What’s it like to study in France as an international student? What happens in the class and outside? How do internships and placements work? What are the challenges to be aware of?
Pranjali Apurva answers all these questions in the article below.
International student life in France
EDHEC MBA Student Blog
by Pranjali Apurva
My journey to select the right MBA program was very organic.
I have an unconventional background and did not know anyone who had done an MBA with my background. I felt a lack of guidance and was unsure of investing in an MBA degree.
I hold Bachelor of Design from National Institute of Fashion Technology, India. I have worked in design, buying and digital transformation roles in fashion retailing sector.
I was working in Dubai at that point of time and wanted to complete my Masters. I wished to remain in the same sector but learn more about the business.
MBA seemed like a good option, but I was unsure on the MBA specialization. I consulted few MBA consultants and they suggested me to do a general MBA.
I was getting good scores on preliminary GMAT tests.
I had many myths in my mind like all MBA programs are the same or it should be done from Top 10 American B-schools only and such.
To be honest, I had very less information on what would be suitable for my profile and was very confused.
So, I structured the MBA journey in parts – GMAT, business school selection and the MBA application process.
Step 1: GMAT Preparation
The GMAT was one of the biggest tasks in the MBA journey. For the exam, I spoke to my friends who had given the test and used the GMAC, Manhattan and Kaplan books and online tests.
The internet had really good tips for the exam. It took me about 4 months for the process – a month to plan the structure, 3 months to prepare and finally give the exam.
I took the exam date when I felt ready and got a score of 670.
I planned to take the exam again to improve the score, but never got the time.
I advise to take the GMAT when one is just out of Bachelor program or within 3 years of working. As work responsibilities increase, it gets more difficult to prepare.
Step 2: Business School Selection
To understand what an MBA can do for my profile, I started attending B-School seminars in Dubai.
My first session was with ISB, Hyderabad, and their response generated confidence in me.
I received interest from other schools, but remained unconvinced because of the following factors:
- MBA was a big investment and I was unsure of post-MBA prospects for my profile
- MBA programs are mostly affiliated with Finance and Technology companies which would not have helped me
- Unlike in India, international B-schools do not have “placements” which adds to complexity of finding a job
- Current immigration policies in some countries are not friendly for post-study job search
Meanwhile, my career was going great which made me even more hesitant to take the MBA break.
I took the time to travel extensively and build my profile holistically for an international program.
A few years passed by. I started contemplating on Executive MBA in Dubai.
I met the admissions manager from INSEAD and he suggested me to go for a full-time MBA. I am still thankful for the astute advice.
My path was clearer with GMAT done and Full-time MBA decided. So, this is when I became very active in school selection process.
The key deciding factors were international class cohort and relevant specialization elective.
I started attending fairs and meeting a lot of schools from USA, Australia, Canada, India, Singapore, China and UK.
I understood that each MBA program is very different, and I must choose one which suits my requirements.
I considered immigration policies, program fees and post MBA prospects.
MBA programs in USA were ruled out because:
- Complicated immigration policies
- High program fees
- Low average age of work experience in the class
I decided to select Queen’s MBA program, Canada or Melbourne Business School, Australia. With a PR status, I would get a discount on the tuition fee and ease in finding post-MBA jobs.
This is when I met the MBA program director of EDHEC Business School, France, in an MBA fair. And everything fell in place.
Why I selected EDHEC MBA in France
Among the top reasons to select EDHEC were:
- The location was France which is well reputed location in my industry
- EDHEC is a target school for companies like LVMH, Cartier and Richemont
- The administration team was sincere and approachable – always quick to respond to my queries
- EDHEC has a clear transparent scholarship policy which makes it very affordable
- New emerging technologies are redefining the business world. EDHEC offered a specialization in Digital Innovation with IBM which no other school offered at that point. I found the specialization that I was interested in.
- They had a very international cohort ranking Top 5 in the world for Diversity. The class was from varied backgrounds like sports, arts, and of course, finance and technology
- Average working age of the class was 7-8 years
- Indian and French governments have made a pact which allows Indian students up to 2 years of post-study job search visa
- EDHEC ranks highly on Finance and Entrepreneurship
Coincidentally at the same time, I connected with Anshul Sachdev from Career Preamble. He addressed the smallest of the queries I might have had. He is an ISB alumnus living in the US and has a global view of the MBA sector. His suggestions were very accurate, and he also connected me with some Indian students in France.
