I decide not to sell myself short

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You have the option to learn. If you don’t exercise your option, it’s your problem; you can do whatever you want.” I suppose he had a point. And With that, we hadthe professor had begun our course in derivative securities. Like so many others, this professor chose to teach in a style of militant double entendres. When “selling short”, one must choose wisely When “selling short”, he advised, one must choose wisely because it is ex-tremely risky to sell something one does not actually own. And when navigating Insead, again, choose wisely: because it is too easy to lack direction and move aimlessly through an intense, one-year MBA.

Just four months into the MBA programme at Insead’s Singapore campus, I swiftly found myself enteringentered P3, the third out of five academic periods. Here, I was iImmediately I was confronted with a choice: whether I wouldor not to participate in the school’s campus exchange. The exchangeThis scheme is for students from the Singapore campus who opt to spend P3 (and also P4 or P5 if they wish) on the Fontainebleau campus outside Paris and vice versa. I decided not to capitalise on this opportunity, although many of my friends did. In the coming months, I would question my decision constantly, as I was repeatedly asked the same question: “Why are you not going to Fonty?”

One such explanation was the logistical rationalisation – that it would be a hassle to leave, find new housing and leasehire a car, amongst others other tasks. Although,But surely the benefit of a second campus experience could outweigh these minor inconveniences? But thereThere were also the justificationelective courses to consider and my explanation I justified my choice on the grounds that the Singapore campus had more of the entrepreneurship courses that interested me. True, Elective courses variedvary across campuses and soon I found myself faced with another Insead decision: how to navigate the market of elective selections.

By this point, the majority of our core courses had been completed and although at times we may have still felt like amateurs in the world of business, it was time to start choosing those courses that would make us professionals. Through an intricate bidding process, we allocate our allotted 200 points to 10 or so elective courses. Some choose based on a logical track, with recommended course progressions that take participants from venture opportunities and business models in P3, to new business ventures in P4, and finishing with business plan workshop in P5, as an example. Others choose solely on the quality of professor: for some reason, those who teach with a sort of dry humour or a particular form of overconfidence tend to be preferred. And others choose courses that allow us to challenge models and assumptions that we learnt in our core courses; or that would at least demonstrate that a particular theory fitted situations other than the plethora of case studies written solely in support of these theories.

And so we started to think for ourselves, or so we were led to believe. We started reading less and thinking more. It no longer felt necessary to complete all assignments, which would have been physically impossible given the time allotted and the reading assigned. We began to have the ability to simplify the complicated and cut to what really matters.

The extra time that this process bought us, we were of course able to fill immediately. With what precious free time an MBA participant may have, numerous social options abound. Some involve the nearby Singapore surroundings, while other events centre on student-run “national week” social festivities – a testament to the level of diversity that Insead truly represents. National groups compete to provide a week-long programme of cultural and social events that will top any of the previous national week celebrations. Events usually include local food, movies and mementos, am-ong others. In P3 alone,I found myself drinking Red Bull and bidding to win a Swarovski necklace for Austrian week, strutting down an Insead-green “runway” while modelling Diesel clothing for Italian week and dancing in my finest evening wear at the summer ball, aptly dubbed “Arabian nights”.

As P3 social events came to a close and summer holidays approached, my fellow MBAs and I also faced the numerous options of how to spend our time during the coming two-month respite.

Some of the ambitious strived for internships at investment banks, consultancy firms and large corporations. Others opted merely for ambitious travel itineraries, in a race to see who could cover the most of Asia in the least amount of time.

By final exam week, just about everyone had mastered the delivery of a 30-word exposition of their summer plans, with just the right mixture of respectability and intrigue. The range of activities was vast, another testament to our diversity, with one colleague starting an optical-fibre business in South America, another opting to relax and surf in the south of France and yet another working in Bangkok for the World Food ­Programme.

I chose the expeditionary option and filled my summer with three weeks of tsunami relief work in Khao Lak, Thailand, followed by three weeks of travel in China. My summer finished with an eight-day excursion to India as part of an Insead initiative, where we liaised with numerous government officials and high-level business executives.

With less than four months remaining in my one-year marathon, there is still no definite proof that I have been choosing wisely. But, on the road to an MBA, there are those who sell short and there are those who buy long. Either way, at Insead, we are among those who will always exercise their options.

Laura Huang: Far away but much closer to my goals

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