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Fall 2007 Exchange semester @ ESCP – EAP Paris France People have told me not to tell them so much about my Europe experience because it’s not theirs. To respect their comments, I am limiting the scope of this report to the basics and survival tips. I hope that they will help enhance your Europe exchange experience if ever you wish to pursue one. Introduction Just a little about me before I go on. I am a fourth year business student majoring in Finance and Marketing. In Summer 2006, I did an exchange at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and it was a blast. That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to go on another exchange during the last semester of my academic career. I chose Paris to do this exchange because I really wanted to practice and to improve my French. However, I soon found out that it’s difficult to do so because English can get you around the city just fine, and you hang out mostly with people from the international program. Yet, by knowing a bit of survival French before you go, you will be able to enjoy more of the city and its culture. Things to do before you depart There are quite a bit of preparation work involved with this trip. In essence, you should begin your preparation as soon as you receive your confirmation letter from SFU and your exchange school. Here is your Top 7 preparation list: 1. Packing For all of the girls who are reading this, please pack light. Paris is the fashion capital of the world and I can guarantee that you will be doing a lot of shopping. Therefore, it’s very important that you only bring what you will definitely wear. Some staples that I can think of are: - Nice tops to wear when you go out - Few warm sweaters for the cool climate in October to December - A warm wool black coat Euro is expensive, so budget wisely. 2. Booking your flight When you’ve decided how much you are going to bring to and bring back, then it’s time to select your flight. There many airlines who offer flights from Vancouver to Paris. Unfortunately, if you are going in September, none of them offers direct flight. Depending on whether you are a light packer or not and how much you are planning to buy in Paris, you have two basic options: (1) go for discounted airlines like Zoom, and (2) go for full service airlines like Air Canada. Clearly, full service airlines given its price should have better flight schedules, more pleasant service supposedly, more value added services and lenient baggage restrictions. I flew with Air Canada and my experience wasn’t that fantastic like you fancy. The flight itself was around $1200 round trip, which in my mind was fair. At this price range, you can choose among a broad range of airlines, such as British airways and Lufthansa. I have chosen Air Canada only because I am a member of its customer loyalty program. Everything went well, except for the fact that they lost my luggage on the way to Paris. Even though they found and delivered my luggage a few days later, they made no compensation for my misery of living in Paris with no clothes for that period and was not apologetic at all when I filed a complaint. Be warned. 3. Buying insurance You need to get travel insurance to apply for your student visa. It’s around $100 and you can get it at any insurance shop. However, you can cancel it when you get to Paris because you are obliged to purchase the two mandatory insurances. Upon your arrival in Paris, ESCP will ask you to purchase the mandatory Securite Sociale for 198 Euros, which will cover you for any of your medical matters. Moreover, they will ask you to purchase civil liability insurance for 10 euros. With these two insurance, you are pretty much covered for all of your activities. 4. Arriving RER B and airport buses take you directly to city centre. Then you can switch to Metro to get wherever you want to go. However, if you are traveling alone and have a few suitcases to maneuver, I would recommend that you take an airport shuttle for 25 euros max, which takes you directly to your lodging. I always go for Parishuttle.com and they’ve been pretty good. Taxi will cost you around 50 Euros and the train and metro are around 12 Euros in total. 5. Lodging Accommodation was a nightmare for me and my roommates. It’s super hard to find a place to stay, especially in September. So make sure your start hunting early. You can try craigslist.org, Cite Universite, Vivaldi (school residence), local agencies and ESCP intranet. Your accommodation should be the biggest part of your budget because it is quite steep to live in Paris. Rent ranges from 400 euros to 1000 euros depending on size and location. I say anything within the inner city is good but is very expensive. Try to avoid the 18th, 19th arrondisment because those are the shaddy areas of Paris. I would say that the ESCP intranet and craigslist are both good sources. I wouldn’t go for agencies because some of them are unresponsive, and they charge agency fees usually 50% of a month’s rent for their service. 