Tuesday, 2 September 2008

China trip

The P3 break!

My Chinese group mate Yuxin had invited us to come and experience China over the break. With a mixture of a few Brazilians, an American, a Brit, Yuxin and myself, we took a 7 o’clock flight to China for a packed, intense, and fantastic 8-day trip to Shanghai, Xi’an, and Beijing.

The main format of the trip was perfectly in line with INSEAD tradition “culture, action, friends, food, party, no sleep.” Fresh out of the plane we discovered that China in early March did not have the same temperature as Singapore… it was freezing! In Shanghai we went sightseeing, got to know this hypermodern city, joined Yuxin’s wife Ming for dinners at famous and typical Shanghai restaurants, had drinks at trendy places on the Bund, and cool bars in the Concessions, and went to some great tourist sights around Shanghai.

And we had food…

I won’t keep on writing how great the food was (just this paragraph) but every meal in China was completely awesome, and I could write stories about every meal. Each lunch or dinner was completely different to the others, which added to the appreciation of the size and diversity of this country! Whether Mongolian, Shanghainese, Muslim, or very local and typical from whatever region, we loved the variety of food, smells, spices, colours, and tastes. Don’t get me wrong, Chinese food in Holland tastes good, but after having been to China I know that it’s not close to what you can get over here. Apart from that: every Chinese meal is a social event with loads of Pijiu's and Chinese wine - which truly has nothing to do with wine but everything with spirits like vodka, tequila or jenever… Gan bei!

After Shanghai we went to breathtaking Xi’an… terracotta warriors, impressive tomb sites, old city walls, serene Buddhist temples, a missile launch site, a hotel complex fit for presidents and kings, and many late drinks with friends. Everywhere we ended up haggling, negotiating, eating, drinking and enjoying what this beautiful country has to offer.

We were quickly accustomed to do our sleeping in the minibuses, during the small stretches between sights, cities, villages, bars, clubs and restaurants. From Xi’an we flew to Beijing for more food, good clubs, Tiān'ānmén square, the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, cheap Prada and Louis Vuitton, the birds'nest, the CCTV tower, karaoke at massive KTVs, dinners at 8 story restaurants, taxi rides without any means of communication, being lost, being the only foreigners in some places, being moviestars on pictures with teenagers, and constantly marveling at so much cultural richness...

Our China trip... Thanks again Yuxin and Ming, for what was truly the best possible introduction to China I can imagine, shie-shie!

P3 Final Exams

Just back from Palau, I faced a week full of P3 projects coming to an end, busy negotiations building up to the Nego exam, visits to the Chinese embassy to arrange my visa and exam preparations.

End of Feb meant the end of core class exams, so apart from the elective finals; on the 25th I also had an exam for Macro from 0900 to 1200, and one for Politics from 1400 to 1700. It was a long day of writing about theories, volatility, realists, war rhetorics, monetary policy, and all wrapped in essays around what would I do, how do I think the world problems should be solved, what theory do I use to explain my thought process, and what makes me think it will work, etc...

After that we had the customary end of party drinks, saying goodbye’s to our friends who went back for P4 in Fonty, and packing my bags for a very early morning flight to China the next morning.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Diving trip to Palau

So we planned the trip...

A bit outrageous, but the incredible chance to dive off the beautiful islands of Micronesia, in more detail the light blue waters surrounding the island of Palau in the middle of the Pacific.



Wednesday February 6, first I had Macroeconomics and Politics, then I raced to Changi airport to catch my afternoon SQ flight to the Philippines. In Manila I was welcomed by Angela who had booked the morning flight to meet up with our friend Tjerk, who flew in directly from Amsterdam, to join us on yet another diving adventure around the world. After the tiring procedures in Manila, we were joined by classmates Etienne and Christine, and the DIVE Palau team boarded the evening flight to Koror.

The next morning a minivan picked us up for a short drive to the dive school. After the regular admin stuff, forms completion, log checks and stuff, we unpacked our stuff, had a quick breakfast and set of for our first dive. This would pretty much be the daily routine for the trip: up early in the morning, load stuff in boat, sail to dive site, and make 2 or 3 dives interrupted by lunch on an empty small bounty island...

First dive was to the Iro wreck, a sunk Japanese 2nd world war freighter at 29m. Not a bad impression for the first dive with regular air. All the subsequent dives we got free NITROX (thanks to Etienne’s commitment to please Negotiation prof Horacio by turning each and every opportunity of trade into a bloody and tough negotiation exercise)

We dove at sites with promising names like Blue Corner, Clarence Wall, Fantasy, we did a fantastic cave dive in Chandelier Cave, my favourite night dive to Jake’s Seaplane, and got treated to an abundance of sharks at the many drop offs. On my favourite shark dive, we hung to our reef hooks at the cliff of a drop off, and while we were in the middle of one of those large circles of big barracudas, we were treated to a friendly visit from a large patrol of 2m black tip sharks. Sometimes life can be really good!

We did our last dive in the German Channel, famous for it’s cleaning stations where often large Mantas come for a scrub and occasionally huge sharks come to enjoy the spa like massage currents of the channel. Too bad that on this last dive our guide dropped us at the downstream point of the cleaning stations. There was a lot of awesome shark activity, but due to the massive current, we could do little more than hang tight, before being swept away by heavy currents and doing our 3m stop racing past our surroundings before being picked up by our boat.

Great dives, an amazing snorkelling trip to the famous jellyfish lake (where you are literally engulfed by millions of non-stinging jellyfish,) good company and apart from one annoying occasion of food poisoning, good food.

The DIVE Palau team returned happy and satisfied

Privileged

I realized in P3 that we are privileged people.

We did nice things in the past, had good careers, etc.. but we are very fortunate that we can attend a business school of such a reputation and quality as INSEAD. It's great and truly enriching to study amongst great people, and to meet so many inspiring characters.

When do you get the chance to meet Ambassadors, Foreign Policy Secretaries, CEOs of successful companies, serial entrepreneurs, and TV personalities to discuss with them how they do business, how you would have handled some situations they went through, how international relations impact business, how you think about world politics and learn from those successful people who have done it, are living it, or will have to do it in the near future...

Will you do too? And how about myself? And how will we do it then? How will it impact business, society, or just our own lives and those of our families and friends...? And how will others judge what you do and did? Maybe more important to learn is how can you influence all that in a positive way?

Still so much to learn...

P3 Academics

I very much enjoyed P3, with great professors like:

Ilian Mihov, the master of Macro Economics who would in my opinion not have allowed the US economy to tank like it has, had he had any chance to stop it,

Ethan Kapstein who showed us very antagonistic views on international relations and brought a large number of interesting and influential speakers to his International Politics class,

Michael Witt, the German professor with his Singlish phrases, and Japanese and Chinese language skills who managed to stun even the Koreans and Chinese classmates with his vast knowledge of Asia, during the Strategies for Asia course,

Phil Anderson, who ran a very cool entrepreneurship class with fantastic guests and great cases in his Venture Opportunities class, and

Horacio Falcao, who got the stage 3 times a week to perform his Negotiations show for our pleasure and training. Apart from his lectures I just loved the confrontational assignments where you actually negotiate in all kinds of situations with your classmates. It got emotional, it got messy, and we aimed for larger pies than any oven could possibly bake.

It was a great mix of classes for me topped off with the chance to work with my fantastic IDFP group on our successful project for PASI in Malawi. It was a good learning opportunity for us, and a chance to show our resilience after having had to stop with our project in Kenya due to the extreme, and incredible violence that disrupted all life, civilized business and society especially in the Kisumu area where our client was located.

Thanks Begoña, Ceci, Nadia, and Steven for all the good times!

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Promises, promises

Dear readers,

I'm aware of the fact that I promised to post sooner than this, but I have unfortunately not managed to keep it up. Seriously wondering whether there are still any readers left, I have nevertheless decided to post some experiences and stories from the past few months. Hence, going forward you will first get some past experiences, travels, what-we've-been-up-to's and only after we finnished catching up will we move on with the more recent events.

As a short update: I graduated with my class on the 3d of July in Fontainebleau (so I'm now officially a proud MBA of the class of July 2008) and we have moved back to Singapore where I am now looking for a job.

I already miss the MBA, my classmates, and life in the bubble... be it on the Fonty campus or on the Sing one. This year was totally crazy, hyperfast paced, dynamic as hell, constantly stimulating, and as fun as can be... man, did I love and enjoy my year at INSEAD!!!

Angela is also back to work in Singapore (with an occasional business trip to Shanghai or Jakarta.)

I got to go now, but will start posting our past journeys soon.

All the best to you all J'08s... and when in Singapore, do let me know, there's a bunch of us out here!

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Formula 1 in Sepang

Soon I will post a story about a fantastic weekend in Kuala Lumpur!

