Erasmus at ESSEC: Food, Travel and… Economics in French

Almost the end of our Spring semester’s teaching (only a week to go…) and time for another account of Erasmus travels. This time from current final year student, Iida Friman, who will be graduating in French and Human Resource Management in June, and who spent her Semester Abroad just outside Paris at the ESSEC business school:

“With the student body organising differently themed fairs in the grand hall nearly every day, enormous student parties in exclusively rented night clubs every week, and varying yet time after time more astonishing monthly events, ESSEC does not fail to impress an Erasmus student.

Situated in the relatively new suburb town of Cergy Pontoise, ESSEC belongs to Parisian transit zone 5 and is thus fairly easy to get to. A one-hour bus drive to the airport of Charles de Gaulle and a 40 minute train ride to the centre of Paris made it super easy to get to places, which made up to the fact that besides the university, Cergy itself does not have a lot to offer. Because of the easiness to catch a flight or a train even with a short notice, I spent evenings exploring Paris and most of my weekends traveling around France. I especially loved the South coast of France, where I spent four weekends visiting my friends and seeing numerous towns from Nice (and Monaco) to Six-Fours-des-Plages and Marseille.

2016 Friman Six-Fours-les-Plages

Having heard about ESSEC’s good reputation well before starting the exchange, I expected the workload to be much heavier than what it is in Stirling. When I started my courses, however, I soon realised that the amount of work itself was not much higher but the nature of teaching varied enormously. All courses consisted of three contact hours per week, which depending on the module were either lectures, more seminar-like classes, or a mixture of both. There was not a lot of homework to be done in between the classes; for some courses it was a few economic calculations, for others a weekly blog post. Nevertheless, the classes themselves were interactive with a lot of group exercises, presentations and guest speakers, and students made a much bigger contribution to the overall teaching than what I’ve experienced in Stirling. The biggest challenge for me was the length of the classes: 3 hours can feel like an eternity, especially if you are not fully understanding the economic functions explained in French. I still wonder how did the French students stay focused for the full duration of the class, I know I struggled.

2016 Friman River Seine by night

On their web page, ESSEC states that they follow a strategy of three I’s; innovation, involvement, internationalisation. Starting from the last, being an exchange student and getting to know students from all around the world and furthermore hearing about the exchange periods and internships that were included in the French students’ degrees made it clear how important internationalisation is for ESSEC. Internationalisation did not only show in the variety of students and their opportunities abroad, but there were always some international guests and lecturers visiting the campus, and even the daily themes of the fairs in the grand hall included things like ‘food of the world’ –buffets, international career conferences and cultural performances. The numerous events also demonstrate what can be done with innovation and involvement, since all of the events we took part in were organised by the students. During the day there were crazy dance offs, bouncy castles or free manicures and haircuts in the grand hall, and during the night the students organised exclusive students parties in privately hired nightclubs nearby, to and from which they had organised bus transportation to ensure everyone got home safe. In addition, about once a month there was a bigger event, which varied from weekend trips to the biggest university sport tournament in Europe and fancy galas with fashion shows. Needless to say, the level of innovation and determination with which the French students organised these events left me amazed.”

2016 Friman ESSEC gala

Thanks to Iida for this blog post and best wishes for the future following graduation!