Ups and Downs in Paris

Accommodation costs in Paris are fairly high, but manageable… it’s Paris after all! I paid $750 euro/month when sharing with my partner for the first semester (he came along with me). During the second semester, after my partner left, I paid double that amount. The place was a one-bedroom freshly renovated apartment, fairly spacious in Parisian terms and with a fold out couch for visitors. It was great living there, but I do not recommend leading such an elaborate lifestyle. Most of my friends were paying around 800 euro.

I did find the food and other daily living expenses lower than in Brisbane. I was lucky enough to have a lot of savings. I worked full-time prior to my exchange and studied part time which allowed me to save up. I think I burned through about $20k of my own savings over the year, and the bursary I got from QUT was exceptionally helpful. I started running out of cash in the last two months and had my partner kindly lend me some money. I did not work, but had a few friends that found some casual part-time work either tutoring English or baby-sitting. I set up a local HSBC account to avoid paying excessive fee. It seemed to work well. Beware the opening and closing of account involved paperwork and a bit of time.

It’s hard to say what my biggest challenge in Paris was. My main challenge was after Paris – i.e. getting back to the normal life. Biggest practical challenge was probably extending my visa as it had to be done quickly (once the schools pre-approved the extension of exchange) and the process was somewhat tricky to navigate. Communicating with the landlord was a bit of a practical challenge too as she spoke next to no English. It was not a big deal though, she was lovely and I just go to practice my French.

I can’t actually think of a time I felt unsafe during my exchange. My advice is to avoid certain parts of the 18th, 19th, 20th arrondissement (do your own research) and just exercise common sense. One thing worth noting – sometimes it was nearly impossible to get a cab late at night, so particularly females should be mindful of having someone with them as they search/wait for a cab.

To summarise the benefits of my experience – it was arguably the most fun year of my life to date, I met some great people that will remain friends for a long time, and opened up doors to pretty incredibly job prospects.

France loves bureaucracy

The school itself was located in the 11 arrondissement (fairly central) and close to numerous ‘hipster’ and trendy areas. I chose to live in the 5th arrondissement, and in retrospect the commute was a hassle. I chose the 5th as on paper, when researching Paris out of Australia, it sounded like a (possibly overly) safe and rather posh area, whilst still attracting the young.

I did love that area, but felt the distance to school (35 min by metro) was an effort. The school building was lovely on the outside but nothing special on the inside. It was completely functional, had a great community feel and it did hold some great parties. Another bonus was a subsidised cafeteria, where students could get a huge lunch (choice of main/ entre/ drink or dessert) for ~4 euro. Unheard of. It was also a great hangout for getting to know other students and socialising.

The teaching methods and quality of education at ESCP were solid. Just like anywhere there were some standout lecturers, who really impressed, and others who were pretty much what you would expect. None were a disappointment. Class engagement was good in most classes, case-based study methods were common (using cases sourced from Ivy League schools) – these are some of the things that appealed to me. I also enjoyed that class sizes were much smaller than at QUT (20 to 40 people was common). I would highly recommend this school to students interested in finance. I honestly enjoyed all of my classes.

My favourite classes were the Derivatives & risk management class (outstanding professor), and the Valuation class (great professor and particularly interesting and beneficial content). On the downside, grading of some professors seemed a little bit arbitrary to me, but overall I was content with my results. The only other frustrating thing was paperwork. There was a lot of it, and not just at school. France loves bureaucracy.

I took all my classes in English, however French classes were an option. The workload was heavy, I did 6 subjects each semester (two of which were half-units) and there were often weekly homework/assignments involved. To do well you had to attend to them. I felt there was a lot more ongoing assessment than at QUT, which I personally did not mind as it forced me to stay on top of the material covered.

Endless things to do

My tip to those aspiring to travel there is to do your best to start every conversation in (even the most basic) French. I quickly learned to respect the native tongue and ask in French whether the person dealing with me spoke English before continuing in English.

