We arrive! Sunday May 16, 2010 marked the arrival of the first group of Florida International University (FIU) students to attend EDHEC Business School’s Strategies for Europe program. By plane and train we all found our way to the town of Lille, France, our new home for the next two weeks. Waiting for us were Andrea Butterweck and Rachel Moyon, our friendly and thoughtful guides from EDHEC’s administration there to get us settled in at Citadines hotel. Our EDHEC tote bags were stuffed with helpful pamphlets about the town, Northern France, bus and metro passes,and material for upcoming classes. This also was our first opportunity to meet our fellow students from around the world. After tallying up all 33 of us, we realized we had a pretty mixed group. Besides our FIU group’s members, we had representatives from Peru, Germany, Malaysia, South Korea, the United Kingdom, Australia, Argentina, the United States and China by way of Canada. And we even had a few fellow FIU International MBA (IMBA) students in town making their way to other study abroad programs and traveling adventures. In short, it was a very packed hotel lobby, and we soon decided to seek a restaurant to get some food, rest and refreshment.
Needless to say not knowing French made this an interesting outing, but we managed. Below is a quick shot from our first group excursion into the town.
First week of classes
Monday morning we all headed to EDHEC’s Lille campus for an orientation and the start of our classes. We were still a bit iffy on the new names to remember but did progressively get better over the course of that week. We used our bus passes for the first time, though in later days we started walking to campus to enjoy the lovely city of Lille more closely. We also had a chance to meet another friendly face of EDHEC’s administration, Amelia Kyriakakis.
Along with Andrea and Rachel, she divided us into teams and gave us a mission: to explore Lille on an informational scavenger hunt. We were given sealed questionnaires pertaining to different Lille landmarks and city areas. With our maps in hand we needed to create a strategy to maximize points along a route of our own choosing, find out where these were in town, make our way there via whatever means necessary and enlist the help of townspeople to answer as many questions as possible . . . in just under two hours. This was a lot of fun! Lot of great stories came out of this, from an elderly candy stall owner who kept shouting “Tony Blair my friend!” randomly while answering questions, to kind bus travelers who helped us learn how to sing French songs, to narrowly avoiding close encounters with Lille cars as we literally ran down many a street and alley. This activity sped up our basic Lille navigation skills. That evening an EDHEC student organization hosted a party for us to meet and chat while enjoying some excellent wine and treats.
Eventually we got started with our first few days of classes, meeting our excellent professors for EU Trade Regulations, EU Institutions, EU Cultural Diversity and French language. I have to say I really had no idea of the wide array of organizations operating every day that are involved in shaping the decisions and directions of the European Union. Many a disillusion and misinterpretation of what the EU was and is were dispelled in that first week, for me and many others. Much of this built up to our visit to the European Commission in Brussels scheduled for the second week.
In the meantime we learned a lot about how the laws and framework of the EU, and how that fits in with the laws of its member states. We spent a good bit of time picking apart EU competition laws, which had changed somewhat since the last time I had seen a few of them, and examining the history of Microsoft’s odyssey within Europe. French classes were fun and a nice way to pick up some basic phrases and put them to practical use as we started to really explore and go out on the town.
That first week also had us going by bus to the relatively nearby town of Epernay to acquaint us with the very French industry of champagne. The world renowned Moet Chandon, part of the LVHM group, prepared a tour and presentation for us. It was fantastic. We explored their underground tunnels housing row after row of tenderly cared for champagne. They explained how the bottles are examined, tested, turned and eventually brought to market. They provided us insight into how Moet Chandon manages its brand amid constantly changing alliances, publicity and competition. And we were even treated to champagne in their lovely gardens. While in town we also explored the countryside for a while and strolled through the shops and parks. Nice way to pass the day.
As the week approached the end we geared up for visit to Paris on Saturday. Kept hearing from everyone that it seemed we brought the sun with us as Lille warmed up considerably our first week there and was forecast to stay that way for a bit. After arriving in Paris, we started with a tour guide who led us around town both on foot and later bus. Afterward we each went our separate ways for a while exploring (I spent quite a bit of time in the Louvre) and eventually we met for a voyage up to the top of the Eiffel Tower and a river tour of the city. A wonderful day and some great memories all around. If we weren’t already getting addicted to quite a lot of French cuisine, the day in Paris locked in a lifelong passion.
Stay tuned for our next update as we get ready for our first round of finals and papers, visit the European Commission in Brussels and prepare to head south to the Mediterranean coast city of Nice!
View all articles by Frank McGuinness.