Academics and other stuff in P4

This period the pressure is all on “job preparation & job hunting.” Every night 2 recruiting companies on campus, invitations for interviews, dinners, coffee chats, informal calls... but also an endless stream of application lettres writing, interview preparation, networking and DINGs (rejections)...

This is P4!

Apart from the job search, this period I am looking at the possibility of buying a company with a few classmates. We are currently exploring an opportunity in Europe for a management buyout of a metal production company with a revenue base of € 1-2M. It’s still exploration, so we have to figure out whether we can fix some of the issues in the company and whether we think that we are the people who can add most value to the firm. REP is a very nice elective! The whole idea of seriously thinking about going out there to buy a € 3M company without having any money, is new to me. Who knows where this will lead us to...

At the same time I’m still busy with my international development project. After the nightmare of the elections in Kenya, we bundled our energy to help a paralegal institute in Malawi. This is proving to be a very interesting case with a real brainteaser: “how can you make money, when all your clients are poor, when you cannot go after wealthier clients, and when your aid is stopped?”

My favourite class this period is Economics and Management in Developing Countries by Daniel Traca. This is the world of IMF and Worldbank, Multinationals and politics, Oil in Chad and Sudan, Aid, the failure of Aid, and ‘what if you’re in the shoes of a president from a developing nation’

So that’s for the academics.

Luckily, we still have time to unwind. After all, the motto at INSEAD still is “work hard, play hard” so we make sure to escape the bubble every now and then.

Highlights that I’ll describe in separate posts:
- Scuba Diving in Palau (Micronesia)
- Trip to China in the break
- Formula 1 in Sepang

After the silence

... so what have we been up to in the last few months?

I’ve not been the most faithful blogger, that’s for sure! For this I apologize,deeply. I guess that since the trip to HK at the end of January, I got caught up in all the projects and group work as well as all my classes, and electives...

Period 3:

We all thought that after P2, P3 in Singapore was going to be a breeze... nothing could have been further away from the truth, though! The workload again was huge and what really made life hard was the constant effort to align our schedules around groupwork. Everybody had different classes, so it was virtually impossible to meet as a group before 2100h... and I was in at least 5 different groups.

Some of my projects:
- A Market entry of a luxury champagne brand in Singapore
- Paralegals in Malawi
- A Management analysis of a maturing startup from Spain
- Analysis of an online travel agency’s options & recommendation
- A Zillion case writeups and studies

What really was wonderful in P3, was the temperature. Walking to school in the evening, jumping into the pool, having a bite at one of the hawker stalls...

Life in Singapore is good!

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Weekend in Hong Kong

This weekend we stayed in Singapore and just relaxed. Last weekend we went to Hong Kong.


An old friend of Omar (Dave) was visiting family and friends at that time, and we decided to meet up with him. Dave introduced us to some friends who live in Hong Kong, and he also showed us around Kowloon on Saturday. I took Friday off to go early and had a flight at 8 in the morning. To my surprise I could share a taxi to the airport with Jason, with whom we had spent NewYears eve in Bangkok. He was also on his way to Hong Kong, but only as a stopover on his way back to Canada. My journey took about 4 hours, his 25!!

My first impression of Hong Kong was that it had changed compared to two years ago. The city looked even more modern and cleaner than I remembered it. Just until I stepped out of the MTR and went searching for our hotel. I had booked a hotel on Hong Kong Island because we both wanted to experience HK from the other side (we stayed in Kowloon last time.) The hotel was close to Sheung Wan, an area I found out later that resembles most to old HK. It looked very much like Kowloon with all the small shops, dried products (smelly dried fish) and butcheries selling fresh meat on the streets. Luckily our hotel (Novotel Century Harbourview) was extremely modern and our room on the 20th floor had recently been refurbished and modernized. This was one of the hippest hotelrooms we had ever had, overlooking the harbour with all its activity.

After I checked in, I walked up the hill to the University of Hong Kong. The campus is big and because many buildings are at a different height there are steps and escalators everywhere. All university buildings are scattered around the place, and are on top of a hill... I saw many non-chinese faces at HKU, which correspond with the brochure. My reason for visiting HKU was the MSc in Finance. I may be very interested in pursuing a Master degree in Finance, and HK has a good one. I spoke to some of the faculty members and they were all very nice.

Omar arrived after his classes on a comfortable Singapore Airlines flight... he was so positive about SingAir, that I think he is never going to fly anything else anymore...


Friday evening we met with Dave and his fiends in the Dragon-I (read dragon eye) currently the place to go in HK. It's a Japanese-Chinese fusion restaurant until about 23h, when it transforms into a trendy and fashionable club-bar. They played a lot of music from the 90ies and we had good fun. Dave’s friends were very nice, so it was great to meet them. Dave stayed with his friends Emily & Frederic. Emily is Dutch and has lived in HK for about 7 years now, Frederic is Belgian. His other friends were from HK, France and the US, and they all have been living in HK for several years now.

On Saturday Omar and I went shopping. This is very easy considering the fact that you have to divide the price by roughly 11 to convert to euro's and then you end up with a figure that makes you say “sold”! Especially when you think of how much everything costs back home in NL. In the afternoon Dave took us to Mong Kok. We started the afternoon in a place where many locals go for a healthy snack. We could choose between jelly with icecream, jelly with birdsnest saliva or jelly with fruit. It tasted good and was a fun experience. We had dinner in a nice small noisy place, where we had a great selection of dishes, both vegetarian, full of fish, meat and lots of peppers.

HK is an amazing place. Omar loves it. Even though I personally prefer Singapore, I also liked it and I was glad that it was a lot cleaner and prettier than I remembered it. Who knows, we might decide to live here at some point in the future.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Singapore is great!

Classes in P3 are amazing. 

"Venture Opportunities" is so interesting and challenging that you wish you had more time to spend on this elective. 

"Negotiations" is fun, very active, and you can already see how much you will learn. 

"Intl Politics" is taught by one of the best professors in the field, and the course is full of controversial topics and debate. 

For the "Intl Development Project" I'm going to work on a very exciting project in Kenya. I seriously hope that the tension in Kenya quites down quickly. Could politicians for once act in the benefit of their country?? The story of Africa should not always be painted with violence and blood, but it's so sad that it's so often the case... why???

This week I will also get my first class of "Strategies for Asia PAC" and I will officially start with"Macro-economics." I look forward to both.

On another note: A warm welcome to all the new P1's!!! have a great time in either Fonty or Singa! (I can't believe we are the senior class already...) 

To everybody back in Fonty: we miss you guys! Take care and have fun!!!

Monday, 7 January 2008

Singapore

The 2nd of January marked the start of my 6 month contract in Singapore, and was my first working day after having had a 4.5 month holiday. I think the fact that I had worked in Singapore before in 2005 and that I new the MRT, and how to get there made it easy to start working again. The office has not changed much except for the people. There were many new faces, also in audit where I work. Outside of the office the street has also changed; some of the little restaurants in Robinson Road have changed names, Lau Pah Sat had a refurbishment and looks more modern than 2 years ago, and next to where I work they took down a large building and are busy with the construction of a new one.

While I was working Omar spent his last days before the start of P3 at the “Club Med” type pool of our new apartment, occasionally he moved to unpack our suitcases, and thought about what to put on shopping lists. At the moment of writing (7th of January) Omar just finished his first day of P3 and he is very enthusiastic. He started off with Politics and he likes his new professor and the course material. This evening there were already some parties and get togethers with the Singaporeans, however I decided to stay at home (I already call it home after 1 week ☺) do some reading and go to bed early. I am so tired every evening, apparently I'm not completely used to working 8 hours a day anymore...

Omar, well he went to have a quick drink in the other tower, and will later on prepare his 2 classes for tomorrow. The weather is fantastic, nice, warm, so life is good here in Singapore…

Bangkok & New Year's Eve

Our stay at home was short, but we had a great time with friends and family.

After exactly one week it was time to pack our bags again for our flights to Asia. By now a week has passed since we arrived in Singapore. Well, technically we arrived on Saturday the 30th of December but we stayed only 2 hours because we took a direct flight to Bangkok to celebrate New Years Eve with Insead friends Li Ran, Anita, Alex, Steven, Ken and Jason.

The 31st we spent the day being tourists, sightseeing Bangkok. We visited the Royal Palace, the Laying Buddha at Pranon Wat Pho and we took a boatride on the river. In the evening we ate delicious Thai food after which we went to the Latitude bar on the Banyan Tree hotel. The view from the 52nd floor was beautiful, you could see all over Bangkok. The fireworks however, were a bit low key in the opinion of many people. We had expected that big fireworks would erupt as soon as the new year would kick in but the first fireworks started about ten minutes before 12 and they were so dispersed that it actually looked rather small. The ambience, view and music at Latitude more than made up for this though!


