Three Ways ESSEC GBBA Students Can Make the Most of Their Exchange

Students can gain international exposure with campuses in Singapore, Cergy, and Rabat, 175 exchange partnerships, and ESSEC Global Bachelor of Business Administration (GBBA).

Having lived in Asia her whole life and gotten a glimpse of European culture while studying at ESSEC Business School, Student Ambassador Sagarika Majumdar set her sights on North America and landed at the Smith School of Business in Canada.

On the other hand, her senior from China, Manqi Zhao, took on the International Business Education Alliance (IBEA) program on a journey that brought her to Singapore, Germany, Brazil, and the USA.

Different though their pathways may have been, the ways they have found to make the most of their time overseas are remarkably similar.

1 | Travel, Travel, Travel!

Sagarika’s advice is to carve out time to travel near the school and to nearby cities and even countries. Being based between Toronto and Montreal has allowed her to explore both cities and to date, some of her best memories include admiring the view at the top of the CN Tower and the breathtaking sight of Niagara Falls.

“It was the most fun and a sight I’ll never forget,” she recalls. And to keep things budget-friendly, it helps to plan these trips in advance so you can take advantage of lower-priced flights and train tickets!

2 | Find Your Tribe

The two have also found that it is not necessarily what they do but who they do it with that matters.

For example, Manqi says, “One of my best memories was on graduation day in Brazil when the IBEA family gathered on a rooftop with a view of the entire city of Rio and just enjoyed the sunset!”

Sagarika feels similarly. “It was delightful when we organized a potluck to share food from our home countries. There were dishes from Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, India, and France,” she recalls, adding that although it was a simple meal, the experience made Canada feel like home and is now one of her best memories in the country.

What are her tips for finding one’s tribe while on exchange? Besides mingling with housemates, she actively befriends classmates of all nationalities through group projects!

3 | Keep the Momentum to Learn

Despite the fun an exchange can bring, it is essential not to let one’s grades slip and to continue seizing learning opportunities. For Sagarika, actively participating in class has brought benefits. She says:

“I’ve learned about international business strategy, data analytics, and forecasting. I’ve also had the opportunity to understand the nuances of how Canadian companies function and gained valuable insights from professors—all of which I believe will support my career in the future.”

Manqi, who had the privilege of working on business challenges with local companies in each country she visited, agrees. Taking these projects seriously earned her the trust of the companies, which in turn offered her and her peers more opportunities to learn and grow, she says.

Now, a marketing analyst at furniture brand Castlery, Manqi testifies to how the projects done on the exchange have helped her understand different business functions. She says, with her experiences in new cultures, “I can easily connect with colleagues and vendors from various backgrounds. I believe the experiences have shaped my communication skills and perspectives on life!”


GBBA Graduate Yufei Zhou: Journey from China to London

Before joining ESSEC Business School's Global Bachelor in Business Administration (GBBA) program in 2015, Yufei Zhou had only lived in Shanghai.

By 2019, she had studied, worked, and lived in Singapore, France, Brazil, Germany, and the United States.

She says this was thanks to the International Business Education Alliance (IBEA) program.

Her post-ESSEC journey saw her complete a master's at London Business School and start a full-time role at BlackRock's London office.

She reflects on how the IBEA program prepared her for this global career.

Tell us a little about the work you do at BlackRock.

I provide advisory services to central banks and other financial institutions as part of the financial markets advisory team.

For example, I'm working with a Middle Eastern central bank to enhance their macro-stress testing framework and on a reconstruction fund for post-war Ukraine.

Before that, I also worked with large European banks on market risk and climate risk-related projects.

How did your time at the IBEA program prepare you for this role?

IBEA provided a unique opportunity to study in multiple countries on different continents.

We had specialized business courses at each partner school—ESSEC Business School, the University of Mannheim, Fundaçao Getulio Vargas, and the University of South Carolina—and practical business projects.

This unparalleled global exposure and cultural immersion prepared me for the diverse challenges in the international business landscape.

It was an experience unmatched by any other exchange program.

Share about your cultural immersion—what cultural differences have you noticed?

