Sunday, February 3, 2013


The reason for my long silence...
As many of you might know by now, I have decided last year to study again.  Not so easy to be a student again after many years of professional life, but I have realised being in a new country, or rather, being in France, requires that.  Despite having a good education in SA, the French tends to snob education from other countries.  They have their superior 'Grandes Ecoles' and many companies go so far as to require in their job publications that the job is reserved for somebody who have studies at a 'Grande Ecole'.
Not being the housewife type and not wanting to be dependent on one company for whom I'm doing some odd consulting from time to time, I started exploring the study opportunities in France at the beginning of last year.  JL and I went to an open day at Reims Management School, as it is not far from us, and a Grande Ecole.  Their Executive MBA seemed interesting and, presented in English, not a bad option. But the fees - far out of our budget range...A few Specialised Masters seemed interesting. And a bit more affordable.  My search started, I've started exploring different schools with their different courses, some presented in English, some in French, some requiring a GMAT, some not, some a Grande Ecole, some not, fees varying tremendously. The whole process was far more time consuming and complicated than what it would have been in SA.
Finally I have chosen  to study at a campus in Paris, being a filial of Reims Management School and Rouen Business School and both a Grande Ecole and both having a relationship with my old university in SA.  A specialised masters in Contrôle de Gestion, Management des Risques et Planification.  No sorry, I have no good English translation for that...
The decision wasn't easy, as the masters is presented in French. At Reims they have ensured me they'll test my French level during the application, I don't need to worry.  My requests to attend a class during an hour or so to see for myself whether I'll be able to follow the French was answered by 'send your application form with the money, thereafter we'll organise that'. Finally, time started running out and I got more and more frustrated, so just sent my form. This resulted in an interview and...a test to test my English level.  My response that they should test my French and not my English fell on deaf ears. No, they test the level of English.  And one thing that can frustrate me enormously is when people cannot apply their minds according to the circumstances...
So, needless to say, I got accepted without knowing whether my level of French will allow me to cope...
Then the next horror, I found out you have to do a student job at a student tariff. France is the only country I am aware of where you have to start all over in your life, your many years of work experience being a zero in their eyes. With time, I have accepted that, although difficult. Fortunatley the school was willing to meet me and accept the fact that I'm doing work in the consulting company that JL and I have created during last year. Provided that I'll have enough projects.
The classes are every second week, three consecutive days, about 8 hrs per day with 45 min-1h lunch (very short for France where you normally have the pleasure of a leasurely lunch of 2 hours...)
A few months before I have asked the prof allocated to our group to send me a list of books that I can start reading, to start acquring the vocabulary I might need.   To finally got the name of a book that was written 30 years ago...
Finally I went to FNAC (a huge chain in France selling books and electronic equipment) and bought a series of books for Contrôle de Gestion, nevermind that it wasn't the books that the prof told me (as they were laughing at me, ensuring they do not keep books that old). I was getting stressed with the starting date nearing and I knew I have to improve my French.
I've spend more time in the dictionnary (or rather dictionnaries) searching than reading. It took me a painful hour to read 6 pages and the little book with new vocabulary was filling up quickly. I was getting my doubts.
By mid Oct the classes started. The first day went well, good profs, speaking slow enough for me to follow and articulating (important for non-French to understand the French). The second day went OK, the third day I've lost it during the afternoon. The young guy spoke very fast and by then I was exhausted. I stopped him halfway through and asked him to speak slower please - not the popular thing to do...
In Nov we had three intense day with a lot of numbers. And even though I love calcs,  French numbers are still my weak point in French. So the prof will say the answer in the class and I'm still trying to figure out the first word... By the third day we had to do a group task and I was a blank. They could have spoken Russian to me for that matter, I didn't understand a word of French....
By then I was seriously considering to stop studying.  I'm not somebody who give up easily in life, but I thought for once I have really started a project with too many odds against me. What's more, I've heard we'll write an exam just before Christmas and I have realised, taking so long to read French and sometimes making an error because of misunderstanding the French, I risk a big failure...The prof responsible for our group told me to not despair, they'll accept if I answer in English, although they will not give me an English exam, it will be in French. I've decided I'll try until the exam and then see...
Telling someone though to answer in English, but all the notes and classes are in French and the exam is in French, is easier said than done.  But I've worked hard, deciding it will be the turning point - stop or carry on?
Two week before the exams we had a snow storm and we've hardly made it to the station on the Thursday morning.  Passing a car stuck in snow. Wind blowing snow across the road that you can hardly see the road in front of you.  I was relieved that we've decided to book a hotel in Paris for the night before and after the exam (although the weather turned out to be fine).
Another different way of doing things in France (like so many other things) - their exam paper counts 20.  It makes my head turn to understand how a one hour or 90 min paper can count only 20 and I have no frame of reference of how much one should write.  We had 3 papers, 4h in total (as it was work of 3 profs).  I was completely exhausted afterwards, not even being able to write a proper English e-mail.
Due to the group's prof not being a good communicator, I wasn't sure whether he communicated with the 3 profs to say that I may have answered in English and started to fear that I might be penalised.  Our second exam came up a week ago. Still no response to my mails to the prof and still no feedback from the Dec exam. I've decided to bite the bullet and learn in French and answer in French (this time 4 profs work and much more theory than for Dec).  Finally the exam turned out to be only theory :(, I went a bit of a blank in the French, but I have crossed a bridge. I have managed to answer 100% in French, how crooked it might be...At least everyone was complaining afterwards that it was a difficult exam. Receiving 2 of the 3 results of the Dec exam directly after the Jan exam made me feel better. Especially after I have learned that my average was, with one other person, the best in the class. Although I fear it might be the inverse for the past exam...
After a lot of confusion within the class whether the masters is recognised as a M from a Grande Ecole or not, me having thought so when starting to study, but then uncertainty crept in and at one stage it was said it is not (to my horror as I wanted to obtain a degree from a Grande Ecole due to its importance in France) it was finally confirmed that it is a degree from a Grande Ecole. whew!
So not only the language is difficult, but the whole way of organising things in France, the score, etc. I've decided to continue, especially since my French has improved tremendously since Oct having acquired a lot of business French but I can tell you, they test your patience!


  1. Congratulations Joretha. You are so studious

  2. congratulations Joretha. You are so studious


  3. Merci beaucoup! You set a good example :)