After spending 2 semesters in the UQ Business School’s Masters program as an international student, I became an “international student” at ESSEC in France. Although I faced a lot of struggles in the beginning of the exchange, I completely fell in love with Paris at the end and started missing it right after the plane took off from Charles de Gaulle Airport.

The offerings of unique Luxury Business related courses is one of the most important reasons that I chose ESSEC as my host university. Luxury Retail Management and Distribution Strategy are taught by a professor who has more than 30 years of experience in the fashion and luxury industry. Taking his lecture opened up an amazing world of luxury business which was not familiar to me in the past. One of the assignments was to visit a luxury brand retail store as a mystery shopper and evaluate the retail practices. Unlike any other place on the earth, studying fashion and luxury in Paris is exactly the right thing in the right place! For some courses I was lucky enough to have amazing lecturers however, other courses were less attractive. Probably classes taught in English were not as beneficial as those taught in French, due to language barriers. In terms of workload, generally I felt it less heavy than UQ, maybe due to the course type I chose which focused more on business practices rather than theory development.

Doing an exchange in Europe offers you fascinating opportunities, such as being exposed to a huge amount of world-class museums, cathedrals and various historical icons. Particularly France, which is the largest tourist destination in the world, has rich resources of art, culture and history to be discovered. In the early part of the semester of exchange, all my weekend s were spent travelling around France and even across the border.

Most of the exchange students I knew stayed in the school residences. Although it might be a bit more expensive than renting an off-campus house, staying in the campus residence (actually 10-30 minutes’ walk away from campus) can avoid many troubles that might happen due to a lack of local language, culture and legal knowledge, especially in a few months of an exchange. Staying in the Parisian urban area has some disadvantages such as the long commuting time, about 1 hour each way.

The most important thing I would like to suggest is to learn French as much as you can before you arrive in France. It will definitely make your stay smoother. Mentally prepare for culture shock and different social systems, so you feel less disappointed at the frustrating times. Last but not least, be aware of personal safety and security issues, such as theft, robbery and fraud, which always happens in a tourism hot spot. I heard some bad stories from fellow students around me who got robbed or had items stolen.

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