The culture was different in each country. In Germany, they emphasized precision and attention to detail. At the same time, in the United States, we focused on practical subjects, and I had a course managing a student fund with real money.

In Brazil, the warmth and enthusiasm of the people left a lasting impression, and in Singapore, the cutting-edge technology and innovation stood out.

Within my IBEA cohort, there was also a symphony of different greeting styles at first. French students greeted with kisses on the cheek, Americans with a casual "Hey, what's up, bro," Germans with firm handshakes, and Brazilians with warm, tight hugs.

Over time, we seamlessly merged all these diverse greetings and created our unique IBEA way of saying hello.

Were there challenges adapting to these cultures and fitting in with your cohort?

No. No doubt, my IBEA classmates each had distinct qualities and ambitions—some aim to start businesses, others are passionate about aviation, and a few are already successful investors.

Despite our diverse backgrounds, we became close friends and learned to appreciate each other's differences.

Looking back, what's the most significant change you've seen in yourself?

The cultural appreciation and adaptability I gained through the IBEA program are ingrained in my approach to life.

I've developed a deep curiosity for various aspects of life and learned to avoid clichés, always approaching new situations with an open mind.

Advice for other potential GBBA students?

Don't just focus on academic excellence but also remain eager to explore new perspectives.

That’s important for an IBEA student: You need a genuine curiosity about the world.


Alumni Advice for ESSEC SMIB Jobseekers in Asia

When Julie Ing, Vice President of Strategy and Operations at insurance firm Swiss Re, was a Master in Strategy and Management of International Business (SMIB) student at ESSEC Asia-Pacific, she had high hopes of finding work in Singapore.

Upon graduation in 2010, she found herself back in France and could only return to Singapore a year later. When Ing advises ESSEC SMIB students, this is why she emphasizes how careers do not follow a linear trajectory.

"There are plenty of options out there. Things do not always go how we want them to, so if Plan A doesn't work, go with Plan B because it will still bring you closer to your goal," she advises.

Fellow alumna Agathe Colom from the class of 2018 feels similarly. "Don't worry too much. You didn't get the grade you wanted? It's okay. Learn as much as possible, and invest in relationships," she says.

Nurture Your Networks

In Colom's experience, it has been relationships that have unlocked opportunities for her. Her first role in Singapore as a project manager for a global innovation agency came after a talk she attended at ESSEC. She contacted the speaker with further questions, which led to a lunch meeting, a chat about her aspirations, and eventually a job offer.

Later, through her networks, she connected with a director at Ernst & Young (EY), paving the way for her to join the firm and rise to Global Program Manager.

It also reinforced her belief that "your network in Singapore is something you need to nurture, protect and develop." The SMIB program's alumni networking events are a platform to do this, but for Colom, the group projects done in each class are also a good resource.

"These are opportunities for you to learn about team dynamics, like how to identify if someone is disengaged, if someone is introverted or extroverted, and practice creating good team dynamics," she explains, noting that these skills have transferred well in the working world.

Know Your Priorities

It's also expected to be uncertain about what one wants to do in the future, Ing says, recalling how she had "zero interest" in the reinsurance industry when she graduated. What helped her decide where to apply was knowing her priorities.

"I knew I wanted to work for an international company that ideally had an office in Singapore they could send me to; I knew I wanted to learn in an organization with structure and that I wanted a more general role to start," she explains. Having done a few internships before joining the SMIB program, she knew that liking the people and culture of a company was extremely important to her.

AXA fits the bill. "I met super interesting people and loved the company's environment, so I gave it a go," she recalls.

Ask for Support

Both Colom and Ing empathize with their SMIB juniors' worries about their futures. But they are confident that as long as one needs help or advice, all they need to do is ask.

"My cohort contacted whichever alumni we could find in Singapore and asked questions. We also had an SMIB study trip to Japan where we were very welcomed by alumni and had the opportunity to get career advice from them," Ing recalls.

By the time Colom joined ESSEC Asia-Pacific, the SMIB program had started its annual Career Day, designed for alumni to share their journeys and help students understand the career pathways available. Both Colom and Ing returned for the 2023 edition to share their stories.

