My first flight ever, I stared out the window as the plane took off, wondering how the wings didn’t snap off. My first flight ever I didn’t sleep a wink as my plane raced towards a sunrise for eight hours through the night. My first flight ever was an international flight from Detroit to the Charles de Gaulle airport.
My first flight was five days ago.
How can I put into words what this experience has been like? It hasn’t even been a week and yet I have no idea where to start. In reality, my experience began long before I landed in that bustling Charles de Gaulle airport.
(If you want to get to the meat of what I do here at HEC, feel free to jump to the bottom of the page, to My Job. I won’t have any way of knowing so I won’t be insulted.)
When I was first looking into summer plans, I didn’t have my eye on this position at HEC. I didn’t even know that this position existed (or that HEC Paris was not actually in Paris, but near a little town called Jouy-en-Josas).
When I was first looking into summer plans, I was interested in something very different. It was also through the University of Michigan, but they were very different programs. They were service based, which appealed to me, but none of them were in French. I psyched myself out, thinking that I was only a Freshman and too young and unqualified to do anything like that. I got cold feet a few weeks before the deadline for applying, and so that opportunity passed.
Shortly after the deadline passed, a friend of mine came to me exited and told me she’d gotten into the exact program she’d wanted, one of the ones I’d been looking at. Her face was so full of life, so full of excitement at the possibility of what could be, brimming with a light of courage. I felt a cold pang of regret. Instead of wallowing, I congratulated her, hugged her, and began my search for a summer project from the top.
The start of my path to Jouy-en-Josas began with one specific email. It was from the Opportunity Hub. It was actually the image of a small Canadian schoolhouse that drew me to their office hours. Once in, and once I’d expressed my interest in spending time abroad, I was presented with many different options of internships that I could apply for in France. With the help of the staff at the Opp Hub, we found the opportunity that seemed to be the perfect balance for somebody like me; imperfect French, new to travel, but willing to work and to adapt to new situations. A few weeks later, I was finalizing plans for my internship here at HEC Paris, the top business school in France. It draws an international crowd, so much so that hearing four or five languages at once in the student restaurant is daily business.
It’s now been about one week that I’ve been here in Jouy-en-Josas, nestled just below and to the east of Versailles, in the heart of France. Campus is a gentle introduction to French culture; the rulebook of how to be polite (always greet people with Bonjour or Bonsoir, please and thanks are imperative) is still in use, but the staff are fairly understanding of any lapses in manners.
My coworkers themselves are all fantastic. The transition from mindless summer relaxation to being dropped into a new country for the first time has been made so much easier by their consideration and help.
As of now, the work of our team of interns consists of preparing for the Summer School students who will be coming on the 12th of June. We’re working to imagine any possible way to make their transition easier so they can stop worrying about how busing works and start worrying about how they’re going to create a final project in the short span of two weeks.
I didn’t come into this internship with any expectations. The title was loose, perfect for working with the staff here to find a job that best utilities my skills and interests. It’s a position that is very dependent on self-driven work and creativity, and an ability to pursue projects even if they may not end up being used in the end.
If I were to summarize my expectations, then, I’d say that I expect to:
- Learn how to work in close quarters with a team of 7+ other interns, all with their own expectations and ideas
- Pursue many small, differing projects that will teach me a grab-bag of skills through hands-on experience
- Improve my French
- Hopefully puzzle out how public transportation works in France
But my one largest expectation is that after this, I won’t look at my American lifestyle the same way again. So far I’ve seen Versailles, which is beautiful and a tourist hot-spot, but I’ve also seen the little town of Jouy-en-Josas. It’s quiet, and shops close for lunch and on Sundays. It seems like a very comfortable place to work.
If you read all of this, thank you so much. It’s over 700 words, much over the suggested amount, but there’s so much to say. I’ll try to cut it down next time, but if this was interesting, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll be sure to respond if I can, either directly or in my next post in a week.
À bientôt ! See you soon!
Bonus: A picture of a street in Versailles that I thought caught the light very nicely.
Bonus squared: We also found a chicken on campus today. We think that it escaped from the nearby farm.We named it Alfonso.
I’m pretty sure that Alfonso is a girl, because roosters generally have droopier tails and bigger combs and wattles (the red things) on their faces, but Alfonso is a great name one way or another.