Ashok Chandra, HEC Paris MBA Exchange student from NYU Stern School of Business
What is it like to be a student at HEC Paris MBA? Student Voices is a student contributed section where current and past students share their first-hand experiences of life on campus and beyond.
The opportunity to be a student in an M.B.A. program only happens once in your life. You suspend many of your day to day activities to take two years to learn as much as possible and enjoy some time away from work. In the Spring of 2014, I realized that I would be finishing my M.B.A. journey within a year and wanted to enhance the experience I already had at New York University’s Stern School of Business. New York City is one of the best cities in the world to live and work in, but having already had a prior career working as an attorney in a New York law firm and in a New York corporation, I wanted to see how it would be living and potentially working abroad. I researched schools that worked closely with NYU and determined that HEC’s School of Management would be the best fit. The specializations that I read about were a completely different structure than NYU’s semester long classes and there appeared to be incredible opportunities for hands on work.
I arrived in Paris about a week before classes began and began to become reacquainted with the city. I had studied for a semester at the American University of Paris as an undergraduate many years ago. I had found an apartment in the 3d Arrondisement on Rue Charlot and Rue Bretagne, a bustling street with fresh food markets opening early and the always lively Marche des Enfants Rouge. As an added bonus, I was mere footsteps away from Deux Fois plus de Piment, an incredibly Szechuan restaurant that I frequented about four times a week during my stay in Paris.
The MaPo Tofu at Deux Fois Plus De Piment, epice cinq! One of the spiciest dishes in the world
I found that the best way to relearn the streets of Paris was to run them. I used an app that mapped my runs so I could discover new neighbourhoods and sights each day.
On the first day of school, I had mapped out my trip to Jouy-en-Josas, having never done a test run. I took the RER C from Paris to Versailles Chantiers and switched there the two short stops to Jouy-en-Josas. I found the commute to be a fantastic way to catch up with reading. During my semester I read about a dozen novels on the train including the one that had always eluded me, David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. The train, clean and rather quiet, is the perfect chance to read or think to yourself.
When I arrived at Jouy-en-Josas for the first time, I had to admit that I was rather lost. I did not know how to use the bus system or which direction HEC was. I saw some other student-looking people board a bus and followed and within 10 minutes, I was on the HEC campus. I found my way to building S, the business school, and made my way to the eLab where I was greeted by Professors Safars and Astebro, who explained the semester structure of the Entrepreneurship track. I chose this specialization because of my interest in the tech startup world. It gives business students the opportunity to work with inventors who have ideas and want to take them to market. I had the privilege to work, along with two other diligent and fantastic HEC students, Xavier Burtschell and Keerthi Koneru, with a preeminent cancer hospital and two of their top researchers. Throughout the semester, parallel to taking classes, we would meet with venture capitalists, high level pharmaceutical industry professionals, attorneys and regulators to determine how to get an idea to the business stage and what the business could look like within five years. After months of hard work, we had the opportunity to present our findings to a room full of professionals interested in these new businesses.
Apart from the academics, I found the HEC campus to be a beautiful and serene location. The sprawling greens with numerous athletic activities ensured that no one was bored. Living in Paris, and being unwilling to drive, I unfortunately never took part in any of the night time festivities that my fellow business students engaged in at the residence Expansiel, but walking through the path in the morning, I always saw signs of the fun my classmates had. One of the most interesting things about my HEC experience was the diversity of the classroom. I was surrounded by people from France, the UK, China, India, Mexico and many other countries all coming from a different background. Learning from each other in such a small setting is something that is impossible to replicate.
Beyond my academic experience, the time spent in Paris is one I will always cherish and hope to repeat again some time soon in the future. Life as a pedestrian is often fraught with inconveniences. This never seemed to be the case in Paris. I never had to wait more than five minutes for a metro and everything in the city is walkable.
Additionally, the people of Paris are incredibly nice and go out of their way to help you with the language if you try. I had many lessons at bars and during haircuts on new words and pronunciations. As a fan of the NFL, particularly fantasy football, I found a home at Rush Bar on Rue Saint Sebastien, one of the finest bars in the world, with Kevin, a great bartender and Peyton Manning fan.
Even though I was not in New York, I did not necessarily miss out any American events or activities. I was able to go and see World Wrestling Entertainment tour at Bercy with John Cena and Seth Rollins wrestling in the main event. I went see Julian Casablancas, the singer to The Strokes play a concert at Casino Paris as well as other concerts. When I wanted to join a gym, I found the CrossFit Louvre community to be very accepting and made several friends there that I hope to keep.
Christmas time in Paris was a unique and unforgettable experience. I would often walk along the open air markets sipping a hot wine or admire the decorations that are unique to each neighbourhood. Seeing the Grand Palais opened as an ice skating rink was truly a marvel.
The experience I had in Paris and HEC was unforgettable and I thank everyone at HEC for being so friendly and making my stay fantastic.