"It's hard getting your employment pass, adapting to working in English and new cultures—it's rewarding, but not easy," Colom muses. But with the firm foundation of skills built at ESSEC and the connections and support of the SMIB family, one is well-equipped to navigate the ups, downs, and uncertainties of a career.


The Best Parts of Being in the ESSEC SMIB Program

When Faith Melgar joined the ESSEC Master in Strategy and International Business (SMIB) program in 2022, she didn’t have a set career goal. She was keen on sustainability but open to fashion, travel, and healthcare opportunities. On the other hand, her classmate, Howie Chia, had his eyes fixed on the aviation industry and was angling for a role there.

Fast forward to graduation, Faith found an internship as a sustainability consultant at Zero Waste SG, while Howie joined global logistics provider DHL in a critical account pricing role. Grateful for these new opportunities to kickstart their working lives, they share how the SMIB program has prepared them for these roles.

Excellent Career Services Support

For Howie, it was ESSEC Career Services that contributed most to him securing work. “They provided invaluable guidance not just on resume crafting but also how to highlight my key strengths and the value I can bring to an organization,” he explains.

What was the most memorable career event for him? The study trip to Bangkok. “This allowed me to have a close-up look at how business is done in another country and the things that we need to consider in real life,” he shares, adding that the perspectives gained have been valuable for working in a multinational business.

Opportunities for Industry Exposure

Both Howie and Faith note that the SMIB program’s emphasis on real-world learning continued back at the Asia-Pacific campus through opportunities like the Asian Strategy Challenge (ASC), which allows students to serve as consultants for companies to solve real business challenges.

Having set her sights on sustainability consulting, Faith applied to work on a sustainability-related project, which is how she first got in touch with Zero Waste SG.

The experience taught Faith volumes about project management. “I would say that your output is as fruitful and detailed as the planning and effort you put into it—and that planning for the timeline includes foreseeing the possible delays and setbacks that you might face,” she recalls.

As she navigates through the potholes of consulting at work each day, she says these lessons learned about timelines, client management, and communication have no doubt proven to be valuable.

Avenues for Creativity and Curiosity to Flourish

That said, Howie believes his most significant takeaways from the SMIB career program came not from specific activities but from the culture he was immersed in.

“The diverse student population allows for a wide range of perspectives, and the teaching actively encourages the exchange of ideas. We learned how other cultures perceive things differently and how to best manage those challenges in our working life,” he says. “Seeing all these stellar minds in my class asking tough questions has inspired me to think deeper than ever.”

Faith concurs. “It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you’re new at a job,” she shares. You need to pay attention, ask the right questions, and have the creativity to find connections with things you’ve learned in the past,” she explains. For her, it is this positive attitude, curiosity, and openness to understanding that she gained at the SMIB program, which she believes will carry her through.


Three Things Global BBA Students Should Ask When Looking for a Place to Stay in Singapore

Fast-paced, green, and culturally diverse—these are some things you may have heard about life in Singapore. As a Global Bachelor of Business Administration (GBBA) student at ESSEC Asia-Pacific, you'll experience this first-hand. But your first order of business? Securing a place to live in that you can call home for the years you are here.

Read on for quick tips on what to consider when choosing your accommodation.

Where do most GBBA students live?

ESSEC Asia-Pacific is located in the West of Singapore, with the nearest MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) stations being One-North on the Circle (orange) line and Buona Vista on the East-West (green) line. As a first-time Singapore visitor, staying in the immediate area would be the most convenient, but if you can't, don't worry.

Anywhere along those lines will be equally accessible. The bus network in Singapore is also quite extensive—and checking the bus routes here or using Google Maps can help you narrow your search to locations near the school.

Popular neighborhoods for GBBA students? According to third-year student Jiayin Cai, it's Holland Village or Botanic Gardens, both found along the Circle (yellow) line.

What housing options are available?

Singapore's two main housing types are government apartments, known locally as HDB flats, and private condominiums, often with in-built facilities. Private landed houses are also available for rental, but they are much costlier and lack the amenities that both HDB housing and condominiums offer.

