An Indian Girl In Europe – Study Abroad Program Experience – IIM Shillong
MBA at IIM Shillong gave me a menagerie of things – there’s the tangible degree that has me branded for life, and then there are the scores of intangible paraphernalia I cannot get over. Memories, knowledge, wisdom, and experience are some of the contents of my personal Pandora’s box now.
However, one of the best experiences of my life is also credited to IIM Shillong! The SAP.
Everyone has dreamt of the Eiffel Tower, more so after the movie Queen. I got to see it, and it is every bit as mesmerizing as expected. Of course, Europe and Paris are wonderful, but what indeed claimed my heart – was the course I was enrolled in.
Titled – Doing Business in Europe, the course was much more. It was a course that painted a pragmatic picture of Europe in front of us, as well as bridged the gap between us.
IESEG is a renowned name in education, and one session later, we could very well understand why. We hear a lot about the hospitality of Indians, but it’s the Europeans who stole our heart. Our flight landed late at night. However, they sent a whole bus for us to be picked up. The driver Cinema (cute name) was an excellent guide and made sure our first steps in Paris were memorable.
The college had arranged for very cozy accommodation in a beautiful neighbourhood. Complete with a small kitchen, an attached bathroom, and a nearby metro station, we were satiated.
Europe is very cold in December, but our hearts remained thawed due to our excellent faculty.
Our first day in Paris began with an extensive breakfast of assorted croissants, juice and other condiments that rolled of the tongue – Choc O Pain (pronounced shock o pae), Kouign-Amann (pronounced kween-ah-mon), one thing was for sure-magic happens when the French mix flour, water, and butter together.
One super advice I can give is to learn French – at least the basics before going. Not only will it be convenient, but it will also enhance your experience. I would feel like a kid reading the signs and the posters. Also, my friends respected me more since I was the official translator. I taught them the essential phrases in French- Poulet (chicken, so that you do not consume any other meat), S’il vous plait (please), sorter (exit) and parlez vous anglais? (do you speak English) and non la’argent (no money)
Where was I? I tend to get lost, talking about the most beautiful city in the world.
Yes, so first morning, bellies taut with all the fromage and fraises, we meet our soon-would-become-best friend in Paris – Jacob VAKKAYIL. A lot of my friends tell me that I could have visited Paris on my own accord (read, you could have gone for your honeymoon), but then it would not have been that magical. In Jacob, we found a friend, a guide and a bridge to Europe. He told us all we need to know about Europe – how escalators are to be walked on, where to find the best Indian food, where to shop, who to talk to, what to say and what not to. Honestly? I was a kid in Charlie’s chocolate factory. I was learning so much. I remember the Arla case, and how he used it to explain cultural sensitivity. Indeed, there was so much to learn about the French, the Indian and the World. We would think trade and other economics include the exchange of bouillon, but it is so much more. The way I look at culture has changed multi folds.
Meeting Jacob was the best thing in Paris. Antoine-our SPOC in IESEG had very rightly begun our program with Jacob. Seeing a familiar Indian face made us feel we belong. And then, of course, he told us all the rights things that ensured we didn’t seem like idiots in front of the French! There was this water dispensing machine; we required help to use(!).
Two days of Intercultural Management just unfurled endless opportunities for us!
Then came Mr. Eriq Leurquin- we had only one day with him, but it was brilliant. He was a man with immense glossy credentials, and we could only gape at his knowledge about the financial markets. For someone like me who, genuinely hates finance, the class got so much fun. He talked to us about the European Union and what are the financial problems the world faces today. It was just ecstatic. More than anything, he is an adorable person. He is from Belgium and till date, I am thankful he introduced me to Bruges. He told us to visit Bruges in addition to Brussels. And we are so grateful. Bruges was a dream, a city caught in time. He also gave us the local flavour of Belgium, giving us a downright virtual tour of the whole city – explaining to us what to eat, where to shop, etc. He was super delighted when I told him how much I love Tintin and Hercule Poirot. He showed us a tour of the comic legend’s museum.
In all this, there are some people we have to mention – Antoine, Emmanuel, and Le Minh Kim. They were the facilitators for the program and ensured we were as comfortable as possible. Le would take us to our wonderful industrial visits where we would be able to stare at the most prominent brands and soak in all the luxury. Antoine was the most helpful person ever. When a batchmate, unfortunately, lost his passport, Antoine was there the whole time – helping him procure a new one. Emmanuel was so cheerful throughout our visit, always helping us.
Whatever we learned at IESEG has been effectively used here at IIM Shillong by us. However, Strategic Management with Prof Christophe Garonne gave us very nice insights. We discussed a nice case of Netflix, that gave us a very different point of view on how to analyze strategies and companies. He gave us real-life examples and shared experiences of his tryst with companies and their competitors.
By this time, New Year arrived with all its pomp and joy. My first international New Year was terrific. When we rejoined the class on Monday, we were greeted by Ms. Marta Marcheva on our company Visit to Louis Vuitton, a brand we have seen everywhere. Placed in Galleries Lafayette, one of the biggest malls in Paris, LV showroom blinded us. With all its glory and glitter, we wish we had an extra set of eyes. Marta explained to us during the visit on what luxury shopping is all about, back in the classes, we were kept engaged while designing fashion campaigns, watching videos on how brands sell themselves, having discussions on what Fashion is. The list goes on. At the end of the course, we were a little more aware of what luxury is, and how to market it. Also, looking at the glossy names and brands in the industry made us realise what a huge market it is. My favourite exercise was constructing a campaign for an Indian Collaboration. We chose the Prada Diwali gift box.
Farewells are very difficult, and this one was especially so. Europe is any day a fairytale with the Disneyland, the Eiffel Tower, and the Louvre. The streets are in themselves a sight worth cherishing. However, my experience in Europe was enhanced 10x times due to the wonderful IESEG faculty and staff.
About the Author:
Sanchari Das (Class of 2019)