The first day of 2008 we had our first Thai massage. It was an interesting and sometimes painful but also very vitalizing experience. Especially when the masseuses sat on your back and used their elbows to work on your cramped muscles.
We enjoyed Bangkok and the great hospitality of Li Ran, Ken and his parents, and we would have liked to stay a little longer. However… Singapore was calling, so we kindly boarded our Air Asia flight towards Changi airport.

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Merry Christmas everyone!!

The end of 2007 is nearing! P1 and P2 are over, the P2 exams are done, we cleared out of our room in Villa Foch, we had a bunch of goodbye parties in Fonty, and we're home for Christmas.

The anticipation of going to Singapore is fantastic, we so much look forward to the nice weather, the Asian friendliness, the great food, and the many fun weekend trips that I know we will do. Oh, another positive element is that Angela will be able to work in Singapore. Having a holiday break was good fun, but going back to work in Singapore, together with nice colleagues that you haven't seen for a while is also great.

Leaving Fonty was very strange though. It was sad to pack our bags and to realize that P1 and P2, the core part of the programme, is over. Why was this sad? well, mainly because some people will not go to Singapore, but will stay in Fonty. We had a great time in spite of the massive workload and we will miss the friends who stay behind. Good job there is skype and that we may even work together on projects. So cheers to all you friends staying in Fonty, have a great time!!

Now moving on, our week at home is great but short. We get to see many friends and spend time with family, but time flies so fast that we already have to start thinking about packing and about our preparation for life in Asia. Thanks to Qantas, we won't be able to carry much stuff in the airplane, so at least that makes life easier in terms of packing...

As far as our short term planning is concerned:

- 29th DEC flight to Singapore
- 30th DEC flight to Bangkok for New Year's Eve celebration with classmates
- 1st JAN back to Singapore
- 2nd JAN Angela starts working
- 7th JAN Omar starts P3

Our Bangkok trip will be a short, packed, party stay. We are contemplating a day of sightseeing in Bangkok, followed by a massage to get ready for the night, Thai dinner, NYE at a cool rooftop bar like Sirocco, or Banyan, and finish off the night with trendy clubbing at the Bed supper club.

All the best for your breaks, Christmas and NYE parties, our best wishes for 2008, and may the friendly little Christmas elves bring you lots of nice presents!! MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Skyrocketing forward in time

Unbelievable, P2 is almost over. As I'm studying Finance, Accounting and maybe later tonight, ehm this morning, ehm whatever, POM, I realize that tomorrow will be my last day of class in Fontainebleau for a while and maybe forever!!!?!

Wednesday we'll have a day off so we can study... but Thursday the P2 exams will start. This period has been insane. The amount of casework, group assignments, readings, and lectures has been huge and the pace has been outrageaous. I feel like if I'm piloting a rocket heading towards planet earth at Mach2, as I'm trying to aim it in the right direction and figure out how you're supposed to land the damned thing at the same time... no kidding folks, "this is your captain speaking, it's going to be a pretty hard landing... you better brace, say your hail mary's, and get ready for a magnetic welcome to gravity!"

On the other side of the tunnel though... there will be a few days to recover and say goodbye to the classmates who stay behind, a party to say goodbye to the graduating class, Christmas at home with family, New Year's eve in Bangkok, and then P3 and further in Singapore.

I'm so excited about my classes for P3:
- International Politics
- Macro Economics
- Strategies for Asia Pacific
- Negotiations
- Venture Opportunities and Business Models (VOBM)
- International Development Field Project

Today we had a heads up on the to be defined field projects. There are a few challenging opportunities for this elective to show what we learned and are capable of. The elective is actually a real project for a local NGO to help them with a current business opportunity or problem. From the reading I'm quite enthousiastic about a potential project for an agricultural cooperative in Uganda, where we may help by doing an analysis and a plan to try to improve the operations. Another project I'm quite interested in is in South India. Here we will create a business plan and an expansion strategy for an organisation that promotes self-help communities, and provides microfinance, focusing on women and families.

VOBM will be awesome and will be my introduction to venture spotting, an additional track I'm planning to learn more about for potential future opportunities. Not from a Private Equity analyst point of view, but maybe from the point of view of a potential manager who considers taking over a company to own and manage it.

From a career development perspective, I've talked to many classmates from different industries and I've decided to learn more about Oil&Gas. I believe that there may be many tremendously challenging opportunities in de Petrochemical sector, so I want to learn more about the upstream processes of exploration and drilling

More later...

Monday, 10 December 2007

Russian Party


The notorious Russian Party… Instead of hosting a national Russian week, the Russians organized a whole day filled with Russian culture. In the morning everybody could enjoy blini’s with salmon caviar, meat or cheese, during the day there was Russian music played in the bar area, in the late afternoon there were even Russian movies, and at 10pm we had the fantastic party.
The party was great and the organization (amongst others housemates Irina and Timur) did a fantastic job!! The beautiful chateau that also hosted the Bain party was lighted purple, we were greeted by dancers and trays full of vodka. Inside there was champagne, followed by more vodka with either coke, orange juice or straight up. Stolichnaya animated the event with a busload of blond girls who walked around with trays of vodka or even bottles of vodka all night, to make sure all glasses were constantly filled. Besides a mix of music (Russian, Indian, 80ies, pop etc) we were entertained by two stage dancers, a fantastic ballet, and even President Vladimir Putin who came all the way from Moscow to comment on the Russian – French relations. So, thanks to the Russians who treated us to a great party! We can only look forward to repeat this event somewhere next year in Moscow!!

Paris social life

We had another Dutch delegation visiting Fontainebleau shortly after my uncle’s trip. My sister Jolanda and her boyfriend Patrick arrived closely followed by 4 dear friends Sidney, MarLoes, Govert and Marcella. We spent the afternoon eating crepes and visiting the shops of Fontainebleau. For the evening we decided to take advantage of the fact that Paris is only an hour away, so we went to Alcazar. Omar and I got to know this place through our housemate Li Ran who is an expert on trendy places. Alcazar is a club restaurant, where after 10pm the upper gallery transforms in a lounge-bar with live music. We had a nice round table, a waiter who scraped the breadcrumbs off the table, and very good food. And then there was the dessert…

[a moment of silence so the writer can enjoy the memory of applecrumble with vanilla ice cream and chocolat mousse...]



The next day we showed everybody around Insead and had lunch before they left back Holland. It is great to share weekends with friends from back home. A few weeks later we also had lunch with Jeroen, Marieke & Elin who came to France to visit us and Mickey Mouse. Initially we planned to join them for a day in EuroDisney, but sadly Omar’s grandmother died the week before, so we went back home to be with our families.

Nature calling

A few weekends ago we welcomed my uncle Henk and his girlfriend Jeannette in Fontainebleau. They booked a weekend to Paris and visited us in Fontainebleau. This was a good opportunity to explore a little bit of Fontainebleau’s famous forest. There are many places to park your car and start walking or cycling and we took one of them close to one of the spots overlooking the gorge. There is a long line of big stones (boulders) lying in the forest and besides climbing the boulders one can also hike through the forest to walk trough the gorge.

Our petite hike started by following the yellow signs until we lost them and followed the blue signs. Because it was in the afternoon and it was getting dark we decided to make a shortcut and walked back to the car. Next we went on a quest for the 10-meter boulder Omar claimed to have seen. After searching for this big stone in the ‘boulder park’ alongside the N7 we concluded that some of these boulders indeed get big and reach almost 10 meter. It was very nice to go into the forest and I realized that we should do it more often.

After having been in Fontainebleau for almost 4 months we had not seen any wild animals. Before coming to Insead we read on the blogs and in the Partner guide that boars and deer can be frequently spotted and that people should be careful when driving home at night since accidents happen frequently between boars and cars.
Many of Omar’s classmates told us that they see boars, deer and rabbits often, but every time we drove at night we did not see any, until we went to Montigny sur Loing for a Dutch party. After having eaten ‘Boerenkool met Hemaworst en spekjes’ we drove back to Fontainebleau when we spotted some boars next to the road doing what they always do, sticking their nose in the mud. We saw some more crossing the road and we were very happy. Our first Boars!! A week later we saw a doe standing in the forest next to the road. She just looked at us and we realized that this is one of the things that makes living in Fontainebleau so beautiful, being so close to the forest and the animals that you can actually see them in the wild where they belong. 

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Back online!

As many of you may have noticed, and some of you kindly reminded us, we have been offline too long... sorry about that!

In my last post I defied the professors to show us how tough they are. Foolish me quickly discovered that they had prepared a lot for us to chew on, and even more for us to digest... the pace in P2 was extremely high, since day one. P1 was very very busy, P2 is almost over but was extreme. We will post a few short stories to give you a heads up of what's happened in Fonty.