"HDBs in Singapore are much more affordable, have better access to transportation, and are located nearer hawker centers and other places to eat," observes Jiayin, who had explored various housing options before deciding on her current place. "My friends and I decided to only focus on condominiums despite the higher cost because of the amenities within the estate, such as the swimming pool and gym."

How much can you afford?

Rental costs would vary for location and type of housing; typically, areas nearer City Hall, Orchard, Marina Bay, and Bukit Timah are the most expensive, with prices dropping further out. Homes nearer MRT stations tend to cost more, too. Additionally, across the board, HDBs are cheaper than condos.

One trick to keeping rental costs lower is renting a unit in your location of choice with a few friends, which is precisely what Jiayin did.

"Looking at accommodations with friends is great because not only is it fun to stay together, it's also more affordable because you can share the cost of living together," she advises.

Curious about other housing options like co-living spaces, serviced apartments, and hostels? Look out for the second part of this series, where we will explore more housing options!


GBBA Student Sagarika Majumdar: Life in Canada

When looking for an exchange program, Indian national Sagarika Majumdar was eager for a "fresh and novel" experience in a country that would allow her to hone her proficiency in French. This led her to Ontario, Canada, for a year-long exchange at the Smith School of Business at Queen's University. Midway through her time in Canada, she shares the highlights of her experience.

What's it like living in Canada?

I love it here! Canada has beautiful scenery, many places to travel to, and many things to do. Queen's University is located in Kingston, a city with great charm and character.

Although it's a small university town, it's mid-way between major cities like Toronto and Montreal, making it easy to travel to those places.

It took me some time to adapt to the cold, but I've gotten good at layering up, and I'm lucky to be staying close to campus and downtown.

I've also been blessed with incredible housemates—five are Canadian and one—who have helped me settle in comfortably.

How is school different from ESSEC?

While at ESSEC, classes last longer and are held once a week per module, here, classes are held twice a week but for a shorter duration.

I'm taking modules on strategy, marketing, sustainability, and data analytics, and there are a lot of graded assignments throughout the semester that require consistent effort.

Did your time at ESSEC help you prepare for this exchange?

ESSEC has trained me to manage time well. Our number of presentations at ESSEC has also made me a confident and clear orator, and I've received positive feedback on my presentations!

In addition, as ESSEC is a multicultural school, I've broadened my understanding of cultural nuances and improved my communication skills and fluency, all of which have made me a more effective team player.

These have been valuable assets while on exchange.

Tell us about some new experiences you've had.

It is led in Montreal, Toronto, and Niagara Falls. I've also enjoyed trying new food like poutine and BeaverTails—fried dough with sweet toppings—and classic North American burgers and hot dogs.

What are your best memories so far?

Visiting Niagara Falls and seeing the sheer amount of water up close was definitely some of the most fun I've had and a sight I won't ever forget!

Another good memory was when friends from different countries organized a potluck, and we prepared food from our cultures.

We had items from Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, India, and France.

How has your experience so far changed you?

Needing to build connections from scratch has taught me to network and communicate better. I've also gained valuable insights and received professional advice from my professors.

Overall, I believe my exchange has been a journey of discovery—it has helped me better understand myself and my academic, personal, and professional goals.

I think the people you meet and the places you explore can change your life, and I look forward to seeing what the new year brings for me in Canada!


What Next After the ESSEC SMIB Program? Diverse Career Opportunities

A major appeal of the ESSEC Master in Strategy & Management of International Business (SMIB) program is the opportunity to complete it at the ESSEC Asia-Pacific campus in Singapore. As our alumni have discovered, there are distinct practical advantages to studying and living in Singapore— especially for those who wish to carve out careers in Asia.

 

Alexis Maissant
Strategy Consultant in Singapore

“The Singapore campus helped improve my strategy knowledge and understanding of the ESG challenges faced in Asia,” Alexis Maissant declares. He shares that this is partly because the students in his 2022 cohort came from a diverse mix of at least 10 countries.

Alexis learned a lot about other cultures and how to collaborate with people from different backgrounds through their interactions.

Being at ESSEC Asia-Pacific also allowed him to participate in the Asian Strategy Challenge (ASC) and work directly with Decathlon to develop their Asian mountain sports products.