6. Getting around Metro gets you everywhere. But it’s expensive. You can get an CARNET, a pack of 10 tickets, or a Navigo for weekly or monthly subscription. If you need to go anywhere and don’t know how to get there RATP.com has an interactive map that will help you navigate through the serpentine metro map. Did you know that Paris has over 350 metro stops? Trains and cheap flights are your best friends when it comes to traveling in Europe. Consider buying a Eurail pass, it will save you a lot of money. Traveling in train is good because you land at city centres and you don’t have to worry about getting to and from the airport. Eurail pass has to be purchased before you come to Europe though and you can get one at TravelCuts at school. Cheap flights are really inexpensive. The most popular ones are Ryanair, Vueling, EasyJet, and SkyEurope. I love vueling. I flew with them to Barcelona for 50 euros return. 7. Keeping in touch Just a couple tips on this topic. Make sure you bring a tri-band phone, so it works with the local networks. You can get a SIM card from FNAC, the futureshop counterpart, for 35 Euros. I used both SFR and Bouygues service provider. They charge the same but offer a slight different package. SFR is by far the most popular and best reception, and Bouygue is not bad too. Calling home is expensive, unless you have SKYPE or a VOIP phone at home. If you have an internet phone then calling home is free. When in Paris… Entertainment Food Restaurants There are tons of restaurants of all ethnicities. Make sure you try a variety of different cuisines and not just traditional French food. A guide book called “Pas Chere” published yearly contains some affordable yet delicious restaurant recommendations that you can use for reference. Cafeteria ESCP cafeteria, which opens from noon to 2pm, offers a decent meal for 3 or 4 Euros. Not bad for students on a measly budget. Home cooking If you are going to cook at home, there are numerous grocery market chains. Their prices and offerings sit on a broad spectrum. For example, the cheapest of them all is Leader price. Their products are not of the best quality, selection is minimal and their service is terrible. On the other end of the spectrum, you have Monoprix. It’s your one-stop shopping and you can find pretty much everything for your household needs there. Obviously it is the most expensive. Of course, there are Carrefour and Auchan, which resemble our good old Canadian superstore. Shopping Can’t say much, it’s Paris and shopping is wonderful. You can shop anywhere. Just note that most shops, with the exception of those in Le Marais, are closed on Sundays. As a foreigner, you get 10% at Le Printemp, Lafayette, and Le Bon Marche, the three biggest and prestigious department stores in Paris. Whenever you purchase over 175 Euros at one store within one day, you get 13% VAT (tax) back. Entertainment There’s always something to do it Paris. Check the local guides. There are plenty of Museums, theatres, sightseeing to keep you busy during your exchange. The first Sunday of every month, you get free admission to city-owned museums, so make sure you take advantage of that. Of course, there are those crazy school parties that you will find out once you get there. Campus-Life Academic details Registration is done ahead of time and you will get a confirmation email from the exchange office staff once you arrived. You can retrieve your courses info online, once you’ve received the email confirmation. In terms of difficulty, ESCP-EAP is easily I think in term of workload. For me at least, all of my courses had a group project but no individual paper. Group projects were done in group of 7 and all that was required was a 10-page essay and a 20 min. presentation. I took 4 courses all together and was more than able to manage along with all the parties and sightseeing I did. Leisure and cultural activities There were some cultural activities organized by the international student group, but not many. I think the most interesting ones were boat cruise on the Seine, bike ride in the city and of course the Disneyland. Conclusion Fun. Fun. Fun. Nothing more to say. I am actually doing an internship here in Paris at BNP Paribas Corporate and Investment banking, the largest bank in Europe by market cap. I wouldn’t have found this internship if I didn’t study at ESCP. I met so many great people from all over Europe and learned so much more about the continent. Exchanges allow you to expand your social networking through meeting people from all over the world, instill you with new ideas from all the sightseeing you will do and help you grow as a person in many aspects.
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