26 January 2015

Michael Thomson, HEC Paris MBA, Class of 2016

What is it like to be a student at HEC Paris MBA? Student Voices is a student contributed section where current students share their first-hand experiences of life on campus and beyond.


As I sit here with some time to collect my thoughts and reflect on the past several weeks, I find myself amazed at how many things I have experienced.  To name a few: I have met many new people from all over the world, I have moved twice, I have taken the wrong train on two separate occasions, and I got married.  I could make a list that would span several pages, but in summation, the events of the past week could be classified in one of three categories: Moving to France, HEC Paris MBA Orientation Weeks, and my Personal Life.


Michael (second from left) speaking with fellow MBA students at the Welcome Buffet

Fun Fact: It is hard to do things without a local address and a local bank account.  Moving from a different country to a temporary accommodation is challenging; do you completely unpack or not before the next move?  Then there is figuring out transportation, making sure you get on the right train and that you are indeed taking the shortest route as opposed to taking a train that is one hour longer.   Or how about being confused at the grocery store because promotional prices aren’t displayed on the screen, but are taken into account at the end of transaction.  You simply have to laugh it off and realize that you are a cultural outsider, but with each mistake you learn a piece of local culture.   If you do find yourself discouraged, take a walk around Versailles or a trip to Paris for some inspiration.


I chose to attend an MBA to not only advance my career, but to step outside of my comfort zone and be challenged to grow.  I had not expected to immediately face that in the first few weeks.  Orientation is packed, exhausting, and at times feels endless, but what an incredibly rewarding experience.  The activities range from adrenaline-filled (NegoSim) to laughter-filled (Act Your Success), but they are all chock full of learning opportunities. Act Your Success is a multi-day workshop that throws you into improvisation acting and we were definitely thrown in.  Through different activities we were called to get into touch with our bodies and our voices to understand how we communicate.  A correlation was drawn between the acting activities we were doing and the business careers we were pursuing.  Through acting, we were becoming better business leaders.  The activities were difficult tasks in and of themselves, but we were also faced with the challenge of doing this with people we had just met.  This challenge was a major highlight of the week.



MBA students acting out scenes for the Act Your Success workshop

You can read all of the pamphlets that show the demographics of each MBA class and you can talk to a student about how diverse the program is, but it is not until you begin to meet your new classmates does it all sink in. I find myself surrounded by people from various industries, innumerable educations, and different countries.  In these first weeks, I have only begun to scratch the surface of this tremendous wealth of experience.  Not only do they bring great experiences to the table, but also everyone is pretty darn cool.

Group Photo Jan 15 FT- Non Official

Full-time January intake group photo, HEC Paris MBA, Class of 2016

These past weeks have been so rewarding and challenging, not only because I decided to attend HEC Paris for my MBA, but also because I decided to have a wedding the day before flying to France.  It has been challenging to spend the majority of the last two weeks with new classmates instead of my new wife, but it has also been amazing to have someone to come home to and share new experiences with.

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