IMBA Study Abroad: third week in France—change is in the air

We now rejoin our globe-trotting IMBA students as they prepare to further expand their views, rumple their passports and discover the realities of global currency exchange . . . the hard way. This week we find ourselves again enjoying the pleasures of TGV trains, short intra-EU nation jet hops and the vibrant southern coast of France.

Wake up!!

Very, very early in the morning we awoke and met in the lobby of the Citadines in Lille, forming a sleepy conga line of luggage and multi-lingual grumbling, off to meet a TGV train whisking us several hundred miles south. As per usual, a heady weekend of Lille exploration and nocturnal wanderings ensured a good measure of sleep would be found once aboard. Anyone who had wisely kept their travel pillows with them had a much smoother time of this. An eclectic picnic breakfast commenced once on board as we each took the remnants of our recently vacated kitchens with us and passed many an item around.

Picnicking on the train

It was an incredible journey of about six hours. Kept wishing the train would suffer short-term breakdowns along the way, just for an excuse to explore the beautiful countryside. Lost count of the endless towns, farms, horses and sheep, barns and bridges we zipped past. But alas, fine European engineering kept us rumbling along smoothly. However, the ride did let us all relax, nap and occasionally whip open a laptop to read up on the advance materials and case studies for our next EDHEC module of classes. I personally was getting pretty spoiled by the availability of easy high-speed train travel, and began hoping very hard for progress in my own country’s efforts on this. Fingers still crossed!

New digs, new sights, new sounds and familiar scents

We arrived by mid-day at Gare De Nice Ville train station and were greeted warmly by Andrea Butterweck.

The Nice train station, Gare De Nice Ville

One of the first things I noticed once we arrived in Nice was the smell of the ocean’s salt air, a pleasant and familiar reminder of my own home in Miami Beach, Florida. This certainly was a change from Northern France, and would be one of many subtle differences we would find. We quickly boarded a bus that would take us to our second Citadines hotel of the program, and Andrea gave us some insights into the bus or walking routes that would take us to campus tomorrow. Upon arriving at the hotel, we quickly made plans to find someplace to have dinner, take in the sight of the ocean and celebrate our new home. There was a bit of hotel confusion about our rooms, but after some quick negotiation from Andrea we found ourselves with free breakfast for the rest of our trip! That evening, we found an excellent restaurant by the beach’s edge and toasted to new journeys and recent birthdays, and generally just enjoyed each other’s company.

Beachside restaurant in Nice

Certainly we were no longer the group of strangers who had met two weeks ago, and we were very excited to begin classes and start exploring the next day.

Next steps

The following morning found us all at a welcome breakfast and preparing to meet our new instructors. Our new round of classes would focus on EU Consumer Policy, Corporate Strategies and a team project on successfully doing business in Europe. In short, it built upon the last two weeks, and we would again find ourselves with a rich assortment of instructors to guide us along the way. Our first day with the bombastic and entertaining Professor Lumbers made quite the good impression on us and a lot more was to follow from our other instructors. The content now shifted from the structure of EU policy to how businesses can adapt and thrive in such an environment.

Later that afternoon we were given a guided tour of the city, which only grew lovelier with each new street we wandered down. A few days later we had a great chance to visit the Town Hall, located in the city center, and to speak with the mayor’s staff. Spent a while afterwards perusing the endless sea of small shops and vendor tents that were set up along a nearby boulevard. We would return here later in the trip to watch some of the World Cup games at one of the many cafés.

It wasn’t very long before we took to the shoreline to check out the beach, but as we had been told, it wasn’t quite what many expected. Where we expected sand, we later that week found a rocky shore, and a large wave of small jellyfish that had washed in. We didn’t jump in that first day, but some of our brave souls did tiptoe through the water a bit, and next time we would come with some heavy towels to lie on. The next beach we would see, this time with sand, was in the city of Cannes, located about 35km southwest, and famous for its yearly film festival. We even had a chance to take a picture together on its red carpet walkway and bask in the fame a bit.

The famous red carpet at the Cannes Palais des Festivals

Cannes was a gorgeous town with long winding streets going up and down hills and filled with brasseries, cafés, clothing stores and a little bit of everything. The program had provided us a great tour guide who knew the city well and told of much of its history and culture. We climbed high into the city until we could see the long trailing lines of beaches, ships moored at marinas and sailing the waves, and a lush mix of buildings and greenery that made up Cannes.

A view of Cannes from above, Frank McGuinness and friend, Ada

By the end of the week we were pretty tired, but far from done in any respect. As this was the last weekend we would enjoy together before the program’s end, many of us had been planning ahead with trips far and wide. When we arrived back at the hotel that Friday, we stormed our rooms, grabbed our bags and coordinated with our now good friends to board trains and planes to our next destinations.

Stay tuned for our next and last installment where we share our weekend’s adventures, visit the famous French company of Mane, tour Monaco and still manage to prepare for finals and group projects!

View all articles by Frank McGuinness.

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