Study in charming Paris or the picturesque city of Lille, the choice is yours!

IESEG School of Management (Lille-Paris), France

Location: Lille, France & Paris (Puteaux), France

Why here?: Highly-regarded Business School, art and history scene, travel opportunities, food!

With two campuses to choose from, IESEG School of Management is an fantastic choice for anyone considering studying abroad in France. The Paris campus, currently being expanded, is located in the business district of La Defense. IESEG School of Management has more than 4800 students as of 2017, and welcomes 2090 international students with 98 different nationalities to their Lille and Paris campuses. Programs taught in English are offered at both campuses, and language courses are available for international students looking to learn a new language!

QUT student Holly exploring during her exchange to Paris

 

 

While nobody needs to be sold on the appeal of living near Paris (history, art, fashion, culture, food etc.), it is good to know that IESEG offers on-campus living and help finding accommodation. IESEG recommends having between 400 and 850 Euros per month for housing in Paris, and between 400 and 600 per month for housing in Lille. Given the fantastic travel opportunities and French cuisine available, the more you budget, the better!

The Lille campus lies in the heart of the city in France’s north. Close to the Belgium border, Brussels is a half hour away, Paris is 1 hour, London is 1.5 hours and Amsterdam and Luxembourg City are a mere 3 hours by car. IESEG offers students a number of support services, to assist with any questions students may have before and during their exchange.

Places to visit in Paris

Favourite hangouts (drink and food, going out)

  • Le Barav (practically lived there) – cute French wine bar – better to book the day before for drinks and food – great ambiance, cheap food (<15 euro) and cheap wine; buy a bottle at the neighbouring (linked) bottle shop and drink at the bar/restaurant
  • Max y Jeremy (practically lived there too) – Spanish/ south American wines and tapas – good value and great ambiance
  • La Candelaria – cheap Mexican food and awesome cocktails • VIP club – great for girls nights out and dancing, don’t buy drinks there – v. expensive
  • La Fee Verte – for food / hot drinks and study / or evening drinks

Favourite (less mainstream) landmarks/ places to visit

  • Viewing platform level 9 of Printemps (must) •
  • St Chapelle •
  • Claude Monet’s garden in Giverny •
  • Jardin des Plantes •
  • Chateau de Fontainebleau (40 min by train out of Paris)

Personal Food Favourites in Paris

Restaurants

  • La Cuisine de Philippe (6th arrondissement) – specialises in soufflé but all meals were incredible – ~31 euro per meal
  • Au Bon Coin (5tharrondissment, a little tucked away) – delicious French food – 24 euro for entrée + main
  • Chez Papa (9th arrondissement) – specialises in foie gras– about 25 euro per dinner excl. drink
  • Au Bougnat (on the Ile de la Cite, close to Notre Dame) – superb French fine dining for 24 euro (entrée + main)
  • Breizh café (3rd arrondissement) – delicious pancakes, galettes and french cider; cheap
  • Le Relais de l’Entrecote (6th arrondissement) – best steak/frites, but ONLY steak/frites and desserts on the menu

Coffee/Brunch

  • La coutume cafe (7th, coffee, brunch and lunch)
  • Ten belles (10th, coffee, light lunch, snacks)
  • Les enfants perdus (10th, delicious and filling brunch on weekends)

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.