Inspired by HEC’s slogan of academic excellence I was excited for my semester abroad to start. Studying Business Administration with focus on Banking & Finance, I spent my first two years at Frankfurt School before I temporarily moved to a foreign university. Paris might not be the first destination for most of you, as it is quite close to Frankfurt and sounds less exotic than countries in Asia, the US or South America. Since I previously spent a longer period of time in Myanmar, I wondered whether France could provide the same level of joy and excitement. Inspired by my previous visits to Paris, as well as the vibrance of the city in combination with an excellent academic perspective, I was excited to start a new challenge!
Arriving in Paris a month before the studies began, gave me plenty of time to explore more of the hidden cultural treasures, get to know the city’s hot spots and meet old friends. May it be the underground tunnels Napoleon used to get from the Louvre to the Élysée Palace, Lautrec’s influence on Montmartre and his pieces of art created for the Moulin Rouge or the variety of bars and restaurants. Luckily, many other students from the program arrived earlier as well, allowing me to meet them before classes started. Among the group I could immediately feel a sense of community, a very welcoming atmosphere. The same applied for the other exchange students whom I first met at welcome parties, during lectures or visits to Paris. With only a few of us speaking French (or actually being a local; I only met a handful of French people at university during my stay), I met fellows from 18 different nationalities within the first weeks. Sharing our experiences, as well as getting to know different attitudes and points of view on both our private and professional lives, made me draw inspiration for my own career. The people I met during my stay in Paris helped to make this half year an unforgettable and exciting journey.
The first thing that was different for me was the life on campus. With Frankfurt School being located directly in the city, everyone lives somewhere in the surroundings. But at HEC the dorms are on campus, as is a football and basketball court, a little chapel, a bar and a restaurant.
My course selection was easy and straightforward, with a wide range of subjects being offered in English but also in French. Being able to choose what interested me most, I decided to go for a Mergers & Acquisitions and Venture Capital course, but also took joy in a class about economic and strategic fundamentals of the Middle East (I had six modules in total). Personally, I most enjoyed the hands-on-experience I gained through various group assignments. These went from analysing a recent M&A cross-border transaction of a multinational company, to presenting the Arab-Israeli conflict, to crafting a financial analysis of a pan-European real estate portfolio. For the Venture Capital class, our team (which consisted of students from Spain, Singapore, Taiwan and Germany) had to find a tech start-up from our own networks that we would present to a number of real-life VCs five weeks later.
The French Life
Besides the academic workload and the campus located outside of the city centre, there were plenty of parties and activities organised by the international society and ourselves. May it be visiting Parisian nightclubs, going for a bar crawl or exploring the city, we took joy in many different activities offered. Paris is wonderful and gets even more enjoyable once you start exploring those parts which are not called the Champs Elysees, the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre. May it be a breakfast at one of the numerous French Brasseries with fresh croissants, or a walk in the gardens of Tuileries, Jardin du Luxembourg or the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont. If these are not able to fill your day, many of the museums and cultural sites offer free access for students. Furthermore, old castles like Versailles and Fontainebleau and the region of Champagne are only a glimpse away.
Personally, I really liked the area around Le Marais and St. Germain des Prés that hosts a variety of bars and restaurants to stop by in the evening, and the Pizzeria Popolare near Opera Garnier is always worth a visit. The stereotype – that English isn’t always enough to get around in France – proved true according to my experience, but at the same time offered a great opportunity to enhance my language skills.
To conclude my semester abroad, it has been an incredible experience to study at one of Europe’s top universities in the metropolis of Paris. The city offers endless opportunities for activities and there are a lot of possibilities to take the train to London, Brussels, Strasbourg or even the South of France.