Friday, 4 May 2018

How to go from “Je m’appelle baguette” to acing a job interview in French



 It’s not a new trend that studying abroad provides plenty of cool opportunities to learn a new culture and language. Despite the fact that most universities offer lectures in English, it’s a good idea to step out of your comfort zone and get to know the basics of the local language. If you are planning to stay abroad for work, it is even more important to do so.


"...it’s a good idea to step out of your comfort zone and get to know the basics of the local language"


In some places, like the Netherlands or Germany, one can survive for longer periods with the aid of English only; in France this is not the case. Here, everyday activities such as grocery shopping or buying a transport card might become quite challenging, let alone finding an internship. In fact, one thing that is silently known but not openly admitted is the difficulty of finding a job in France without being fluent in French. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of companies that are willing to close an eye on this if the candidate’s profile is well fitting, but one should at least be able to interact with co-workers in their native language.

Therefore, for the sake of a smoother everyday life but also for the pursuit of one’s career, it is recommended to learn the basics of the French language before arriving to France. Although it might be hard to squeeze in French classes while preparing for the GMAT, applying to different master’s degrees, writing a bachelor thesis or completing an internship, it would be a small sacrifice that will yield results later on. Below are a few tips (that can be followed anywhere, at any time) to learn the language in an effective way.

"...it is recommended to learn the basics of the French language before arriving to France"

#1 Technology is your ally (apps, videos, etc.)

Today is probably the best era to learn new things, as we are surrounded by tools and techniques allowing a more personalized approach to acquiring new skills and knowledge. The good old flashcards can be useful but slightly unpractical, so apps providing quick exercises like Duolinguo, will boost one’s vocab in no time. Another precious tool is Easy French, a YouTube channel offering a plethora videos (with subtitles) for any type of user and interest.

#2 Know the Rules

Grammar is the bone structure of a language and although studying it intensely might not be the fastest way to master a language, having a rough knowledge of verb tenses and their uses might actually make the difference between making people giggle and being able to impress a recruiter. The Becherelle, a tiny (it fits in any medium-sized purse J) booklet on verbs’ conjugations and basic grammar rules, is definitely one’s best buddy on the journey to mastering the French language.

"...having a rough knowledge of verb tenses and their uses might actually make the difference between making people giggle and being able to impress a recruiter."

#3 Movies & series

It is true that one is a click away from changing the language settings on Netflix or from downloading a movie in another language, but one can use the study of a foreign language as an excuse to get acquainted with a completely new cinematographic tradition. Luckily, French cinema produced some masterpieces, ranging from the classic Amélie to the success of Intouchables. However, for those who enjoy the lightness of series, Plus Belle la Vie and Caméra Café should do the trick. Watching a movie in French with French subtitles can actually help the ear get used to the new words while training the eye to their spelling.

#4 Imagine a situation with Frenchies

Another extremely useful activity is to imagine an everyday situation, such as visiting a provider to get a forfeit and then translate the imaginary conversation on paper. This might sound weird to do, but it is actually very effective as it prepares to react to ordinary events without having the need to use the sign language.

#5 Wanted: French native speaker

Needless to say, feeling comfortable having a conversation in a foreign language is the hardest part of the whole process and yet probably the most crucial one, especially if the goal is to ace the interview and get the job. And here is where the greatness of social media comes in: believe it or not, people of any nationality living abroad will have a Facebook group in which they share experiences and tips. All one needs to do is to look for it (for example “Les françaises à Berlin/New York/Katmandu”) and share a post asking if anyone is willing to spend some time weekly over a coffee to chat in French. 

"...feeling comfortable having a conversation in a foreign language is the hardest part of the whole process and yet probably the most crucial one"

Most likely, those who come forward are glad to meet new people and to share their culture and in the best case scenario, they will be willing to check your homework or recommend you books and movies. This is not only much cheaper and more flexible than enrolling in a traditional language course, but also achievements will come more quickly and there’s the chance of making a new friend.

All these are just a few of the many ways in which one can learn a new language; however there are some key ingredients to a successful approach: commitment and motivation. They prevent from constantly postponing and from giving up once the first difficulties arise (rest assured, they will). One just needs to drop the excuses, the “I’m not a language person” idea and use downtimes fruitfully. By regularly practicing French when commuting on public transport, while waiting for the nail polish to dry or even during your workout routine, results will come sooner than expected.

"By regularly practicing French...results will come sooner than expected."

Written by Costanza Poser, 1st year MiM Grande Ecole Student 

Friday, 23 March 2018

Low-budget Paris: How to Enjoy a Weekend in the city of Love on a Student Budget



Paris is definitely the city that makes anyone day dream with the beauty of its architecture, the museums, the delicious food, the infamous fashion week, the lights and shopping strip on the Champs Élysées…and at that point you’re reminded that you’re still a student who most likely can’t afford fine dining and shopping-like-no-tomorrow. 


"...one can enjoy (almost) all of the pleasures the city has to offer by making some clever research and by asking around."



