Exchange report - Neoma Business School, Rouen, France

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1 Exchange report - Neoma Business School, Rouen, France Ilona Vaateri & Joonas Vuorela 1. Preparing for the exchange We are two students, Ilona and Joonas, who spend their Erasmus exchange in Rouen, Neoma Business school in Spring At the time Ilona was on her 3rd year of bachelor studies and Joonas at his 2nd year of master studies. Preparing for a student exchange in the European Union is fairly simple, since there is no need to apply for a visa or a foreign health insurance. The only paperwork before the exchange was about the common preparations for moving abroad such as applying for student housing and choosing courses for the semester.

2 When we had to choose the courses about a month before our departure, they opened the website (equivalent to oodi) for only 48 hrs. Registration to courses was done first-come-first-served basis and some of the courses got full pretty fast after the registration opened. The best strategy was to choose couple of extra courses and then decide at the beginning of semester which courses to attend and which to drop. There was also add and drop period about one week after the actual registration so students were able to modify their courses if they wanted to. Ilona had some problems with the course registration and when she was doing the course selection the system did not accept her on any courses, apparently there was some sort of a mistake in her information. She ed back and forth with the host student coordinator and she said that we can figure it out after her arrival. In the end she managed to get into the courses she had selected in the first place, but it took the school about 2 months to get all needed websites and student platforms to work properly. For students arriving by plane to Paris the school offered shuttle transportation to Rouen with the price of 70. The price would have been more expensive if there was no other in the same shuttle but as the school had required everyone to arrive on the same day this was not an issue. Other alternative would have been using train-metro-train-bus combination to get to campus but with all the suitcases this didn t feel very tempting alternative. Necessary documents for official purposes were multiple copies of passport and especially passport photos which every possible institution wanted to have. Our advice would be having at least 5 extra photos with you. Also the copy of International Kela card was asked at some point. To get the housing allowance from French government we were required to bring also our birth certificates (if you belong to the church you can get it from the parish and it is called virkatodistus ). However, getting the housing allowance required a lot of paperwork and frustration (5 months of sending letters by mail) and for example Joonas was not able to get the money even though he had all the required documents. 2. Studying in Neoma Business School The start and end dates for the semester were officially from 6.1 to Orientation day was on the 7th of January and within that day we received plenty of information about the semester and a possibility to open a bank account with the school s partner bank, getting a mobile phone contract and to apply for a bus card. The final exams started in the end of April and, depending on your courses, finished by the 14th of June. The bachelor courses lasted through the whole spring semester and had exams mostly in May. The master courses were divided in two periods so the first exams were on March and the latter ones from late May to mid-june. Ilona did her bachelor exchange so her exams were finished before the end of May and Joonas had the last exam on 7 th of June because he was doing Master exchange. The course offering was wide, but this school is mainly focusing on marketing, management and finance. We chose most courses in marketing and management in graduate and undergraduate level depending on the person. The courses were offered some in English and some in French. The degree seeking students were following a certain program of courses, but exchange students were allowed to freely choose their courses. This caused some issues in time management if you had chosen courses from different programs or year levels. For example Ilona had few classes clashing with each other and some exams during other classes, but it was all okay once you notified the school beforehand.

3 Attending to all classes was compulsory, and you were not allowed to be absent for more than 3 times during the courses without a doctors certificate or some other valid reason. The courses were once a week for 3 hours at a time, with a 15 minute breaks in between. We didn t like this system that much, because it is quite impossible to focus on the topic for such a long time. It was the same for the French students, and it was typical that after the first half an hour only a few people were listening and the rest of the class was occupied by their laptops or discussions with other students. All the courses included at least one group presentation which was a nice change for our courses in Finland where it is not necessarily that common. Only difficult thing seemed to be finding the time for the whole group to meet and this problem led to quite low quality of presentations in some of the cases. Most of the presentations were good practice for public speaking, but the work itself did not really give more value to learning. Studied courses Below we have listed the courses we took during the exchange and some general information about each. People management team building and leadership, lecturer Grard Pavy, undergraduate 4th year, 6ECTS Assesment: Exam 50%, case studies 25%, readings and class contribution 25% The course followed a certain theme throughout the semester. It was focusing on the differences and characteristics of leaders and managers and briefly discussed some other topics in people management. The lecturer pointed out multiple examples from popular culture, current and past leaders, books and movies. We had multiple group cases and presentations, which contributed to the grade a lot in the end. Multichannel retailing MKG42016E-7, Lecturer Anne Cornu, undergraduate 4th yr, 6 ECTS Assessment: Exam 60%, Business game performance and final presentation The course was specifically focusing on multichannel retail store s operations. It was very specific but very insightful. At the end of the course we played a business game, where in groups of 6 we had to manage a retail stores. The game was a lot of fun and it was very interesting to also learn about the different work ethics of French people. The game was relatively easy and consisted of calculations for stock supply, personnel, finances etc. Overall a very interesting marketing course. Corporate finance EFI42025E-7, Lecturer Geoffrey Surbled, undergraduate 4th yr, 6 ECTS Assessment: Exam 65%, attendance and presentations 35% I chose one heavier course for the exchange, but in the end it wasn t as difficult as I had expected. It turned out to last only for two months from which the first month was 1 lecture/ week, and in February we had one week of only corporate finance lectures, during which we had 30 hrs of classes. In my opinion the course was not very comprehensive and in the end I felt like I had wasted a whole lot of time for nothing.

