Pursuing an MBA in Europe as an American

One thing I love about my role as Marketing Manager for the HEC Paris MBA is the opportunities I have to reconnect with our graduates and learn more about how the MBA has influenced their careers. Recently, I caught up with Erik Strong, who graduated from the HEC Paris MBA in 2017. He’s currently moving into a new role in consulting in New York after a VP position within strategy and quantitative regulation at CITI.

With a background in applied statistics, Erik had worked in New York for Bank of America for several years before joining the MBA program. In 2015, he decided he needed a change: from New York City and his routine, to something that would inspire his career.

Erik decided not to follow the well-worn path of doing an MBA in the United States. Instead, he sought “an additional level of challenge” and pursued his MBA in Europe.

He shared with me 5 advantages of earning an MBA degree at HEC Paris as an American.

1. Learning a new language and more

Post-MBA, I was able to have a conversation in French with a recruiter from a French company based in the United States. Because I was different from the other American candidates, I know that I stood out and made a good impression.

2. You can experience Paris!

I decided to live off-campus, near Bastille in Paris. Many students live on campus to avoid the commute. I knew choosing to live in Paris wasn’t the easiest route, but it was definitely fulfilling. I had to obtain a visa and adapt to the European lifestyle. It was the right time in my life to experience everything the French culture has to offer.

In the USA, for example, you connect with your co-workers or friends through football or basketball. In France, you bond over cheese and wine. As a member of the MBA’s French Connection Club and co-founder of its semi-annual Wine & Cheese Event, I became good friends with all the French-speakers in the program and I learned so much about the French culture. I would even venture to say I became an entirely different person during my MBA experience.

3. You experience business in a new country and continent

Many Americans study abroad during their undergraduate studies, but paying bills, navigating Paris and living in such a vibrant city for 16 months brings the experience to a whole new level. I used my free time to explore many regions of France, London and much of Europe.

By choosing to leave my comfort zone and study with so many different nationalities, I gained soft skills and team-management skills. I really believe the MBA helped me take on new challenges and to dare.

4. You rewrite your own story

HEC Paris is a top quality school and among the best educational institutions in the world. Yet, in the USA, many people haven’t heard of it. I had to learn to tell my story, to be more precise, more inspirational, and to adapt to my audience to convince.

I know further challenges lie ahead. I want to keep challenging myself. I feel much more equipped to do that than before my MBA. There is absolutely a difference between pre-MBA and post-MBA. It’s sometimes hard to put words on it: it’s just the experience, it helps you when you don’t expect it.

5. You gain “direct connections”

My biggest take-away? The people! I feel like there will always be a tight bond with anyone who has lived in France and even more so with graduates from HEC Paris.

In New York, I regularly meet with HEC Paris alumni. It’s a close-knit community with two to four major events organized every year. The school is connected with the French Consulate and large French corporations such as Moët Hennessy– it’s hard to say “no” to a champagne tasting, especially when it reminds me so much of my time in France!