It is no secret that the City of Lights can have no mercy on tight knit wallets, but what most people ignore is that living in Paris as a student doesn’t necessarily mean to be living in a Dickensian novel. In fact, one can enjoy (almost) all of the pleasures the city has to offer by making some clever research and by asking around. Since you are here, below are some friendly tips to be Paris savvy when your wallet is tight.

Activities

Get lost in Parisian Streets or take a Guided Tour

There’s no better way to get to know a city than walking around and getting lost in its streets, discovering the little things that make it unique. But getting lost might not be really fun, especially if you’re not quite familiar with the place and don’t speak the local language. So why not getting acquainted with the surroundings little by little by participating to a guided tour? Generally, this kind of activity can be quite pricy, but you are smart and Google is your second best friend so it won’t take you long to find websites such as Sandeman’s and Discover Walks! These sites propose (short) free guided tours around different areas of the city. So now you don’t have any excuses, grab your tennis shoes and camera and go explore!

"There’s no better way to get to know a city than walking around and getting lost in its streets, discovering the little things that make it unique."

Check out the Museums

Are you an art-freak and would like to visit every single museum in town? Or would you just like to quickly see the Mona Lisa just to tick it off your bucket list? In either case, why pay the ticket if you can get in for free?! In fact, students studying in Europe who are below the age of 26 can visit (almost) any museum without having to pay the ticket! Also, the first Sunday of the month is free to anyone.  
Here you can find more details about free admissions to Parisian museums. What are you waiting for?! Go and see that beautiful Mona Lisa’s smile.

Take a stroll in a Park

Everyone knows the beauty of the Jardin des Tuileries and of the Jardin du Luxembourg, but there are many other less known green corners hidden in the maze of Parisian boulevards - one just needs to keep an eye open. While walking on the Champs Élysées you might want to get a bit off of the beaten path and walk around or even just sit on a bench in the nearby and marvellous Parc Monceau. For a more romantic and quieter setting, you should absolutely have a twilight picnic (even better if in company of your significant other) on the grass at Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, located a bit further away from the city centre but definitely worth it.

"...there are many other less known green corners hidden in the maze of Parisian boulevards - one just needs to keep an eye open."


Meals

Eat out the French way

Picture yourself walking around Paris with a baguette under your arm -  is there anything more cliché to check off your bucket list than enjoying a crêpe to go while exploring the quartier latin? If you’d like to tick this point off your bucket list, then you should definitely try out Au petit Grec, a small crêperie that will give you a taste of how serious are French people when it comes to food. Sweet or savoury, a crêpe is always the perfect snack however when the big hunger strikes, you should definitely go for a full meal and what is better than an entrecôte accompanied by a glass of wine?

Bistro Victoires, with its oh-so-French allure is probably the first place you should pay a visit to for lunch. If you are one those daring and curious people (as I think you are), then you should definitely give a chance to L’as du fallafel (yes, with double “l”) and to Le Comptoir Général. The first one might look like just the typical döner place, but don’t judge a book from its cover, the menu goes well beyond the usual falafels and will take your senses straight to the Middle East. Whereas the second option has an African-style atmosphere which is a very peculiar and cool not only to have a meal or a drink, but also to dance and assist to all kinds of performances.

Don’t Wait, Procrastinate with a Glass of Wine

Since everyone loves French clichés, concluding a long day around Paris in a very French way is a must: enjoying both an apéro and sunset on the Seine at Barapapa, a wonderful French brasserie. Although the scenario might seem typically Parisian, this lovely bar will surprise you since you can pair your aperitif up with delicious Italian pizza or amazing Chinese dumplings and play table tennis afterwards. Another wallet-friendly destination for drinks (and food) is the Grand Train, which is more of an urban-chic place. As the name may suggest, the place is literally on the railway and hosts a variety of train-themed activities: bars, restaurants, expositions etc. So, if you are always looking for original places or love trains at least half as much as Sheldon does, then believe me, it will become one of your favourites!

Nightlife

Dance ‘till you Drop

Are you a night owl and when the sun goes down you become a party animal? Good news: most of the clubs in Paris are free-entry and Nüba, located in the cité de la mode et du design, is what you need to get acquainted with the Parisian nightlife. This place is literally situated in the beauty of the city from the club’s terrace (of course the view is on the Seine). The good vibes of the place will literally take over and make you stay until sunrise. A completely different place to try out is the club Au Bonheur des Dames (the ladies’ happiness, literally). The music and the setting might be a bit rudimentary, but fear not - on Thursdays, there’s a special treatment reserved to the ladies to kick start the evening and actually make them happy: free drinks and food until 11 pm! What a slam dunk for students!


"Just because your wallet is tight does not mean that you can’t have some fun. Get out and explore!"

A French Tip to Conclude

Just like most of students worldwide, Parisian millennials do organize pre-drinks at friends places before going out clubbing, which is cheaper than buying alcohol at the club (and also more effective J ).

So, what are you waiting for! Just because your wallet is tight does not mean that you can’t have some fun. Get out and explore!


Written by Costanza Poser, 1st year Grande Ecole MiM Student