As Christmas and the end of my second term at INSEAD approached, it dawned on me that I would soon be halfway through my MBA program. Alarm bells started ringing. I would soon have to start the part that I’ve been dreading: the job hunt.
This has had me asking numerous questions. Am I ready? Should I have done a two-year course? I was about to approach employers after having studied for only five months, yet I was going to label myself as an MBA, someone who would offer them a different dimension. Had I learned enough to be worthy of being labeled an MBA?
I looked through the pile of notes and folders I had accumulated so far. Corporate finance and statistics were two subjects I had learned and practiced before INSEAD. I had not gained much additional knowledge there. I really benefited from courses such as microeconomics. But I knew before I returned to school that my goal wasn’t to fill in academic gaps. I was more focused on developing skills and discovering my true potential. I have managed to do a little of that.
British people are notoriously bad at negotiations, and I have inherited this trait from my people. Some folks enjoy haggling. Yet when I have to haggle, I get uncomfortable and can’t look people in the eye. In my organizational behavior class, we learned about topics such as negotiation tactics and how to effectively influence others. After taking some of the professor’s recommendations and using them in negotiations workshops, I realized I wasn’t as bad at it as I had thought. (How much I will enjoy haggling in a souk/Asian market remains to be seen.)
Second term was the most intense period in the calendar, with so much going on in terms of assignments and lectures. This period of hard work also included our fondest memories to date. The highlight was National Week bidding, a time when groups representing different nationalities campaigned to hold their National Week, a celebration of their culture, in the next six months. There was fierce competition—nine national teams competed for six slots. We had the Comrades (Former USSR/CIS countries), the Italians, the Dragons (Chinese and overseas Chinese), the Koreans, the Latinos, the Heart of Europe (Germanic countries), the Israelis, the Lowlands (Dutch and Belgians), and the Canadians.
On bidding day itself, the campus turned into an exhibition for the nine teams, each trying to win the hearts and minds of students with alcohol, food, costumes, and games. The Canadians all wore Mountie hats, served pancakes with maple syrup, and hosted a flip cup tournament. The Heart of Europe team wore dirndls, lederhosen, and cow outfits to serve Weissbier against a backdrop of loud German folk songs. The Comrades refused to let anyone pass by their stand without consuming vodka, caviar, and canapes. After a day of canvassing, everyone gathered in the main auditorium to see each team’s presentations. Some truly creative and hilarious videos were produced for the presentation. Even members of the faculty played cameo roles.
The most votes went to the small but amazing Korean team, which was making history in its first National Week bid. The members of the group had wowed the student body with a promise to bring a week of distinctive entertainment (Korean karaoke, Soju bomb making, Taekwondo display, and so forth) and caught everyone’s imagination. For many people, this will be their first immersion into Korean culture. Getting to know about other cultures will be key in an international environment.
My classmates and I have also gotten to know one another beyond our different cultures and work experience. Stronger friendships have emerged since the earliest days of the program. Those in my section, having shared all our classes together, have become particularly close. After just four months, we were coming to the end of our time together because we would be split up for electives. To commemorate our time together, I enlisted the help of four friends. We pulled a prank during class that had one of us disguised as a ghost and predicting everyone’s future by drawing on their personality quirks and funny anecdotes. This brought on lots of laughter and was well received by all. It quickly morphed into something far bigger, and we ended up making a 20-minute mockumentary video to tie in the prank with a story that went viral around campus and will not be easily forgotten.
In all seriousness, I must look to the future. I’m certain as we don dress shirts and ties again that I will find myself working with some of the friends I’ve made here. I also know that the skills I’m gaining are going to have a profound influence on my résumé and career. Despite the sadness that comes whenever a great experience seems to be flying, I am excited to complete the program and take on the next challenge, whatever it may be.