Acting as if you expect everyone to speak English and speaking it straight up does not seem to get you far. While on the topic, I will admit that my knowledge of the French language improved significantly over the year but nowhere near as much as it could have. I did not make the language my top priority – my grades and lifestyle were – and honestly I regret not attending every free (yes free) French lesson provided by the partner school.

Overall I must say that to me Paris was everything I imagined. I loved its history and felt it gave the city depth. I am sure I am biased, but I think the beauty of that city cannot be matched. There were endless things to do, and over time my favourites were the less-touristy pastimes (lazing around at the smaller parks in summer, frequenting tiny wine bars, studying in lesser-known cafes, or shopping at the markets and sharing the local delicacies with some friends).

The wining and dining there was superb. Rural France was very different to Paris but no less unique and charming. My personal favourites outside of Paris were the Loire Valley, the Burgundy region, the Champagne region and Villefranche-sur-mer, which just happened to be the most perfect little town in the south of France.

Consumed by Paris

When deciding what partner school to choose I had three main selection criteria. First of all I was after a school that offered a wide range of corporate finance units (don’t I sound fun?!). The truth is corporate finance just happened to be the field that my analytical mind enjoyed and the field that I wanted to specialise in. At the same time I wanted to pick a reputable school in terms of global rankings, something that I could use to ‘decorate’ my CV.

Lastly, of course, I had to pick a location and culture that appealed to me, and I was leaning towards some place with a native language other than English. Something less mainstream than the US / UK seemed more exciting. After researching my options, ESCP Paris was an easy choice. I had never been to Paris before but was convinced I would love it. I was not wrong.

Upon the completion of my first exchange semester, I was consumed by the city, the school and the whole experience. I was lucky enough to extend my stay to two semesters. Aside from the fact that I was not ready to leave – did not feel ‘done’ – after one semester, I saw a real benefit to my career prospects in staying. My decision paid off and ultimately I feel the experience helped me to land my dream job.

This may be unusual, and perhaps a product of my slightly ‘nomadic’ adolescence, but I did not feel the lows of the culture shock. I enjoyed the novelty of everything. I must mention that I had zero knowledge of the French language prior to the exchange, but got by just fine. Despite the popular belief, I found that most Parisians spoke English well enough and were willing to do so.

Insights from an internship in Korea

Overall I had a fantastic time. The clubs and groups and activities are endless. The KUBA group is excellent and you always have weekend activities and options that can occupy your time. I felt very accommodated and supported during my whole exchange and experience. I didn’t come across any culture shock or instances of concern there and found Koreans to be very accommodating and supportive during my entire stay. Safety was never a problem the country is exceptionally safe. It is also far cheaper than Brisbane in terms of food and living costs with a budget of around $70-100 a week. If I ever had a problem they were so happy to help me sort it out. I would recommend the exchange program because living somewhere is such a testament to knowing a country from a company’s perspective especially. When I say I’ve lived in Korea it makes people assume and think I am very knowledgeable about the region and this is such a benefit to building future career links and setting up opportunities.

As part of the PM Award, I was required to undertake an internship here in Korea. I was extremely fortunate to have found an accommodating workplace at an organisation hosted by the Seoul Metropolitan Government called CityNet. It’s a fascinating international organisation that work on urban sustainability and improving human settlements through knowledge exchanges and forums through their network spanning across the Asia-Pacific. I’ve been working there part-time since October assisting them in preparing for their Executive Committee meeting in Vietnam as well as writing journal articles that they share with their members on new ideas on transport, energy, liveability, sanitation and climate resilience.

I was fortunate enough to get a chance to go to their Conference in Vietnam in November which was a fascinating insight into intercultural communication and government practices. I saw some vastly complex relationships and ideas on Asian specific models and regional integration away from European and American institutions. I was able to build up a great network of contacts while there and also build stronger connections with my co-workers! During my internship, I was able to achieve strong gains in my professional work quality as well as managing and integrating effectively into an intercultural workplace and be well-accepted.