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Smiles and Tears

Mere minutes after the P1 exams were over, the whole J08 class erupted in a fullblown party mood. As gloomy, concentrated, focused-to-the-bone, and overstretchingly fanatic everybody had been right before the exams; all tension disappeared as if a giant Bacardi cocktail shaker had suddenly switched on DJ Giorgos' Mojito tune. Our house transformed into Fonty's party central. We had Luiz making amazing Caipirinha's, Kunal shaking his self invented Poison Ivy, and the deep bass of Tiesto going through our place until the Morocco-bus picked up the bulk of the crowd towards Marakkech. Angela and I went to sunny Barcelona. We met up with a large bunch of classmates, had great tapas. We relaxed in the park, marvelled at Gaudi's highlights, and met a few new faces during our break! The break was only 4 days including travel, but in this high tension environment every day typically counts at least double, so it's safe to say that we had the equivalent of 8 days of rest.

The tragic accident that happened in Bali during the break shook us up badly. The community has grown so tight in the short time that we've been here. Singapore or Fonty, it really is only one place. All the feelings of sadness are shared, the loss of two friends is heavily felt and recognized in both places. Last Monday; what should have been the happy first day of P2, turned out to be a very sad day. More than ever we grow in determination to fully explore, learn, and share with friends and family all there is to enjoy in life.

P2 has started. The first week has flown by at an amazing speed. Calls, Puts, Short, Long, Straddles, and other interesting animals rushed past in little under 90 minutes. Another 90 minutes for complete options pricing, should make us ready to digest the Nobel prize winning Black-Scholes formula by the end of the week. INSEAD added 1 extra class compared to P1, and tons of readings. The friendly lady at the library even said "Bon Courage" with a puzzled look on her face when she gave me the stack of reading material. Not only work, but also social activity has immediately picked up in force. There are so many housedinners, chateau parties, informal get togethers, and even the fantastic Ball at Montmelian last night, that you start to wonder whether there is such a thing as negative sleep. Maybe that after we reduce our total hours of sleep to 0, we should continue to reduce it so after we cross the 0-mark we discover an ability to actualy create time...?

You know what, let's have it. P2 is suposed to be the toughest period (or so we hear from alumni, P5s, and even professors.) Well, the tougher it gets the better we'll learn how to handle stuff. I know I'm starting to ramble, and I may regret this in the morning, but I'm as defiant as Res I(p)sa, so: dear faculty, show us what you've got! J08 is ready to rock!!!

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Academic mumblings...

I'm so glad that I'm writing this blog together with Angela... in these hectic times, she is the one who keeps the blog alive.

It's amazing how busy one can be, from early morning to very late. Papers, tests, preparation, lectures, and then there are the exams next week. The whole campus looks like a 24h study factory. There are people asleep over their books in cubicles at any time of day or night. Students eat at the strangest hours (in my opinion a strong indication of a complete disconnect with reality.) It looks like our current life revolves completely around the exams, inside the INSEAD bubble. For the best post from our fellow J'08 bloggers about the exam fever, checkout: www.strawberrytints.blogspot.com (I even quoted you in my LP&G paper, Dee!)

I'm just sending a few emails now and updating the blog before I go back to read my Finance notes and handouts. Maybe if I try hard, I will be able to master everything there is to know about the CAPM model, how to best diversify my investment portfolio, how to valuate any company using the right Beta's, and how to do all kinds of perverse calculations way into the future, using my HP12c...

P1 is almost over now. After the exams (and our trip to Barcelona), I will post more about my take on P1; the classes, the professors, and my fantastic classmates.

P2 is going to be great fun. I specificaly look forward to the Strategy and Leading Organisations classes. The following core courses will be taught in P2:

- Corporate Financial Policy
- Foundations of Marketing
- Leading Organisations
- Managerial Accounting
- Process & Operations Mgmt
- Strategy

My plan is to take significant time in P2 to do a lot of reading about companies in industries that I would like to work in, learn about the economies in Asia, network with people from places or organisations that I'm interested in, and start my post-MBA job hunt strategy. I will also tailor my Electives package and of course work hard on the core courses and party occasionally around all that...

It's funny, when I decided to stop working for a year to go to school, many people wondered whether I would enjoy it, or whether I would even be able to sit in class all day. Two months down the road (it feels more like 4 months) I can say that I absolutely enjoy it. Much has to do with the people around me. I can speak of all my classmates in this sense: they are a bunch of hard working, focused, fun loving, amazing characters. In my essays I wrote that this was the best possible choice I could make at this point in time... well, I can say now that it's not only a cheesy line in my application essay, it's also actually true.

Singapore

Great news for us: the final outcome of the school's exchange decisions is out: I've got confirmation of my exchange to Singapore for P3,P4, and P5. Singapore has a smaller campus than Fonty. This year there was so much demand for campus exchange in P3, that INSEAD had to waitlist many people after a lottery. This means that many students have not got their request fulfilled (yet) to transfer to Singapore. There is a waitinglist now for the Wharton exchange and for Singapore. My sincere best wishes, and goodluck to everybody who's on the lists! I knew that I had a very strong case to go to Singapore, since I am seriously interested in working in Asia. Off course, like everybody else, I also very much look forward to spend part of my MBA there. The great thing about Singapore is that it's very modern and Western in a way, but at the same time it's truly Asia. The food, the people, the warmth, the possibilities. One of the things that I loved about Singapore when I was there before, was to go to the rooftop swimming-pool of Angela's apartment at night, jump in, and then enjoy looking at the tall buildings around me. The air still warm, the sky clear, you can smell the orchids around the pool, and you can hear all the typical noises of a bustling Asian city by night in the distance...

There is more good news... we also found a terrific place to live. The Singapore housingmarket has gone completely crazy in the last few years. As a consequence, housing in Singapore has become very expensive, and prices are still rising dramatically. There are so many expats looking for places to live, that supply can impossibly cope with demand. Luckily, we won't have to spend time looking for a place, because what we got now is perfect. I'm absolutely delighted that we managed to rent a condo in Heritage View, probably the best complex around INSEAD. The apartment building looks amazing, it's a beautiful modern highrise with a cool swimming pool, tennis courts, barbecue places, and a huge garden with palmtrees. Many students live there, so we'll be able to do our groupwork in the garden. Only at a few minutes walking distance from INSEAD, and with the MRT stations around the corner. I look forward to pick up Angela from work (when I have early classes) to go for dinner at Lau Pa Sat, Clarke Quay, Equinox, Little India, or any of the myriad of other wonderful places in Singapore...

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Parties & Lebanese week

Last week was filled with parties and events that caused everybody to get as little sleep as possible. It was fun but also very tiring. It started with Nuit Blanche in Paris, last Saturday. Several housemates and us went to Paris, parked our car in the easiest parking space and took the metro to Opera to have a Japanese dinner. Apparantly (I did not know) there are several streets with very nice Japanese shops and restaurants all near the Opera. Next on the list was Centre Pompidou to have cocktails in the uber-trendy bar "Georges" on top of the museum.
Even though Paris was filled with people who came for Nuit Blanche (and also several people who went to bars to watch Rugby-the French won) we ran into INSEAD students almost everywhere. Paris was just like a little town, where you keep on bumping into the same people... From Pompidou to Les Tuileries to watch the fire displays and in between we visited a church where they had a groovy light show inside the church. Very special, to see 3-D effects inside a church.

At the end of this night we discovered that our very smart parking space was not so smart anymore. Metros were too full, the taxis did not want to stop, so we had to walk back from Tuileries to Bastille. We arrived home at 5 in the morning, to be greeted by housemate Timur who just came back from a party in Chateau Tavers. Good to know that a lot of people decided to go there in the end. The Tavers gang had fierce competition from the city of Paris!

On Tuesday Villa Foch had its first housedinner, and we combined this with the birthday celebration of housemate Wim. We had a dinnerparty with 22 people and it was perfect. We all decided to have another dinner in the beginning of P2. We were very happy with the gift that Luiz brought; strawberries, limes, vodka and cachaca (mixed into fantastic caipirinhas) This, together with a keg of Desperado's, Wine, Tequila and Champagne resulted in a very merry bunch of people and cambalhota's in our living room... dear guests and housemates, thanks for a great first party@Foch!

Wednesday was the Lebanese dinner and as expected beforehand, the tickets were sold out faster than a concert of Robbie Williams. Everybody expects food in the Lebanese week to be very, very good and it was!
The first course were the mezzes, with bread. Next 'course' (from the look on several people's faces) was a belly dancer who smiled the whole evening. Not even once did she change her expression. Belly dancing must either be fun or else she is one of the most happy people I have seen so far.

