My name is Curtis. I am a second-year student of BSc Marketing at Bournemouth University. I have just returned from my second-semester exchange programme at EDHEC business school – Lille campus.
I got into higher education from dissatisfaction with my previous career path. I wanted more than my retail management career at the time could have offered me. I was interested in working overseas pursuing goals in a marketing role, not picking up clothes off of the floor, and dealing with customer complaints. I always knew I wanted to study abroad before I even applied to higher education. My end goal is to secure a job relating to consumer behaviors and how they differ by culture and country so a semester studying immersed in an alternative culture to my own was ideal. University life has brought its challenges, but an exchange programme in another country with very little ability in regards to the French language, all under COVID restrictions is definitely an experience I will never forget.

Winter in Parc Barbieux

EDHEC Business School

Lille campus for EDHEC business school was located in Croix, a small town just outside of Lille (about 30 minutes by metro). The campus was large, clean, and very modern-looking. The facilities were top of the line, with the lecture halls having multiple clear screens displaying the lecturer's material so nobody misses anything. The international office - Virginie Ghesquiere - Laden, in particular, was a huge help to me whenever I had any queries or concerns. I believe without her support and encouragement I would have left the exchange semester early.

All classes were taught in English by international lecturers. The school day began at 8 am and would sometimes run through until 8 pm. Often I would only have 1 or 2 classes per day which would range from 2-6 hours in length. There was a definite emphasis on punctuality and professionalism at EDHEC, lecturers would call students out if they were late and even dock marks for absence. This sounds strict but it worked very well and kept everyone in line. Standards of teaching were very high in my opinion, each lecturer was clearly passionate about their own subject, this kept the courses engaging. Due to the high teaching standards, efforts from students were expected to be reciprocated. Student in-class engagement and reading around each subject were mandatory and without this grades would suffer.

In class, there was a mixture between exchange students and french students on the English track. Due to the language barrier and the reluctance of French natives to speak English, our groups rarely mixed unless was absolutely necessary.

Exchange Cohort

Life As An Exchange Student

To be honest, other than being inhabited by students, there were very few similarities between BU and EDHEC. The campus had a more professional vibe and everyone took their learning seriously. At points, I felt out of place due to this as students who attended EDHEC had to go through a gruelling application process before they could be admitted.

I think my most unique experience whilst on my exchange is visiting Paris in the deep winter during a nationwide 'lockdown'. although only a day trip, this day out allowed me to see a lot of the city of Paris with literally 0 tourists. Every monument, landmark, and photo opportunity location was empty. Even the Eiffel tower, one of the most iconic buildings in the world was totally empty of tourists, just the locals enjoying it for themselves without crowds, maybe for the first and only times of their lives. This was the only time I was able to travel outside of Lille due to Covid restrictions which is unfortunate considering my initial plans to travel extensively through France during my stay. I will be back for sure.

Another unique experience I feel I was a part of is my involvement with the local Lille skateboarding community. If it wasn't for meeting a bunch of skaters throughout my time in Lille I believe I would never have been exposed to as many locals. Even though we were all so culturally different, skateboarding brought us together and provided me with friendships outside of just my student life. Hanging out with these local skaters helped me to develop my French language skills and teach them some of my English in return.

To begin with, I found myself very lonely and isolated. Being quite an anxious person probably didn't help me here but I eventually began to open up and develop great friendships with my peers. During the first 3 weeks of my semester, courses were still completely online so I met very few people and was considering returning home. In hindsight, I am glad I decided to stick the semester out as 3 weeks in the French government announced they would open schools, universities, etc. This was amazing news as I'd be able to experience in-class learning for the first time again in over a year and since BU was set to be totally online all semester this was a great opportunity. After the announcement, 80% of my classes were actually on the campus allowing much greater engagement with the lecturers and students. One tough period throughout the beginning of my semester was also having 2 coursework hand-ins to complete from BU alongside keeping up with the workload of EDHEC. This was due to an overlap in semester dates of BU and EDHEC and was super challenging and stressful and if I had done the semester again I would have made sure to complete/ prioritise these assignments before even travelling to minimise stress. Luckily I managed to overcome these assignments from my Brands & Branding and Research Principles & and Practice courses and complete them to a relatively good standard considering I was studying elsewhere to receive acceptable grades to take into my final year.

I ran into a few challenges during my stay in Lille. It was often tough to communicate with older french locals as my skills weren't great enough to hold conversations or answer the less frequently phrased questions. Locals often seemed frustrated with my inability to speak their language even if I had made an effort. This put me in many awkward interactions with me using my broken French and struggling to understand. The longer I lived in the city through these situations were becoming less frequent as I improved in the language. In addition to the language barrier challenges, it was also tough to form relations outside of the exchange student circle as most of the French students stayed in their own groups from the previous semester.

