Getting Immersed in the French Culture

Claude Martinez, the CEO of Parfums Dior, chats with Sumana Khound

Visiting a place as a tourist is totally different from living there. I realized this very soon after moving to the HEC Paris campus for the MBA program. Having visited France twice before, I thought I was well versed in the French culture. What little did I know back then…

During the first month of our program, the MBA’s French Connection Club organized a French Cultural Week designed to give us a local’s view of the country. Who could imagine that a trip to Louvre could help us better understand HEC values? If you had told me beforehand that having a face-to-face conversation with the CEO of Parfums Christian Dior would be easy, I would’ve never believed you.

We started the week with a “Talk on Hidden Paris” given by Dr. Jennifer Wallace. Jennifer introduced us to a historical side of Paris that is almost unknown to tourists. She recommended visiting areas that perfectly embody the changes the city has undergone. Her presentation was so inspiring that a group of us explored the places she recommended the following weekend.

Wine and cheese is the “heart and soul” of France, so the MBA’s Wine and Spirits Club organized an evening wine-tasting event. Participants learned about unique wines from different regions of France. The next morning, a typical French breakfast was served, including four viennoiseries: croissants, pains au chocolat, pain aux raisins and chausson aux pommes with fresh juice.

At La Belle Époque

That evening, Claude Martinez, the CEO of Parfums Christian Dior and an HEC Paris alumnus, came to campus as part of the HEC Global Leaders Series. It was very motivating to learn about his career journey from wanting to be a professional footballer to becoming the CEO of one of the biggest luxury perfume brands in the world. He spoke about the company’s current focus, which helped students envision global career opportunities, and discussed its innovative “Dior Love Chain” campaign. He also brought 30 LMVH employees with him to network with us. The icing on the cake was that each attendee received a bottle of Miss Dior perfume as a gift.

The next day was a culinary extravaganza. We had a food truck from Brittany offering delicious crepes at lunch, then chef Philippe Delaune prepared a 4-course French menu especially for us at his La Belle Époque restaurant.

MBA students on a private tour of the Louvre

A private tour of the Louvre

On Thursday, thematic visits were organized in different parts of Paris. We could choose between Passages Couverts de Paris, Street Art in Paris and Tour of the Louvre: Symbols of Power and Leadership. The trip to Louvre was my personal favorite. Our tour guide made the link between great artworks housed at the museum and the leadership themes that encompass HEC Paris MBA’s values. The visit was a unique, once-in-a-lifetime learning experience.

To end the eventful week, we had a party in our very own P-bar in Expansiel, the on-campus, MBA residence. We celebrated with French craft beers, wine, champagne and music.

I want to thank the French Connection Club and all the other organizers for making us feel part of the French culture. With the bar set so high, we now have big expectations for the Indian and American Cultural Weeks coming up. No pressure for the organizers, just saying!

Text by Sumana Khound

Sumana Khound (MBA’19) is an engineering graduate from National Institute of Technology Kurukshetra in India. Her prior experience with Novartis Healthcare involved designing sales strategies to effectively promote pharmaceutical brands across a breadth of franchises such as general medicine, medical devices and vision care. Her work took her to different parts of Europe, and she decided to pursue an MBA at HEC Paris to strengthen her global network. Sumana enjoys traveling and is interested in the performing arts and theatre.