From Lucknow To Paris And Back – My Double Degree Journey

All the major b-schools in India have established exchange programs with universities abroad. A fair mix of global perspective is hence available in Indian schools as well. This also gives a chance for us desi students to get a flavour of MBA-ing abroad, without having to go through the rigmarole of GMAT and TOEFL and the works.

Major Indian b-schools offer a dual degree program, which gives you an MBA degree from a university abroad, along with the regular MBA program you have been pursuing.

Kannav Mahajan, IIM Lucknow class of 2017, was one of the chosen few. He is here to share his experiences with us today

Aastha (A): Hello Kannav! I am so glad you agreed to talk to us about the double degree program.

Kannav (K): Ohh, the pleasure is all mine, indeed! And what use is any gyaan if kept just to oneself 😛

A: Kannav, we can begin by asking, how exactly did you come to know about the double degree program at IIM L?

K: I had heard about the course from my undergraduate seniors who were pursuing the same. They had stellar credentials and had the profiles one really strives to make one day. They had told me about the benefits and downsides of the program and it really got me interested.

A: what was the selection process like, and what criteria did one have to fulfil?

K: IIM Lucknow only had the Double Degree program partnership with ESCP Paris. That took care of the institute selection part.

In the month of August, a circular was issued, requesting students interested in a program to submit their essays to highlight why they deserved to be the part of the process. Though not explicitly mentioned, the selection was made basis the student profile and the essays, with the exact weightages not clear.

In all, 5 students were shortlisted from the initial batch of applicants. All 5 of us then had video interviews with the program in charge at ESCP. The interview was generic in its nature, with the points of discussion being Why ESCP, why Paris, achievements in life among others. They also asked us about how will we manage the finances and our proficiency as far as the French language was concerned.

We all 5 managed to make through and were asked to confirm our enrollment once the institute had finalized its decision.

A: Okay. But wasn’t it an additional drain on finances, over and above the IIM fee? Was there any scholarship available?

K: We all applied for the Charpak scholarships but only 2 of us were awarded the scholarship. Having a Charpak scholarship would have taken a considerable financial burden off but unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. In our second term, however, no one was awarded the Charpak. The selection criteria are a merit based one, taking in to account all the academic achievements till the date of applying

A: win some, you lose some. And in your case, you had won one whole year in Europe, AND a whole extra degree, that too, foreign! So tell us something about ESCP Europe –what was the campus like, the courses and the environment?

K: ESCP Europe Paris campus sits in the center of Paris, in the 11th district. It has a nice, warm campus with good facilities on and outside the campus. As a Grand-Ecole, ESCP is home to some of the best students in France, who have come through a rigorous preparation process to make it there for undergraduate as well as post-graduate programs.

Courses at ESCP were designed very much in line with the Global standards and at par with those at IIM Lucknow. However, the focus was far more on projects and class activities. Students in Double-Degree had to do a select set of mandatory core courses and then could choose to do Specialized departmental electives. Some eligible students could choose a specialization under which a set of courses designed by the respective departments were required to obtain the specialization. I applied for Marketing specialization but was unable to meet their criteria.

Professors in the class room offered a greater degree of autonomy to the students. People were free to bring in their laptops. The strength of each class was capped to ensure a healthier student-teacher interaction.

Another significant difference was the length of a class. Each class was a 3-hour affair, with a break usually given at the half-time. Students could go and grab a coffee and croissant from the cafeteria during the interval which lasted around 15 minutes.

Attendance rules were strict and 80% attendance was mandatory in each and every course to be eligible to appear in the final exams. Exams were conducted twice during the semester.

Apart from standard courses, we had to do

  • Mandatory French courses in both terms – I am now at French Level A2 thanks to these courses
  • Master Thesis – Unlike IIMs, in France, degree courses require students to write a thesis under a professor of their choice. These carry a significant weightage and are usually done over a period of one, one and a half semester. I had done a course in Strategic Negotiations under Prof. Leslie Shaw and the experience was the biggest motivator in my choosing him as my Thesis supervisor

A: That’s interesting! Kannav, let me know about the ‘life’ bit now. What was life in France like? How were you received, how did you adjust in the French culture, and in the dreamland of Paris?

K: The reception we had and the assistance we received at each step helped us navigate through the initial period of uncertainty that usually comes with moving to a new city. In this regards, the POC for International students Ms. Dorota was like our guardian angel. She helped us with our academic issues, with issues regarding our stay, our visa application, Paris metro and other students’ benefits that were there to avail as well as the information on life hacks towards a blissful time in Paris.

The students there also helped us settle. We had buddies whom we could always reach out to for help. Some of these became great friends and are still connected. The helped us gain insights into the French way of life and they always had a tremendous curiosity for the Indian society and culture.

We did have some minor hiccups but that was all part of settling in. Paris as a city enthralled us for a year and a part of our heart will forever remain rooted there.

Although not all experiences were good. Couple of us had our belongings stolen on the metro despite our best attempts at always staying vigilant. The food habits required a calibration with the quasi non-vegetarian junta becoming more open about it during the stay. Although this did help in bringing out the master chef in all of us.

A: Ohh! So your learnings went beyond the classroom, didn’t it?  Some good, some not so much, but learnings nonetheless.

K: Certainly! Overall, the experience was wonderful, deeply enriching. It was the once in a lifetime experience which neither one of us will forget. Academically, the courses were similar to those at home, with a different cultural taste to them. The level of autonomy was different, sometimes radically so. The lessons helped each one of us grow, personally and professionally.

A: This is so heartening to know. You have carried back with you a lot more than just a degree from Paris. And you have helped our readers get a peek into life at b-school abroad. Thank you so much, Kannav, for your time and for sharing your experiences. 

K: Always happy to help. My best wishes to everyone trying to get into a good b-school in India or abroad.

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.