MBA student Viet Ha Thi Nguyen successfully completed a study exchange program at Audencia Nantes School of Management for Spring 2020 semester
REFLECTION REPORT ON EXCHANGE SEMESTER
NUCB Business School is a balanced mixed culture of the West and the East (which is not popular at all for a university in Japan), I got exposed to students from a lot of places in the world with different mindsets, education backgrounds or cultures. This has motivated me to take an exchange semester abroad to experience a new place, meet new people and immerse myself in a new culture. I was lucky to be admitted to Audencia Business School, one of the most highly ranked universities in France and my major is Managing for Sustainable Impact - which is what I've always wanted to discover further.
One of the reasons why I chose Audencia was because of the major it offered. I’ve always wanted to study deeper about Sustainability Management and this seemed to be a precious opportunity to get to know further what developed countries are doing and teaching the future generations about doing business while keeping a good relationship with nature. What is eye-opening about the course is the systematic knowledge of the environment situations and a foundation to rethink the relationship between business and society. Based on a scientific approach to sustainability and a philosophical/ethical approach to CSR, this major focuses on the world’s grand challenges and tracks the development of business’s role in CSR and sustainability. The course moves from a macro to a micro level to connect grand challenges, philosophy and natural sciences to an individual level. It is particularly interesting to learn about how to use tools for leadership and change management as well as developing their own thinking and personal mission.
The learning method in Audencia basically goes around the process of in-class lectures and group projects, which helps students to get to know each other better and improve interpersonal skills. The most “heavy” yet interesting project that we got to work on is about whether CSR dimensions affect the application rate of international students and how to improve CSR to differentiate Audencia with other business schools. This project lasted for 4 months and it took a lot of effort, interviews and readings to study about this subject. It was striking to me to learn that the Audencia board had envisioned raising the CSR standards not only within the campus itself but also in students’ mindset for doing business. Managing sustainability is not yet a popular concept in either education or business (in many countries), but I think I’ve learned a lot as a future leader and a responsible global citizen.
Also, almost every course in my major would invite several guest speakers to talk about the topics that were being discussed. Their professions vary from governmental employees, multinational companies’ employees or start-up/ NGO owners and researchers; which is really cool as I had the opportunity to listen and learn from different aspects.
Life in Nantes
“Nantes is a nice city” is what I heard from ALL French people when I asked them about this city but it wasn't until I came here that I realized how “nice”, peaceful and picturesque it is. Nantes to me is a great combo of nature, historical heritages and modernity. In my freetime, I loved taking a walk and discovering buildings, historical sites there. Nantes' cityscape is primarily recent, with more buildings built during the 20th century than in any other era.
Personally, I do not know the French language and, most of the time, I have absolutely no idea what people are saying or what procedures. However, I am still actively attempting to immerse myself in the culture, so I have been researching French history as an avenue to relate to French students and interpret their behaviors. One of my observations is that the French appear to be slightly less welcome to speaking other languages, and prefer for you to attempt to speak in French. My interpretation is that France is a very proud country; their language represents their rich history of Enlightenment thinkers, innovation and diplomacy. They have also seen the English language infiltrate their society and it has upended some of the French influence around the world. These changes have made the French more protective of their language, and hence, on average, slightly less welcome to speaking different languages. I have learned to value the pride they have in their country, and it has motivated me to learn more of the language, culture, and history.
I stated before that I am not yet an immersed global citizen, but I do have aspirations to one day work with people across borders. I am excited to be exposed to many different cultures and it is necessary to value their differences in order to collaborate and optimize performance.
The new normal
The new pandemic has put me into a very difficult situation: France would close the border until further notice. All of a sudden, schools were closed, everything would be shifted online and soon there would be no flights. It was very tough for me to decide to book the flight back home to Vietnam as at that moment the gut feeling telling me there would be no such thing as “normal” coming back again.
So the new phase of the semester was done online, which is not very interesting and interactive compared to in-class lectures. I also faced a lot of difficulties of time zone differences, jet lag, network conditions, etc but teachers in Audencia really understood and supported me a lot to complete my program. Thanks to their hard work, we could gain knowledge not only by their teaching but also through a lot of sharing from invited speakers. Even Though this journey ended not in the way I expected it to be, I did feel very grateful for the experience, the people that I met, and the lessons that I could take away for the rest of my life.