Step 3: Application process
I understood that European schools assess the holistic aspect of the application file and not only the GMAT score. They value academics, career trajectory, international experience and post-MBA plans.
I had built a good profile by this time with extensive international experience. To understand the expectations, I benchmarked essays of my friends and wrote them myself.
The EDHEC admissions team was very transparent and responsive. My admissions manager handheld me during the process – unlike the other schools I had interacted with.
I had a Sonru interview with 3 questions and a phone interview. I remained myself and they went well. The whole admissions process was very personalized and fairly quick.
Experience as an international student in a French MBA class
The visa process for France was painstakingly long and got me very stressed. Anyway, that done, I moved to France. The school helped in everything – accommodation, visa processes, account opening etc. French processes are very bureaucratic.
I joined the January 2018 batch. EDHEC MBA has 2 intakes – September and January. About 40-45 students in each intake.
The class was very diverse with students from Latin America to Japan, having backgrounds from sports to finance and aged 23 to 47. There was a very healthy balance of female candidates at about 35%.
Coming back to studies after 9 years of working was the first challenge. Understanding cultural differences was the next one.
Beyond academics, the program focused on cultural intelligence and soft skill development. We were put in mixed groups and were expected to perform immediately.
My first MBA team included a Russian, an Ecuadorian, a Spanish, a Lebanese and an Indian. I learnt that I enjoyed working with multi-cultural teams. The environment was very open-minded, and I loved the experience.
There was a lot of peer to peer learning with the diverse cohort and everyone was more than welcoming to help each other in the learning experience.
The program was very good with excellent professors who came mainly from US and Canada. The 10-month program was very intense.
EDHEC is great on Return on Investment with transparent scholarships. As one of the Grande écoles in France, the brand is very well reputed in the country. It has tie-ups with most good B-schools in Europe.
However, the school is fairly unknown in other parts of the world although they have a campus in Singapore. They are working on increasing their brand recognition.
Internship / Placement in France
European job market is very passive and hiring process takes a long time. This market is more tailored to younger Masters students. Language is a big barrier and most Europeans can speak 2-3 languages. Visa is a concern, but many companies are open to giving visas.
Indian students have 2 years of post-study job search visa which allows you to work in France with a job contract. EU Blue card is helpful for skilled immigrants. Germany, Netherlands and the Nordics are better for English speakers.
For Europe, best option is to target your companies, network with relevant alumni and opt for an internship after the MBA. Many times, internships get converted to permanent offers.
The average time taken to find a job in Europe is 3-8 months. So, best is to start as soon as possible.
Policies do not allow firing people easily in many European countries, so the recruiters move with a lot of caution. There are many cultural differences in the hiring processes between the different countries of Europe.
Lessons I learnt
Looking back, I would have:
- Started my job applications much earlier say, in March itself.
- Focused on English friendly countries for job search.
- Researched more on hiring norms within European countries.
American schools are the ones which define the MBA education, but costs can be very high and the programs are longer.
Indian schools offer great placement support but might lack in international aspects.
Australian and Canadian schools are good if you are looking for immigration.
Australia ranks very high in post-MBA salaries. European schools offer more cost-effective programs with their shorter duration and lower fees. Singapore and China are good options now with the rising economy in that region.
Tips for international applicants
I will definitely recommend taking the MBA plunge. Here are some tips to keep in mind.
- Selecting a quality school is a must, that goes without saying. For other criteria, choose a school and location which suits your profile, career aspiration and finances. Each candidate is unique with their own backgrounds and aspirations.
- Taking help from a reputed MBA consulting service like MBA Crystal Ball could be a good idea. Incremental increase at each step can significantly increase your eligibility for the best ranked schools.
- Doing an international MBA program requires a lot of planning and finding a job overseas is not easy.
- Use LinkedIn to talk with alumni before you finalize the school.
- Post-MBA jobs are based on your previous work experience and the degree is an added advantage in the long term.
- Have realistic expectations but there is definitely a possibility of a triple jump if you put in focused effort.
- Be wise with your investment and do not be tricked by MBA school marketing and inflated promises.
– Life as an international MBA student at Stanford
– Life as an international student at the UK
– Life as an international student in Germany and job after MBA
– Life at a top MBA in India (ISB)
– International student life and jobs after MBA in Canada
– International student life and job in the Netherlands
For some related international student experiences elsewhere, read:
– International student life in Germany
– International student life in Canada
– International student life in Australia
– International student life in UK
– International student life in USA