Sep 25, 2007


The end of September is fast approaching, the weather's getting cold, we've now passed the P1 half-way mark, and the blues have descended on Fontainebleau. Well, sometimes it feels more like Holly Golightly's reds, actually...

So why the gloom and doom? For one, the level and pace of classes has shot up exponentially over the last couple weeks. Falling behind is not an option, it's an inevitability. The whole experience reminds me a bit of a Texan rodeo, where you cling on for dear life, attempting to stay on top of things for as long as possible and hoping that when you do fall off (and you will), sheer dumb luck will intervene to keep you from getting crushed to death. Exams are in less than four weeks, and there are quizzes, group projects, exercises and essays due in the meantime. God help us.

The second cause of the "blah" is the to-be-expected mid-term anticlimax. We all started out a few weeks ago eager to great every new face and immediately love them forever. This kind of attitude is simply not sustainable in the long run. Now, we studiously ignore anyone whose identity, family history, and first pet's name we are not intimately familiar with; there are just too many people, not enough time, and energy levels are running low. This is also the time in the year that we realize that despite the fact that we're all sharing this amazing INSEAD experience together, it hasn't been long enough for us to really be friends yet (I am aware that I may be upsetting a few of my classmates who read this blog. Maybe I should qualify and say that might just be how I'm feeling about it.) Four weeks, even four intensive INSEAD-bubble-quality weeks, is too short for us to really know each other, especially when we've met around 300 people at random parties wearing silly costumes. My networking skills are just not that honed. But this aspect of the blues, I'm convinced, will lift slowly, as time passes and relationships become more real.

So, what to do when the blues hit? Well, some of us have taken to living in the library, in an attempt to stave off exam worries. Others have chosen to take a 12+ hour bus ride to Munich to drown their fears and sorrows in copious amounts of beer. Still others have reunited with friends, partners, families, seeking to reintegrate the real world (this can actually be quite dangerous; kids, don't try this at home).

And then there are the never-ending, pointless but highly entertaining INSEAD events to keep your mind off things. Here's a quick run-through of fun INSEAD life (yes, it's still there!) over the last few days.

Saturday witnessed the crushing victory of Section E4's football team in the inter-section Football Championship. Despite threatening clouds, the orange-clad, crown-wearing boys and girls of this fine athletic formation quickly disposed of their rivals, winning each match 4 to 1 and celebrating with true E4 panache and flair.

On Sunday, I was invited to dinner at Montmelian, served by the finest Dutch chef on campus. Who needs three Michelin star restaurants when you can get delicious cream of broccoli soup, scallops and apple pie in an idyllic chateau setting?!

Then yesterday was the start of Korea-Japan week, the first of many national weeks to come where we are all treated to the finest and funnest of our classmates' cultures. Calligraphy contests (it took me close to an hour just to write "friendship".... badly), Korean and Japanese food, Tug-of-War, lovely national costumes... what's not to love?!
And so the smiles return, at least until the next Econ quiz.

Sep 16, 2007

Girls, Girls, Girls

Thought that would get your attention.

Anyway, a big congrats to all the girls in the INSEAD team who ran La Parisienne today. Despite the heat, the crowds, and general exhaustion.... we did it! (A big sloppy thank you kiss as well to our unparalleled boys' support team and picnic providers.)

And, choses promises choses dues:

Sep 13, 2007

Dazed and Confused

The reality of the MBA has finally hit home. Hard.

Social life at INSEAD being directly (and very much negatively) correlated to the level of difficulty of the classes, the drawn faces around campus are now the result of spending all night grappling with stats and valuation exercises rather than excessive alcohol consumption and dancing to Mika. This was not helped by the fact that we had our first Econ quiz this week. Still, we managed to get through it and the end of the week is looking decidedly cheerier.

Today was the Career Fair, meaning a free afternoon for us P1s not quite prepared to think about jobs yet. That, and the fact that the sun came out in force, resulted in the left-hand side of my face turning a rather odd shade of purply-pink. Not quite the look I was going for in preparation for the Shangri-La party tomorrow night, the theme of which is Quentin Tarantino movie characters, not bizarre suntanning accidents. Shame.

Then it's off to Paris this weekend, for a little friends-and-family time, as well as the sporting event of the century. No, not the Rugby World Cup (which I really would prefer you didn't mention), but the INSEAD all-girls running team's first competitive outing. In the name of charity and school spirit, I have accepted to humiliate myself by joining some of my sportier female colleagues for La Parisienne, a 6.5km run through scenic Paris. Embarrassing photos of us (well, me) looking like we're about to collapse will presumably follow. I can tell you're on the edge of your seats...

Until then, I must leave you to bash myself about the head with a calculator some more.

Sep 8, 2007

Friends, foes and parties

Psychology students should really come do a case-study on INSEAD MBAs. Let me tell you, when you throw 300-odd intelligent, driven people together, force them to live in an isolated bubble in the middle of the French countryside, deprive them of sleep, subject them to a stressful class schedule and provide lots and lots of alcohol, passions run high. You will suddenly find yourself BFF with someone you've know for less time than the average shelf-life of a bottle of milk, and whose last name you can't spell, much less pronounce correctly. Equally, you will wake up one morning to find yourself implicated in a full blown diplomatic incident resulting from Mr X insulting someone else's country, or asking an annoying question in class, or hitting on the wrong person at a party, and all hell will break loose.