“This allowed me to better understand business in Asia. It also helped me see my strengths and weaknesses as a leader and consultant. This gave me insight into how I can improve my professional self and the key elements to building a good client relationship,” he says.

The experiences have served him well, helping him secure a job as a strategy consultant at sustainable design consultancy Arup. He excels as he quickly works with people from all over the region.

 

Christiane Chung
Sales Planner in Japan

Christiane Chung from the class of 2022 came to ESSEC Asia-Pacific with dreams of starting a career both in luxury and in Asia.

“The tracks offered in Singapore that were focused on businesses in Asia were beneficial for me in bridging the gap into the Asian market, enabling me to begin my Asian career,” she says, adding that in addition to classroom lessons, she also benefited from her cohort’s study trip to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which enabled her to see first-hand how business is conducted in another Asian country.

Christiane got her start in the Asian luxury sector when she was still a student, clinching a position as a strategic business consultant at Van Cleef & Arpels in Singapore even before graduation.

The sum of these experiences paved the way for her to join Louis Vuitton’s Japan office as a sales planner— a role requiring her to practice all she has learned at ESSEC as she harnesses her knowledge of the Asian market to project sales trends.

 

Keerthana Sreekanth Rao
Business Intelligence Analyst in India

For biomedical engineering graduate Keerthana Sreekanth Rao, who sought a role with large-scale impact, the SMIB program at the APAC campus made the most sense because “the diversity of the region offered many opportunities for healthcare professionals.”

The 2020 alumna took on the role of career ambassador and gained in-depth exposure to the Singapore ecosystem by supporting career fairs and networking events. She also participated in a consulting project with the Philips healthcare informatics business as part of the ESSEC Life Sciences Club, which later cemented her decision to join Philips as a business intelligence analyst.

“I believe the fact that I understood more about the healthcare informatics team, the way they work, operate, and go about solving issues, contributed to me getting the job,” she says.


GBBA Student Jiayi Wang: Advantages of the IBEA Program

Chinese national Jiayi Wang chose the ESSEC Global Bachelor in Business Administration (GBBA) program in part because of its emphasis on international exposure. She joined the International Business Education Alliance (IBEA) program to maximize her time abroad, allowing her to live and study in top schools in Germany, Brazil, the United States, and Singapore.

She shares about her IBEA experience and how it has helped her develop both personally and professionally—preparing her for her dream career in finance or consulting.

Why the IBEA program and not a regular exchange program?

I chose the IBEA program because of its uniqueness. This program allows you to study and interact with students from prestigious universities worldwide. You also get to work on consulting projects with multinational companies.

It would bring a rich global perspective and offer a professional experience that no other exchange program would.

We understand that the IBEA program is quite an exclusive program, open to just the top students of each cohort. What's it like being part of this?

My classmates came from the University of Mannheim in Germany, the University of South Carolina in the USA, ESSEC Business School's France and Singapore campuses, and Fundaçao Getulio Vargas in Brazil.

Each speaks at least three languages and comes from a diverse background. What we have in common is that each of us has excelled academically. We are also open-minded, determined, and have the courage to explore the world.

Tell us about the consulting projects. Who did you work with, and what did you do?

There was one consulting project in each country, and these were with renowned companies such as PricewaterhouseCoopers and Sodexo.

As part of a student-led consulting group, we'd provide business advice to these companies in line with the country's economic realities.

This was done with the guidance of our professors. It was a valuable experience that made me more competitive in the job market!

What was the biggest highlight of the IBEA program for you?

Definitely, IBEA weekends are where we would travel together. This was a chance for us to get to know each other better. Looking back, these weekends were unforgettable experiences that made my classmates feel like family to me.

How would you say you've changed since joining the IBEA program?

I've become more knowledgeable and confident after adapting to life in unfamiliar parts of the world and interacting with people from different cultural backgrounds. I've learned a lot from the experience!

Advice for others who may be keen on joining the IBEA program?

It's helpful to learn to speak Portuguese or German before going on exchange, and take advantage of this opportunity to explore the world!


