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mathieu mon expat en inde
My expatriation to Ghāziābād

Mathieu, Master in Management student on expatriation to Ghāziābād

Can you introduce yourself?

I have been a student at EM Normandie for 4 years, currently in Master 1 Entrepreneurship & Innovations.

I went as part of my second expatriation to ITM Ghāziābād, in India which is a province of the capital New Delhi, in the first semester.

Because of Covid the classes were done remotely so we didn't really go on campus. It was a bit special, I will detail my experience.

What student associations have you joined?

I entered EM Normandie in my first year and participated in the sports office (Bureau des Sports) on the school's Paris campus.

When I returned from my expatriation to China in my second year, we listed with friends and won the sports office. We took over the reins of the association which we named Rush'EM.

Was India your first choice?

Not at all, it was my 11th choice, I was one of the students who went in the second round. I had only chosen Asian destinations with Shanghai as my first choice but Asia was very successful this year and everything was taken quickly. I was in the middle of the ranking. India turned out to be the first choice in the second round.

We don't necessarily think of India for an expatriation, perhaps because we often have a distorted image of reality. It is one of the only destinations where I could go in Asia and I am really happy to have made this choice.

Have you finished your courses yet?

Yes, the courses are finished and I am currently in Sri Lanka and will return to France afterwards. India is extremely rich in terms of cultural heritage. During the time we were in class, we organised many excursions to visit the country.

Being remote allowed us to discover more places than if we had been in person, although I imagine the experience would have been totally different.

What kind of courses do you have at your university?

There are 3 options to choose from: finance, marketing and operations. Within the marketing option I chose, there are two majors: Business Research Method and Strategic Management. In marketing, I had courses in communication, Brand Management, Product and Distribution Management and Consumer Behaviour.

Are these courses different from those in France?

It is a Business Shcool so the organisation of the courses remains similar. The organisation is particular for the distance learning courses as the international students are divided into classes of 3-4 students from one or more partner business schools in France.

The courses last one and a half hours, a shorter format than in the Master's programme at EM Normandie. The form remains quite identical since the teacher speaks and the students follow. The Indians participate a little more in class. The professors ask them a lot of questions and there is a participation grade with a fairly high coefficient.

The Indian students are older than us, they either already have a job or have done other studies before. We have a lot of engineers in our class who take up a marketing course to get a double degree at the end.

As for the association system, I have no idea because we were not on campus. I wasn't able to participate in the association life, but I think it is less developed than at EM Normandie. They only have a sports office and student office (bureau des étudiants) which organise events from time to time.

How did your integration in the country go?

You have to be prepared to go to India because you see things that you are not used to seeing in Europe for example. I had already been there once and I liked it a lot. Poverty is very shocking but I have the impression that things are changing. I was less surprised during this second expatriation.

The "educated" people are very friendly and the less educated people are very curious. You have to understand the fact that some people have never seen Europeans, people with white skin. As I have blond hair and blue eyes, I am very successful, including on social networks!

You have to dare to go towards them to exchange and overcome these preconceptions. They don't all speak English very well, but you will find that they are very nice people.

Did you have much contact with Indians?

Having taken my courses remotely, I had less contact with Indians than I would have had on campus. The advantage is that for the workgroups, we were mixed with Indian students. This made it possible to integrate, to look at their working methods and not to remain solely among expatriates.

As far as the English language is concerned, the school managers immediately warned us about the Indians' strong accent. They are well aware that this makes it difficult for international students to understand. With time, you get used to it. Their level of English is very good though, as it is one of the official languages of the country.

We all had a buddy, like in the United States. This person is there to help you, to answer your questions about the school and life on campus. It's a great thing even though Covid has forced us to communicate remotely.

Is there a performance culture in India?

Yes, there is a lot of competition between students. They all want to "be the best". They put a lot of pressure on themselves to get a degree because they really need it to succeed in professional life. They can't do without it as in France where you can manage without it.

It's a real culture of success and performance that is imposed by parents, by the school and that the students impose on themselves. As a result, it's difficult for us to participate in the classroom remotely because it goes so quickly. It would be different in a face-to-face setting where the teachers would allow us to speak more.

