First impressions of France and ESCP Business School
Kirill Panferov, MSc 'Project Management: Project Analysis, Investments, and ImplementationTechnologies', shared his experience on adapting to a new cultural environment, the learning process, differences in education and activities outside studies
Arriving in the country and first impressions of France and ESCP Business School.
Going on exchange before the pandemic? No thanks.
Go on exchange during the second wave of the coronavirus? Yes, please!
As a second year Master's student I decided to go to HSE partner university called ESCP Business School. It has many campuses all over Europe, but I went to Paris, campus to which we applied during the competition.
When I arrived in Paris after a short flight from Moscow to the airport Charles de Gaulle, I immediately felt the European atmosphere: people of different nationalities are equally friendly and the modern buildings are very light and airy. In awe, I got confused in the directions and took a train going to another terminal - so my advice right away - do not take the first train where most people go, otherwise you will be like me. I am used to ordering an Uber and usually ignore the station taxi drivers, so I had to spend a whole hour begging the mobile app to find me a driver without a French sim card via weak wi-fi. I don't know if you like it when a taxi driver chats with you, but I got really lucky - he didn't say a word, offered water and drove carefully. The fare was the cheapest, but in Russia it would be the costs of business class.
Having checked in at the international hostel, where I was greeted in a friendly manner and told what to expect in the area, I checked the area within a kilometre radius. Opposite he hostel was a lovely park with a lake where Parisians were relaxing, behind was a student campus, on the right was a huge stadium, and on the left were shops and a metro station, where trains ran almost non-stop.
ESCP campus looked small but credible - a large library, a spacious canteen with a small cafeteria, a groovy space in the main courtyard and, most importantly, a clear layout of buildings and classrooms. The timetable, of course, changed every day, but I got used to it. The students are pleasant to talk to, you feel that they are happy to be here and now in the same class as you are. The professors are a separate topic. You can find something about each one on a Google search or even YouTube. They're a bit arrogant during tutorials, but when you talk to them in person or via email, they respond to you fully and even friendly.
Adapting to a new cultural environment, the learning process, differences in educational processes, activities outside studies
After the first week, I finally started to adjust to the cultural environment at the university. Although I speak English quite well, it was a little difficult to get used to lectures in a foreign language that you don't practice every day. The main difference in the teaching process, which I have pointed out during my experience, is the emphasis on group work and creative essays - kind of a business school, but not so tough. Some of the group projects stretch over the semester as well as the module. Yes, they have four sessions a year too. They understand that just to get out of the uni with knowledge is not enough - you have to work in a team, learn to delegate work and be able to arrange your studying process in a convenient way for everyone. As for creativity, one professor did not accept PowerPoint presentations during the exams. It was an interesting experience. The professors spoke quickly, but were happy to have contact with the students - it felt like they were interested not only in presenting a unique interpretation of well-known material to us, but also to listen to the opinion of an untrained eye.
Learning these days often takes place in a digital environment, but ESCP has its own tools for online meetings, the same "blackboard" - a full-fledged space to interact with anyone from the university. The interface is not very user-friendly, but you can get used to it. The lecture notes are always in one place!
By the way, the university has a huge number of clubs and societies, and they are incredibly well-developed through one-off contributions from participants. There's swimming, martial arts, team sports and even board games. To be honest, I was amazed at the diversity of cultures in Paris – it may just be my unique experience, but thanks to the campus I met students from literally every country in our world. It was great to spend time with interesting people, each of whom came here for a new experience, like a kid in Disneyland or a pirate in the Caribbean.
Summary and advice for future ESCP students
To say that I am really happy about my experience is an understatement. It is the kind of experience where you leave with stories to tell your family and friends, where you add 30 foreign friends on Facebook, but keep in touch with five, where you improve your foreign language skills and enrich your vocabulary in new languages, and, of course, take the chance to touch a story that is far from your home.
As for learning it isn't easy here. I certainly said in another video that there are a lot of group projects, but some of them are really challenging - like our term papers. There's plenty of individual work too, they love maths too, so choose your courses wisely.
By the way, here're some tips:
- Arrive at least a couple of days in advance, you will need time to get used to your surroundings.
- It's hard to live without mobile internet in another country, so try to provide yourself with a SIM card in the first free day after arrival, otherwise you will have to go as I did in the evening after studying in the African area, which is notorious for robberies.
- The metro in Paris is cool, you would feel safe. Don't skimp on the seemingly expensive fare, it will more than pay for itself.
- Don't bring a bunch of stuff with you and don't buy everything new when you arrive - there's such a passenger flow of students that someone on their last day is bound to sell exactly what you need for next to nothing.
- Add yourself to all student groups, obligatory for international students, and optionally for general students. That way you'll be in the loop on everything and won't miss any important news.
- And also know that in a pandemic, even the poorest Parisians always wore masks, all without exception, even in the street - there they are Europeans! I wish you a successful cultural exchange and cool experiences on future trips.