Archive for December, 2012

Graduation Day

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

Today was officially the last day of my MBA. The ten months (net) of the program have been intense – in terms of learning, socializing, traveling, partying, and so many other ways. The MBA finished with a ceremony at the University Cultural Centre of the National University of Singapore (the INSEAD campus doesn’t have a big enough room to hold all people plus guests). Over 260 of the 510 students attended – the rest will be graduating in Fontainebleau in two days. In addition to speeches by an alumn, the INSEAD dean and the deputy dean of degree programs, the ceremony consisted mainly of awarding every student their diploma. The ceremony was followed by a cocktail reception on campus.

I did get a bid melancholic during the ceremony. It really seems like yesterday that the program was opened with similar speeches by similar people – and it also seems like yesterday that I was still working, looking forward to this year of doing my MBA, and now it is over. But then again: New challenges, new experiences, new adventures lie ahead!

Tonight will be one last party, even though some of the class have already left. We are flying out tomorrow to Kuala Lumpur. Even though we will shortly return to Singapore around Christmas, this day today definitely marks the end of the MBA for me.

Pictures will follow when I have them.

From Singapore… To the World

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

The MBA is done, I have graduated, and I am leaving Singapore. Since I will still be moving around – next stop is South Africa, where I will be working from March onwards – I have decided to keep this blog. It will move to a more fitting location, though:

Grad Trip to Sri Lanka (12 – 17 December)

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

Two days after the last class of the MBA, we left for Grad Trip. Traditionally, every INSEAD promotion goes for one last trip before graduating. My promotion went to Sri Lanka, and more than 300 of the 500-odd students of the promotion actually came (which is really impressive especially since Sri Lanka is not exactly around the corner from Fontainebleau).

The two of us went to spent two nights in Galle Fort first, before joining the others in the beach resort town of Beruwala. Galle Fort is an old fort, built mainly by the Dutch from the 17th century onwards, and used to administrate their colonies. It is quite well preserved and has been classified as UNESCO world heritage. Especially in contrast to the bustling Sri Lankan city outside the Fort gates, the insides of it are very peaceful and quiet. It is quite nice to walk around the outer ramparts, which are surrounded by the Indian ocean, and that sport a (British-built) lighthouse on their outermost tip. In addition to the many gem stores (that we did not really visit other than to go to our guesthouse, which was run by a gem store owner), there were also lots of nice restaurants with really good food.

After two nights in Galle we went up  by train to Beruwala, where most of the other students had already convened. We did not stay at the hotel where most of the other students were, but next doors in a different hotel (where funnily enough most of the couples stayed). However, we joined the others at their hotel to hang out, talk, and party every day. It was quite an interesting experience: never before have I been on a trip with that many people – and even regular INSEAD parties never had that many participants.

In the end, it was a bit sad to say goodbye to some people who are graduating only in Fontainebleau and who I will not see again very soon. For those that are graduating in Singapore, this moment of saying goodbyes will come tomorrow after the graduation ceremony…

P5 Academics

Monday, December 10th, 2012

P5… the last period. I had only two credits left to be covered, which inadvertently meant that I didn’t have any classes for the first few weeks of the period. When I then started classes, it was totally worth it – P5 was certainly one of the best periods in terms of academics. Here is what I took:

  • Your First Hundred Days (YFCD): YFCD, taught by Patrick Turner, would certainly deserve a blog post on its own, had I not signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement in order not to spoil the class for future promotions. But here is a short description at least: The class is a ten-day simulation of the first 100 days after taking over a company as the new management team (students operate in teams of five people). And simulation in this class does not mean making moves on a computer, but “playing” managing the company: writing emails to people, meeting clients and other stakeholders (roleplayed by alumni and the professor), and more than anything reacting to lots of unexpected events. This course is unlike any other experience at INSEAD, and it feels almost completely realistic (like work, but in a fun way). All in all, taking this class was certainly worthwhile.
  • Communication and Leadership (half credit): Communcation and Leadership, which is taught by Ian Woodward, is “another” communication class. However, especially in contrast to Art of Communication which I did in P4, it was based less on experimenting and more on scientific basis as well as on one or two specific points of improvement for everyone. I was really impressed with the insights I got into my own communication preferences, strengths, and improvement areas.
  • Advanced Applied Corporate Finance (AACF, half credit): My last period, my last class with Pierre Hillion. Except for P4 in Fontainebleau, I had classes with him every period, and he remains one of my favorite professors at INSEAD. AACF builds on the topics discussed in ACF, and focuses more on a qualitative discussion (i.e., advantages and disadvantages) of more exotic forms of corporate financing – my main takeaway: “if you as a company reduce your cost of capital, you are either taking hidden risks, or someone is getting screwed – and you better make sure it’s not you!”

That’s it! That is, academically speaking, all I learnt at INSEAD. It has been a valuable year, I must say. One of my goals coming here was broadening and deepening my fundamental knowledge about business and its dependencies, and I must say that this goal has been more than achieved. In some areas, I know have more and better tools at my disposal than before, in others it feels like I have learnt a completely new language, and in even other areas I know that I know nothing – because sometimes there are no general truths that always apply.

My Last Class

Monday, December 10th, 2012

That’s it – it’s done! This morning’s class of Advanced Applied Corporate Finance marked the end of the MBA program – at least academically speaking. All that’s left now is the grad trip (the majority of the MBA students are going on a trip to Sri Lanka together) and then graduation (on 19 December)…

Birthday Treasure Hunt!

