Do you know the hidden extras of a European MBA?

From doubling salaries to exciting careers in the international fashion industry, The Local spoke to two students from HEC Paris about the benefits studying an MBA in Europe can provide.

Do you know the hidden extras of a European MBA?
Madeleine Chabot's time at HEC Paris led her to a career with international fashion and beauty brands. Photo: Supplied

Europe has long been a hub for global business, innovation and industry. Increasingly, students are discovering that it is also a centre of business education excellence. 

The Local spoke to two HEC Paris students to learn more about the unexpected yet valuable advantages of studying an MBA – in one of Europe’s most exciting capitals. 

Study in English, while learning a different language

Much of the world’s business is conducted in English – indeed, many multinational corporations have made English their official workplace language. It makes sense that the world’s business schools follow suit, opting to teach in English.

Having said that, current MBA student Elisa Leehan appreciates the support given to her by HEC to learn French, something essential for her planned career in the luxury beauty industry. 

“I think the biggest challenge of studying and working abroad is developing language skills.

“A lot of companies in France still require at least a certain level of French proficiency,” says Elisa.

“It’s really about just opening more doors from a career perspective. They do offer free French lessons as part of the program. I appreciate that, it sets us up for success.”

Elisa Leehan is currently completing her MBA with HEC Paris, with an eye to a career in the luxury beauty space. Photo: Supplied

Draw from the experience and skills of an international student body

Both Elisa and Madeleine Chabot, current and former HEC Paris students, are from the US. However, far from being surrounded by mostly French students and feeling like they didn’t fit in, they found that they were part of a diverse international group.

Madeleine, who now works in the luxury fashion industry, told The Local: “The on-campus experience is extremely international, especially among the MBA cohort. Any culture shock I would have felt being in France was buffered by that.

“It was rewarding learning to study and to work with students from so many different cultures and backgrounds. I was able to observe diverse groups, interacting both inside and outside of the classroom. 

“It was a crash course in so many different ways of doing things, which is ultimately why I chose the program.”

Elisa has similar sentiments: “It’s extremely international. In my cohort, we have a large group from India, as well as a significant number from the Americas – Peru, Colombia, Brazil and Mexico. Out of the whole program, there are only about 20 of us from the United States.

“It’s impressive how supportive everyone is as a result, and I’m grateful for that because I don’t come from a business background.”

The 2021 HEC Paris class was made up of 281 participants from 50 different countries, demonstrating that European business schools truly are international environments.

Study in English at one of France’s most prestigious business schools and unlock your potential. Learn more about how HEC Paris supports and guides students to success

Turbocharge your job search 

Three months after graduating, 93 percent of 2021’s HEC Paris MBA graduates had a new position, often doubling their salaries. Some of the year’s biggest recruiters included Amazon, Deloitte and Microsoft – all companies with massive US presences.

As she continues her studies, Elisa isn’t worried that she will have problems getting a job in the US, should she decide to return.

“When I apply for internships, I specify the rankings of HEC Paris. It’s rated number four in the world and number one in Europe in the QS World University Rankings. 

“When I search for a job, there won’t be any issues. No employers would look down their noses at it, so to speak. I proudly list my HEC Paris MBA on my resume when I’m applying to any US companies.”

Madeleine, who returned to the US following her graduation, found that her MBA from a European school made finding a job easier. 

“I ended up securing a US-based role after my MBA at Celine, which is a French fashion brand. Certainly, HEC Paris had a very strong reputation among my French colleagues. They understood the intense workload that goes into a program like that,” she says.

“Later when I went to work for UK-based fashion retailer Farfetch, everyone understood the rigour of an MBA program. 

“Both steps in my career ended up appreciating the fact that I had taken 16 months to go back to school.”

A fashion capital: HEC Paris’ location gives access to some of the world’s fashion powerhouses. Photo: Getty Images

Build exceptional alumni networks

Both of the women we spoke to felt that completing their MBA at a European school ended up enhancing the quality of the alumni networks they could develop. 

Says Madeleine: “I think for me, without a doubt, the best element of the experience was the network that I left with. It’s so very international. I love that I can reach out to my networks and bounce ideas off them as well as get recommendations and referrals. I learn new things each day. 

“More importantly, it’s a personal network. I have incredible friendships with friends from all over the world. I’m getting married next August and many of my HEC Paris network are coming all the way over to the United States, just for that weekend. That’s really how strong those bonds are.”

Meanwhile, Elisa, who is approaching her second term at HEC Paris, can’t speak highly enough of the networks she is developing. 

“I really, really like everyone I’ve met in my cohort. Everyone that started with me are just a great bunch of people who are all so talented and come from so many diverse fields and amazing backgrounds.

“We have support groups for all of our classes. There are the stock market experts, who constantly help people with our financial markets class, and accounting experts that encourage us to develop our skills there. I very much feel supported by everyone around me.”

