Life In A ‘Videshi’ B-School: Vaishali Sabherwal – IIM Lucknow, Class Of 2017

One of the best ways to get a stint of the global curriculum in management is the student exchange programme conducted by major campuses in the country. Every autumn is the season of student exchange programmes, the time of the year when select few from the campus complete one semester abroad, truly widening the range of their experiences. Vaishali Sabherwal, was one of those fortunate to have gained a global perspective into their courses. Vaishali went on an exchange programme to Neoma Business School in France. She is here to share her life and times while on the exchange programme.

Aastha (A): Thank you for taking out time for this, Vaishali! 

Vaishali (V): It’s nothing! Besides, having been a mentor at the campus, always love to help others out in any possible way J

A: Yes, I remember that J So, Vaishali, why don’t you begin by telling us about the selection process for student exchange, or STEX, as it is commonly referred to as.

V: Based on our respective CGPAs and rankings for colleges, we were allotted a business school in Europe. I got Neoma Business School in France, and luckily, my friends were allotted the same college too. So that sorted out many things for me; companionship in the whole process, to begin with.

A: Any particular reasons why you had ranked Neoma as your school of preference?

V: Well, I has always wanted to study in France as I had read a lot about the culture and people there. Since Reims was near to Paris, it was one of the best options.

A: I can understand how comforting that would have been for all of you. Not to mention all the fun you guys would have had together! So, what was Neoma like?

V: Our college was in Reims, a city in the Eastern part of France, 129 km east-northeast of Paris. The city of Reims is the largest city in the Champagne-Ardenne region of France, from which the Champagne wine takes its name.

Neoma Business School has had a specialisation for the luxury sector, in particular, the management of the Champagne industry. It is one of the most renowned colleges in France.

A: Wow! Now that is some perspective we wouldn’t gain on Indian campuses! 

V: Yes, had never imagined the kind of outlook and ideas that were discussed there.

 A: I am sure. Well, what was it like on the campus, was there any system to facilitate your stay?

V: Neoma Business School receives more than 2000 international students every year. The college had a team dedicated to the integration and growth of the exchange students, called The Student Service Centre. It was the primary contact for students before, during, and after their stay at NEOMA BS. In this centre, students could receive all the information they needed to help them enjoy their stay and find their way around.

A guide was available at the Student Service Centre, who provided students with concrete and detailed information about the school, the environment and the local community as well as supplying clarification on administrative procedures such as online registration, accommodation, immigration laws and arrival procedures.

More than 4 months before reaching France, the team had begun coordinating with us, sending across important information.

A: That sounds very well planned!

V: Indeed, it was. The college had a very well-thought-out exchange program for the incoming students.

They had planned a Welcome Day and an Orientation Day for all international students across all courses. These 2 days were a great opportunity for students to understand the course structure and in details about the college, city and the country. At the same time, it is an amazing networking opportunity.

The college student service centre also helped us in finding accommodation. We had options to choose from 2 student accommodation complexes. The entire process was very smooth.

A: Did you face any language barrier during your stay?

V: They also organised an intensive French session only for international students. In addition to this, there were 2 courses of French that we could opt for in the semester. We had already been given details about all the available courses around 2 months back and based on our preferences and available seats, course allotment was done at least 15 days before orientation.

A: So. you came back with an exchange program on the CV, AND a basic knowledge of the beautiful language too! Tell me, Vaishali, what was the course structure like for the management area?

V:  The courses available covered almost all areas like finance, marketing, operations and supply chain management. The pedagogy was similar to what is followed in our campus, with global viewpoints and experiences, of course. Our exams were held in the month of December. Quite a few subjects had no exams and the scoring was on the basis of regular tests and presentations/ projects. That made the learning, and the evaluation spread out over the semester.

A: Throw some light on the everyday stuff- the food, the culture, the life, while in France?

V: Reims is not a very great option for the Indian vegetarians (yes, I happen to be one!). Luckily, there was a supermarket near our place that was run by a Pakistani couple. So. there were a lot of Indian ingredients available. We got used to cooking regularly and depended on student accommodation run canteen for lunch. A wholesome meal was provided in less than 3 euros.

A: You have shared some really practical insights into the life of an international exchange student. Our readers, both current and aspiring b-school grads, would benefit a lot from your experiences. Thank you once again!

V: The pleasure is all mine. I wish the best to you, and the readers!

Aastha Sneha Pathak

Aastha Sneha Pathak is an alumnus of IIM Lucknow, Batch of 2017. While living the hel(L)ish life, she was a part of the Literary and Debating Society, and the committee of Placement Mentors. She is in the Indian Railway Service currently, and pursues her live for writing and sharing knowledge in her free time.