Paris: I had studied French in school and had learned about its history and culture to a certain extent, so I had an idea of what it would be like in the country. Also, the French economy is developed, and India has good relations with the French government, so there are a lot of potential advantages for an Indian student studying in France. HEC Paris consistently ranks in the top 5 B-Schools worldwide, and the MiM program to which I got admitted is ranked #2 worldwide by the Financial Times. Hence, I knew I was in for an amazing time! I had seen pictures of the campus and had also read and watched reviews by older students, hence I had a fair mental picture of what to expect.
I landed at 6:30 PM at Charles de Gaulle international airport, and the first thing that I noticed (and was surprised by) was the heat! Firstly, it was bright despite being almost 7 PM when I left the airport, which is unusual in India, and I got to experience first-hand the European heat wave which had been in the news recently. Another fellow Indian who was going to be studying with me had landed just before I did, and we decided to share a cab to the campus, which was in one of the suburbs of the city, around 55 km away from the airport. On the way, I got to appreciate how beautiful the country was! The roads were big and well made, the architecture reflected several European styles, and once we left the main city, there were huge plots of agricultural land, mainly wheat, which looked beautiful in the slanting rays of the evening sun. The sunset was at 9:15 PM that day, and it was bright till the very end.
Accommodation, Socializing, Food
Although I had seen sample pictures of my room beforehand, looking at it with my own eyes was so much better! It is beautiful, similar to a fully furnished studio apartment with a kitchenette, microwave, fridge, and a bathroom all complete with a balcony with an amazing view. The corridors of the buildings have motion-sensing lights to conserve energy when nobody is using them. I had spoken to a few of my colleagues online before coming to campus, and I was pleasantly surprised at how open, friendly, and inclusive everyone was! Socializing and networking started almost immediately, and meeting people from diverse international backgrounds was eye-opening. Unfortunately, food options on campus are a bit limited because the main “University restaurant” is only open from Monday to Saturday, which is just for lunch. A kitchenette has been provided to facilitate cooking by ourselves. There are several vending machines scattered across campus that serve frozen meals which are restocked every morning. There is also a “gourmet” restaurant that serves good but comparatively more expensive food, and food trucks of different themes line up every afternoon and night. There is a nearby supermarket which is huge and stocks almost everything you could need to make your food, as well as a live bakery and sushi counter.
Witnessing the French suburb life
HEC Paris is not in the main city but in one of the suburbs called Jouy-en-Josas. It moved its campus here from Paris in 1964 to have a more expansive campus and an atmosphere conducive for students. Jouy-en-Josas is a quaint town that rose to prominence in the 18th century when Oberkampf, an entrepreneur from Germany, set up a factory for producing the royal cotton fabric, toile de Jouy, in the town. A few roads and shops are named after him. The Roman Catholic Church of St Martin, a 13th-century establishment, is a landmark of the town. There is a nice park, a “town centre” which has restaurants and shops, and it is well connected by train and road. I’ve also visited the main city of Paris and been to the most iconic places such as the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Champs Elysees, and Notre Dame.
Focus is key
What I realised after travelling abroad as a student is that focusing on your strengths and weaknesses, passions, interests, and career goals is important. Figure out what you want to do and look to get into a place that will facilitate that. Study the market and job opportunities in your target country and where alumni from your college are studying. Talk to students or professors from that college to get things clarified. It is a huge investment of time and money so you should do your due diligence. Last but not least, the entire world is slowly shifting its focus to sustainability, not just profit. Sustainability (ESG) is a huge focus in every class and club in HEC. And whatever you want to do should ideally have an aspect of sustainability in it.