ESSEC Asia-Pacific: A Rite of Passage for GBBA Students From France

  • Students from France choose Singapore for the chance of an adventure in Asia and an abundance of global exposure.
  • The curriculum helps them understand the business world and develop their career goals.
  • Opportunities abound to network and learn about the working world.

With ESSEC Business School's reputation as one of the top in Europe, positions in its Global Bachelor of Business Administration (GBBA) program are coveted by many.

To gain acceptance to the program is, therefore, already a demonstration of one's academic prowess and potential for the future—but to choose to do so across the world at the Asia-Pacific campus in Singapore arguably says even more about one's strength of character.

After all, for many like Elodie Gouellain, who graduated from Lycée Saint Charles Orléans, deciding to come to Singapore would mean moving far away from family and friends for the first time ever.

"I had the option to study in the UK or France as well, and the choice to come to Singapore was not easy as I had little to no understanding of the local culture and climate," the third-year GBBA student recalls.

"But I knew it would be the right path for me as I wanted to get out of my comfort zone, discover Asia, and gain greater exposure to new cultures and languages."

Elodie's schoolmates, Louise Depuydt and Vivien Cotier from France, who are in their fourth and second year, respectively, echoed her sentiments, citing the international exposure and opportunity to travel through Asia as their prime motivating factors.

Like Elodie, they have found that the challenges of living abroad aside from coming to ESSEC Asia-Pacific have been worth it.

Exposure Breeds Clarity

The journey has been pivotal in developing their ambitions for Louise and Vivien.

"Coming to Singapore has been a big step for me, taking me from a relatively passive and unambitious high school life and exposing me to a larger, growing, global world," Vivien explains.

He shares that in comparison to Lycée Jeanne d'Arc Gex, his small high school in the countryside of France, life at ESSEC-Asia Pacific is far more vibrant.

Being introduced to various subjects—from marketing to accounting, economics, and law—has expanded and shaped his understanding of business.

He says that working alongside classmates of diverse cultures for group assignments also exposed him to different working styles and perspectives, influencing how he conducts himself today.

Louise, who was from Ensemble Scolaire Assomption Sainte Clotilde Bordeaux, also testified how classroom lessons and group projects have helped her build her self-efficacy and taught valuable lessons on managing time, people, and expectations.

But the most significant transformation came when she was accepted to the International Business Education Alliance (IBEA) program.

The IBEA program, offered exclusively to just 10 students a year, allowed her to study live and work across Singapore, Germany, and Brazil alongside like-minded, ambitious, and inspirational individuals.

"You really learn how to adapt to any situation, get back up after failures, and successfully reach the goal you have decided on," she recalls of her experience, adding: "At the beginning, I only wanted to travel, but today, I have many dreams that I want to chase."

Experience Leads to Confidence

ESSEC Asia-Pacific significantly matches its exposure with abundant opportunities to gain experience and acquire real-world skills.

Vivien and Elodie both had a chance to participate in Student Council activities, organizing and leading events to help their peers adapt to life in Singapore.

Internships are also a mandatory feature of the GBBA curriculum, and students are required to complete three internships before graduation.

Within her first year, Elodie secured work at the global transport and logistics company Kuehne+Nagel as a marketing intern for the human resources department.

There, she took on projects for the Singapore and Malaysian offices, including but not limited to implementing a mental health app for employees and establishing a graduate program for students.

"It wasn't just the tasks that I performed that made my experience fulfilling; it was also the company's emphasis on multiculturalism, diversity, and openness," she declares.

"I was fortunate to be able to collaborate with people from different nationalities, to learn how an international company functions, and, importantly, to see how I fit into a work environment!"

A Bright Future Awaits

Today, Elodie has moved on to her second marketing internship at a non-profit organization, Lions Befrienders. Vivien is a project management intern at a global healthcare company, Sanofi, and Louise is searching for opportunities in Taiwan, Singapore, or South Korea.

Graduation is a distance away, but they remain optimistic that their future is bright.

As Louise aptly puts it: "ESSEC is a place that gives you access and resources—it provides you with the keys you need to unlock your dream life." Their advice to French students like them? Choose ESSEC Asia-Pacific.