Photograph Courtesy of Kelly Groen
Kelly Groen, second-year MBA, decided to spend this semester abroad in Paris, France. She is not only taking full advantage of all the sights and famous places, but she has also been enjoying class and learning about the culture.
Her experience in a new country will benefit her well beyond graduation both in her career and in her personal life. Based on our interview with her, it seems Kelly is happy with her decision and has certainly made the most of her time over seas. Keep reading to hear about her favorite things and about a "day in the life" of a student abroad!
Tell us why you decided to spend a whole semester abroad? Why Paris? Spending an entire semester abroad is something that I have wanted to do since I was an undergraduate at UIUC, which was over ten years ago (gosh I feel old). I didn't get the chance to do so because I was an accounting major and at the time UIUC advised all accounting majors to not study abroad because of the accountancy classes. I did study abroad with some summer programs in Barcelona and Galway, but it really isn't the same as spending an entire semester overseas. I really like traveling abroad, and my dream job would involve supporting the international operations of a major multinational corporation, so I am hoping that studying abroad will help with my career.
As for why Paris? I just looked over the different choices that the MBA program offered and felt that Paris was the right choice for me. Paris is a great city with tons of things to do, and it is easy to travel outside of France to other countries in Europe. Many of the other programs were in smaller cities or on the outskirts of cities; I wanted to be where all the fun was!!
What classes are you taking? Any favorites? I'm taking five classes for credit: International Finance, Negotiations, Business History and Experience, Project Finance, and European Construction. My favorites are the Negotiations class, which was a "hands on" class with three major group negotiations, and the European Construction class which is all about the politics and history of Europe.
What has been the most enjoyable thing about attending school in Paris? It has to be the fact that I'm in Paris itself and can just decide on a day that I have a late class to hop over to the Louvre or Notre Dame. Or that I can have dinner in the Latin Quarter whenever I want. Or that I can walk around Pere Lachaise cemetery during a break between my classes at ESCP [the school where Kelly studies] and visit Oscar Wilde's and Jim Morrison's graves.
Was there anything you've been dying to see? Many things... As an accountant, I actually created a list of things I wanted to see in Paris, France, and Europe. I've gotten to see quite a few things on all three lists, but won't be able to see everything. I guess this is another excuse to come back to Europe.
ESCP [the school where Kelly studies] had a winter break in February, which I spent in Prague, a city that I had been dying to see. I'm also glad that I got to go see Chartes cathedral. I'm going to be visiting Provence and the Riviera at the end of April and am hoping to go to Giverny (Monet's Waterlilies) and attend an opera at Opera Bastille in Paris before I leave.
Can you describe your typical day during the week? There really is no typical day. Each day of the week really depends on whether or not I have classes or whether or not the classes have been cancelled. On days with no classes, I generally sightsee around Paris; on days with classes, I will generally get up, go exercise, and get lunch before class. Most of my classes are in the afternoon/ evening, so I have quite a bit of time before classes. This can be a mixed blessing; I love the extra time to organize, but sitting through a Finance class until 8PM at night can be quite difficult.
What do you do on the weekends? I generally travel on weekends. I've been to Amsterdam, Brussels, Luxembourg, Cologne, London, and Prague. I'm going to be spending this weekend in Normandy (April 1st - April 4th) and will be in southern France at the end of April. I am hoping to go to Spain before I leave Europe in May.
What will you miss most about Paris when you return home? The weather definitely... Paris's idea of winter is much nicer and milder than Champaign's idea of winter. Paris is also a very walkable city, I love the idea that I can walk anywhere in Paris and stumble upon a great bistro, a historic church, or a fun street performer.
What have you missed about Champaign? I miss hanging out with everyone in the Illinois MBA program. going to Mug Club and hanging out in the MBA lounge. I missed being able to attend my friend Tas's wedding and will miss being able to celebrate graduation with everyone and attend the graduation ceremony. Also, BIF and the UIUC facilities are much nicer than ESCP [the school where Kelly studies]. Some of the lecture halls are very old and chairs/ tables have a tendency to fall apart when you sit down.
What has been your most memorable experience? I think that my most memorable experiences have been eating escargot (quite delicious), stumbling across a local market on my way to class during my first week in Paris, walking across the Charles Bridge in Prague, getting lost in the Louvre, and visiting one of my favorite museums in Paris, the Orangerie.
Do you have any advice for other students considering a semester-long study abroad trip? I think that everyone must weigh the pros and cons of studying abroad before they actually decide to apply. I basically spent most of the second semester of my first year in the Illinois MBA trying to decide whether or not I should study abroad. For me, it was weighing the fact that I had wanted to study abroad for quite awhile and felt that it would aid my long term career interests against the fact that it would delay my graduation from the MBA program (grade transfers from ESCP) as well as my job search.
Also, I think that flexibility is key. I'm more of a plan-oriented and detail-oriented person myself, so that has been something that I've been working on myself. And, lastly, I think that packing light is always a good idea.
Thanks so much Kelly! Travel safe and we hope to see you soon!