Saturday, December 8th, 2012

On 22 November I turned 29. Funnily enough, one of my classmates, who is also German, also works for BCG, and also has a hyphenated first name, was born on the same day (although one year earlier), so we decided to join forces to organize a birthday party. This party was definitely more of the unusual kind (although I take little credit for that, since it was mostly my classmate’s idea): We organized a treasure hunt. Four teams of 5-8 people met in an apartment here at Heritage, had a few drinks, and then set off along one of two routes. Along the way to an undisclosed final location, they had to fulfill challenging and fun tasks such as finding things, taking pictures of strangers doing certain things, and making fools out of themselves. After about two hours of hunting, everyone eventually made their way to Boat Quay, where we had a separate room in a bar to finish the night and look at all the hilarious pictures. All in all, it was a really fun event, and certainly a unique birthday for me!


Monsoon Ball (10 November)

Saturday, December 8th, 2012

On 10 November, we had the Monsoon Ball here in Singapore. INSEAD has two gala balls a year, the Summer Ball in Fontainebleau and the Monsoon Ball in Singapore. At these events, lots of alumni come back to reunite, and there is also always a big group of current students attending. The dress code for the ball was black tie, so I wore for the first time in my life a (rented) tuxedo. The ball was held at the National Museum of Singapore, which provides ample space for events like this (not between the exhibits themselves, but in separate rooms) and was a really nice location for the ball.

At the ball, our band from cabaret had its second gig – with two more rehearsals we managed to practice five more songs so that we could play for a good 40 minutes. All in all, the night was awesome: we had a great show (great stage, great light show, and more than anything, a great audience), and dancing with friends in this unusual environment and attire was also good fun. Plus, there was awesome food (fried cheese on a stick! what else could you want in life…).

Some pictures follow.

INSEAD Cabaret II (7 November)

Saturday, December 8th, 2012

On 7 November, it was time for our last cabaret. In P3, I had already witnessed the last cabaret which was mainly organized by the then-leaving 12J promotion, and this time around it was my promotion that was preparing to leave INSEAD. A very strange feeling if you think about it.

I was involved in the cabaret in two ways: Firstly, I was part of the band that concluded the evening with playing four songs. Secondly, since I was at Fusionopolis Theatre where the cabaret was held on the day of the event anyway to set up my equipment (and I didn’t have any classes or anything yet), I ended up helping with setup and organization of the whole event (which in the end meant that I didn’t have to pay for my ticket, sweet!)

As for the band part, I was very glad that I had brought my bass guitar with me for P4 and P5, since I had missed playing it a lot in P1-P3. With a few quite talented musicians (mostly from my promotion plus a keyboarder from the next promotion), we met twice before the cabaret for multiple hours and arranged four (cover) songs. It was great fun playing again, making music in a group, and being on stage.

Of course, the other performances were great as well. There were the classics like the men’s ballet, the rugby club’s performances, and the obvious candidates like Bhangra dance. But there were lots of really creative and great performances as well, and just naming a few of them wouldn’t do any justice to the others. Obviously, a lot of the performances of my promotion had something to do with looking back at the year, and preparing to leave all of this behind – it made me somewhat melancholic. Even though after a year the thought of going back to work is not as distant anymore as it was in the beginning (and I am still glad that I went for a one-year MBA program as opposed to a two-year one), I am now starting to realize that in a few weeks this intense experience will come to a close, and many of the people that I spent so much time with I will not see again for quite some time, and most certainly not all of them together at the same time again…

Koh Lipe, Halong Bay (24 October – 1 November)

Saturday, December 8th, 2012

Neither of us had classes for the first few weeks of P5, and since we also didn’t have a room in Singapore until 1 November, we decided to travel for a bit before settling in in Singapore again. So we went to Koh Lipe, an island way down south on the western coast of Thailand, and Halong Bay, which is in Vietnam close to Hanoi. I had been to both places before already, but J had not been and I liked both of the places, so we went together.

Koh Lipe is simply one of the most relaxing beach islands I have ever been to. It is located close to the Malaysian border, a bit north of the Malaysian island of Langkawi, and it is really tiny. You can easily walk along all the main beaches within a few hours. Most of the accommodation is located along the beaches, and in the center of the island there are lots of restaurants and small shops. We were there a bit before the official beginning of the season, which meant that some of the places were still closed. Still, it was surprisingly hard to find a place to sleep, since we hadn’t booked anything in advanced. We ended up with a really basic (non air-conditioned) bungalow, but it was dirt cheap: Around 7.50 € for the room per night.

When we had relaxed on the island for a few days, we flew all across mainland Southeast Asia to Hanoi, spent half a day in the city and then set off to Halong Bay. Halong Bay, located approximately three hours from Hanoi, is a UNESCO world heritage site, revered for its myriad steep limestone islands and islets. We spent two nights on one of the many junks that sail the bay – curiously, when I had last been there around two years ago, the boats were all brown, in the meantime they had all been painted white. The trip to Halong Bay was fantastic – we did some nice excursions to islands and did some kayaking as well as swimming, and the junk we were on was a really nice one.

From Halong Bay, we went back to Hanoi and then flew straight back to Singapore, just in time to check into our newly rented room for the last period of the MBA.


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