Feb 12, 2024

International Immersion at INSEAD, Paris: A holistic learning experience

Virendra Mahendra Wanage, PGPM 2023  

Getting into SPJIMR was one of my most cherished dreams. Having lived this dream with Post Graduate Programme in Management (PGPM) for one and a half year now it was time to fly high. We all knew that SPJIMR’s affiliation with INSEAD for our International Immersion module was going to add immense value to our professional journeys. The preparation for travelling to Europe started right after we completed our DoCC internships and vacated our hostels, looking forward to the 3 weeks of immersion (and vacation) in Europe.

SPJIMR International Relations and the PGPM Academic team meticulously planned all the arrangements, and there was no room for any discomfort at any point during our stay at both Paris and Fontainebleau. The immersion programme at Paris and Fontainebleau provided exposure to managing leadership transitions, leading successful change, driving digital transformation and crafting business strategies. The VR experience of learning, the definition of social capital and the importance of building a network that enables entrepreneurial leadership were phenomenal.

INSEAD provided us with the opportunity to work on live cases on strategy consulting. INSEAD alumni were the mentors for our groups, who competed against each other to give our best advice to the Sankara Foundation. The experience was an exciting learning for all of us.

In between our immersive learning sessions, we also got the opportunity to experience the City of Magic: Paris and its famous cultural offerings. I visited Disneyland to live my childhood dream. What a fantastic day it was! Taking rides and watching sets that I had seen only on television before was mesmerising. If you ever get a chance to visit Disneyland, don’t leave without watching the parade; it’s the icing on the cake of the Disney experience. The next destination, everyone’s dream, the Eiffel Tower, was mesmerising at every hour of the day. The top of the Eiffel Tower covered in clouds was a sight to catch. We were in Paris for a week, during which we experienced all three seasons. It was chilly when we arrived; it was sunny the very next day, then it rained, and then it also snowed. The first snow of my life! I was confused and awestruck by too many ‘first in life’ experiences.

Paris was magic! The city had a fragrance of its own. The people were beautiful and beautiful at heart! When we faced some confusion during our commute by Metro, a lady helped us. There were many such experiences that we admired. We all explored the city to our best capabilities. But we had to accept kuch na kuch toh chhutega hi bunny!

Then we travelled to INSEAD, Fontainebleau. It was very different from the hustle of Paris. It was more peaceful, with leisurely vibes, divine forest trails and picturesque sunrises and sunsets. The logo of INSEAD itself brought a proud smile to my face. There was a sense of achievement to be in an INSEAD classroom. The writing on the entrance wall at INSEAD said, “We bring together people, culture and ideas to develop responsible leaders who transform business and society”. It deeply resonated with me. Imbibing the legacies of SPJIMR and INSEAD, we were truly on the way of becoming responsible leaders of future.

INSEAD arranged a graduation ceremony and awarded us our certificates. It was a proud moment. It marked the completion of our immersion and also our last classroom session as the PGPM Class of 2023. It was an emotional moment for all of us that hit us at a different level. We clicked pictures and hugged each other goodbyes, trying our best to record these memories to be cherished for a lifetime. Then we parted ways to different plans in different groups or as solos. Some came back to India. I explored Barcelona, Rome, Florence and Venice and then came back to India after a week.
The three weeks in Europe were an experience that I will never forget. Travelling teaches you things that books don’t. I met people, lived in hostels, saw my first ever football match and, rode a bicycle in Barcelona, attended a carnival in Venice; we travelled by taxi, bus, metro, bullet train, boats and walked and walked and walked in the cities of Europe like there was no tomorrow. Yes, we missed our families, but we were building stronger bonds and creating precious memories with friends.

As I was about to board a flight back to India, I knew that the family, the home we had made there, would no longer exist the next day. But the shared experiences, the bonds and the connection with each other, with the place, with the new air, will be cherished throughout our lives!

Cheers to ourselves, cheers to life, cheers to – my SPJIMR family – I won’t say, ‘It is family away from the family’; I will say – ‘It is family closer than the family’.

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