4 International retail marketing MKG42026E-6, Lecturers Daniele Pederzoli and Lanlan Cao, Graduate, 5 ECTS Assesment: Article discussions 10%, case study 40%, final exam 50% The course consisted of normal lecturers given by the professors and also for each class couple of groups had to read an article related to topic of the lecture and present it to other students. At the end of the course each group had to return bigger case study which however did not have to be presented. The course provided good insights to management and marketing operations of international retail companies but in my opinion was not especially interesting. Intercultural communication LCS42033E-6, Instructor Corinne Merlino. Graduate, 5 ECTS Assessment: Continuous assessment (participation, group works, individual work) 50%, final exam 50% The aim of the course was to focus on the different communication styles in different cultures and the issues arising from this when communicating between different cultures. The lectures were quite interactive as we had students from all over the world and we were able to combine different opinions during the classes. The instructor liked to use her personal life as an example too and some people thought that she was talking too much about her personal issues but I found it pretty interesting. During the course there was some small home works and at the end of the course we had to return an analysis of some intercultural communication situation we had faced during the past couple of months. Overall the workload of the course was pretty small and it was easy to get a decent grade. E-marketing and Social Networks MKG42032E-4, Instructor Antoine Harfouche, Graduate, 5 ECTS Assessment: Mini cases and participation 25%, final case study 25%, final exam 50% This course sounded very current and interesting. However it felt that the amount of information included to the slides was too ambitious and at final exam it was enough to know only the couple main frameworks. The teacher had a lot of knowledge about the topic but sometimes it was difficult for students to keep up with his pace. The first half of the class was usually a basic lecture and the second half was dedicated to solving a mini-case which had to be presented to the professor. At the end of the course each group had to present a bigger case and also in the final exam students had to read a case and answer questions related to it. Strategic Management MGS42015E-12, Instructor Corinne Merlino, Graduate, 5 ECTS Assessment: Group presentation 40%, final exam 60% During the lectures the instructor presented most of the well-known frameworks used to make internal and external analysis for a company. Usually during the second half of the class students were given some case study to read and after that we discussed about it. In the first lecture people were divided into groups and each group had to come up with their business idea. This business was then developed and analyzed during the whole course using the frameworks studied in the classes. Because of this assignment the workload in this course was a bit higher than in other classes but it also made the course a bit more interesting. At the end of the course groups then presented their final analysis. The final exam was also a case study which had to be analyzed using the studied frameworks.

