Archive for March, 2012

Period Break in Boracay

Sunday, March 18th, 2012

After completing the final exams for P1 last week, almost all INSEAD students headed off to different destinations for the four-day period break before our classes started again at the beginning of this week. I know of at least seven different group trips that were organized, plus more individual travel arrangements. As one student put it: “the only ones staying in Singapore are married couples, Singaporeans or those who are receive visitors over the period break”. Whereas others travelled to Sri Lanka, India, Hong Kong, Japan, Cambodia, or Lao, I joined a group of people going to Boracay island in the Philippines.

The island is renowned as one of South East Asia’s best beach spots, and is the major tourist destination in the Philippines. As such, I was initially a bit worried that it would have a package tourist feel to it like for example Phuket, but it turned out that this was  not the case. In fact, Boracay has a very relaxed atmosphere, and the beaches are really stunning. The island is shaped like a bone, with a narrow part in the middle, and wider ends in the north and south. The middle part has two beaches on either side: In the west, White Beach is the amazingly beautiful and stretches over some three kilometers. Along the beach, there are numerous restaurants and bars, and the beach is in fact more busy after sunset than during the day. On the east side, Bulabog Beach is above all populated by kitesurfers. The beach itself is not very beautiful, but shallow water, steady on-shore wind and a reef off the coast which breaks the waves before they can reach the shore make the spot perfect to kitesurf.

Initially I had not made up my mind what to do during my time on the island, but once I got there on Thursday morning (after a seven-hour journey with a transfer in Cebu), I decided to give kitesurfing a shot… and I loved it! I did a three-day course, and by the end of the third day, I managed to ride a few meters on the board. It really takes some time to learn all the necessary skills: maintaining control over the kite, steering the kite in a way so that it exerts force on you in the right direction, getting up on the board, and balancing your weight on the board in the right way. Despite the fact that it took so long to even ride a few meters (and even that far from consistently!) I did not get frustrated at all, because I could feel that I was constantly improving in my efforts. Of course I was far from what some of the more experienced kitesurfers where practicing on the water just next to me, including some really amazing, long jumps (my instructor told me that he had won a contest recently with a 9.7 second jump!).

Apart from kitesurfing, I enjoyed the beaches of the island and the truly amazing scenery. In addition, we went out for dinner or drinks to some really nice restaurants and bars.

When we had to leave on Sunday, I really didn’t want to leave yet… I could have stayed there easily for a few more weeks, going kitesurfing everyday and living the good life…

Some pictures from the trip:

The End of P1 (Period 1): Finals Coming Up!

Sunday, March 4th, 2012

In addition to all the travelling, partying and immersion in Asian culture, I am actually studying (this blog might not fully reflect that fact) 🙂 On Friday, we already had our last classes for P1 (Period 1). The INSEAD MBA is divided in five two-month periods, and the last two months passed by like a stroke of lightning. I can’t believe that I have already finished 20% of my MBA program… On the other hand, it seems as if I know everyone already for years, and the welcome week seems ages ago.

Anyway, final exams are coming up next week (five exams in three days), so I might as well briefly summarize which classes I had in P1:

  • Uncertainty, Data and Judgment is basically a statistics course, but probably the best one that you can imagine. In addition to the necessary maths, the professor Anil Gaba makes statistics tangible by betting against students (revealing fallacies such as overconfidence) or handing out M&Ms packs to all students to count the number of different colours in each pack.
  • Prices & Markets is a microeconomics class, covering all necessary basics from demand and supply curves over pricing in a monopoly and under perfect competition, to game theory and decisions under incomplete information. Professor Pushan Dutt has very tangible examples for the concepts, and his dry sense of humour resonated well with most of the class.
  • Financial Accounting – the class name speaks for itself. The most technical and sometimes a bitt dull class in the P1 curriculum, but obviously the necessary foundation to make sense out of financial statements and understand the economic and financial standing of companies. Professor Benjamin Segal makes the best out of this, stressing the relevance of understanding the underlying economics rather than blindly looking at numbers and ratios.
  • Financial Markets and Valuation revolves around project and company valuation, and financial market instruments such as stocks and bonds. For my section, the class was taught by professor Pierre Hillion, who is probably the favorite professor of almost the whole section due to his unique teaching style (check out the impersonation of him performed by a student at the INSEAD cabaret, it comes pretty close to his actual teaching and speaking style 🙂 )
  • Organisational Behaviour 1 is the “soft-skill” class, around teamwork, leadership, motivation, negotiation, and other things. It took me some time to get professor Allan Filipowicz‘s teaching style, but in a class in which we discussed the 1957 movie “12 Angry Men” and the various methods of persuasion and influence used in the movie, he managed to apply some of these techniques successfully on many of the students, and I started seeing the value of this course for myself. (You should check out the movie, it is available on YouTube and by the way rated top 6 movie of all time on IMDB)

