Yes, you. The one who left home to pursue your dreams and go on a brand new adventure. From your home country all the way to France, this one’s for you.
It’s been three years since I’ve packed my bags and traveled to Paris for my one-year MBA at EMLV. Intimidating at first, as the school is a member of the Conférence des Grandes Ecoles, which brings together the best French higher education institutions, but I have to admit from the start, it was my second home, and trust me when I tell you that the year was nothing but ordinary… Paris was everything and nothing I’d ever expected, and when I go back in time, I remember all the little moments with all the big feelings that came with them.
As a Foreign Student: First, We Stress…(but not for long)
The is as transparent as it can get. The stress began way before my plane landed at Charles de Gaulle. Fear of the unknown sets in and all the worries come together. The unfamiliar academic environment, loneliness, financial challenges, housing, and culture shock. All at once, they became overwhelming but I remember breaking them into tasks helped tremendously, especially when keeping an open communication from the get-go with EMLV admissions and international students affair team who were with me every step of the way and provided me with a very detailed student guide for international students that took the load off my back.
One of the most important steps in preparing for my arrival was to look for accommodation. Finding housing in Paris can be a stressful task, but prior research and asking all the questions that come to mind (there are no silly questions!) helped me prepare and maximize my chances of finding my house. Some tips I received from alumni, family members, and friends were to:
- Beware of scams in private housing ads.
- Filter the type of place you’re looking for: student residence, private flats or studios, temporary housing, or room rental
- Double-check on real addresses and locations, along with the safety of its neighborhood.
- Confirm the legitimacy of any paperwork and sign an official lease/housing contract with the landlord which will come in handy when applying for housing benefits and insurance.
- Check the nearby facilities: pharmacy, supermarket, bus stops, or overall modes of transportation
- Have a guarantor! Many residences and landlords require a guarantor in order for you to move in. So always ask your residence or landlord which type of guarantor they accept and what type of paperwork you need to provide them with in advance.
Before allowing the stress to consume me as a new foreign student, I immediately researched and asked EMLV’s point of contact to provide me with all the necessary info regarding all things financial aid: from early-bird discounts and scholarships to external financial support like the CAF, I quickly learned that students who are renting an apartment, room or furnished house may be eligible for Housing Benefit through the national program which allocates different forms of financial aid depending on each individual’s situation, type of visa and type of accommodation. If you are staying in Paris for more than 3 months and are paying rent, you may be eligible.
General tips to remember:
- Upon arrival and departure make sure to check the status of electricity, internet, room check also known as “État des lieux”
- Follow up on your healthcare insurance: The National Health Service or the “Sécurité Sociale” in French manages the transfer of funds throughout the system between patients and health care providers and is often subcontracted to complementary health insurance funds known as Mutuelles.
- Get familiar with the transport system… Trust me, you have to!
Now Onto the Crème de la Crème … The Parisian Charm…
I had expected Paris to feel cold, both figuratively and literally, but the moment I stepped foot, I quickly understood why it’s called the city of love, and this city would be my new home for the next couple of months. With music-filled streets, fresh baked goods, and artists around every corner, there was something unique yet distinctly human about this place.
Paris is full of world-recognized landmarks we all know and love, like Le Palais de Versaille, Disney Land, the Eiffel Tour, Montmartre, Louvre Museum, the Champs-Élysées; and believe me when I tell you that you don’t want to miss out on them. I encourage you to embrace les clichés, they’re what make this beautiful city so charming and unforgettable. However, I remain bias when it comes to the little pleasures I had the chance of experiencing during my time there… The official Bienvenue à Paris for me would be this list I’ve compiled especially for those of you looking for the underdogs of spots to visit, the areas that are unique and memorable because they’re humble, not too flashy, not too presumptuous.
It’s time to have the time of your life!
Watch people around you… How they interact and spend moments of their day…
People are inspiring, how they walk, talk, exist. Sometimes, we see ourselves in others, or maybe quite the opposite. Isn’t it fascinating?
Sunsets and stories…
The beauty of the French culture is that you can go back in time while still being present in the moment. The sky’s colors at sunset are never the same; pink, purple, grey, and orange. A great reminder of how small we are in the world, and that despite the distance from our loved ones, we are under the same sky.
As for the little Parisian pleasures no one tells you about, but a fellow foreign student would gladly share
- The rooftop view at Galerie Lafayette
- Bus line 82, take it from Monpartnasse and have a tour… You’ll get to roam the streets of Paris and the most famous monuments without realizing it
- Check out la petite ceinture, an old train rail
- Mur des je t’aime… where love is expressed in all the languages of the world on a wall
- Walkthrough La Défense, it’s where EMLV is located and the space will help you get familiar with the business district
- Sneak into the petits passages de Paris: panorames, passage des princes, grand cerf, and choiseul
- Enjoy the little french expressions, (but please use them wisely!): all the “un truc de ouf ou de dingue, olalala, genreeeuu, tu vois, bein ouais…”
NB: There is no such thing as too much croissant, or gauffre, wine, or baguette. And don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.
A Foreign Student at EMLV…
Will feel welcomed, well framed and supported, and challenged. The cherry on top of this one-year experience will be the people you meet, both fellow classmates and teachers. Each one of them will effortlessly become a part of your daily life, and even after you leave, not only memories remain but connections that last a lifetime.
My MBA programme was based on a global and culturally diverse outlook: an interactive and engaging curriculum followed by a 6-month internship or dissertation. This experience allowed me to remain sensitive to differences and accept my own. In such an environment, we were able to learn about different backgrounds, job roles, and cultural environments, which allowed us to feel a greater sense of comfort with these differences and offered us a space to share our own stories and expertise.
Some Final Thoughts
There are certain things that might be a little out of your comfort zone, but being open to them is a great way to fully immerse yourself in new experiences. Try to get involved as much as possible and always remember… no “what if’s“, only “I will give this a try“… And in the newness of everything, don’t forget to breathe.
What’s left to say besides… Welcome to Paris!
Photo credit : @Leokingswalker, Devinci Higher Education’s student dance club