by Catherine Lim
ESSEC is a unique modern designed university located in the suburb of Cergy in Paris, roughly 30km out from the city center and accessible by the RER A train line.
ESSEC is located a 40 min train ride from the center of Paris, so housing options differ depending on preference. There are 3 main housing options off campus for exchange students: Le Port residences (10 min walk to uni), Les Linandes (30 min walk) and Cergy Le Haut (CLH) Residence, a 2 stop (7 min) train ride.
Benefits of living close to uni include enjoying the full benefits of campus life and including events run at the student bar (Le Foys) and not having to wake up too early before classes. However if you’re determined to live in the arrondissements of Paris, you’ll have to get on the search quite early and make sure to check out the housing before putting a down payment. Make sure to apply for CAF (housing subsidy) to make your money stretch a bit further too and check the requirements for this before you depart Australia as you often need a translated birth certificate and so forth.
I stayed in the CLH residences in a single studio room which was generous in space and included a private bathroom and small kitchen (with a fridge and 2 hot plates to cook). ESSEC also offers students a “Welcome package” to provide basics for their room such as a pillow, blanket, pots/pans, plates and cutlery, however if you’re organised enough, you can always go to the hypermarket (Auchan) in Cergy Prefecture’s Les Trois Fontaine (shopping center) for your goods.
The French Business School teaches classes in both English and French and the campus is about the size of the area from the Law Building to the Business school at UNSW making it easy to get between classes. It has good facilities (cafeteria, gymnasium, auditorium) with nearby tennis courts and a park. A tip for cheap lunches near campus would be to head to the nearby CROUS café for a 3€20, 3 course lunch, they accept cash at the beginning of semester but you’ll need to obtain a money card to charge up after that.
The full time load at ESSEC ranges from 16-30 ETCS where 30 is quite a heavy load of roughly 7 courses. Classes are in 3 hour blocks in a small interactive lecture style and teachers are pretty good. They also offer intensive courses the week before semester and also during the mid semester breaks. I would encourage you to take the French Civilization course (offered in english and french) which is a fun way to get to know the culture and history of france and includes some cheese tasting! I took most of my classes in English and they were all fairly manageable, depending on your level of French, you will need to evaluate your suitability to take business subjects as they can be relatively challenging.
Don’t let the distance from the city center fool you into thinking ESSEC isn’t a fantastic uni for student life and study- There are regular events at Le Foys and organised club events and also larger Campus parties where the school is transformed into its own club. The school does regular Tuesday panel shows (in French) and if that all bores you, you can always have a good night in town! Highly recommend Place de la Bastille which is always a lively area.
Surrounding area and travel:
Cergy has the occasional event and some markets on in St Christophe and if you’re there, I’d recommend going to Le Pont Rouge” which is a nice view over a lake and also part of the Axis of Paris (you can see the Eiffel Tower from afar and at night when it sparkles). Cergy also have a direct bus to the CDG airport which is great for weekend trips around Europe. Alternatively, you can spend your days exploring the arrondisements of Paris. ESSEC usually organises a welcome event in Paris with a Bateau Mouche ride down the Seine with the student society (BDE) and exchange students.
ESSEC offers Salsa dancing, boxing classes, football and a few other sports postered up near the gym. I don’t recall seeing too many social societies but you can always ask around!
ESSEC is a great uni and highly recommended, it’s quite easy to make friends with the exchange students who all live in the residences and you’ll have a local buddy as well. Stay safe and street smart and you’ll have the best time on exchange!