Human relationships at INSEAD are intense, emotionally exhausting, and seem to develop at a pace five times greater than what you're used to from the "real" world. Ideal fodder for a television show...

In other INSEAD news, Club 16 (our new official house name) held its opening party this week to great acclaim. Attendance estimates ran between 150 and 250, an outrageous number in any case that we somehow managed to squeeze into our still-under-construction courtyard and the very popular terrace. Standards have been set; let the battle of the houses begin. Here is one of my favourite Club 16 group pics (I've decided any photo posted on Facebook is fair game for this blog):

In entirely unrelated news, a Swiss guy tried to get out of a speeding ticket in Canada by blaming the absence of goats. Perhaps some of my gas-pedal-heavy friends should try the same in Fontainebleau.

Sep 5, 2007

Running to create value

I've received a bit of a scolding for not posting enough, so in the interest of the greater good, I am sacrificing my econ and finance homework to bring you updated news from the world of a weary P1. Oh, the generosity of spirit...

The key "take-away" from the last few days (note increased use of INSEAD buzz words) is that classes are severely hampering our social schedules. There are a lot of classes. A lot of them start at 8.30 am. There is also a lot of reading, which usually doesn't get finished (if at all) before 2 am. Ergo, I am exhausted, ill, tragically behind and in desperate need of a drink.

Here's a little technical info on the actual work that goes on at INSEAD. (The following will be of interest only to future students and applicants, and my parents. The rest of you (i.e. my classmates) can stop reading now and go back to cooking up Paris and Nicole's balance sheets.)

We have five classes in this first period: Micro-economics, Statistics, Finance, Accounting and a "leadership" class. The latter is the only one with a true level playing field; for everything else, the competitive advantage goes to the finance and maths geeks among us (sadly, I am not one of them). Professors come from all over the world, and each have their own teaching styles, which adds a little extra spice.

Students are divided in 4 sections in Fonty, with each section assigned its own amphi (here's a pic of my amphi, as we slowly drifted in for our stats class). We also all have assigned seats for all our classes, where we dutifully sit behind big name cards waiting for our professors to come to us. We are further subdivided into study groups of 5 or 6 people; these are the poor souls who will bear the brunt of our frustration, desperation and occasional bursts of irrational anger over the next four months. Bless them. There's quite a bit of group work required for class, but also tons and tons of individual reading and problem sets to prepare. Basically, there's a lot to do, and very little time to do it in.

The main time sucker is, of course, our hectic social lives. This is especially true for those of us who live in large shared houses. Official house dinners, unofficial house dinners, house party planning sessions, house rules discussion sessions, house "please help me with my accounting homework" sessions, you name it. Then there's all the parties at other people's houses. And study group dinners. And bumming around the campus café with the people who's names you've managed to remember and their friend Bob.

Second main time sucker: recruiting events. Given the overlap between the two class intakes, there are recruiting events on pretty much every day of the week. So, despite the fact that we've been here a grand total of 10 days, have only just about managed to unpack half the stuff out of our suitcases, and still can't quite find our way around Fontainebleau, my house collectively has probably attended half a dozen presentations already from banks, consulting firms and top industry companies.

Given that there are only 24 hrs in the day, to say that we are suffering serious scheduling conflicts and time management crises is the understatement of the century. And there are 10 months of this to go, folks. God help us.

I should perhaps end this post with a disclaimer. Apparently - given the nature of some of my previous grumblings - my loyal and much beloved readers are under the impression that I am not enjoying myself. This could not be further from the truth. Trust me, on the rare occasions that I manage to get a nanosecond of peace and quiet conducive to solitary reflection and introspection, I am suddenly hit with the realization that I am, indeed, having fun. But if I stop to think about that too much I'll fall even further behind on the reading and be late for the next party.

Sep 2, 2007

Plot the demand curve for sleep at INSEAD...

Phew, welcome week is finally over; it's all downhill from here.

The latter half of welcome week focused on getting to know our study group partners, and getting a taste of class methodology. INSEAD tradition is to put groups together in such a way as to ensure maximum conflict. From what I hear, this is the case with some of the groups but fortunately (and I realise I may be jinxing things here), I've been very lucky with mine. After several hours working on our first case presentation, many more hours trekking through the forest and some rather embarrassing dancing at the end-of-week party, we still all really like each other.

As far as classes are concerned, despite some reservations as to teaching style, I'm relatively happy overall. But I have a feeling the proverbial shit will hit the fan tomorrow, when "real" classes start. First up: Prices & Markets (micro-econ) and Uncertainty, Data & Judgment (statistics). Will let you know how that goes (methinks I should learn to use that damn financial calculator).

Of course, no INSEAD week is complete without a massive party at some insane location, so Saturday night (and Sunday morning) saw us headed to Chateau Le Vaux le Penil for the welcome bash. Now, this is where my position as class blogger becomes a bit tricky; I'm happy for people to know who I am, but have my newfound friends authorised me to disclose written and pictorial evidence of their doings on this public forum? Perhaps there is a theory of implied consent I could rely on here? (where are law school interns with westlaw access when you need them...)

Afraid to jeopardise my new connections so early on in the year, I will have to satisfy myself with only a couple anonymous pictures... I didn't actually take these myself, so credit goes to those photographers who unknowingly let me steal their pics off Facebook.