Monday, June 30, 2008

Goodbye France - I won't be missing you...

My last few days at INSEAD-FBL, and I had the most miserable time last week trying to get away this country. First, I had a visit to Brussels, to say hi to former co-workers. I had to change trains at Gare de Lyon, but the trains were all stopped, nobody knew why, and my Thalys ticket was departing in 1 hr. Another frustrated traveller also taking the Thalys and i tried to get a cab, but couldn't find one, but we found a bus. Then, we arrived at Gare du Nord, too late for our original ticket, and found out, all trains here were stopped too. So - even though we were late, our train was later than we were. Something about fire stopping the train. Ended up talking with the very nice lady who was also stuck on the train, and we ended up chatting on the entire journey. Turns out her seat number was right next to mine... had we not been stuck trying to figure out the trains, we would have sat next to each other anyways!

Then, on the way back, it was so confusing to figure out how to get back to Fontainebleau. Each The map shows a RER line R from Gare du Lyon to FBL, but there's no line R. Each time I got different advice on where to go from 3 different people! I was stuck inside Gare Du Lyon for about an hr trying to figure out how to get back, until I figured out I had to take a surface train, not the RER. Or maybe it was an RER that rain on the regular mainline tracks. In any case, I think I made it back on the last train from CDG to Fontainebleau.

THen the following day, at CDG, I was supposed to board a Swiss Air flight to Geneva out of terminal 1 (as per the CDG website) at 3pm. Except - Swiss air doesn't exist anymore, since it's a Air France codeshare, and departs from Terminal 2! (no way I would have known this) So - had to walk REALLY far to terminal 2 with all my bags. THen, arriving at terminal 2, there's 2A, 2B, 2C, 2D, 2E, 2F, and 2G! And no indication where is the one for Air France. Needless to say - I missed my original flight, which departed from 2B. I was told to go to 2G to get my tickets redone. Did so, paid EUR244, and was told to run back to 2G (about a 20 min walk, normally) and that the plane was waiting for me. Arrived there, and saw the ticket I was given was for a flight that departed in 5 mins. Obviously, I wasn't going to make it, and the AF guys certainly didn't check me in. So, again had to run back to 2G to get it re-ticketed again, for a 8pm flight. At least it worked this time....... until I got to the gate, when the airport workers decided to go on strike., which meant I didn't leave until almost 10pm.

THis is soo typical of my experience in France, it's amazing the place even works. From a transportation point of view, it's almost as bad as a developing country! Can't wait to be back in Singapore..

Saturday, June 21, 2008

INSEAD Cabaret

Ok - lots of entries today to make up for the lack of entries the weeks before. A few days ago, we had INSEAD Cabaret, a fantastic variety show that is put on by the students, from music, singing, tons of comedy acts. I had no idea there was so much talent in our student class. And - there are no sacred cows - I think the students made fun of almost everything - professors, ourselves, interviewers, other students, the school. Absolutely hilarious.

Here's a great example of a film, Gone with the Ding, that came out of Cabaret - it's a National Geographic mockumentary of the life of an MBA student... see below

I have a summer internship!

For the longest time, I thought I'd be without a summer internship, another victim of the current economic problems in the US and in the rest of the world. I think my resume to offers yield for summer internship is hovering somewhere around 10%.

In a previous post, I mentioned that was in Geneva for an interview with a VC firm. Just last week, I got an official offer for them from the summer!

The firm's name is Endeavour Vision, they run a pan-European venture capital fund. One of the founders is an INSEAD alum, so I'm fortunate to have received this job through career services. ANd it's such a perfect match for what I"d like to do in the future.

I'll be working with them as a analyst to review med-tech investments over the next 7 weeks, then it's back to Singapore for the last 4 months of my program!

Wild Animals in the Fontainebleau Forest

So, most people think that INSEAD's main campus in France is in Paris... but they would be sadly disappointed. it's actually in Fontainebleau, a very small (but pretty) town about 45 mins south of Paris, in the middle of the forest, which apparently is the second largest forest in Europe, and the former hunting grounds of the French kings, because it's full of wild animals.

About a week ago, I was driving back home from school in the evening in my little Citroen C3, going about 80 km/h and suddenly, 3 wild boards, one big one ('mom or dad'), and then 2 younger ones ('junior a and junior b') ran out right in front of my car! I was completely shocked... I slammed on the brakes as hard as I could without losing control... the big one was running fast, and cleared my car, then the second one just cleared the front of my car..... but an car incoming on the other side wasn't able to slow down in time, and ... THWAAAP, collided with the boar that just cleared the front of my car. The 3rd boar saw this and run back without crossing the street.

I couldn't believe what I just saw! The car then slowed down and pulled over to the side, probably to check for damage. I was almost shaking.. what if I had hit the boar instead? Or what if the car tried to avoid the big but struck my car instead? And what does one do exactly after hitting a boar? Would you dare go out and try to push the boar back into the forest? He probably has massive interal injuries. Would the mother/father come back and attack you if you tried to move the boar off the road?

After this, I drove very slowly through the rest of the forest....

Sunday, June 01, 2008

French border police lazyness

As many of you know, Charles De Gaulle airport isn't exactly the nicest airport in Europe, and my previous experience there has given me a bad taste, including the time when the French border control police didn't even bother to look at my passport when entering (!!)

Well - something similar happened again! I was in Geneva for a interview at a VC firm, and the Geneva airport is somewhat interesting. It's built across the Swiss and French borders.. so one side in in France, and the other side is in Switzerland. I was returning back to Paris, so I took a taxi to the Swiss side, then walked across the "border", where there was a French border police guy in the office. He was on the phone. I stopped, and showed my passport, but he continued talking on the phone, not even looking at me. I waited for like 5 minutes, he continued to talk on the phone, and didn't look at me.

Then, I wondered: "should I just go??". So, I just went on, and crossed the border. It's pretty annoying when you have an official that has so much power of you (ie, the immigration officer), but he's just sitting there, talking on the phone and not even acknowledging your presence, or even giving instructions saying "go ahead".