Follow Elisa and Madeleine in discovering Europe’s best MBA program, rated number one in QS rankings. Apply now to HEC Paris for a September 2023 start

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


EXPLAINED: How to get a mobile phone contract in France

This is one of the first administrative steps you will need to handle after moving to France, here's what to expect.

EXPLAINED: How to get a mobile phone contract in France

If you are planning to spend extended time in France, you will likely want to set up a French mobile phone (cell phone) contract. 

Having a French phone number can be crucial when organising apartment visits, signing up for certain subscriptions, and setting up utilities bills in your French home.

Keep in mind that if you want to use your mobile phone from your home country, you will need to verify that it is unlocked and compatible with a new SIM card. You can check this with your previous provider. 

The main operators

There are four main cell phone service operators in France, Bouygues Telecom, Free, Orange and SFR. 

There are also some smaller operators that might offer less expensive plans, such as Prixtel or La Poste Mobile. 

Orange is often touted as the best telephone operator in France, and it is one of the world’s leading telecommunications companies with over 266 million clients across the world.

In France, however, Orange technically comes in second place to SFR for 4G coverage across the territory. According to data from France’s national frequency agency (ANFR), SFR covers 95 percent of the country with 4G access, while Orange and Bouygues both cover 94 percent and Free covers 92 percent.

As for 5G coverage, which began in 2020 in France, there is still a lot of room for improvement. In June 2023, Free had deployed the most 5G antennas, with 16,644 across the country. Bouygues came in second place, having set up 9,942. As for SFR and Orange, they came in third and fourth place, with 8,936 and 6,267 antennas respectively.

That being said, those figures only show antennas constructed – Orange had still activated the most 5G sites. 

How do they compare in price?

When it comes to price, the main four mobile phone operators keep costs similar. For 100 GB of data, as of September 2023, Orange offered a monthly deal of €16.99 for the first year, and then €31.99 after 12 months.

As for Bouygues and SFR, for a phone plan (forfait) with 100 GB of data you could expect to pay €15.99 per month fo the first year, and then €30.99 afterwards.

Free did not have a plan offering 100 GB as of September 2023, but its closest option offered 120 GB for €12.99 per month for the first year, and then €19.99 afterwards.

For plans with at least 200GB of data, you would pay more. Orange offered one for €32.99 for the first year and then €44.99 later on, Bouygues and SFR offered similar deals with €31.99 a year and €44.99 after 12 months.

Meanwhile, Free offered 250 GB for €19.99.

Keep in mind that you can also choose a ‘sans engagement’ plan, which means even if you sign a contract you can cancel it at the end of the month. 

Many phone contracts will be ‘avec engagement’ (or just engagement). This usually means that for a specified period of time –  typically one year – you pay the discounted price and then after that you may pay a higher price but you can cancel when you’d like to.

Beware that with these types of plans, if you try to cancel before the engagement period is finished, you could be asked to pay the remaining fees.

The other differences between contracts will depend on whether they allow you to use the service outside of France, and whether they charge a SIM card activation fee (for example – SFR charges €10).  

Some plans offer discounted rates for those who also use their service for internet or cable. 

Do I need a permanent address or French bank account to set up a plan?

It depends on the company. As of 2023, Free was one of the cell service operators that allowed clients to purchase a new SIM card using just a credit or debit card with one of their kiosks. 

For this purchase, only a valid bank card and email address were required. 

However, other cell service operators tend to require at least some of the following: a valid proof of identity (eg. passport), address in France (eg. utility bill or lease), or a French bank account for payment. 

What if I am visiting for a short/ defined period?

If you are travelling for a longer period of time it might work out cheaper to turn off your phone data and buy a pre-paid SIM or E-SIM card in France.

In order to get a pre-paid SIM card, you will need your passport or proof of identity (drivers’ licences do not count).

Keep in mind that you will not be able to use your normal phone number with the new SIM card in, but will be able to access your internet enabled messaging services, like WhatsApp, Facebook and iMessage. Your phone will need to be ‘unlocked’ (ask your carrier about whether yours is) in order to put a new SIM card in.

You can find more information with The Local’s tips guide for how visitors can avoid roaming charges.

READ MORE: How to avoid huge ‘roaming’ phone bills while visiting France

How can I cancel a French phone contract?

Prior to cancelling, you should again verify whether you are sous engagement (under contract) and if so, for how long. 

As of September 2023, it has been a legal requirement for companies to offer ‘cancellation in under three clicks’ directly on their websites. This would be done in your online space.

Your operator has 10 working days to cancel the contract once you have made the request. 

Some phone services might allow you to cancel by calling as well, but if you want to be entirely certain that your cancellation request has been sent and received you should send a lettre recommandée

READ MORE: Lettre recommandée: Why you need them and how to send them in France

What if I want to keep a phone number in my home country?

Many foreigners living in France want to maintain a phone number in their home country, perhaps to verify dual-factor authorisations or receive banking information.

Some opt for services like ‘Google Voice’ to port their existing phone number. It is advised to do this prior to moving to France.