Thursday was quiet. We ate the left overs from Tuesday and decided to go to bed early. Well, I did, the students continued studying as their P1 exams are approaching.

Friday was the end of Lebanese week and therefore a good reason for another party. I was still too tired and decided not to go. Omar and two other housemates went. The party was very nice even though Omar was one of the earlybirds, he left with the first bus and arrived home at 3 in the morning.


Et maintenant, the house is quiet. Everybody seems to have slipped into a study mode, and the majority of the housemates spend their hours behind their books. Luckily in two weeks time, after the exams, we will all have a short holiday. Even though it is only 4 days, people are planning and talking about it as if it were the 6 weeks holiday in summer. Omar and I are going to Barcelona, where we will meet up with several INSEAD students.

Sunday, 30 September 2007

Visiting the tourist spots

This weekend Angela's parents came over to visit from the Netherlands. They brought lots of delicious things we cannot buy over here like drop (liquorice) and appelkruimeltaart (apple crumble pie). Because all hotels in Fontainebleau were full they decided to book a room in a hotel close to Melun which turned out to be a very good hotel, despite the blue painting in the corridors.
Because Omar had classes on Friday and Angela also had some activities planned, Jan en Tini took their car to explore Fontainebleau and Melun. On Saturday however, Omar decided to join the activities and the four of us drove around the area and visited a number of villages like Nemours, Bourron Marlotte and Montigny sur Loing. In the afternoon we stopped at one of the bouldering places close to Fontainebleau where we tried to find the highest boulder to climb. We did not have special gear with us like many of the people who were trying to climb the boulders and than circle them with a small mattrass lying on the ground. So we decided to only climb the small rocks.

The evening we went down to Vaux le Vicomte near Melun. They have (check their internet website for more accurate details) a candle light visit on Saturday evenings where the visitors can have a look at the different rooms in the chateau and than later on explore the gardens, all lighted by candles. This was great and we loved the chateau. In the gardens it was often very dark and despite Omar's warning for Angela not to fall in the fountain (which turned out not to be there) he did not see where he was walking himself and fell over one of Vaux le Vicomte's nice bushes, so nicely designed by Monsieur le Notre. Vaux le Vicomte is definitely worth going and the interior is absolutely beautiful with lots of furniture from the 17th and 18th centuries.

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Yuxin rules!

Last weekend my class- and groupmate Yuxin went to New York for some urgent business. With a little time left he offered to bring me back something, if I needed anything from the States.

With the dollar exchange rate at € 1.41 I decided to take a gamble and asked him to buy us: an iPhone...


Of course we all know that Apple has the iPhones locked and coupled to a 2 year AT&T contract for 60$ a month (will probably be a similar deal in Europe once it comes out.) We also know that the iPhones will only come out in Europe at the end of the year and even later in Asia... True as all that may be, the prices in the US dropped to 399$, and I actually found some excellent software on the internet for 59$ to unlock the iPhone. Ergo, I could not resist and so I asked Yuxin to do me this favour.

After downloading some tools to first activate the phone, I bought the "simfree" software on the web and I manage to activate and unlock the phone. As all my friends know... I'm not the most able person when it comes to technical stuff, so trust me, it's easy enough to do.

Our beautiful new iPhone is now fully operational in France with a French prepaid Virgin Mobile sim...

La vie est belle, n'est-ce pas?

Steep learning curve

So how fast is an accelerated MBA?

A little more than a month ago, I did't know much more about accounting than the words debit and credit. For our Friday case, I need to give an advice to the investment community whether to buy, sell, or hold stock from Coca-Cola and why. If cold-called, I need to give a detailed analysis and advice in 90 seconds.

The case brings us back to 2005. Based on the Financial Statements, the 2004 Annual Report, articles from Fortune and Business Week magazines, and some market data, we should be in good enough shape to do a 5-forces analysis, and a credible Valuation of the company.

I'm glad that I'll have some time tomorrow morning to work on it. I just finished the readings, but have no idea where to start... this story will be updated soon!

By the way, Financial Accounting (believe it or not) is my favourite class. It's amazing how a good professor can really make you appreciate what he teaches you. Today was his best session, which makes it the best P1 session to date. The main reason is that many things came together in this lecture: financial statements, measurement ratios, valuation, management issues, purpose of companies, value creation... the whole lecture was wrapped around a vivid discussion over several provocative statements.

I hope that I understood enough to figure out the Coca-Cola valuation case tomorrow.

Saturday, 22 September 2007

Impressions



Amazing, it's weekend again...

Next week will be fun. It will be Japan & Korea week on campus. Our fantastic Japanese and Korean classmates have joined forces with their fellow nationals of the senior class and are preparing a whole score of events, theme-parties, dinners, and surprises to present their countries. I very much look forward to next week.

Little over one month in the programme, and the mass of readings start to become normal: the cases become routine, 2 chapters of the economics book before dinner, one finance chapter after dinner... yeah right!! The truth... still not adjusted, still haven't found the rhythm, still struggling to absorb the massive amount of stuff. It gets better though. "Is it fun?" you might ask, well: "yes it is, it's fantastic!!"

With so many things to do, so many choices to make, and with time in such short supply, I find myself learning and perfecting my abilities to prioritize, to focus on vital things, and to appreciate all the moments. On wednesday I managed to finish my readings at 2300h. With so much time left, I decided to watch a movie, something that I hadn't done in a long time. I watched "Blood Diamonds" on the Macbook with my Grado's supplying the sound. The movie is very good (even if you don't like Leo de Caprio too much.) Last night I went to a great party in Villa Vivante. We stayed there until 4 in the morning, having fun with many other students. Consequently, today I struggled to stay awake during Microeconomics...

On Tuesday we had dinner with my studygroup. We had good food, bad service though, and good conversations about safety in Brazil, Venezuela, and politics in Lebanon. Our first graded group assignment scored 5 out of 5 by the way! It wasn't the toughest assignment by any means, but we believe that it's a sign of many more good things to come...

Last weekend Angela and I went back home to visit family and celebrate a birthday. It was great to be back, even if it was short. This weekend people decided to spread out all over the place... One of my groupmates is off to New York, another to Beirut, a large gang chartered a bus and is en route to Oktoberfest in Munich, some people are flying to Ibiza, and I'm sure that there are one or two other exotic happenings going on. We decided to spend a beautiful day in Paris instead and on Friday we will have a house full of people for joint extra practice in statistics, accounting and economics. If the weather stays good, we'll ignite the barbeque and have lunch in the garden.

We have started to plan our P1-P2 break trip. The idea is to go to either Rome or Barcelona. Stay tuned for updates!

Networking wise, there were a few companies on campus that attracted my interest. I spoke to reps from Rolls Royce, Barclays, and Standard Chartered Bank. They all have interesting executive recruiting programmes I might want to learn more about. So far my mind is revolving around two dominating career interests: senior leadership in an interesting Industry or International Organization, and Strategy Consulting. On 4 October I'll have my first career councelling session with an experienced executive coach, so I look forward to getting his perspective on my thoughts.

Bon, je crois qu'il est l'heure pour aller dormir...

Up to Japan & Korea week, the MRC case, 12 angree men, a McKinsey speaker, and hopefully many more fun classes!

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Our house has its hero of the day!!

How often does it happen that bad things occur twice and within a short timeframe? Was it only about a week ago that I wrote about my bike and how it was brutally separated from its saddle? And guess what happened today....

We were out enjoying the Fontainebleau Chateau gardens. At our house at the other side of Fontainebleau, housemate Anita was doing her homework when she heard noise coming from downstairs. She went to see what was going on and as she stepped into the garden, two guys came cycling out of the garage onto the street... on our bikes!!! She went after them and managed to stop one of them. Unfortunately, he fell and so did the bike. She started yelling at them and made so much impression that the guy (who was actually a boy of around 14 years old) returned the bike, and so did his friend. Anita brought both bikes inside the house while other housemate Wim talked to the little thieves.

Omar was called by Anita at the time she saw the guys in the garden and he arrived when the bikes were safe inside the house, almost running over one of the little criminals with his car. They took their pictures and wrote down their names. If they or their friends come near our house again, their pictures go to the police. So far the little punks were happy that they weren't turned in or beaten up (yet.)

To end with a summary:

*We are very happy that we have our bikes back, even with their minor damage (scratches, ruptured tire, etc)
*These boys were definitely out to steal them and not to borrow them for a nice ride (my bike was locked without a saddle, so it must have hurt pretty badly)
*We are surprised that this happened in Fontainebleau. It looks like the children here do not get enough homework.
*Thanks to Anita we still have our two bikes, so we hereby declare Anita: our hero of the day!!

