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After 7 months of Zoom and a rabid dog attack, this business student finally makes it to campus

INSEAD Business School
From getting his flight postponed to getting bitten by a rabid dog, Achba has had a pretty unlucky year of remote online classes. Now he is glad to be on campus. Source: Alexander Achba

Alexander Achba has been toughing it out through Zoom in Abkhazia since last August. The INSEAD Business School student was facing several pandemic-imposed legal complications that kept him from travelling to the Fontainebleau campus. When those were resolved and he was ready to board his flight to Paris, he got bitten by a rabid dog and had to postpone his travels again.

Seven months later, he switched course to start in-person classes at INSEAD’s Asia Pacific branch campus in Singapore instead. We caught up with Achba to learn more about his journey, his Master’s in Management and his adventures in the little red dot thus far:

What made you choose to study at INSEAD Business School?

I’d say the main reason was that it’s a very international programme. It also has scheduled study trips to the US, China and the Middle East. INSEAD Business School’s high rank among the business institutions has also played a major role. 

INSEAD Business School

Achba (far bottom right) says getting to campus and finally meeting everyone was something he looked forward to. Source: Alexander Achba

Do you think it would have made a difference if you had studied at a local institution?

Definitely, we only have a couple of local institutions and although they are trying their hardest, they are still not on par with their European or Russian counterparts. Being able to study at INSEAD Business School is a massive privilege for me and I am very grateful for it. 

What has been your most memorable class so far?

Financial Accounting because it was intense and challenging, but also because we had a hilarious and heartwarming last session where the professor showed us a video about our class she put together herself. 

Do you have any fond memories with teachers at your uni that has stood out for you?

I have many fond memories. Being on Zoom for six months was a big challenge but my lecturers went out of their way to make me feel included and not disadvantaged.

What are the practical learning elements in your Master’s in Management programme?

Each of the five modules is divided into “academic” and “practical” blocks, so there is a lot of practice. What we do varies with each period, but generally, it has been interesting so far. 

We got to do market research and presentations for some international companies, improve our financial modelling skills in Excel, and so on. I’m sure these will come in handy once we start our actual jobs. 

INSEAD Business School

Coming from a small town, Achba is still getting used to the huslte and bustle of Singapore. Source: Alexander Achba

Do you plan to progress into further study after your degree? 

I come from a business background, so I came into this programme with only one goal: to learn more about business operations and the way of thinking. I would say the course has exceeded all my expectations.

Just last week I was analysing a market entry case and caught myself thinking that less than a year ago, I would have no idea how to even begin approaching this problem. Now, it just comes naturally. As for now, I would like to get some work experience targeting the management consulting sector in Russia. 

What’s a memorable, non-academic experience you’ve had so far?

Getting to campus and seeing everyone with my own eyes —  a bit of a surreal shock, but a pleasant one. 

Give us three fun facts about yourself:

I am from a country called Abkhazia, which has a small population of about 200,000 to  250,000 people. I love dogs and I have four. I have lived mostly outside of my parents’ home since I was 14 because I was studying in the UK.

Tell me about your hometown. 

It’s a very small town, but with many beautiful places. One of these include the embankment — absolutely breathtaking in the summer and has the feel of Nice in France. I love spending evenings there just wandering around. 

What’s one thing you miss from home and how do you substitute it?

I always miss my family and friends, but I try to focus on the task at hand and getting to know more people which helps distract me from such thoughts. 

What advice do you have for international students looking to pursue a degree at INSEAD Business School?

Be brave, be bold — it’s worth it in the end!

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