Monthly Archives: March 2006

Camel on campus

This week is Arab Week on campus, and believe it or not, they actually managed to get a real camel to campus (see below). Yannick got so excited about it that he went straight for a kiss.

Camel on campus Feeding the camel

Besides live animals, we had movie night on Monday, Egyptian breakfast and Bazar on Tuesday, a Fashion show lined up for tomorrow and a Morrocan dinner and party on Friday. Got to love those National Weeks!


Appointed Dean raises some eye brows [Update]

This afternoon, we had a Q&A session with Frank Brown, who has been appointed to succeed Gabriel Hawawini as Dean of INSEAD in July of this year. The appointment had been surprising, as Frank is not only the first American, but also the first business veteran (as opposed to a career academic) to lead our school. He has been with PricewaterhouseCoopers for the past 26 years, most recently heading their global advisory services.

The session was indeed insightful. The students appreciated Frank’s plans to improve career services and to maintain a high quality faculty, but some of his other statements did not go down as favorably. In particular, when asked about what he planned to change at INSEAD, he referred to some “inappropriate behavior” by students which “would not be tolerated in the business world” and therefore should not be tolerated at a business school either. Asked to elaborate further, he cited “drinking alcohol before 6pm” and “bringing alcohol to class” as some of the obvious examples of such “inappropriate behavior”.

If I take this a bit further, this means no more champagne celebrations for birthdays or newborn babies on campus on Friday afternoons. No more champagne sponsored by the professor during our last class. And no more champagne at the bar to mark to end of our exams. Somehow this doesn’t feel right. Does Frank know that – we are in France, after all – the INSEAD restaurant serves red wine with lunch and dinner? And what about Welcome Week – do we want to sacrifice an INSEAD tradition on the altar of political correctness?

Clearly, I do not agree with Frank on this issue. And I am worried that his views may pose a threat to the liberal spirit and atmosphere of mutual respect here at INSEAD which make the school what it is.

Thankfully, Frank’s remarks did not go unnoticed during the session. One of my classmates asked how he felt about imposing his values on the international community at INSEAD by forcing such standards. After an awkward moment of silence, the auditorium broke out in applause. I hope that Frank Brown took note of the sensitivity of this issue.

During my first week at INSEAD, one of my classmates – not an English native speaker – was struggling to find a politically correct term for “peasants”. Our accounting professor, an American who has taught at Harvard, interrupted him by saying “This is INSEAD, not Havard, we don’t need to be PC!” (i.e. politically correct). I hope this won’t change come July.

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UPDATE: Wow! In reply to a short email to Frank Brown pointing to this entry, I got an almost instant reply from him saying I should not take him too literally and that “we will know what is inappropriate”. So I have decided to give him the benefit of the doubt for now – and I look forward to having a Dean who is as responsive to students as he is.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

In case you missed it, last Friday was St. Patrick’s Day. If you were at INSEAD that day, you would have noticed, as some of our Irish classmates dressed up in all in green to celebrate the occasion. Below are Aine, Peter and John with their first beer at the bar. While I did appreciate the “kiss me, i’m irish” tagline on Aine’s T-shirt, I’m not so sure about the guys.

On another completely unrelated note, P2 feels a lot busier than P1. Haven’t really figured out why, as we are only into our second week and the deadlines for group assignments are still relatively far away, but just the sheer amount of different classes, workshops, speeches, company presentations, dinners and parties is overwhelming. It feels like I’m constantly running behind schedule. On the positive side, it is a handy excuse for the increasing delays between my blog entries :-) , and it really does teach you how to prioritze – a lesson I have needed for some time now, it seems. To give you an idea, below right is my schedule for this week (red: classes, green: career related, orange: everything else) – and that excludes studying and group assignments.

Aine, Peter and John Schedule

Harvard vs. INSEAD

Another great quote, this time from Chris Mathias, an INSEAD MBA Alumnus (’89D): “There are some basic characteristics which are necessary but not sufficient to succeed as an entrepreneur – focus, brains, determination and so on. The fact that you are here at INSEAD means you have all that. But so do the guys at Harvard. They are the same as you. Well – except you have a sense of humour and a social life!”

Couldn’t have said it better! :-)


Last week, we – Marina, Ruriko, Irene and myself – went on a short trip to Marrakech in Morocco during the four day break between our first and second period of classes. We stayed at the Riad Tanine, a small hotel in the middle of the Medina, Marrakesh’s old city.

Our hotel, Riad Tanine
Our hotel, Riad Tanine

The Medina consists of a maze of streets and sideways, crowded during the day and completely deserted at night. In its middle is Jamaa El Fna, the square of the Dead.

Jamaa El Fna Square
Jamaa El Fna Square

Dried Fruit and Orange Juice on Offer
Remember Hitchcock’s “The Man Who Knew Too Much”?

One evening, we had dinner at stall no. 1 on the square – the food is ok, but we ate much better than that elsewhere. I highly recommend Le Tobsil in the Medina, Al Faissa in the Gueliz district and the restaurant of the five-star hotel La Mamounia.

Dinner at Stall No. 1
Dinner at Stall No. 1

Our favourite mode of transport were the horse carriages, which will get you anywhere for a few Dirham. Make sure you haggle with them though, because their first quoted price is typically 5 to 10 times the fixed tariff they are required to charge.

Riding the Horse Carriage
Irene, Marina and Ruriko in a carriage, with the minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque in the background

Marrakech is full of exotic colours and shapes. Here are some of my impressions from the museums, parks and various merchants in the Medina.

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Birthday, Samir’s blog, housemates

In case the hint in my last post was too subtle: last Sunday was my birthday. Unfortunately, it was the last day before the exams, so a big party was not an option. Instead, we had breakfast at a nice patisserie with lots of excellent French pastry (click on the pictures for a bigger view). After that, it was back to the books, although it was difficult for me to concentrate on finance and accounting. Thanks to all of you who called and sent an email – it’s a great feeling to know that so many people back home care for me while I’m away studying in the forests of Fontainebleau.

Celebrating Birthday Birthday Pastry

On a different note, my housemate Samir started his own blog a few days ago. His most recent post includes a picture of Peter Guy and himself, which was part of a 2006 calendar by Canadian and American students from the July promotion. According to its description, the calendar “presents a different side of INSEAD’s finest” – enough said.

Also, Nancy (“Miss January” in the above mentioned calendar) and Ed have returned from Singapore and will be my housemates for the next two months.

More INSEAD bloggers, exams, break

Please check the sidebar on the right for links to a couple more blogs from my fellow classmates here at INSEAD. A special welcome goes to Bojana, who decided to start blogging the day before our exams. This makes her blog exactly 32 years younger than me :-)

Exam season is in full swing – just completed my fourth exam in two days, with one more to go tomorrow. Unfortunately, they left the most difficult for last (Finance), so there is no sense of relief kicking in just yet. Although I do not think that any of the exams we had so far was rocket science (some of my classmates may disagree), the sheer quantity of course material covered in this short period is exhausting. Now I know why some have compared the learning experience of an MBA to “trying to drink water from a fire hose”. And INSEAD’s shortened ten-month program increases the pressure even more.

Looking forward to flying out to Marrakesh tomorrow evening to enjoy the break before our next period begins – next Monday.