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Orientation week Part II: MBA Participant

It seems so long ago that I last posted on this blog... Thankfully Angela has taken over the lead! I've got so much to share, that I don't know where to start. I'll try to break it down in a few sections for easier digestion.

ACADEMICS
So Business Foundations (BF) ended, Orientation Week (OW) went past, and P1 picked up in full effect. Angela posted before about BF so I'll skip that. OW was a combination of Intro's to the courses, the teaching methods, and the material. Potentially this could have been a relaxing week, however the free time that I had, I spent in bed with a flu... for the rest OW was about welcomes, setting up laptops, doing all sorts of admin stuff, buying books,etc... The best part of this week was the last day on Saturday (Saturday seems to count as a working day at INSEAD) when we had an outdoors day to bond with our studygroups. After OW, P1 started in full force. Lots of prereading, and case preparations for each class, followed by interesting classes, groupwork, problems, and a new cycle starting with prereading, etc... I still need to get used to this...

MY GROUP
Just like in BF I have a great studygroup. An Englishman, a Brazilian, a Lebanese, an American, and me. We get along very well, we all want to learn from each other, and we respect our differences and skills. We'll be spending a lot of time together, so I'm really pleased with my group! The only unfortunate thing is that we don't have any women in our group. With 29% women on campus and studygroups of 5, the odds would be for having at least one woman in our group!

WELCOME
During OW, we were officially welcomed on campus by the Deans and by the President of the Alumni Association (who also happens to be the President of the Rothschild bank in Canada.) Nice welcome words to participants and our partners, good champagne to celebrate it, and a good cocktail afterwards.

PARTIES
Yes, there were a few...
The international INSEAD crowd makes each party look like there is a "young and vibrant" UN assembly on a fun quest!
Friday after Business Foundations we took over the Aussi Pub in Fonty; Saturday night was spent in one of the most exclusive clubs in Paris, On Sunday I passed, but there were at least 3 or 4 different parties... Last Saturday (right after OW) we had an extremely good party sponsored by Bain & Company at Chateau de Vaux-le-Penil (just imagine free champagne & rum & vodka from 22.00h until 04.00h the next morning, great music, a stunning castle, and free buses to take you back home!)
Next Saturday we'll have our party sonsored by OPERA Solutions at Chateau de Tavers, and they say that that party will be even better! Saturday the 14th will be the Shangri-La Fiction "Tarantino theme party." It seems that the Party scene is on at INSEAD and that there is fierce competition as to who actually throws the best one!

RECRUITING
Recruiting companies come to campus almost every evening. It's hard to choose which company presentations to go to after classes, because every day there are 2 or 3 invitations in our mailboxes. On Monday I went to Google, today to Bain&Company, tomorrow I'll go to Booz Allen, and Friday to McKinsey. I had to pass this week the invitations from SAP, Merill Lynch, J&J and BCG. Luckily they are here primarily for the P4s, and they'll come back for us in April, and May. All this attention is of course fantastic, but I'm sure that in due time it will also be stressfull, since there will be more MBA graduates in each class than there will be jobs offered via recruiting.

CLUBS
Yesterday night Angela and I went to a Wine&Cheese tasting. Most Clubs and activities are open for both partners and participants. In fact, partners are included in every aspect of campus life, so that is great! The Cheese tasting was initially a partners event, but since they had a few slots left, I was allowed to join, which I thankfully did.
We signed up for many clubs. Angela will write more about her prospective activities (amongst others she will play in INSEAD's women "soccer" team.) I signed up for a few Clubs with the aim to network in specific areas like Emerging Markets, Consulting, and International and Humanitarian Affairs. I also signed up for the Real Estate Club to learn more about investing in real estate. And, I signed up for the Sailing Regatta.
I hope that I'll be selected for one of the 2 boats that will compete against other B-schools in the MBA Regatta later this month in Italy. My going to INSEAD meant that I had to pass on a wonderfull opportunity to join Rick and Hans on the ARC Ocean Race from Las Palmas to St Lucia in November. I would have loved to cross the Atlantic together with these two guys, but you can't do everything at the same time. Sailing for INSEAD at the MBA Regatta would be extremely cool, so I hope that I'll make it. With many outstanding sailors (even an ex-Olympic sailor) as classmates, though, I'm not sure whether it will happen! I'll keep you posted, take care!

Monday, 3 September 2007

My mountainbike

I love my bike. It is a matt black mountainbike, an authentic Cube. I bought it together with Omar because we both started mountainbiking. And I brought it with me to France because I heard and read that there are so many beautiful tracks in and around the Fontainebleau forest.

Today was the first day that I decided to take my bike out of the garage and cycle to Insead and then to the centre, just to warm up and get a bit in shape before exploring the VTT (velo tout terraine) tracks. When I arrived at Insead it was raining very hard and I had to park it outside, which I did not like very much. My bike is used to garages. There was hardly any place and I had to put my bike somewhere where I could not lock it very well. I went back to check on it three times through the rain and every time it was safe (but wet).

In the afternoon Omar and I decided to go to the centre to buy a phone and I jumped on my bike hoping to beat Omar with his car. And I did. I parked my bike, this time I made sure I locked the whole frame and went to the store. We could not find anything and decided to return home after only 5 minutes. I went outside to my bike, only to discover that it had no saddle anymore!!!

My beautiful bike, of which I am so proud, stood there and it felt like someone had disgraced it. I felt so angry, and sad. My saddle, on which I rode my first Bart Brentjens Challenge, gone. It was nice and black with blue and red on the back and it felt good right from the start. I cannot believe why some people do this, steal from other people. It is not about the money, someone took something away from me which meant something to me.

My bike is now in the garage again, and locked safely. I am going to buy a new saddle. And unfortunately I learned a new lesson: always strip my bike and take everything with me when I leave it locked somewhere.

"Robbers are punks and they suck!"

Voleurs, vouz devez tous avoir honte!

Orientation week Part I: Partner

Although I feel that the experiences of Omar as MBA participant should come first I shall briefly write something about what Orientation Week for the partners was all about, since Omar is currently buried in Prices and Markets homework.

The P4 partners had put lots of effort in making the Orientation Week also a nice week for the partners. After we had registered, we received a schedule with all activities already organised. Some of these were the Teddybear picknic, a partners presentation, a walk around Fontainebleau with lunch and a lunch prepared by P4 for P1 partners. The Teddybear picknic was sweet and fun, and since Omar and I do not have any children I brought cookies instead. There are quite a lot of partners with children on campus and I admire them because I can expect that with a child (or more) there is so much more to organise. I have seen several examples where the MBA participant joined the activities with his or her child, so the partner had some time off, which I think is very considerate, especially since the MBA schedule is very busy.

During the partner presentation all the partners clubs were represented: The Arts club, the Book club, the Running club, the Movie club, the Cheese and Wine tasting club, the Parents club, and more. Last Saturday morning I ran my first 25 minutes, on Sunday morning we visited the Fontainebleau Chateau, tonight I am going to the first soccer and touch rugby practice and tomorrow I hope to learn something more about wine.

The P4 lunch was on Saturday in Villecerf, a tiny village south of Fontainebleau. The food was excellent, different dishes from India, Russia, Japan etc and followed by delicious brownies, tarte tatin and strawberry cake. Thankfully one of the P1 partners (Natalie) started a running club :-)

Thanks P4 partners, (amongst others Moupiya, Prasanna, Kristina, Ingrid and Shivani) for this warm welcome!!

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Even een Nederlands stukje voor de familie (in Dutch for the people back home)

Omar heeft vandaag zijn derde schooldag en ze houden hem en de mensen met wie hij het voorbereidende programma volgt goed bezig. Afgelopen zondag begon het met een diner en wat uitleg over de week die zou gaan komen (deze dus) en daarna kregen ze een map mee met ongeveer 5 uur aan huiswerk voor de maandag. ' s Ochtends gaat hij, samen met Irina en Aliya naar Insead en ergens tegen 1900 (gisteren 20.30) komen ze thuis om aan de slag te gaan met een uur of 3 huiswerk. Hij heeft zelf het gevoel dat hij al 3 weken op school zit en hij begint vakken zoals finance en accounting zelfs leuk te vinden!

Ik zelf ben verschillende dingen aan het doen om me te vermaken, al moet ik zeggen dat het slechte weer (op dit moment komt het weer eens met bakken uit de hemel) het niet makkelijk maakt om de toerist uit te hangen en met de camera op pad te gaan. Omdat ik de afgelopen dagen wel al een aantal dingen heb gedaan en gezien kan ik wel al een korte opsomming geven van hoe het leven er in Fontainebleau aan toe gaat, zo vanuit de ogen van iemand die niet aan het voorbereiden is om naar school te gaan.