One thing I loved throughout my exchange experience was the comradery amongst the exchange students. It was clear everyone was in the same boat, being away from home in unprecedented times, we all stuck together, travelled and partied with one another, and formed great friendships in the meantime. It was great to exchange stories and information with each other about our parts of the world. The comradery really showed every Friday night where we would all come together and enjoy each other's company whilst enjoying a 'few' drinks in the on-campus accommodation. Considering none of us knew one another before we arrived in France we all formed an amazing bond. We were all a bunch of like-minded individuals from different parts of the world studying for a brighter future, I think Covid actually brought us all closer than we would have been without the pandemic and restrictions, kind of bitter-sweet.

At EDHEC there was definitely a bigger push on students’ self-sufficiency than at BU. We were required to complete multiple readings and pre-works before most lectures. Due to each module being short in length but so content-rich, these readings were super necessary for hindsight. The lecturers often had us extracting data and information from case studies provided to discuss openly in class. This exercise was very common and our individual participation in these discussions would reflect in our final grades.

Patrick Hermand Macarons


I didn’t sign up for any of the university's planned activities due to a lack of options thanks to COVID restrictions. I did however spend a lot of time amongst the Lille local skateboarding community. This was a great way to spend my spare time, socialising amongst a new culture. The language barrier challenged and helped me pick up and use the French language more frequently in a more casual, non-educational environment.

Although bars and restaurants were closed throughout my time at EDHEC, taking away that aspect of the cultural experience, we exchange students often met up for drinking parties on campus and picnics in the park. This was a great way to still be social and meet new people even throughout the restrictions. I can safely say I have made lifelong friends from this experience abroad.


Living in Lille

In the run-up to the exchange semester, I was full of anxiety and nerves due to the COVID restrictions on travel overseas. It was difficult, if not impossible to efficiently plan ahead as the rules could change at any hour. Upon arrival I had mixed emotions; apprehension, the anxiety of the unknown, and even glimmers of excitement of this upcoming adventure, to name just a few. Once I had arrived at my accommodation, I noticed over the first few days how empty and lifeless it was in contrast to how it is at home. This was due to other students experiencing similar issues with travel and restrictions from their own countries.

I lived in 1 of the 3 student accommodation blocks on the Croix university campus – around 40 minutes out of Lille city centre. I opted for a studio apartment instead of living in a 6 person KOT with a shared kitchen. This was for my own privacy and space. This apartment was much different from my previous UK accommodation where I shared a 2 bed flat with a couple of newlyweds.

Culturally France is quite different from my home life. I noticed this most whilst being amongst students a lot more excited and dedicated to their studies compared to the party attitude of BU. This was very inspiring and pushed me to prioritise dedicating more spare time to study and develop my skills above what was just ‘necessary’.
Weather-wise it was very similar, if not identical to ‘typical British weather’ – grey skies and unpredictable rainfall patterns, excluding a few weeks of sunshine in March.  

Protest At Théâtre Sébastopol

What I Studied

I took a blend of marketing and business-related courses at EDHEC. The expectations for students were very high in comparison to BU. Students were required to read large case studies or similar material before most classes to discuss and apply the findings at length with lecturers and other students. At first, I thought this workload was tough but I got used to it rather quickly and started to enjoy the additional readings, and found myself learning more efficiently.

Introduction to Finance - This course covered all of the basic concepts in the world of finance. This consisted of very little theory and mathematics and equations that can be applied in a business context. To begin with, I struggled as I hadn't studied any complex mathematics-based subjects since finishing secondary school. Once into the swing of things however I did enjoy my time on this course as everything we studied had a real-world application such as understanding risks and rates of return, valuation concepts and the time value of money, etc. Introduction to finance was graded by a group homework assignment (30%) and a final exam (70%).

Family Business - This was a course dedicated to understanding the workings of a family business and how they operate. The lecturer covered everything from advantages/ disadvantages of running a family business, nepotism, succession, and also deep dives into previous cases of successful/ unsuccessful family businesses such as Gucci. Family Business gave me a lot to think about in terms of business, whether I would want to work for a pre-existing family business or run one myself. This course was graded via an individual continuous assessment (50%) and a final group case study project (50%).

French - I was in the beginner French class as I arrived in France with very little knowledge of the French language. This course consisted of going over the fundamentals of the language. The lecturer kept the course very interactive and did very well keeping the students engaged throughout as it was conducted completely online. She achieved this by insisting we speak French as much as possible and really encouraged us to try even if pronunciation was incorrect, this helped hugely with my confidence when speaking with locals. However basic the content of this course was, it still gave me a nice baseline of the language to develop and improve in the real world. Performance was graded via continuous individual assessment based on our oral and written performance in class (100%).

