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Iona McAllen

SFU Alumni
BBA 2023
Beedie School of Business › Marketing | Beedie School of Business › Operations Management
Study Abroad › Exchange
Simon Fraser University

Experience Faculty
For my exchange, I went to ESCP, Paris campus. It was an exceptional opportunity, which allowed me to learn, grow, and gain greater experience.
Experience Details
Introduction + Preparation

The beginning of my experience abroad began with my exchange preparation and research. I knew going into university that exchange was an opportunity I wanted to partake in. Although I knew I definitely wanted to go on exchange, I was very unsure of where I wanted to go; I knew I wanted to go to Europe, but besides that, there were many different countries and universities I was considering.

Previous Experience

I got amazing advice from a professor, who said to pick a country in which you would love to live someday and one that is considered an expensive city, because as a student you get amazing opportunities and discounts. From here, I began considering Paris, as I had been to the city before and loved it.

Location Research

The most stressful part of this whole process was finding a place to live, as there were little resources from ESCP, and finding a place overseas was always concerning with the numerous scams.

Financial Preparation

Once I got accepted, I worked full time for 4 months before I left, saving as much as I could. Along with my own personal savings and family support, I applied for a Beedie Abroad Scholarship, provided by SFU. The application for the scholarship was very easy, was offered alongside other scholarships and funding opportunities, and greatly helped with the high cost of living in Paris.

Preparation Tips for Future Students

The exchange application process as fairly simple, however I felt the impact of COVID 19. I had two planned semesters abroad in which I was accepted. These got canceled due to the pandemic, and thus was not sure if I would be able to go before graduation. Although having two semesters canceled was very disappointing, it did give me more time to increase my savings. Luckily I had financial support from my parents as well; going into university they offered financial support for one semester in campus residence. I decided to save this support for exchange, as I could easily commute to SFU and knew exchange was an opportunity I wanted to take advantage of during my undergrad. The most stressful part of this whole process was finding a place to live, as there were few resources from ESCP, and finding a place overseas was always concerning with the numerous scams. 

During my Experience
Orientation and First Weeks

Throughout my exchange I had amazing experiences. Firstly, I was able to go to Paris with two of my great friends from Vancouver, and begin my adventure with them. It was really nice to have some support during the first week and to be able to explore the new city with some friends. I was able to gain confidence in getting around, the metro, and the language while they were with me, for an easier transition for when I was in Paris alone.

Accommodation and Living

I tried to find housing on my own through different websites and market places, but found it very hard to find a place available for the months I required and that felt like a secure transaction. As I was struggling to find accommodation on my own, I sought help through SFU sources; through these sources and assistance, I was able to get a dorm in an international university housing community. I am extremely grateful for this support, as I was able to get my own loft style apartment, live in a community setting that helped with meeting new people and making friends, and live in a well-known historic landmark.

Day to Day

Once they left, I began getting into a little routine, mainly consisting of hitting landmarks, wandering random towns, and trying new cafes and bakeries. This was amazing as I was living like a local, yet still so eager to explore the new city.

Learning and Adaptation

Once school began I was able to meet so many international students and began making amazing friends. Of course I began hanging out with other Canadians, as it is a comfortable thing to do. But I also made an amazing group of latinos.

Cultural and Environmental Observations

One of the best parts of the exchange was meeting so many people from different cultures, speaking to them, and seeing how they socialize, party, and even do assignments differently. Once I began hanging out with some of these groups, I began traveling to different parts of France and Europe.

Social and Extracurricular Activities

Throughout my semester I was able to go to 5 towns within France and travel to Italy, Croatia, Czech Republic, Scotland, and England. It was so much fun to be able to travel to so many different places relatively easily and make friends along the way.

Wrap Up

Some of the places that I visited that were exceptional experiences were Lake Como, Italy, and Pula, Croatia. The different cultures, the nature, and the people were all exceptions, allowing me to have amazing experiences.

Reflection & Tips

Although some of my travels were the highlight of my exchange, my time in Paris was exceptional. Simply walking around the city was beautiful and culturally engaging. I was able to see some of the most famous world landmarks, some of the most famous works of art throughout history, and visit past homes or inspirations to world renowned creations. There was an abundance of things to do, making each day new and exciting.

Most Valuable Aspects of This Experience

After I returned from my exchange I did have a very hard first week. I almost felt as if I no longer fit into my old schedule and routines. Things back home seemed to be almost frozen in time, and the same activities just felt different. I was also very overwhelmed coming home, as I went back to work and school immediately. In retrospect, I should've come home earlier, and given myself a week to two weeks to adjust. However, after the first week, things began to feel normal and I was able to embrace my schedule and old activities. One key thing reflecting on time away, I wish I spent less money. I saved up a great deal for exchange, in order to feel free and comfortable to do what I wanted, without the concern of finances. However, having this mindset definitely resulted in over spending and over indulgence.

Connection to Academic Studies or Career Goals

Along with the exceptional experience of just being in Paris, the schooling was also a great component. It helped with meeting new people, making friends, and setting a routine. My classes had mandatory attendance, which gave my week structure, but did not restrict me from traveling on the weekends. Through the school, I was able to learn the different expectations of work in different cultures, the different ways universities teach and grade, and the differing social expectations within group dynamics. I did very much appreciate that grades were pass or fail, as it allowed me to fully experience Paris and Europe, but I still learned a great deal and worked hard due to the group project components.

Advice for Future Students

Overall, this exchange semester has been an exceptional experience. I felt I was able to grow so much as a person, by forcing myself outside of my comfort zone. Typically, I have suffered from social and general anxiety, and tend to stick to the same routine and schedule. However, by doing this, I was able to force myself to address these problems and grow from being put in unknown and new environments. Overall, I am very proud of myself to have been able to do this, so grateful to the people I met and have become great friends with, and very excited to travel and experience more of different cultures.