A warm welcome to Korea University

Me and other exchange students to Korea

Me and other exchange students to Korea

I partook in the study program at Korea University in Seoul during semester 2, 2014. The study here is very interesting and a big contrast to Australia and I found that the lecturers were very interested in building relationship and understanding students. I’ve been so thoroughly welcomed into the university environment here, and have made the most of seeing the countryside, getting to know local networks as well as the local culture. Studying abroad at Korea University was a great opportunity to develop more knowledge of Korea and learn more about East Asia. The university itself was located in Anam-dong, which is quite a good location and close to most activities, and well known for being affordable. On campus food is very well priced and they have a lot of variety however it is very Korean inspired. Most students had a preference for the western options which tends to be a bit more expensive and usually with a Korean twist. The university consisted of great facilities and on-campus dorms have access to the CJ Gym, which I spent a lot of time using.

The university was very large and took almost 40 minutes to get from one side to the other. The lecture halls were great and most lectures were very personal, which was something I was not used to. For KU, class size lectures with a professor are standard usually with about 30 students, so expect to answer a lot of questions. I became quite used to this format, it meant I could speak to the lecturer frequently and also form a good relationship. Probably the greatest strength of KU was its library facility. It had just about every book I could ever want! It was very well stocked, books that were only recently out were already in circulation at KU. The university is well known for its international studies, engineering and business. On exchange I did most of my studies in the division of international studies which is a great department with some really experienced and knowledgeable staffs. They are very helpful and always happy to assist you whenever you need support. The accommodation was great and really well organised and had some great facilities. I was really happy to have picked meal plans at the cafeteria given that the walk especially in winter to the front road was a long way!

 

 

An international degree at Copenhagen Business School

Copenhagen Business School is known for its business programs. I studied International Business Strategy, Business Strategy and Leadership Communication. I studied International Business Strategy, Business Strategy and Leadership Communication. Luckily for me all of my classes at CBS were taught in English, as they were subjects aimed for international students. Therefore most of the students in my class were international students and all lectures/tutorials were taught in English. Danes are extremely proficient in speaking English. Everyone in Copenhagen was able to speak English and most cafes/restaurants had an English menu available or someone that would happily translate. Therefore my experience was really easy as Danish people are very willing to speak English.

The academic intensity was definitely lower than QUT. There is only one assessment item due per subject and this can be in various forms. I had one four-hour closed book computer exam, one open book four hour computer exam and two 72 hour take home exams. The computer exams were quite intense as you have to sit in front of a computer for 4 hours in exam conditions and its quite stressful. The 72 hour exams were not too bad you are given an assignment and you have to complete it during that time frame. The great thing about CBS is they give you 3 attempts to pass the exam making is pretty unlikely that you can fail a subject.

Copenhagen “Assistens” Cemetery in winter

Copenhagen “Assistens” Cemetery in winter

 

I HIGHLY recommend going on exchange. It truly is a life changing opportunity, and a once in a lifetime chance. It is something that I would recommend to any student. It gives you a chance to study overseas whilst getting credit towards your university degree. I now have friends from all over the world and memories that are irreplaceable. It does take a lot of work to organise, so be prepared but it is more than worth it. Do not hesitate, just do it!

 

Incredible facilities at CBS

Copenhagen Business School had great lecture auditoriums. The main library was the best I have ever seen. It was so quiet and easy to study and this is partly due to the CBS system. You actually have to book a seat in the library in order to study there. Therefore, everyone that is in the library is very serious about studying and there is virtually no noise. There are computer rooms in all of the campuses. The point of difference I found that CBS had over QUT was the Student Hub services where students could go with any questions/queries about anything related to study/student life. The four different campuses gave the university a whole new dimension and I loved the cafeterias that were on campus. There was also a really great university bar where there were all sorts of events hosted.

Rosenborg Park

Rosenborg Park

The main strength of CBS is definitely the support systems in place for students. There is always someone who can help with any problems and being an exchange student it was so amazing having someone that was always willing to help/assist with any questions especially in the initial stages of exchange. I loved that the campuses were in the middle of the city and it was so easy getting around between the buildings. Therefore a big strength is definitely the location/layout of the university. It is so credible. CBS is highly regarded as one of the best business universities in Denmark. I also had very knowledgeable tutors and lecturers and learned a lot whilst on exchange academically.