-De mensen zijn over het algemeen vriendelijk en als jij eerst groet dan doen zij het terug. Ik herken zelfs al een aantal mensen van vorige keren dat ik ze gezien heb, we hebben nog geen contact en ik moet eerlijk bekennen dat al deze mensen allemaal een hond hebben en dat ik die herken.

-Ik heb me aangepast aan het Franse leven en koop nu om de dag een stokbrood. Hier loop ik dan met het brood onder mijn arm mee naar huis. Het enige waar ik nog aan moet wennen is het meel. Het is me nu al een aantal keer overkomen dat ik dacht relaxed naar huis te lopen met het ding onder mijn arm of soms tegen me aan houdend, om dan bij het wachten op een stoplicht er (weer) achter te komen dat de stokbroden hier royaal bepoederd worden met meel en dat ik dus grote witte meel vlekken overal op mijn kleding heb. Ik zal dus nog beter de Fransen moeten gaan bestuderen aangezien ik nooit witte vlekken op hun jassen zie...

-Vandaag hadden we afgesproken met een paar Insead partners. Leuke mensen en we hebben een tijdje zitten praten en de eerste ervaringen zitten vergelijken. De interesses zijn wel gevarieerd, dat merkte ik vooral toen er een vroeg of we zin hadden om een brei-clubje te vormen. Ik heb toen maar eerlijk (en op een aardige manier) verteld dat ik niet kan breien en dat ik het ook niet echt graag wil leren. We hebben wel afgesproken om naar Parijs te gaan om kleding te kopen aangezien bijna iedereen hier zit met dunne zomerkleding.

-We hebben al 1 paraplu gedoneerd in de trein van Fontainebleau-Avon naar Gare de Lyon. Jammer want die hadden we nu goed kunnen gebruiken.

-Er zijn maar weinig mensen hier in huis die willen of kunnen koken. Onze Indiase overbuurman kan heel goed verpakkingen in de magnetron doen en de rest houdt het bij brood of afhaal pizza. Ik moet eerlijk bekennen dat ik, in tegenstelling tot de Indiase partners waar ik vanmorgen mee gesproken heb, ook niet zoveel kook en dat pasta en omelet mijn grootste culinaire wonderen waren. Bij de Indiase partners was een van de eerste vragen die ze stuurden in hun emails, waar ze meel konden vinden om chapati's te maken en kruiden voor de curries voor hun manlief als deze van Insead af komt.

-Ik ben zelf begonnen aan CFA boek over ethiek. Ik ben nu bezig alle onderdelen van de 7 Standards of Professional Conduct te leren. Vaak wel eenvoudig te begrijpen, uit de voorbeelden kan je al zien of er een standaard violated is. Echter, je moet alle standaarden kennen, compleet met voorbeelden waarin het fout gaat en hoe je het wel goed kan doen.
Een van de boeken die Omar 'moest' kopen is "A random walk down wall street" van Burton G Malkiel. Hierin beschrijft de beste man onder meer een aantal voorbeelden van beurs bubbles, waarbij de prijzen van tulpen, waardepapieren en aandelen in eerste instantie omhoog schoten omdat de mensen elkaar gek maakten en dat iedereen die dingen moest kopen. Iig, om weer terug te keren, in het boek worden voorbeelden beschreven waardoor ik beter het nut en de achtergrond van de gortdroge ethiek regels begrijp, wat het lezen dus makkelijker maakt.

-Eergisteren hebben Omar en ik samen met Sid en Marloes gechat, compleet met camera. Erg leuk om te doen. Plus punt voor de Apple lap tops!! Ik ben bijna zo ver dat ik kan gaan skypen (bellen via internet)

Goed, het is inmiddels etenstijd geworden, ik ga er een eind aan breien (haha). Prettige avond en tot ziens.

Monday, 20 August 2007

Student Life

It has started...

Transition completed. Our house is getting fuller by the day, as our housemates move in. Our reception in the house was excellent, we had barely arrived or we were treated to wine, cheese, and good company! The mix of cultures is a great source of inspiration and will ensure many interesting topics for conversation, varying from different languages and habits, to food, economy, politics, and things we all have in common, regardless of our backgrounds.

Talking about backgrounds, this week started our Business Foundations week. It has brought together most people with non-quant, or non-finance backgrounds: so no Finance experts, Private Equity specialists, iBankers; Instead, we have PR people, Engineers, Pilots, Military Officers, Economists, NGO professionals, and probably a few more combinations of diverse individuals.

Student Life really started Sunday night. After a short opening session from our professors Cohen and Hietala, we were treated to an excellent and abundant French diner with plenty good wine. Before diner we all received a thick binder containing the week's material, the schedule and the stuff to do and read before and after each class. When we set out for the diner together with the faculty, we knew that we were looking at 5 hours of reading to be done before Monday morning. Still we all enjoyed this first diner before going home to study. Somehow I feel that this is the trend for the nearby future. Fun, party, food, good company, and huge amounts of work.

This week's schedue:
- classes from 9am 'till 3pm
- followed by 5 hours of groupwork
- followed by x hours of further reading
- squeeze in some food, sleep, and bloggin'
- a lot of laughter, good spirited humor, and fun

I quickly go back to reading now...
 

Saturday, 18 August 2007

Insead, Fontainebleau and a parking ticket

We have now been in Fontainebleau for exactly one week, and so far it has been good. Living (for some days just with the two of us) in a large house with 10 rooms, a garden so big that a herd of cows can graze in it, a large terrace to enjoy the sun and a soccer and basketball terrain next door has been a nice start of our year.

I must admit, some months ago my impression of how easy the preparation would go was too naïve. There were so many things to arrange (insurance, loan, work in Singapore etc etc) and at some moments I walked around with 3 lists of to do's. I lost a lot of sleep and hair about it and I know that I will still have to get used to not waking up early to go to work each day and sharing a house with 10 other people instead of one. But I realized that this would be the moment for me to relax, do things I have dreamt about and make new friends. And then the car broke down.....
But this is all over now as Omar has already written and it was an excellent opportunity for Omar to drag some extra stuff with him to decorate our rooms. When we will move back home in December, we will probably need a U-Haul truck☺

Insead was more or less closed this week because they were redecorating the restaurant and the bookshop Footnote. And with no internet in the house (our very technical housemate Wim later discovered that we only had to press a button…) we decided to explore Fontainebleau and the surrounding villages, including Paris. The forest with its boulders (large stones) is beautiful and we have bought a book with VTT (Velo Tout Terraine) mountainbike routes. Paris was as good as always and we have a mall with a large Carrefour closeby (maybe some American influence accepted by France?) All in all our first week was good. We have been eating French cheeses and buying French bread at the Boulangeries. The only small culture shock we experienced was when we noticed our first French parking ticket!!!!
Our crime was not participating with the rest of the French people and moving our car from the left side of the street to the right side. In France (and according to Wim also in Belgium) there is a rule that states that from day 1 until the 15th all cars are parked on the left side and from the 16th until the end of the month all cars must be parked on the right side of the street. And we did not know about this. The Fontainebleau Municipal Police was so kind to explain the rule and everything was ok after we paid our ticket (EUR 11) by buying a stamp from the Fontainebleau Treasury.

Tomorrow is the start of the Foundations program for Omar and housemate Irina. I have some other plans, including testing my new soccerball and investigating the SNCF (French train) site to find out how I could get a discount when traveling by train. Au revoir et a bientôt!

Monday, 13 August 2007

Waiting for the mechanics...



We had it all planned...

Wednesday and Thursday for cleaning the house and packing; Last party on Thursday night, right after Angela's last day at work; Friday for finishing up packing, and sorting out last details; Saturday morning drive to Fonty with 2 cars (ours and Angela's parents' Volvo stationcar);

The goal was one week of relaxing before the start of Business Foundations. Unfortunately Murphy reared its ugly head on Friday: Our car's climate control unit broke and no repair was possible before Monday (=today.)

With everything arranged and planned, we had to push through and go ahead with the move anyway. My motorbike was allready enroute to France. With us in the car as additional unplanned cargo we could not pack everything. Still more than half of our stuff could be moved with us on the Saturday trip (thanks to Volvo's habbit of making seriously big cars!) While Angela stayed in Fonty, I drove back home with her parents on Sunday to pick up our own car.

At this moment it's 16:00h and the garage-man (not my regular one, climate controls are not his cup of tea) has got me on tenterhooks all day. It's supposed to be an easy fix once you have the parts, and he got the parts on Saturday afternoon... but still no word from him. With nothing that I can do to influence the process, I decided to do something usefull instead of just hanging around.

So here I am in an empty house blogging, loading a few more CDs in iTunes, and waiting for the mechanics...

Saturday, 4 August 2007

In between phases

1 more week untill we move to France...

