADers from Fonty & Singy and finally another rugby trip to Bangkok the weekend before our P3 exams.
So this period for me is all about getting to know the Singy folks and also about laying the seeds for the imminent job hunt. We have less than 6 months left to graduation now and I do feel the need to ensure that my life after my INSEAD MBA is taken care of. Loads of follow up actions and emails to be sent to people (mainly alumni). Daunting - yes! But definitely part of the challenge! I cross my fingers that it will work out, but let's see what happens. I always have believed that everything works out for the best; and that everything always works out in the long-run. I wonder what life will be like in July/ August (known in the INSEAD circles as P6)...
I can't believe how time has flown so quickly and how much I've learnt in and out of the class. It has been a thoroughly enriching experience so far. I am excited by the interesting courses I will take (the electives) and how things will pan out. I talk to my sister and brother-in-law (who are sponsoring my MBA alongside Prodigy) and they ask me jokingly about what I do besides partying on top of skyscrapers and by the beachside. There's little point trying to explain to those outside the world about the complexity of our lives. Managing a million and one things is never easy. Especially when the world only sees the photos of the fun we seem to be having travelling/ and partying.
There's so much more at stake though. Only we know. Only we can do anything about it. All I can really say about this is that I'm going to savour every minute of it since it's just so enriching. It's also a bit of a break from the harshness of the real world. I just love everything about INSEAD. Ok, I might be lying. The food could definitely be better (Sodexo please look into this!).
On a final note till my next blog post - I really wonder what life will be like once we complete this amazing year and are back in the real world working, earning, paying taxes, and trying to be grown-up again...
INSEAD P3 almost over; Fonty in 2 weeks
February 21, 2014
So, we're 4 days from the end of P3; and the "holiday" in Singapore is almost over now! Tomorrow I have 2 large assignments to turn in - one on Mergers, Acquisitions, Alliances, and Corporate Strategy; and the other on International Political Analysis.
P3 has been an amazing learning experience, particularly because of a number of stimulating electives I've read. After the assignments are submitted, over a 100 of us (14Js and 14Ds) are flying to Bangkok for the rugby tour. Lisbon - the location of our 1st rugby trip was 4 months ago, at the end of P1! How time flies.
Speaking of time flying, we're in Bangkok over the weekend, return on Sunday night, and have our last exam (ever!) sometime in the afternoon on Monday. I do intend to spend some time in Bangkok studying for the Macro(-economics) exam! Let's see what happens.
So the last 6 weeks or so in Singapore have been nothing short of awesome. For a start, I met our other halves - the 14Js who started in Singy. I knew a bunch of them and met (and have gotten to know) loads of them. What a great bunch of people they are. But in true INSEAD style, again the time for farewells is coming. Loads of people will fly off on Monday night and on Tuesday to absorb the sights of Southeast Asia. I'm sticking around here as I'll have a week to myself (largely) to work on my job-hunt.
P4 - recruitment season is just around the corner and I'll be flying back to France in about 11 days (ugh!). I'm going to miss Singapore. Being at INSEAD (i.e. walking to school in a t-shirt, shorts and flip-flops) has been amazing. Loads of us (Fonty and Singy folks) are heading to Le Foret to start our job hunt. It's going to be competitive, but I hope we all remain friends at the end of the next period and are happy for one another as and when we get jobs. Let's see what happens.
Till next time, it'll be time to start keeping my head down and "networking" - whatever that means! Adios, everyone!
The time to grow up finally comes around
March 24, 2014
So, for the last 6 months, we've felt like proper students. Not a care in the world, and we (I) feel like I'm 22 again (like I was 10 years ago!).
It's P4 and that means one thing and one thing only: time to get a job. It's funny how putting a suit on again feels like you're putting on a NASA spacesuit, especially after the last two months in Singapore wearing a t-shirt, shorts, flip-flops and sunnies. We're all humans and capable of forgetting things we were accustomed to not long ago - like wearing a suit! Anyway, the order of the coming weeks are coffee chats, company presentations, cocktails, networking sessions, career fairs, applications, cover letter fine-tuning, mock interviews, interviews, case prep, and the list goes on.
Somehow life doesn't seem very easy anymore, but it's part and parcel of every INSEAD MBA candidate’s life cycle. Everything is packed into 10 months and every experience feels more intense than the experiences we've had in our lives before this adventure.
Every day I walk to my pigeon hole and look under "De Silva RUCH" for an envelope containing a letter saying that I have a job.
Anyway, I better get back to the case prep now, but hopefully the next time I write here I'll have a job and have drowned myself in champagne...
And the 80-20 rule kicks in
April 24, 2014
So by the end of this week, we're finished with 80% of the course. Can't believe this! Time has whizzed by. I remember most things like they happened not long ago. The truth is, indeed that they did not happen very long ago.