How did you manage to find accommodation?

We decided to rent a flat with some of our fellow students. We decided not to go to New Delhi because it's a city that is enormously polluted. Ghāziābād is actually the city with the biggest pollution peaks in the world. It's a province of New Delhi, there must be about 1 million people. There are a lot of corporate headquarters. By the way, the campus is brand new with sports fields and modern facilities.

How is the food?

The transition to India went very well from the start. The Indian food is very good. Forget about cheese naan which is a western invention, like sushi in France.

However, you have to be careful with the food sold in the street, take cooked dishes to avoid bad surprises. After a while, you feel like going back to France to eat a piece of cheese and drink a glass of wine!

What is your best memory?

I have several memories to share with you. I had already visited the Taj Mahal but went back with some friends. It's a really incredible place. You should try to go early in the morning, the palace is really beautiful.

We also have some great memories on the night bus. If you want to try it, take a good sleeper bus. However, it was impossible to pay with French bank cards, even international ones. It was a struggle. Once in the bus, you discover the bunks for 2 people which are arranged on two floors. It is really a great experience to live! The journeys between two cities are very long because the country is large.

On the other hand, I can also advise you to visit the southern cities. Don't just stick to the Rājasthān and the North. Our favourite was really the city of Munnar which is in Kerala. It's right in the mountains, you're in the tea fields and the sunsets are beautiful. If you have a licence, you can rent scooters there.

If you had to recommend a means of transport, what would it be?

A taxi would be too expensive for a student, but for a short journey, it is possible. Moreover, when there are several of us, we can divide the costs.

There are some cities where you will not have the choice to take the plane, since it takes 1 hour instead of 22 hours by train, for example between Bombay and New Dehli.

The cities are not always well served by trains, which are quite slow. You go faster by bus than by train. I recommend the bus for night trips, the car if it's a short trip and the scooter in places that are not too populated to avoid danger on the road.

Would you recommend this expatriation?

Yes, I would recommend this expatriation as I have experienced it. I didn't experience the face-to-face classes but I'm sure it's also a great experience.

Of course I recommend everyone to visit the country. We were lucky enough to have the courses online so we travelled a lot.

What is the budget for an expatriation such as yours?

A room on campus costs between 150€ and 200€ per month. You may think that India is a cheap country, but life can be expensive in modern and populated cities.

Indians have opened bars and restaurants with prices close to those in Europe. The range is quite wide but to live in Ghāziābād, you need between 800 and 1,000€ of budget per month. It all depends on the activities you do there. For our part, we travelled, enjoyed a lot, took buses very often, trains... Hotels here are not expensive at all. Avoid Airbnb because many ads do not correspond to reality.

Do you have any advice before going to India?

I discovered Uber tuk-tuk as soon as I left the airport. It's amazing because you can get anywhere in the city for very low prices. The regular tuk-tuk drivers charge 3 to 4 times the normal price. So I would advise you to take tuk-tuk on Uber.

Take advantage of the apps that locals give you for food, bus tickets, train tickets. Take an Indian SIM card because it's very convenient and cheap: I had a package with unlimited calls and SMS with 75GB of internet for 5 euros per month.

Take medication in your luggage before you leave. Take a little of everything. In the pharmacy, the medicines have nothing to do with the ones we know, so you don't know which equivalent to take.

Also get your vaccinations because depending on the region of India, the country may require certain vaccines. You must get information on the French and Indian government website. Prepare yourself well before leaving.

It's a country we love because it's beautiful and we discover a rich culture, beautiful people, lots of different religions and dialects but that can also cause a culture shock. Speaking of religion, Indians are quite complicated on the subject. There is a lot of tension between Muslims and Hindus. Don't take it personally, don't even try to argue with them. It's not the same culture, they won't understand this openness that we have in our European countries.

I encourage all students who are ready to discover India to go there. Moreover, it is a destination that is not often chosen, so you will have more chances to be selected. It is a country that will surprise you. Within EM Normandie, it is surely one of the expatriation choices that provokes the biggest culture shock. There are other partner universities to choose from in this country.

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