[I promise you that a final tell-all post is still taking its form inside my head. But in the meantime, I’m letting better writers sum up their experiences at INSEAD. Enjoy.]
Questions of value must arise at the end of an energy sapping year that features, among other things, an extraordinary financial strain. Simply, was it worth it?
What is undoubtedly true is that INSEAD offers among the best education money can buy, and not only in a pedagogical sense. However, in my case, as in surely that of many of my classmates, I must wonder whether the theory (and associated interactions) absorbed, and the three letters earned, will effect (or inspire?) the expected impact on my career. Was I no longer in the mood for a decent swathe of serious learning? Did I not feel enough sacrifice of the investment made in order to seek a full return? Perhaps this is the kind of risk classifiable as a perennial pitfall of privilege?
I guess only time will clarify the extent of any delusion here. In the interim there are more job applications and interviews, and the mental anguish of a come down that is relatively simple to explain, but harder to cure.
However it is not the underpassioned (for whatever reason) that tend to miss out on the most INSEAD has to offer, but the shy, in my humble opinion. And I don’t mean those that could not get themselves away from their laptops for yet another Tavers gropefest. I mean those who had ample opportunity to pick the brains of immensely interesting people but for some reason could not muster the confidence or energy to do so.
I regret falling in this category far too often. And according to many I have discussed this with, it would appear to represent a common regret. Over 15 years ago I was about to commence my first year of undergrad, and the best advice I received, from my most respected advisor, was: “Talk to as many people as you can”. My formal institutional learning is over, and the advice could well have not been given.
It is not so much an issue of the more culturally quiet versus those with the perceived level of ‘cool’ to gain access to ears and mouths of the masses – too many who had such access seemed to waste it on shallow and banal association, again in my humble opinion.
To me, this is where INSEAD earns its damage to your balance sheet – the sheer attraction of the people. Maybe this is a common trait of concentrated graduate schools, but I have no benchmark of experience. Of course, a component of that attraction was the sexual tension (which was as fun as it should be, and tragically, almost always underexploited), but for most this was just a side-dish.
Examples of associations that characterise the attraction are diverse and often subtle in form. The humbling wisdom of a team member. The discovery of how unexpected leaders refuse to be led. A unique and powerful perspective that blows the hair back due to its sheer simplicity. The almost delirious feeling of a packed Shaker dance floor and its collective euphoria, fired by booze and the welcome surprise of the talent on show at the Cabaret.
And the treasured exchanges are not always of the more uplifting variety. I remember being suitably sideways in a Barcelona club at 4am, and one of my most fascinating classmates was recalling his work in some West African hellhole – and how the psychological trauma from his exposure to the bloodshed (and associated moral vacuum) had erased most of his childhood memories.
There is little time to explore people like this at much greater depth, as a key strength of the INSEAD course structure is to keep you moving your exposure around the student body. The grand opportunity, therefore, is to exchange genuine experiences and opinions with as many students as possible. As many as you can.
Returning to the aforementioned come down, I self-medicate myself with the knowledge that I will see my friends again. Then it will be different.