I spoke with Stephanie Davidson, a junior majoring in Marketing and Management, who is currently studying abroad in France. She attends ESSEC, a renowned business school located in Cergy, France through a Tulane-sponsored exchange program.
Q: What drew you to Paris?
A: I’ve known I wanted to live in France at some point in my life since I started taking French in middle school. I’ve always been super fascinated with the Parisian lifestyle and culture and wanted to improve my French.
Q: What are your classes like compared to Tulane’s business school?
A: Classes here are just different. Each class meets once per week for three hours with one break. That’s a long time to stay focused, so it’s pretty easy to get distracted. However, there is a ton of group and interactive work in every class, as well as presentations. Most of the classes I’m taking don’t have exams, which is unusual for the program. Instead, I’m graded on presentations, essays, case studies, and participations. We also don’t really have homework, which is a huge plus!
Q: What’s a typical day like?
A: My school is in Cergy, which is about forty minutes outside of Paris, so I had to choose whether to live near school or live in Paris and commute everyday. I chose to live close to school, so I usually spend the days that I have classes in Cergy. Those days consist of class, going to the gym, and spending time with friends. On the other days, my friends and I spend time in Paris, doing touristy things and exploring the city.
Q: What’s your favorite thing to do in the city?
A: My favorite thing to do in the city is to have a picnic. Its cliché, but my friends and I will go to any pretty place (The Eiffel Tower, Sacre Coeur, one of many gardens) with wine, cheese, and baguettes, and sit for hours. It’s so beautiful and fun to people-watch as well.
Q: Where have you traveled so far?
A: So far, I’ve travelled to Florence, Rome, and Munich. The next few weekends I’ll be in Zurich, Amsterdam, and London. I’m trying to travel as much as possible because relative to the US, everything is so close here.
Q: What advice do you have for someone studying abroad alone?
A: I knew I wanted to study in Paris, and I knew I didn’t want to come with any close friends. I obviously would have loved a semester in another country with my best friends, but I wanted to push myself outside of my comfort zone to meet new people and feel truly independent. The few other Tulane students that are here chose to live in the city while I chose to live near school, so I really only see them in classes. At first, it was really hard studying abroad alone, especially since this school has very few Americans. But I kept going out and meeting more and more people, and eventually met some of the most incredible friends. They’re from the UK, Australia, and Italy, and I know I’m going to stay close with them long after our time abroad concludes. My biggest advice to others studying abroad alone would be to keep pushing yourself. You might feel lonely and isolated at first, but the more you go out and accept every invitation you get, even to do things you’re not that excited about, the more opportunities you will have to meet amazing people.
Q: What is something someone considering studying in Paris should know?
A: Take it all in, eat as many baguettes and croissants as you want, and make an attempt to speak to French people IN FRENCH. They have a reputation for being rude and to themselves, but they actually love when you put in effort. I’ve learned a lot from strangers in coffee shops and at stores when I ask them random questions.
Cover Photo: Grace Dubay