Archive for July 2016

27 July 2016
Zahid and Zaheerah with the MBAT Zebra

Zahid and Zaheerah with the MBAT Zebra

 

Embarking on a degree program is often a joint decision. Every year, between 15-20 percent of our students arrive with partners. Coming to HEC Paris as a couple involves more than pursuing an MBA: it means both people have to integrate into a new country and culture.

As a result, we asked Zaheerah Samrod to share her experience of joining the HEC Paris community. She and her husband Zahid Ahmed-Hassen moved from South Africa to France last winter, when Zahid became part of the school’s January 2016 intake.

 
What were you doing professionally before you arrived at HEC Paris?

I’m a financial accountant by profession. Prior to coming to France, I had been working for three years at a diamond mining company in Johannesburg. It was a role where I needed to interact directly with the team, so I resigned from my job to move to France.

Some people are shocked that I followed Zahid, and they say to me, “But you left everything?” Honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. My previous job had asked me to stay on, and I had really amazing remuneration offers from them. It’s not even something that I’d consider, not coming here and being with Zahid.

 

Just another day in the capital of French culture

Just another day in the capital of French culture

Did you try to find a job once you arrived in France?

I did a bit of job searching, but in order for a South African to work in France, you need a company to sponsor your work visa. It’s not very easy because that’s a big commitment for a company to make. You can’t commit to being in France post-MBA, because you never know what role your partner is going to take when they finish their studies.

I wanted to use my time in France productively, and add a skill set to my CV. Eventually, I decided to study French full time. I enrolled at the Sorbonne, which is basically French lectures, grammar and phonetics from 9 to 5 every day.

 

Are you active in the Partners’ Club?

I was nominated president of the Partners’ Club, and I took on the role in January. But once I started at the Sorbonne, I found that I just didn’t have time to arrange get-togethers, so I resigned as president. But I’m still in the Facebook group, and I do attend a lot of the evening activities.

 

Besides living in France, how has the MBA program changed your life?

Since Zahid started the MBA, I’ve found that we’ve actually become closer as a couple. When he and I were both working, life was so intense in terms of our jobs. We didn’t get to see each other as much as we do now. We’ve never had two months of holiday, so we said, “We’re just going to travel as much as we can, and do as much as we can together over the next two months.” So far this summer we’ve traveled to Germany and Budapest. Next, we’re going to Belgium. In August, it’ll be Nice, then 10 days in Italy, Croatia and Amsterdam.

 

Ready for France vs. Portugal during the Euro 2016

Ready for France vs. Portugal during the Euro 2016

What advice would you give someone who is the partner of an MBA student?

Try to learn French before you arrive, and continue learning French once you’re here. It just adds so much to your experience. As a partner, you interact on a daily basis with French people whether it’s at the train station, or over the phone to sort out administrative things. If you understand just a little bit—the basics—it makes your life easier.

Make sure that you, as a partner, have a project to keep yourself busy. It could be studying, or joining a gym, or getting involved in the Partners’ Club. You may not be the one earning the MBA qualification, but you certainly have the opportunity to come out of the experience a better individual.

Socialize with the classmates—there’s a big group to socialize with, between classmates and their partners. When Zahid is invited somewhere, be it for an official event, the MBAT for example, or even if it’s something informal, just a few of his classmates meeting up, he’ll always ask me if I want to join. I’ve also started trying to meet with the partner of another MBA student at least once a week, to visit a museum or have a coffee.

 

Has your “French experience” met your expectations?

My experience has definitely met my expectations. It’s actually better than I expected it to be; I thought I would miss home more. I do miss my friends back in South Africa, and I do miss family, but with technology it’s so easy to keep in touch.

That said, I absolutely love Paris. I love living abroad. I’m a big foodie, so I love the food here. It’s like heaven, all the pastries. And Zahid and I have experienced so much together. With the Euro 2016, we watched three matches live, including the semi-final in Marseilles, and the final at the Stade de France. We also watched the Women’s Final of the French Open.

I feel like I’m growing so much. I am putting my career on hold, but despite that, I think this is the best thing that I’ve ever done.

