Saint-Cyr: A journey of self-discovery

by Araceli McAdam, Global MBA 2017-2018

While our classmates in Singapore were aiding orangutans, ESSEC’s Global MBA students in Cergy began military-style with a visit to Saint-Cyr, the acclaimed national French military academy founded in 1803 by Napoléon Bonaparte. We boarded the bus to Bretagne, France as strangers, not entirely sure how a boot camp aligned with our studies. After three intense days, however, the reasoning was clear.

We learned about ourselves on a level that cannot be taught in any classroom. Saint-Cyr was about self-discovery and for the next three days, we were no longer ESSEC students but members of a team.

We were divided into 5 groups upon arrival and handed military garb. Our barracks were bare with only the necessities. The days were long and consisted of a variety of obstacles that were more challenging as we progressed.

These obstacles all had a central theme and required leadership and teamwork to succeed. Many of us had to face our fears, whether it was heights, claustrophobia, darkness, or even being in charge. As we quickly found out, the role of a leader is not easy, especially when your team is depending on you.

When it was my turn to take the lead, I had to help my team “escape” a village in silence via a network of pitch-dark tunnels underground. With only a couple of minutes to come up with a plan, it was time for action. Although we were not actually being chased, at that moment, the scenario was very real.

Once entering those tunnels, there was no escape except going back the way we came or progressing in darkness to find an exit. The feeling we shared when we exited the tunnels together is indescribable.

Although we arrived as strangers, this scenario, along with the many other missions my team completed bonded us. By the last day, we knew each other’s weaknesses, strengths and could communicate without even having to speak. Some may question how this type of experience is beneficial in an MBA program; that is a fair question since many of us were wondering the same thing.

Aside from the esprit de corps we now share, these experiences and leadership skills can be applied in our everyday lives. We left as strangers and returned as friends, now ready to take on the Global MBA program together.

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