In January 2018 I graduated from my MBA degree in Fashion Business Management in Paris, France. This is a journey that started with my application in 2013 and carried on a full 5 years. I’ll be honest, studying a postgraduate abroad is a journey that only really begins once you have graduated.
Many ask what it was like to live in a glamorous city such as Paris. How did I do it and more importantly what it’s like to find work there? In this post I’ll give my personal and honest experience on studying abroad in Europe, and more specifically in France today.
Studying in any European country has its perks. One of the things I considered was the various industries the different countries specialised in. I was going to do an MBA and wanted to do a specialisation in Fashion Business Management specifically.
France is synonymous with setting trends not only in fashion, but also décor, design and lifestyle that makes it all distinctively….French! The course I was to specialise was also going to be done at ESMOD, one of the world’s top fashion design and business schools.
That’s why I chose France to do my MBA.
Where did I find out the information?
Firstly, you will want to do the courses in English. Can you imagine doing finance in French?
Many of the universities advertise their courses on the French Consulate website. They offer a range of universities offering international courses inviting foreigners to apply directly. There are a bursaries, scholarships and assistance available but they are limited.
The cost of living in Paris
So, my university and course took place in Paris. Living in a European capital city will inevitably be expensive. It was the cost of living that actually took the crux of my budget. Most students opt to share and live in an apartment. Living alone can go up to 800 Euros per month.
Food prices are high, but I like cooking and the produce in French supermarkets is really good. Get a fidelity card and earn point and get discounts off Tuesdays. Medication was cheap and so were doctor visits. Travelling with the metro was efficient and cheap.
Overall, nothing’s for free in this city. You will pay for everything.
How to find accommodation in Paris
This is actually really difficult, especially if you are not in the country. I personally preferred to find accommodation before I arrived so I could go somewhere from the airport. I looked on s such as aparterger for women looking to share.
Many apartments in Paris do not have their own toilet or bathroom in the flat. Most people share an outside loo with the rest of the floor! I’m crazy about bathroom hygiene, so no friggin’ way in hell. Many have showers that are located next to the kitchen sink which double as a bathroom sink as well. Sometimes my friends and I would browse through appalling apartments just to shock ourselves.
My apartment in Paris
For my first 3 months I lived with an old lady who believed she was a celebrity from the 1950s, sort of like a washed up Bardot. She was nuts, but I eventually found suitable accommodation through a friend. I got to live in a beautiful apartment with its own garden, bathroom and kitchen. It really helps to know somebody there. As she was a personal friend, I also got a great deal on the rent. I got LUCKY.
And the actual studies?
The building of my school lied in the heart of Paris. It was also really old and had nice classic interiors.
The courses were deeply focused on business growth, using the right tools and nurturing your entrepreneurial potential.
The courses at ESMOD were really good and I walked away knowing exactly what and where I wanted to go in my professional life. I was afforded opportunities to visit some amazing places, look in luxury brands and visit the latest innovations in manufacturing and technology.
The lecturers at ESMOD were the key connections we needed, as well as the opportunity to work on major brands at a Trends Office. A Trends Office is a term used to describe a media and brand building agency. I loved this.
READ more about my visit to Coco Chanel’s apartment
…and the students?
We got a range of students from different industry backgrounds. Many of them were much older than me too.
The Fashion Management Class was small. I expected to meet more industry experts here. Some were in the industry because they were born into it, while some had a big egos and some were just confused. Don’t forget a Masters or MBA degree for schools are still an important way to make money. I questioned the selection process for my class at times.
Is it easy to network in France?
Yes and no. It will depend entirely up to you and how you get actively involved in your interests and make the effort as with all things in life. I, unfortunately, never had my blog at that time, knew nothing about social media let alone hashtags. Not in the business sense of the way. It was 2015, and I was only ever concerned about passing accounting and having fun on the weekends.
Don’t stress if you don’t get to grow a network. Studying abroad lets you automatically connect with key players in the industry that most likely be relevant to you in the future. I have discovered this now that I am working in marketing for an international company. I underestimated it before, but have come to realise I know people that otherwise might have been had to reach.
If you were into fashion, go to events, conference and even check out the crowds at the all famous fashion weeks.
Work opportunities for master’s graduates are aplenty, but very competitive. The reality is like most industries, if you were to change you would need many years of proven experience. The one important factor is that if you are looking for work in France, especially in business, is that you will need to speak French. Global companies will be your best bet, but those are highly competitive positions. For me it was hard to apply especially as I had not even finished school yet.
The perk of doing a masters in France is that you are given a year to find work after graduating. Also, if your job wants to keep you, they don’t have to prove why a French citizen cannot take your place. The downside is that most jobs didn’t pay well enough….at least according to my standards AND in my chosen field. That’s just my personal opinion. Come with a full plate to negotiate your salary and position.
READ more about travel and life in France
Was it worth it?
This is hard to honestly say as I only graduated last year in 2018! It’s only been a year, but so far I have started to see the benefits. I became a serious candidate for international companies and learnt what direction I really wanted to go with my career.
It also became the game changer. It can be so for anyone, if you are open to learning and endurance. The MBA focused not only on you pursuing your career goals but also the right ones. An MBA is more of a guide of where you already know or have an idea of where you want to be.
I’m still on this journey and it honestly seems to have begun after graduation. You’ll go through all ups and downs, but I am now where I need and want to be professionally. Note, that it will take more than 100% hard work and self-determination. Without that it will be a waste of time.