Resources for Partners

Clubs and Events

The Partners’ Club supports all HEC Paris MBA partners in their transition to university life. Regularly scheduled outings and on-campus activities enable participants to make connections and make the most out of life in France. Visit:

http://www.mba.hec.edu/Student-life/Student-Clubs/Partners-Club

Watch a webinar featuring Neha Tripathi, the club’s 2016 president:

https://careernomics.webex.com/careernomics/lsr.php?RCID=e6d623dbc6fe41979f86535e4ebb22fd

 

The CEO Speakers’ Series, the MBAT, and other events sponsored by student clubs are open to partners. Partners may also contact the president of a club to see if they are eligible for membership. To learn more, visit:

http://www.mba.hec.edu/Student-life/Student-Clubs

 

Education

French Classes

Partners are invited to attend on-campus French classes. More details, as well as a list of other classes available in the area, are provided by HEC Paris upon arrival to campus.

 

Non-degree Programs

The Social Business/Enterprise and Poverty Certificate is an intensive, 7-week course held on campus. Participation is based on application, and partners are welcome to apply. Visit:

www.hec.edu/Masters-programs/Non-degree-programs/Certificates-available-to-current-HEC-students-only/Social-Business-Enterprise-and-Poverty/Program-Details

 

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21 July 2016
Blue skies over the California campus in summertime

Blue skies over the California campus in summertime

Thomas Vermeulen, MBA Part-Time class of 2017, describes how he chose and what he learned from doing an exchange program with UCLA as part of his HEC Paris MBA studies.

It is a Sunday evening in late June when I cross the UCLA campus. The cinematographic “magic hour” has just started, making the Anderson School of Management appear golden against a dark-blue backdrop. I am on my way to the welcome drink that kicks off my exchange week at the U.S. business institution, remembering how the idea for my participation had occurred to me 18 months before.

 

Part-time MBA students Kai Qian, Philippe de Mijolla and Thomas Vermeulen during the UCLA exchange.

Part-time MBA students Kai Qian, Philippe de Mijolla and Thomas Vermeulen during the UCLA exchange.

At that time, I was new to the HEC Paris MBA and still felt a bit overwhelmed by all the new information, in and out of the classroom. The Academics Team presented us with the different options for the customized phase of our programs, which ranged from fieldwork projects to elective courses to several international exchange programs. The UCLA option immediately caught my attention: It offered the chance to experience a different teaching style and business mentality within the very convenient framework – one week per month – of the part-time modules. There and then I decided to make the UCLA experience the cherry on my “MBA cake,” even though the summer of 2016 still seemed so far away. Now, those one and a half years had passed and I was ready to see if the experience would match my expectations.

 

My first impression of UCLA does not let me down. I had always dreamt of visiting a U.S. college, and the park-like campus that comprises the different faculties and departments completely meets my expectations. Next to the business school, a large stadium houses daily American football training sessions, and the entire area has a sportive vibe. Even before entering a classroom, I am emerged in a different context.

 

Classes too vary from the approach and content at HEC Paris. I signed up for two courses that were a nice addition to the curriculum at my home university, expanding my knowledge of emerging markets as well as of branding. Classes take place every day from 2 to 10 p.m. and each one requires preparing several assignments as well as reading one or more cases and articles. As such, the exchange is also a useful exercise in efficiency and time management. As could be expected with such extensive preparations, class discussions of the cases play a central role in the teaching experience and take up most of the time. For me, this is a clear difference from the HEC Paris MBA, which focuses on a more equal combination of class interaction and classic teaching. At the same time, the discussions at the Anderson School of Management are more steered by the professor, leading to less animated debates among classmates and more anticipated outcomes.

 

My final motivation for doing the UCLA exchange was to expand my network with professionals from all parts of the world. I am thus very happy to see that UCLA also has a strong diversity of nationalities and professions, and I am able to connect with many interesting people during the five class days. A further plus is the participation of UCLA’s EMBA students. Their managerial experience leads to interesting discussions and creates a nice addition to what I am learning at the HEC MBA.

 

Stepping out of your comfort zone and encountering new challenges is useful for any kind of learning experience, not the least for an international MBA. Spending the week at the Anderson School of Management confirmed my initial motivations for the exchange: Getting to know a different teaching style and making new contacts with other international professionals. At the same time, the format allowed me to maintain my normal working rhythm at my company, showing the many possibilities available in the part-time program at HEC Paris.

– Text by Thomas Vermeulen

 

To learn more about the HEC Paris MBA Part-Time option, visit: www.mba.hec.edu/Learning-Experience/Part-time

 

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