We only commenced this craziness in late August last year. It feels like an eternity has gone by due to the intensity of the course. We've learnt so much about everything... starting from ourselves... to a bunch of accounting ratios that we will probably never mention again in our lives (at least I hope so!).
We start P5 on the 5th of May. Loads of our friends will return from the Singapore campus and there'll be the other friends from the Singapore campus who're here for the first time. The other talk of the town is the Grad Trip, which will be held in Hvar, Croatia. Let's just hope more of us have jobs by then...
Anyway, the last couple of weeks have been strange. Interviews, suits, dings... the usual stuff! I too rang the bell for the first time a few weeks ago after being dinged by a top 3 consulting firm whose name I shall not mention.
I'm probably going on a road trip next week with a bunch of friends (nothing's really been planned yet). I'm assuming we've got a vague idea of where we're heading to. Very reminiscent of what happens in our lives after INSEAD.
The 80% that's gone by has been spectacular. I just hope the remaining 20% promises the same, especially if I get employed by then!
Nearing the end of my INSEAD MBA
May 23, 2014
So everyone's counting down the number of weeks left before INSEAD ends for us. Graduation is on the 3rd of July. We have a Graduation Trip planned to Hvar in Croatia for 4-5 days just before this.
Classes are winding down for most of us now. Some have jobs, others don't. But the stress levels seem to be coming down either way. There's a lot of socialising. Whether it's afternoon pints on the grass, dinners, dinner parties of mindless drinking... On that note, I've quit drinking and it's been 3 days now. After 8 months, my liver has said enough and I'm giving it a break. I also went to the gym today for the first time in a long, long time and my body is on the verge of shutting down.
I can't believe how quickly time has gone by. Almost at the end now. We know who our friends are now, and who will remain acquaintances we see ever so often at airports and reunions, perhaps even weddings.
It's been an amazing ride and I too am sad that it will end. At the same time, I look forward to being back in the real world. Getting off the INSEAD MBA superhighway is something I kinda look forward to doing now...
Auld Lang Syne
June 26, 2014
No, it's not the New Year, but I found out recently that Auld Lang Syne means "of times that have gone" and I thought it would be a fitting title to my tenth and final blog post here.
What an amazing 9 months and 3 weeks it has been! Just a week left now. Tomorrow we leave for our Graduation Trip in Hvar, Croatia where we will unite with our friends from the Fonty and Singy campus for a final 6 days and nights of craziness, before we return and have our Graduation Ceremony on Thursday. On Friday at noon, I hop on a flight to Singapore for the next "x" days/ weeks/ months (hopefully not years) until I accept a job somewhere.
I'm not going to go on with banalities such as "it has been the most amazing year of my life" or anything like that since we paid INSEAD 60,000 Euros for this experience (not to mention the other costs / the entire exercise which would be valued at over a 100,000 Euros - not mentioning opportunity costs).
Firstly, I want to pay tribute to all the special friends I have made over here. I love these people and will miss them terribly. I feel privileged that our paths have crossed thanks to INSEAD and hope that I stay in touch with these folks for a long, long time. We've shared so many laughs, drinks, food, stories, experiences, joys, sorrows... the list goes on...
I have discovered over a short period of 10 months a new group of people who I will probably keep as friends (hopefully) for the rest of my life. When times have been hard, people have stood by me, offered kind words, advice and support.
From a learning perspective, I have learnt so much about my true, real self, thanks to INSEAD. Beyond the self-realisations, I have learned so much about how I can approach an issue through the eyes of my friends. Different people have different perspectives and I have thoroughly enjoyed discussing issues whether we have similar or different views, agreeing to disagree, and walking away from friends (more often than not!).
The diversity INSEAD has offered us is a one-time opportunity. Unless I join the United Nations, I can safely say that I will never experience the level of diversity we have here.
I'm still interviewing for jobs so I'm not sure what the future holds for me. I'm aiming to work in any city but Singapore, London and Dubai since I've worked in all 3 places and would like to be based somewhere new. I am heading to Singapore to stay with my mom and dad until I accept an offer. My friends here laugh at how I am moving to the "most expensive city in the world" to cut my financial losses till I am gainfully employed.
The last 10 months have been exciting; no two days have been the same. Exciting but intense. I am feeling rather burnt out from meeting so many people. In a way, I'm looking forward to going back to the real world. I have neglected my friends and family since my INSEAD MBA studies have started, and I need to pay attention to some of those relationships.
As I used to describe this, life (for my friends and family) back in Singapore is like a country road... nothing changes! Life at work used to be like a highway, and life at INSEAD is unarguably like a super-highway!
I have thoroughly enjoyed everything - the academics, socialising and self-discovery. Putting my thoughts in here has also been useful as it has given me a chance to reflect on the things I've done here.
For everyone who's read this, thank you and Auld Lang Syne!
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