A Nigerian's journey to the Business School for the World
I never thought I would be writing this post after my INSEAD experience but that says a lot about the long transformative year that 2016 was. I am now a proud INSEAD alumnus and while the euphoria is yet to abate, I thought it wise to keep to my words and return back to this blog to share more about my INSEAD experience. This post is solely about the Wharton exchange as I have had countless requests about this.
So after an intense bidding period for campus exchanges in P1, I finally got my slot to participate in the Wharton exchange in P4 of my INSEAD year. I really wanted to embark on the exchange for a few reasons. Firstly, I wanted the classroom experience of being in a US educational institution and believed it would provide a different perspective to what I was used to at INSEAD. I also liked the Wharton brand (Thanks to DJT and Adam Grant) and the idea of having it on my resume sounded cool (oh such vanity!). Finally, though I had visited the US a number of times, I had never spent much time on the East coast. The exchange was going to give me the opportunity to visit some US cities on my travel list and I looked forward to the experience.
Getting a slot for the Wharton exchange is competitive. There are a limited number of slots available for each period. There are three criteria to get on the exchange: academic standing as at end of your first period at INSEAD-P1, a motivational essay and bid points. Each criterium is weighted differently to arrive at a score that then determines who goes on the exchange or not. This is the best way I can explain it. Academic standing is measured by a minimum GPA, motivational essays are scored and bid points are based on the allotted points received by each MBA participant. I remember I tried to write a good motivational essay stating clear reasons why I wanted to do the exchange, met the grade requirements and also bid sufficiently using historical bid points data made available by the INSEAD MBA program team. So voila! I got selected!
Now on the question of if the exchange is right for you or not- it depends. Be clear about your motives/expectations and speak to people who have embarked on the exchange in time past. For the December promotion (starting January), P4 coincides with Wharton’s MBA recruiting season so you would still get similar opportunities while on the exchange. If you want a job in North America post-INSEAD, you should really consider doing the Wharton or Kellogg exchange since most of the firms who recruit at these schools mostly do so for roles in the US and Canada. However, you still get to interview for offices outside of the US especially if you are interviewing with Consulting companies like McKinsey, Bain, BCG, Roland Berger, Strategy&, etc. I did get an offer in the US even as a non-US citizen so for the December class, recruiting is not a major problem.
Academically, I found no considerable difference between my classroom experience at INSEAD and at Wharton. Professors are experts in their academic fields and most are also seasoned professionals which made the learning experience wholesome. One of my best classes during my MBA year was during the Wharton exchange- “Entrepreneurship through acquisition” by Professor Bob Chalfin. It was great learning from a seasoned serial entrepreneur who over the last 30 years has acquired numerous businesses across the US. Class sessions with Bob were very insightful and I was immediately able to apply some of the learnings to a personal project I have been working on. The other courses I took were also valuable though one thing to be away about is that since you would spend only a half-semester at Wharton, your course options are restricted to mini-electives which are limited in number.
On the social side, I found Wharton and Philly to be lovable. Being located in the heart of Philadelphia meant access to all the city had to offer. So if you like touristy stuff, you will definitely love Philly. Some of the highlights of my exchange include attending a ClintonKaine rally and hearing Obama speak, getting to savour the much-talked-about Philly cheese steak, running up the steps in front of the museum just like the movie “Rocky”, seeing the Liberty bell, visiting the US Capitol, Lincoln Memorial, The White House and more. In all, I had as much fun during the exchange as I would have had in Fonty or Singy (I actually didn’t miss being in France!). Not to forget, I also made a few friends in Philly- some Whartonites and other “city people”.
So yes, the exchange was worth it for me as I had an amazing experience and gained more perspective. It also gave me time to reflect on and put together a solid post-INSEAD plan which I am currently executing with all I’ve got. If you are considering the Wharton exchange, I encourage you to go for it but always remember that you are responsible for creating the kind of life experiences you want, and this is no different.