October 5, 2009 12:02 am

Foreign affairs

Returning home to Denmark for the summer after a year at HEC School of Management, Paris seems very far away. But this distance also helps me put things into perspective, as I recall the time I’ve spent studying for a MSc in management.

For me, doing a masters degree was never really in question. In fact, it is almost the norm in Denmark, as it’s free. So when I was finishing my undergraduate degree in international business at Copenhagen Business School, I began the search for a further challenge and a specialisation that matched my goals. I found both in France.

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First, I was interested in experiencing a different culture. And with France being such an important economy in Europe, I was keen to experience it from the inside, hoping to learn more about its businesses and language.

Second, I was attracted to HEC Paris because of the specialisations it offers, its reputation, and the design of its MSc programme. The practical approach of these specialisations, combined with a gap year for internships, was exactly what I was looking for.

My experiences at the school have been memorable, such as analysing the future of marketing in a 30-page research paper. Away from the classroom, I have discovered the nooks and crannies of Paris and Versailles, and enjoyed the beautiful HEC campus.

Going abroad has come at a price, though – and not just through tuition fees, but also the amount of energy that has to be invested in coursework, while adjusting to a foreign culture. I caught myself asking a lot of “what ifs?” during the year. What if I had stayed in Copenhagen?

The question resolved itself shortly before Christmas when I realised how much I enjoyed the place. The “what ifs?”, I found, were tied to my own difficulties – those of establishing a new life in foreign circumstances. But I realised this was exactly the sort of challenge I had been looking for.

I’m now about to enter my gap year, starting with a six-month internship with Ernst & Young in Luxembourg. After that, who knows? Internships have proved hard to come by. As the school year came to an end, many fellow students had to accept the hellish rents of Paris without internships lined up. Luckily, most now have placements.

Looking to the future, I cannot help but wonder how taking a degree abroad will affect my options later on. My search for internships has already shown me instances of firms in Denmark only hiring students from Danish schools who are fluent in Danish. My worry is whether students who follow the international route will actually gain full value from their international exposure, or whether there is a risk of them not being fully accepted, either at home or abroad. Only time will tell.

For now, I am looking forward to gaining work experience and choosing my specialisation, and to next year, when I will walk the paths to the campus once again. Alors, à bientôt.

www.hec.edu

www.cbs.dk

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