Copenhagen, Denmark

Monday, May 13, 2019

Every international case competition experience I have comes with a whole slew of thoughts and emotions - being awe-struck by the quality of teams there, being able to witness how vastly different the way business is being taught and thought about across the world, but above all, feeling real thankful that I even get such opportunities at all. And heading to Copenhagen for the CBS Case Competition this year during recess week this semester (24 February to 2 March) was no different. 

In fact, I daresay that this was one of the most enjoyable competitions for me personally thus far. Despite not having much time to explore much of the city, or not necessarily liking every single one of the activities planned out for us (this is just a personal preference though, because the CBS organizing committee is really amazing and passionate), full credit should be given to one of the best teams I have had the honour of working together with.

Thank you, team. You guys actually make 24-hour trainings fun - think late night suppers and West Coast Park playtimes. And despite the crazy format of this competition we pulled through and I'm honestly so inspired by all of you as individuals, and friends.

Speaking of crazy formats, let's just get that out of the way for this post. The CBS Case Competition is, I believe, one of the more well-known competitions in the case circuit - and for good reason too. Heading there, we really didn't know what to expect other than the unexpected, and they gave us just that. Thirty-six hours of case-cracking, with a 4-minute pitch of preliminary ideas halfway through, and capping everything off with a presentation (with no Q&A) plus a unique boardroom-style conversation, each to two separate groups of judges - nothing about this was "normal", in all senses of the word.

While we were caught off guard by the 4-minute pitch and the boardroom-style formats, I really appreciated the surprise nature of this case and how challenging it was. The case company was also pretty interesting - it's MAERSK, belonging to the shipping industry that I barely know anything about. The thirty-six hours were painful due to a severe sleep deprivation and having to work out the sheer technicalities of the case, but I think we emerged pretty happy with our deliverables.

Eventually, we did not make it to the finals. This was probably attributed to our less-than-stellar performance during the boardroom. However, I'm still unbelievably proud of this team - we placed second and first for the pitch and the presentation rounds respectively within our division. At least we found comfort knowing that we were still good at what we trained for.

And congrats to CBS for emerging as champions!

Now to the non-competition bits of the trip. While we didn't get to explore Copenhagen much, one of the things that we managed to do was to visit the Nyhavn Canal - multiple times, in fact, because it's just a 15-minute walk away from the hotel we were staying in. Such a beautiful, postcard-perfect place. 

This marked the first time we visited the canal - with Prof! After this photo was taken, we headed to grab some dinner at the Torvehallerne market. I only wished we could explore that place longer because it has such a huge selection of food, both fresh and prepared. Everything looked so good there. We had to head back to the hotel though, as there was a welcome speech and they were bringing us to a kick-off party at the ZOO Bar.  

The next morning, I had arranged to meet Ragini (who happened to travel to Copenhagen with her friends the same time I was there - she's on exchange currently) before the day's events. At around 7.45am I left the hotel, and took a nice leisurely stroll to the Nyhavn canal. It's even more breathtaking in the morning because of the lack of tourists crowding everywhere. 

Morning jogs. 

Hello sun rays. 

It felt quite surreal meeting her in the middle of her exchange, and more importantly in the middle of Copenhagen - how coincidental! We had a short catch-up, and thank you so much for the belated birthday gift as well. 

Heading back to the hotel. 

Cute bicycle shop near our hotel. The cycling culture in Copenhagen was pretty amazing, also probably well-received due to the infrastructure in place. There were bicycle lanes and bicycle racks everywhere, and I was rather shocked to see that many of the bicycles weren't even locked when parked. To me, that's telling of the trust the people have for one another, and that's so pure and unheard of even in Singapore's low-crime rates.

For that day, we had team-building activities on campus, where we got to interact with the competitors from other business schools. We also learnt how to perform a traditional Danish folk dance, which was pretty fun I must admit. It was a pretty chill day ending with dinner and a movie night on campus - where I fell asleep, and could not wait to get back to the hotel to knock out for the night. 

Copenhagen canal tour with the team the next day! 

The canal tour was great as we got to see most of the famous landmarks in the city without having to walk - caught a glimpse of The Little Mermaid, the palace, and the iconic Black Diamond Library. We also saw the MAERSK head office, pointed out by our ambassador, though at this point we didn't know that it was going to be the case company yet. 

Dinner that night was something special, where we got to dine within the premises of Carlsberg Breweries (i.e. Copenhagen/ Denmark's pride and joy, at least when it comes to the beer department), together with Prince Joachim and Princess Marie, who are a part of the Danish royal family. While they were not within my line of sight, it was interesting to be taught the various etiquette rules we had to observe throughout dinner. And we did end the night with a group photo taken with them! 

Not the photo with the Prince and Princess, but hey, I love this team.

There was an afterparty that night at the LA Tequilla Bar - we stayed for about 10 minutes before braving the cold winds to walk back to our hotel. 

The next day, we had another tour around Copenhagen, this time on foot. One of the highlights was climbing up the Rundetaarn, or the round tower, and looking out to see the rest of the city. However, the real highlight of the day was sneaking away during lunch to get churros with my team. This was a pretty random stall but it was so good. Think freshly-fried warm churros slathered in rich melted chocolate - the perfect respite from the chilly weather, as well as my fully maxed-out social interaction capacity. 

We also visited The Glyptotek, a really gorgeous museum, where we got to see mummies and other artifacts! However, we were really tired by that point and did not get to fully appreciate most of the exhibitions on display. At least, I didn't. We had burgers for dinner that night, and headed back to the hotel where the case writers briefed us about the format of the case. It was nice to get back into the groove - for most of us, it felt like way too many days of fun and games!

The next two days were taken up by case-cracking, before the presentations on Friday. I was blown away by the final presentations, especially Queen's (as usual), and this time, I really did not mind being a part of the audience because I learnt so much from the winning teams. After the finals, we were supposed to go back to the hotel to freshen up for the Award Dinner. However, our team decided to quickly head out to get our last churros of the trip from the famous stall along the Nyhavn - Rajissimo! 


And the day ended with the Award Dinner, which according to my teammates was the "first time" they heard me "talk so much". 

Missing one! 

The next morning, three of us decided to wake up early to do some last-minute shopping before catching our flight back to Singapore. We strolled around Copenhagen, but mainly found ourselves buying chocolates from supermarkets because there weren't many shops open so early. The two guys also waited for me to finish my McMuffin just because I wanted to try the McDonald's in Denmark. Before heading back for brunch with the rest of the competitors, we grabbed a hotdog from a random stand - it looked pretty underwhelming but tasted amazing! Ahh the fried onions are to die for. 

Our final team photo outside the hotel with our ambassador, before we made our way to the airport. 

Truly, I can't stress enough how immensely humbled I am by the opportunities I get to compete on case competitions abroad, not to mention how this trip actually marks my first time stepping on European soil! There's something really special about travelling overseas for a purpose, as opposed to going abroad for purely leisurely reasons. Undoubtedly, the company for this trip also made everything - even case cracking - a lot more enjoyable and memorable. Thanks so much for being a part of my third ICC! 

 Excited :-)

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