So far, I loved almost every single session I attended, and I think the professors are all doing an outstanding job at bringing across their concepts, making their topics interesting and highlighting the relevance for the day-to-day work of management. I am already looking forward to what P2 will bring (but first I have to sit through these finals next week)…

My First Trip from Singapore: Kuching in Malaysian Borneo

Sunday, March 4th, 2012

Last week, we had a day off on Friday, so I took the opportunity to go on my first real trip away from Singapore since I arrived in January (I went to Bintan, an island in Malaysia, a couple of weeks back, but that didn’t really count since it was organized by my employer and I didn’t have to do anything). With a group of ~15 people, we went to Kuching in Sarawak, one of the two non-mainland states of Malaysia, on the island of Borneo.

On Friday, we went to Bako National Park, which is a jungle reserve on a peninsula in the South China Sea, and did a hike over the day, which was really beautiful. The scenery kept changing, from steep jungle trails which were basically 99% roots, to rocks, to clay paths with huge puddles. The trail took us after ~2 hours to a waterfall (which was not as exciting as we had imagined) and then to a nice and relatively secluded beach. Six of us who had decided to spend the night in the park and booked a chalet for that purpose, hiked back to the headquarter where the chalet was located; the rest got picked up by a boat from the beach.

In the evening, when we were sitting on the porch of our chalet, some proboscis monkey stopped by for a visit. There are a lot of monkeys in the national park, especially macaques which you see all the time and which will steal your bags and food if you don’t watch out, but the proboscis monkeys are supposedly much harder to spot since they are too shy. That wasn’t the case for those monkeys that visited our chalet, however: two of them were sitting right next to us for approximately twenty minutes, happily munching away leaves from different trees. This alone was worth the stay in the park.

The next day, we went back to Kuching. We initially had planned to do another trek that day, but it was raining all morning so we decided to leave the National Park. The remaining two days we basically spent relaxing and sightseeing. Kuching is a really nice city, which is not as touristy as some of the cities on the Malaysian peninsula such as Melaka or Penang. We looked at the different temples, visited the Sarawak museum which shows Sarawak culture, art and nature, had a lot of good food and relaxed before the final week of classes for the first period.

Some pictures from the trip:

Heart of Europe National Week

Sunday, March 4th, 2012

Only two weeks after the Korean National Week, we had the Heart of Europe Week coming up. Heart of Europe, in the INSEAD case, means Germany, Austria and Switzerland, so I was personally involved in the organisation – I was responsible for all a large part of the communication: graphical design, emails that were sent out with information, printing of admission tickets etc. Also, I was sitting at the Heart of Europe booth in the hallway, selling tickets, T-shirts and providing information to the other students.

Our program over the week was as follows (click to enlarge):

The whole week was a lot of fun, and it also helped build some connections with the “12Js” (these are the students who started 4 months before us and are finishing their MBA in June 2012, we are the 12Ds because we finish in December), especially within the Heart of Europe team. Talking about the team: there are approximately the same number of Swiss and German students at the Singapore campus, and only very few Austrians. In total, our team consisted of ~25 people with varying degrees of involvement.

The events we had planned were – at least from my perspective – all a great success, especially the events in the evening: We had our “Herzblatt” dating show on Tuesday, which was Valentine’s day. In each of the five rounds, one student looking for the “love of their life” asked questions to three potential dates, who were hidden behind a wall. The questions had been prepared by the ingenious showmaster Carl-Christoph and ranged from innocent ones such as “were would you take us on our first date” to hilarious ones such as “if you were a cocktail, what would you be and what are the main ingredients” (best and completely unexpected answer by one candidate: “Carrot juice. Main ingredient: carrot.”)

On Wednesday, we had our “Bavarian dinner” at the Paulaner Bräuhaus – a very nice evening, with live music (authentically Bavarian), food ranging from Haxn over sausages to sauerkraut, and later a lot of dancing to cheesy German Schlager music.

Friday night, as the furious finale and highlight of the week, we had a “Loveparade” party at Tanjong Beach Club on Sentosa. Everybody was equipped with with fluorescing glow sticks, and we had prepared the pool at the club with a lot of small rubber ducks. A DJ was playing electronic music and party favorites, and  everybody was having a good time, dancing by the beach under palm trees 🙂

After this week, which was a really fun experience, but also a lot of work, I am already looking forward to the next national weeks which I will be participating in only passively again. Also, before the summer break we will have the “bidding day” coming up, a day in which different nations compete for four national weeks to be organized in the second half of 2012. From what I have heard from the 12Js, the bidding day is a really great experience and great fun, so I am also looking forward to that!



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