Exchange programme in France - ESCP Business School
Feedback from Ekaterina Gavenko, MSc "International Management"
Enrolling into an exchange program is always exciting, and things don’t change even if it’s not your first time.
I’ve spent my second semester of getting my Master in International Management degree studying in ESCP business school in Paris, France. While applying for the exchange, I didn’t have a strong preference of universities, and I put this one as my first priority on a whim. As my experience have shown, best things in life come randomly.
Me coming here had made a big impact not only on my academic development, but on other things as well. Despite initial struggles with Covid restrictions still in place when I came here and the language barrier (bonjour and baguette being my only French vocabulary), I feel like I’ve managed to get the most out of this experience.
France is… a strange country. A lot of people would say “expect the unexpected” to someone who’s about to go live in a different place with a different culture, but my piece of advice would be “don’t expect anything at all”. There are plenty of stereotypes, but the real thing is so specific to your perception and circumstances that you can throw them all out the window and go with the flow.
For example, I’d like to share a big secret – the French don’t make frogs a big part of their diet. Nor do they act particularly mean to you. I’ve only met two not-so-kind French speaking people over the course of almost six months, and one of them was in Belgium.
The biggest struggle for me in terms of culture clash was the attitude toward deadlines and education. Everyone is so laid back that it results in a massive anxiety for your average over-achieving-craving-academic-validation person from Russia. So, try to have fun. You’ll be fine in terms of grades, and you will never be able to make your European teammates do the project in advance. Accept the few days of cramming before the deadlines, and do your thing with the rest of your time. Visit the museums (free if you’re under 26), do some country/city hopping (FlixBus is a great thing), go inside the hidden gardens, ride a bike along the riverbanks, eat some croissants and make sure that you meet some new people.
There is a striking difference between European bachelor and master students, even though I can’t place a finger on what it actually is. Make sure to listen to your classmates and lecturers, and especially make sure to listen to them when they’re not talking about the subject. They have stories to tell and experiences to share which will inspire you.
France is a strange country where people don’t use technology to make things easier (be prepared to send a few documents via actual mail) and focus on enjoying their life instead of getting burnt out at work or at school. It’s a place where you will find Yves Saint Laurent jackets next to the French Crown Jewels in a museum. The French freeze their bread here. It is strange but it is thrilling and new and scary at times. So, my best piece of advice that I have to offer for anyone thinking about going to study here is – go for it. Try your best. And make sure to not only study, but also learn.