Organisational Behaviour - I found this course particularly interesting as portions related to my past experiences in management, and my interest in consumer behaviors from a broader business perspective. During this course, I found myself in the vast field of Human and Social sciences to understand the interaction between man and business. This also helped to decipher the complex behaviors in work situations and use relevant theories to do so. This course was graded via 4 group case studies (1 per week) (40%), continuous individual assessment (25%), and a final exam (35%)

Understanding Consumers and Markets - This course covered very similar topics to Consumer Markets and Behaviour which I studied in my first year at BU. However, this was more of a deep dive into consumer behaviour and why they act in a certain way towards marketing efforts. I found this course super enjoyable as it provided a very deep insight into the decision-making of marketers and why they must do certain things based on statistics gathered from target markets. We used new applications and data analysis programmes throughout this course to interpret data and discover relevance and significance within the data to make decisions on how to approach the marketing efforts. Alongside this, we learned relevant theories related to marketing and consumer behaviours. This course was graded through continuous assessments (multiple choice quizzes) (10%), a final multiple-choice theory-based exam (50%), and a group project (40%). In the group project, it was up to each team to pitch men’s makeup to L’Oreal. To do so we had to gather relevant information on our target audience and analyse and interpret the data to understand and convey why men would wear make-up and how we can con convince them to buy.

Entrepreneurship and Sustainability: Business Solutions For A Sustainable World - This was by far my favourite course throughout my whole exchange. This course tackled real-life problems, such as climate change, poverty, and deforestation through a business perspective. The perspective was sustainability. How can businesses be sustainable? Throughout the course, we took deep dives into case studies of companies and their sustainability solutions and were encouraged to think of our own ways of being more sustainable. The lecturer made the course very interactive. The interactivity gave real connectivity and a good buzz around each class, it enabled us to think and contribute to sustainability discussions. After every class, I felt inspired to do more and encourage sustainability in my own life. The course was graded via Continuous Assessment Group (30%) – Case analysis in class, Continuous Assessment Individual (30%) – Sustainable Innovation presentation, Final Sustainable Product Pitch (40%). The final product pitch was a group pitch where we had to think of a way to present an already existing product more sustainably, this was my favourite task of the whole semester as it felt close to real-life innovation and practicality for future employment.

Good Morning Paris

My Reflections

If I were have given myself any advice at the start of the experience it would have been to keep an open mind to the situation and not be so cynical. Although the start may have been rough mentally, eventually the experience actually became good fun. Meeting new friends in and out of the school.

I would reassure a student studying abroad that the support necessary to their leap of faith is there from the two universities for you from start to finish. Most issues or concerns they may have are easily enough solved through a simple email or 2.

My attitude has changed regarding the sigma of the difficulty of working/ studying abroad. It’s nowhere as difficult or convoluted as I thought it would be. Since it was so simple and a relatively straightforward process I understand now that with perseverance and dedication there can be a light at the end of the tunnel. I will definitely seek out more opportunities abroad knowing that the process is less painful than expected.

My greatest achievement, to be honest, I would have to say just surviving the whole experience. It had a lot of ups and downs but I can't deny that it was totally worth the effort and commitment to complete as it is going to benefit me for years to come. I can safely say I am proud of myself for sticking out of the exchange considering all of the Covid related issues and restrictions complicating my every move. I have left Lille with a bunch of new lifelong pals, an insight into French culture, and pleasing grades in subjects that really are relevant in today's world.

I am excited to pursue my final year of study at BU. I have decided to specify in the market research and consumer behaviour aspects of marketing. Returning to the UK was also something to look forward to as I could reunite with my hometown friends and as the restrictions were further along than France, gyms and bars were set to reopen so ‘normal life’ could be restored.

During my studies of ‘Entrepreneurship and Sustainability,’ I began to understand how innovative, sustainable developments can positively impact the planet and all of us that inhabit it. So, from a global awareness point of view, this course directly exposed me to the extent we have on the planet beyond our imaginations. My mind was somewhat opened here to not think so closed-minded in business regard and to explore the bigger picture.

Throughout my time at EDHEC I gained multiple professional skills from the courses I studied. Firstly I developed my data analysis skills from my understanding of consumers and markets course. Data analysis and interpretation are very important in the world of marketing and a paticularly sought-after skill. I also developed the ability to extract data and information from different complex case studies effectively and efficiently. Lastly, and I'd argue most importantly is the skill of critical thinking, I believe this is the skill I developed most over the semester. Lecturers really made us think and work with real-life scenarios, not just theories, this allowed students to think with an open mind and challenge back. 

I would for sure recommend this experience to others. Even under COVID restrictions, I was able to immerse myself into the culture, make new life-long friends of many nationalities, and enhance my global awareness whilst positively contributing to job opportunities in the future.