Many other J08 bloggers already commented on the eariness of this "calm before the storm" period. It is a kind of twillight zone sensation. Work has ended, I even had a great farewell party at work the other day, with many fantastic colleagues. Still the MBA hasn't started yet... 

Our long list of action items is slowly coming to an end. Our landlord left the keys of the house at INSEAD so we can pick them up next week. I'm filling iTunes with all our favourite CD's. A guilty feeling is creeping up on me for not having done more pre-reading (however there is still time, and 'me is a speedreader now, so me will be fine!') 

The time is also nearing for "last" everythings...
- Last visits to friends,
- Last weekend at home,
- Last lunch, dinner, whatever with family,
- Last farewell parties,
- Last things to do...

In my head though, I've started to focus and think about all the "first" moments...
- First day in France
- First day at INSEAD
- First class
- First weekend as a student
- First, oh boy, so many firsts to come...

I get vivid memories of my first day as a Marine recruit... so many things happened since that day, and yet this Marine is about to start a new journey, and discover so many more new things...

"One year to challenge your thinking, change your outlook, and choose your future." 

This famous INSEAD slogan almost sounds incredible for the average 30-odd guy in his mid-career after having done many different things in his life. Still, the more I think about it, the more it makes sense and the more it sounds like a challenge and an announcement at the same time. 

All the considerations about the amount of money that we will pay, and the opportunity cost of not having a job for a year are completely fading away. In fact, I realize that I bought a ticket to something special: a ride along with other likeminded individuals who went through the same preparation in their pursuit of discoveries, opportunities, challenges and positivity. In many ways there is a strong parallel with my choice to join the Marines. A different slogan, but that too challenged my thinking, changed my outlook, and helped me shape my future... 

It's about time the new phase starts, so let me quote PINK:
"Get this party started!"

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

UN mission to Darfur is a GO

It is with great joy that I read today about the UN's long overdue approval of an international mission to Darfur. The mission will include 4 times more personnel as the current African Union mission. The AU has been struggling for so long with limited funding and insufficient material and manpower. It is a disgrace that the genocide in Darfur has been allowed to go on for so long. I genuinely hope that the UN and AU troops will have a powerfull enough mandate for their mission. They need to be allowed to do their work in this region that has for so long been ravaged by Janjaweed thugs and Sudanese militias. This is a good start for SG Ban Ki-moon. Let's see if the UN bureaucracy can get its operational act together and that UN troops will soon arrive in the region. I may not agree with all the western military intervention in the world, but I strongly feel that this is a much needed mission. Dear Clea Koff (recommended read: the Bone Woman) after stability is restored in Darfur, there may be more good work for scientists like you. Like in Rwanda and Bosnia, the people behind the killing need to be held responsible for their actions. Mr. Rodolphe Adada will lead the AU-UN peacekeeping mission and he may well be the best person for the job. I'm very happy with this news, life is not only about work, studying, money and fun. 

Saturday, 28 July 2007

Admits, work, London, BCG, and drinks!

A lot happened since my last post. 

We had our first local admits get together and it was a lot of fun. We are all equally anxious to start our adventure and we all want to share this year with likeminded individuals. I discovered that most of my countrymen & woman are consultants. I also discovered that most of them have decided to start in Singapore rather than in France. I guess that we'll just have to wait with our national week for a while ;-)

This week marked my last days at work. It was actually quite strange to give my last presentation and to then clean up my stuff. I look forward to my farewell party and the chance to say goodbye to many great colleagues and friends at work. In a way the last few weeks have been a long period of goodbyes. If you don't like goodbyes, don't work too long in one place, don't go to business school, and don't leave your company... on the other hand, this period makes me reminisce many good moments...

I just came back from a two day trip to London, hosted by BCG. I met many admits from INSEAD, LBS, Stanford, Kellogg. It was good to see that INSEAD led the pack in numbers and in spirit. The interaction at BCG gave me a good picture of consulting in London, eventhough I still have some questions and I also wonder about one or two things that I heard from the recruiters. I'll get back to that in a next post, need to get my head around it first. The interaction with the other school's admits was great. Diverse backgrounds and good conversation partners. After the event I went to Picadilly with 2 INSEAD'ers. We had beers, good food, and got to know each other a little better. 

Tomorrow will be Angela and my "goodbye and thankyou" party for friends and family. 'Goodbye' for the obvious reasons; 'thankyou' for all the support, help, attention, and patience that they had with me during the long preparation period. GMAT preparation, GMAT tests, essays, more essays, another round of essays, and yet more essays... So while I'm at it, also a big thankyou to Angela! She suffered the worst... 

So what's our party going to be like? Wakeboarding, waterskiing, hopefully good weather, and lots of free drinks!!! Kampai!

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

'Just in Time' timing...

The 27th (10 days from now,) I'll have to make my second payment to INSEAD of € 29.000

We secured an MBA-loan some time ago, luckily, but we need to visit a notary for the funds to be released. Wednesday will be the first possibility to do this, which will leave us exactly one week to make the transfer.

Talking about 'just in time'...

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Weber Super Sunday

"To enjoy slow cooking, good weather, fine drinks, and great company"... that's the mission of the Weber Smoke Club.

Our club got together last Sunday for a splendid day of smokin'. Last year the club was founded after a day of BBQ lessons from chef Reitse Spanninga. Vegetables, fish, poultry, and red meat, along with fresh herbs, homemade oil, and the best custom marinade were our ingredients for the smoker. It was great Goov, thanks for hosting it this time! Next time the Fonty forest will be the setting for a Smokin' day in the truest Napoleontine tradition.

For an impression, follow the link to the Club's website.

Saturday, 7 July 2007

Recognition of European MBA's in the US


Amazed, an American MBA applicant told me that he had only recently discovered INSEAD. Until that moment he had never even thought of looking outside of the US for his selection of b-schools. He simply believed that the only worthwhile options for doing a good MBA were American schools. What surprised me is that he had decided to apply to only INSEAD in the end.

How can this be?

Look at the MBA rankings from the Economist, FT, and other research units. Europe and recently also Asia (CEIBS ranks 11th on FT's 2007 listing) have some of the best b-schools with names up there with Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, Yale, and Wharton. With star-faculties, and super-international student and alumni communities, I believe that European schools have often a lot more to offer than many absolutely-less-international US schools.

London Business School, right in the Financial heart of Europe; the prestigious IMD in Switzerland; and what about Spain with 3 top b-schools (IE, IESE, and ESADE.) It is quite a while ago that Spain only attracted Latin oriented students. Nowadays Spanish b-schools are on the wish lists of many students from all over the world. I personally love the ESADE case on creativity featuring my favourite Spanish chef 'Ferran Adriá.'

I see many signs of the strong brand recognition of INSEAD in the USA:
- The last time I looked at my class' citizenship map the American (co)nationality was the largest amongst the class' population with 59 students, about 10%.
- INSEAD students get the opportunity to spend 2 months at Wharton, but many decide not to do it even though they may at one time want to spend some time in the USA
- INSEAD alumni find their way around the world, including the USA!
- (in all modesty:) This fairly new INSEAD MBA blog has been viewed by as many Americans as by people from other countries!

Unfortunately not everybody in the Far West is yet aware of what Europe and Asia have to offer. To cut this story short, the message that I want to share with any American MBA applicant who is still deciding where to go to, is: keep in mind that there are many international alternatives to the best US business schools for you to choose from.

...these were my 2 cents on "options"

Back to the ESADE case: chef Ferran's food laboratories are most avantgard-ish and innovative. Unfortunately his restaurant is already fully booked until the end of 2007! Wouldn't it be great to spend a weekend in Barcelona and then end it with a great dinner at El Bulli, right before starting my MBA in Fonty? Check out www.elbulli.com


"Don Ferran, seguro que ahora merecemos una invitacion para una cena en su restaurante en Cala Montjoi, no es verdad? no deje de mandarnos un mensaje"
:-) :-) :-)

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Business Foundations and BCG



Today I confirmed my attendance to the pre-MBA cocktail of The Boston Consulting Group in London. I got a great deal with Easyjet and an even better deal with the Thistle Victoria hotel. I look forward to finding out more about Strategy Consulting in London, and to meeting more of my new class mates. Dinner, networking with recruiters, meeting people, and probably clubbing in a trendy place after the cocktail. The best part of it is that the MBA hasn't even started yet!!

I also received more info about my Business Foundations week at INSEAD. This week is tailored for those of us who don't have a Quant or Finance background. The programme consists of Financial Accounting, Finance, and Quantitative Methods. Good job that I just completed my Six Sigma Green Belt certification, I bet that all the statistics and analysis will come in handy with the Quant part. INSEAD is very serious about this programme, which I believe is fantastic. We even get star professor Jake Cohen during this pre-MBA week to help us get a strong foundation. I'd better intensify my Finance pre-reading now, and be prepared...