We continue ”HEC Paris & Launching a Life in Paris” with more insights into how the HEC Paris MBA is an ideal vehicle for change—62 percent of the recent graduating class changed their location with nearly a quarter settling in France. For Georgina Young, HEC Paris MBA/MPA ’19, returning to France from Australia was a dream for several years. She credits HEC Paris as the “entry point,” helping her establish a life there. She interned for the Paris 2024 Olympic Committee during her MBA and continues to live her passion for the athletic industry at 17 Sport.
Read on for Georgina’s story of stepping outside of her Australian “bubble,” what life is like in France and more.
“Immerse Yourself” – Georgina Young, HEC Paris MBA/MPA ‘19
Employer & Title: 17 Sport, Account Director
Hometown/Country of Origin: Melbourne, Australia
Undergraduate Institution and Major: University of Melbourne, Bachelor of Creative Arts (Creative Writing)
HEC Paris Graduation Year and Concentration (if applicable): Class of 2019. Dual degree programme, MBA/Master of Public Affairs. The Master of Public Affairs was delivered by Sciences Po Paris.
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 8 years, retail/wholesale fashion & sports apparel
Post-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 2.5 years (since graduation), agency/consulting/professional services
What inspired you to apply to and attend HEC Paris?
I came to France for the first time when I was 17 years old. I took French in high school and the trip was an immersive exchange to improve my language skills, where I lived with a French family and attended school for six weeks. Since that trip, I’d thought many times about “how cool” it would be to come and live in France, improve my French and continue the adventure in a place far and very different from my home in Australia.
When I came to considering programmes for the MBA, I knew I wanted it to be abroad and internationally-focused, and with the extremely diverse cohort for which HEC Paris is renowned, it soon became one of my primary targets.
In the end, when making my decision about which programme to attend, the programme duration was a big bonus. At 16 months, it was really a happy medium between the opportunity cost of being out of the workforce and the time I felt I needed to adequately absorb all that I was hoping to learn by undertaking an MBA.
What was a significant challenge in changing locations post-MBA and what helped you to be successful?
The most obvious barriers are the language and understanding the job market and the local administrative context. With the support of HEC Paris, I was able to obtain and understand the necessary work permits to enable me to stay in France as a non-European. Helping companies to understand that it would be straight-forward for them was part of the recruitment process that I perhaps hadn’t initially anticipated!
All of the positions I’ve held since I came to France – both internships during my programmes and the job I have now – have come about via networking (as opposed to just responding to job offers posted online). By meeting people and helping them to understand who I am and what I have to offer, I was eventually able to navigate the work permit process as well!
What tips do you have for other MBA candidates looking to make such a change in location?
It’s definitely possible to find work in France without being able to speak French, but it will make it easier to integrate your team/office if you do speak some. Applying yourself to learning and improving takes effort, it won’t just improve via osmosis. Use every chance you have to immerse yourself, by taking French classes, speaking to French colleagues in French, listening to the radio/podcasts and watching French TV, or taking elective subjects in your programme that are taught in French. (I have done all of these things!)
Additionally, it’s never too early to start networking – you don’t need to be in your programme to start connecting with people. That said, it’s important to know what you want to get out of an exchange/coffee chat, etc. before you start approaching people, otherwise you risk wasting people’stime.
What is it like to live and work in France?
There is a lot of paperwork! Learning the language of French Administration is a whole different level of learning the French language! In all seriousness, I love living in Paris. There are lots of things happening, it’s a well-connected city that attracts major events, notably the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games, which will take place in two years and which are a big draw for me staying in Paris in the short term. I love the culture of the French apéro and the slightly more laid-back approach to life than I’ve seen in other cities. And I also love the patisseries!
Work-wise, I fortunately have the best of both worlds, in that I have English-speaking clients and French colleagues, so my French is improving and it’s not at the expense of my work! We also have a decent culture of work-life balance here alongside opportunities to travel and discover other parts of France and Europe.
What have been the most positive aspects of the change in your location?
I think when I reflect on things, it’s likely the opportunity to step out of my Australian bubble and see a bit more of the world, and to work and study in a global context and environment. It’s given me the chance to take a broader perspective on working and how I work, what considerations I need to take into account, how culture impacts our work life, in a way I would never have been able to experience had I stayed in Australia. I also now have friends spread all across the world, thanks to HEC’s very international cohort, and have traveled to various places that I might not have otherwise considered.
Anything else you’d like to add?
The MBA at HEC Paris was really a gateway to experiences that I might never otherwise have had. I can’t imagine having come to France and establishing a life here if I hadn’t had the programme as an entry point into living here. As a means of setting up a network and getting a taste for both life and work in the “learning by doing” environment of the MBA programme, it really was a brilliant way to get started. Once you get here, it really is all about what you make of your opportunity.