Campus life: get ready to enjoy the ride!
Juan Pablo Acevedo joined the MSc in Management & Leadership after four years of work experience. With humor, Juan Pablo shares his EDHEC experience and gives advice on how to adjust to the French culture.
How did you experience the first 5 months at EDHEC?
It has been my feeling from the beginning that EDHEC goes out of its way to make the students feel comfortable and at ease with the programme and the new environment.
Coming from “far away”, the combination of a new country, a different school system, and unfamiliar habits and cultures… is overwhelming. Rice and beans are replaced by croissants and quiche! Kudos to the school for focussing on the personal comfort and needs of the new students. At no time, did I feel unsupported.
What is your background prior to joining EDHEC?
I’m a Colombian from the proud city of Medellin. After having finished the prestigious University of Antioquia, I went from an internship in Bancolombia, the largest private Colombian bank to a full-time job as an executive analyst position, growing within the company for a couple of years.
You joined the MSc in Management & Leadership after four years of work experience. Why join the MSc in Management & Leadership?
Completely related to the previous answer, it appeared to me that while having had an excellent undergraduate education, I required this extra postgraduate education to ensure that I had a stronger base for a balanced career. While in my previous job, a lot of knowledge was gained from learning on the job, and “as they come” requirements, it was essential for me to start adding extra doses of educational structure and understanding. The benefit of having work experience prior to engaging in the degree programme seems very beneficial, as the day-to-day application of what we learn becomes obvious.
Did you get a scholarship?
EDHEC offered me the Academic Excellence Scholarship and obviously, I received it with open arms! I think it shows that the Business School is very engaged to attract the best talent. Still getting used to the idea of living on a budget is probably a good lesson for life. One day a banker and the next day an international student on a tight budget was not an easy transition.
You chose to come and study in France. Why this study destination? How do you adjust to the French lifestyle and Lille?
That was obvious, as I also had the choice of going to Hawaii, New York or Miami and of course, those destinations do not compare with the vibrancy that Lille offers… Just kidding of course. Loving Lille and very impressively surprised with the city and the central location, this was the card I was dealt with and happily embraced. Truly feeling that the location is amazing, French gastronomy is great and the city has a lot to offer in entertainment and cultural events.
What aspects of MSc programme do you enjoy the most so far? Your favourite class? Professor? Why?
Halfway into the programme, it is still hard to say what my favourite class has been. While the programme focuses on management, it is the finance class that calls my attention the most and as I already mentioned, these seem to have the best application to my interest and background. Similarly, the reflexive leadership programme helps me to develop teamwork skills and knowledge to coach and guide, sometimes the most difficult part of a corporative role is the interaction between people.
The initial few months definitely have been eye-opening, while adjusting from a strongly structured university class approach in Colombia to a more collaborative, group-oriented approach at EDHEC. Both have pros and cons and for a postgraduate programme, this structure is very suitable. The interaction with the professors is most engaging and as such, there is a much stronger comfort level in asking questions and a feeling of being coached. My English is vastly improving, the professors are getting used to my Latino accent, and slowly I am getting used to the variety of intonations from the professors and my co-students. Studying French is a fun challenge and helps me not only with the language but most importantly, allows me to order the right food and not succumb to starvation!
What has been the greatest opportunity you have had at EDHEC so far?
There are academic opportunities and social opportunities. On the academic side, the start of my thesis and prospecting for my internship is the major opportunity. The last part is not quite yet accomplished, but the groundwork is laid down. I am very impressed with EDHEC Career Centre events and its strong relationship with the private sector. Almost every week, we have different job fairs with important and renowned companies.
On the social side, the international scene at EDHEC allows me to get to know co-students from all around the globe. Lille’s perfect location makes travelling easy and exploring the variety of European cultures. Travel like a millionaire on a poor man's budget!
Can you tell us about the career services you benefited from?
So far, the career advice has been of good support. The university has a special team to help us define companies and industries of our interest. Furthermore, they support reviewing our resume and cover letter. As I mentioned before, job fairs are a great opportunity to understand the French job market and the needs of companies.
What are your career aspirations?
With a strong base in finance and now a focus on Management, I see myself back in the equity, banking and investment world. Possibly thereafter in a more entrepreneurial role. My thesis focuses on Blockchain and the disruption it will generate in financial industry. It is intended to call the attention of some select financial institutions. A strong internship will also be a good start.
What advice would you give someone who is thinking about applying for the programme?
Well, with my experience I could probably write a book about it… But some advice, I would give is: to study at least basic French before starting the programme: to make sure your English is even better by reading, listening and writing in English prior to coming and, to read up on France, French culture, French food and French history. Be prepared to completely step away from your daily “repas (meals)” - rice and beans in my case-. And don’t take the attitude of our beloved French people in any way personal, a smile goes a very long way!
If you had three words to sum up your EDHEC experience, what would they be?
Go for it!