1. A little introduction. Which University did you pick? How did your time go there? How was it to get used to the life there?
Hey, my name is Karmen-Maria and it’s my second year in EBS. For my exchange I picked a school in Paris named ESCE International Business School.
So far, all good. It was the first time flying on an airplane all by myself, moving to another country all alone and being the only Estonian in my school.
ESCE is almost the same size as EBS which was only a bonus for me because it made finding friends a lot easier. The hardest part was finding an apartment because Paris is really overpopulated, and the rental prices are three times higher than the Estonian ones. Unbelievably I met an awesome Finn at one of the semester opening parties and it turned out that she had a big apartment only for herself and she was looking for a roommate. We hit on well and she invited me to share the apartment with her!
2. Why Paris?
I’m a person who can’t be in one place for too long. I want to do something 24/7, so I realised that I want to pick a big city to get some change from our little Tallinn.
I picked Paris because of its culture, history and fashion. There’s always something to do and somewhere to go here and Eiffel Tower is far from being the only miracle of the city. Most of the museums are free to enter if you’re under the age of 26, there are cafés to drink some amazing coffee on every corner and of course, it’s the capital of fashion, obviously.
3. Name three facts about your exchange university which bring out the differences between that school and EBS.
- You can buy machine coffee which is pretty good quality and costs only 0.40€
- Groupworks. I thought that at EBS we do a lot of group tasks, but no. It’s pretty common to have three group assignments in one course for example.
- The attendance is really important. If a student is absent from school for more than 16,5 h then they would not only fail the course, but fail the whole semester. It’s important to attend every lecture.
4. Describe the culture, cuisine, traditions. How do they differ from Estonians?
People have a lot more temperament than we do. They are also not as organized as we are. They are really passionate and like to enjoy life. My favourite thing here is that you can literally see that people enjoy spending time with one another, they are not sitting on their phones while being with someone, but they talk to each other. I also saw an ad for Instagram at the cinema for the first time in my life. It’s only an evidence of the fact that they don’t care much about today’s technology. But in comparison to Estonia,you can’t even pay with your card everywhere or get ahold of good wi-fi connection.
What’s also unfamiliar is that many things are done on paper, there’s a lot of bureaucracy. And there’s still a chance to pay with a cheque which was really funny in finance related courses where we had to differ card, cash and cheque payments. Maybe it’ll come in handy at some point.
A usual black coffee reminds our “espresso” because there is not much of it and it was quite confusing at first because I ordered a black coffee but got an espresso.
French spend more time on eating and drinking than other OECD countries. Amazingly enough most of them are still really fit and skinny although they eat a lot of white bread, cheese and wine. I’ve still not quite wrapped my head around it how they do it. Many important business meetings take place in ordinary restaurants or somewhere behind a glass of wine. Food is really important here.
Another big difference between the French and Estonians is the work ethics. Estonians are effective and hardworking. The French however need to take breaks after every 2 minutes, even if they don’t have a reason for it, they’ll come up with it. Sometimes it was really hard to do group assignments with them or get together because someone was always late, or it was suddenly time for a third coffee break.
5. What would you recommend to be on top of your budget and not to go over it on your exchange?
Calculate a rough sum of money you think you’re going to need… and double it!
6. What has been the most challenging thing throughout your exchange in Paris?
Finding an apartment and managing my budget. I really did not think that I’ll go over my budget. To be honest, everything is doable, and money should never be the cause for doing or not doing something. But I wish that I had thought it through beforehand and wrote down some real figures of everything that I’m going to need here. Life in Paris is much more costly than in Estonia. Actually, everything is possible, and it was my own mistake that I didn’t plan ahead as much as needed.
7. What was your schedule like? Are there more lectures than here? How is it with homeworks?
I am more present here certainly. It’s affected by the fact that attendance is mandatory and you have to be present if you plan on passing your semester. I like the EBS system more, where students at universities are treated as adults, because it’s not even a peculiarity but it’s really common to check the attendance at schools in France.
I think that I have about the same amount of classes in a week that I had in EBS but I have a lot more time to concentrate on school here because I don’t work and I am not an active member of the student council.
I don’t think that we have had any individual homework. Every assignment has been a group assignment and most of the courses have more than one of them. The strangest experience was writing an essay in a group. It was definitely a new experience but also an interesting challenge.
One of my favourite courses was Universe of Luxury and Prestigious Products. Is there even a better place to study it than Paris? The main project of this course was to make a presentation about one of the luxury sectors and to choose a certain brand to visit in a store afterwards and get a thorough overview of it.
8. What did you like to do on your free time when you didn’t have lectures?
I’m a big coffee lover so you I could likely be found in a café or in a park spending time with my friends. I’ve also discovered that I can cook pretty well and I didn’t cook at all in Estonia. Student life abroad is financially burdensome, so you must learn how to cook.
Definitely we spent most our time laughing about some silly jokes and at the grocery store deciding what to cook with my roommate.
9. Describe an event or a moment that has had a huge impact on you since you went there.
To begin with, the fact that I even came here! I’ve also travelled here I lot while living here. I went to Barcelona, Andorra, Brussels and Germany. The parties, museums, cafés, the people here and so on have all been amazing. But I think that my roommate has left the biggest mark on me! I had never imagined that I’ll run into a person here who will become a really great friend to me. We’ve helped each other out with everything, and the best feeling is that you don’t have to go through it all alone, but you have a person who you can trust a 100% even far from home.
10. Going on an exchange abroad demands a lot of courage and independence. What would you say to encourage students who are in doubt?
You don’t know what’s going to happen if you don’t do it. After this short period of time here I’ve realized that you need to do more things that push you out of your comfort zone because then you’ll learn the most! Go and have fun!
Editor: Tea Teesalu
Translator: Marlen Kuusk