5 3. Free time and living in Rouen The school offers different kinds of residences for students who want to live in the campus area or close to the campus. We both chose originally residence called Ango. There are only international students living in that residence so it was a great place to get to know other exchange students and also many parties started and ended there. However the quality of the residence wasn t too good and for example there was mold in many showers. Ilona for example resigned her rent contract after the first month partly due to mold issues and partly because she wanted to move closer to downtown. Normally this is not an option as the rent is paid beforehand and you are due to stay in the same residence during the whole exchange. The campus area itself is not situated in Rouen but in a small village called Mont-Saint-Aignan which was up in the hill while Rouen was kind of in the valley. The bus from campus to downtown took around 10 minutes so it was easy to get there too. During the weekdays there is not really buses in the night time but taxi back to the campus was around 12. However it was sometimes very difficult to find one as there were not many taxis during the week. In Mont-Saint-Aignan there is not really anything else but the university so if you wanted to go for a coffee, party or see a movie you always headed downtown. Rouen itself is a very beautiful city with astonishing churches and nice little cafes, bakeries and bars in every corner. We both spent a lot of free time in the gym and there is couple of different gyms to choose from in Mont-Saint-Aignan and many more in Rouen where Ilona went to gym. The university of Rouen has also a gym which students of business school can use (50 /year) but the quality was so bad that it really was not an option. Otherwise the free time included a lot of partying with other exchange students and sometimes also with French students. The exchange students had tradition of going out every Tuesday to bar called Chester s and there was also many parties arranged by school on Thursdays. Therefore a good advice might be avoiding taking courses to Wednesday mornings or Fridays. If you select your courses wisely at the beginning it is pretty easy to have classes only for example in Monday and Tuesday so that there is a lot of time for travelling. School has an association called Culture Connection which helps exchange students at the beginning and also arranges different trips and parties for the exchange students. The only negative thing in Rouen is the weather as it rains pretty much. There was not any snow during the spring semester but it rained a lot and the temperature was around 10 degrees until it started to get warmer in March/April. We really recommend getting an umbrella during the first days because you most probably are going to need it many times! One advantage of Rouen is its proximity to Paris. The train from Rouen to Paris takes about one and half hours and costs 12 if you have the student discount. The discount card costs around 50 but pays itself back very fast as with that you can have many trips almost half the price. It is easy to get all over France with the train so we used it a lot. Other popular travelling method is the covoiturage or blablacar. This is a website where you can book a ride from a private person who is going to same direction as you. This is very cheap and handy way to travel. We visited Paris itself couple of times but most of the time it was just a pit stop when travelling to somewhere else in France or abroad. The saying that French people don t speak English was not far from the truth. Of course the university students could and did speak English but especially older or uneducated people didn t speak almost any English. There were many exchange students who didn t speak any French so no worries if you are in same situation! Of course it made things easier if you could communicate in French but usually there was always some other student helping you if needed. We both had studied

6 French before the exchange. Joonas had studied French pretty long and Ilona only had couple courses in our school but both survived just fine. 4. Final comments We would definitely recommend the host institution for a student who wants to spare time for free time and travelling. The workload was reasonable throughout the semester and Rouen is located at a very good spot considering travelling in continental Europe. The living costs are reasonable compared to Paris and especially Finland, and Rouen is only 1.5 hours train ride away. The town is small yet lively. We especially grew fond of the outdoor markets for fresh food, the little cheese, fish, meat and fruit shops, bakeries, cafes etc. The local people were very friendly and especially helpful with Ilona s poor French skills. Also Rouen and the business school have many possibilities to do sports and all kinds of outdoor activities. If we were to go on exchange to Neoma again, we would take more time considering the course selection and find out more about their syllabus. Also living in Mont-Saint-Aignan was not the best option, since it was very quiet and lacked services and things to do on free time. It is very common for French people to live in colocation, and if you want to get more into French way of living we would recommend contacting some French people online and to try to find a shared flat downtown. The French parties were often held in huge student flats in the city. Ilona: I d say that the student exchange taught me that there are amazing places in Europe as seen on the postcards, but you don t truly get the full picture of the culture until you live in it. The local people are more open and receptive once you show respect by knowing the important unwritten manners of their culture. This was my second exchange abroad and I ve been working in a foreign country so the culture shock was nonexistent. Once you do the leap into the unknown enough times, it starts to seem like a routine finding the things you want to do and see, making local friends and adapting to the new surroundings. What I learned about myself (or at least strengthened the idea) was that if you are not happy with what you are doing and where you re at, you have to do your best to make things right. Joonas: The main reason for selecting France and Rouen was the language as I had studied it for a long time but never had to use it in real life. At the beginning it felt very difficult to use the language but during the time you will get more confidence and realize that you are actually able to use the language in daily situations. If you are considering going on exchange on France I can really recommend Rouen as its small enough city to get to know well but still big enough to find something to do every day and live the real French life. I lived in the student residence with a huge group of other exchange students and even though the condition of the apartment was not good I could still recommend this as this was an excellent way to get new friends from all over the world. However if you prefer to get to know better French students and live more like them I would recommend trying to find shared apartment with them.

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