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‘When I moved to France, I had so many impressions that I just had to start a blog’

After finishing her ICEF Bachelor’s degree in 2014, Anastasia Belugina applied to France’s ESSEC Business School, where she was able to mix work and her studies. In the following interview, Anastasia talks about the French ‘art of living’, how to garner trust from one’s employers, and how to properly choose an internship and network effectively in Paris.

- What was interesting about ESSEC Business School, other than the fact that it’s in Paris?

My aim was and, still is, to work in the French luxury industry. So, I looked at business schools here, since it's home to many interesting companies. Furthermore, I fell in love with this city a long time ago. I feel quite comfortable here!

I applied to the Top-10 French schools, including HEC, which offer scholarships. But I opted for ESSEC for two key reasons: the opportunity for an ‘apprentissage’ contract (joint work and studies) and the LVMH Chair programme, which is part of the general Master’s programme. This programme goes on for two trimesters in partnership with LVMH (a conglomerate of Paris brands, including Moët Hennessy and Louis Vuitton), during which we did a project for one of these brands.

- Please tell us about the application process? Which language should one know?

I have two in-depth articles on my blog about the application process, which is typical for European Master’s programmes. Your dossier should include your CV, grades and a diploma, as well as recommendations, a motivation letter, several essays, and your IELTS/TOEFL and GMAT results.

You also have to speak English fluently. After ICEF, this wasn’t a problem. Knowledge of French isn’t necessary for the application, but you need it for internships and finding work. There are courses in English and French. Knowing French gives you a wider range of choices.

- Why did you select the Master in Management Grande Ecole programme instead of, say, Business Administration? Did you have a specific goal when applying to ESSEC?

Yes. My goal was to find a job in strategic marketing for a French luxury brand. At ICEF, I was given a very solid foundation in economics, mathematics and finance. And I wanted to continue my studies at a business school, with a focus on practical skills.

Master in Management is the most prestigious programme a person can pursue at a French business school. So, I applied for this instead of a more specialized one-year programme. The competition for admission proved to be more of a challenge as well. Furthermore, there was the option of independently selecting courses from hundreds of possible choices and putting together my own programme as part of the Master in Management. The Business Administration programme, on the other hand, is most suitable for people who have job experience. It’s a lot like an MBA, instead of a continuation of Bachelor’s studies.

- I’ve read many blogs about how it can be socially challenging to study in France. Did you face any difficulties with your studies and living there in general? How did you deal with this?

Moving to any country, not only France, is never easy. There’s a large bureaucracy there. You need documentation for every little thing. To rent an apartment, you need a French bank account. But to open an account you need a tenancy lease. Every step is like that. Communicating with the civil service is done by regular mail and usually takes months. It’s quite hard for a foreigner to rent an apartment without a French intermediary. Also, there are a lot of terms and conditions for getting a visa, especially a work visa.

In France, you have to know the language to get by, as well as to properly integrate and find a job. Knowing the language really helped me as I practically didn’t know anybody in Paris at the time.

In social terms, living here is quite comfortable: medical insurance can cover most ailments and students receive a scholarship for living costs (from 100 to 250 euro), as well as can get discounts on things like transportation, museums, etc.

- Please tell us about your blog? What do you write about and why?

When I moved to France in 2014, I had so many impressions that I just had to start up a blog. Also, I’ve always liked writing. My first blog was on LiveJournal and I also have an Instagram account.

While studying at ESSEC, I started teaching GMAT (a test that is essential for being accepted to business schools and MBA programmes, as well as various Master’s, PhD, EMBA and other programmes). Later, I consulted on applying for Master’s programmes in France and Europe in various fields of business.

Since then, I’ve helped Russian and French clients in this process. In my blog, I share my experience with admission, studies and employment in France. Some clients have found me through Instagram. However, so far, monetizing this work is still not a priority for me.

Doing this blog is interesting from a professional point of view. I have learned a lot about the instruments and algorithms used in social networks, website and search engines.

- What opportunities has ESSEC offered for your development? Internships? Exchanges? Career development?

ESSEC offers many possibilities. And, of course, I want to have at it all! One of the best options is ‘career service’, which can offer assistance in looking for internships and establishing social contacts.

ESSEC has dozens of partners with top universities around the world, where students can take part in exchanges. There’s also a campus in Singapore.

There are partnership programmes like LVMH Chair in such areas as FMCG, consulting, digital, real estate, etc. Every year, there’s a career fair, covering such areas as finance and consulting. In addition, there’s an active alumni community. They hold workshops and career building sessions, as well as help students find work and communicate in various formats (from professional meetings to sporting events).

- The business school format generally foresees the development of practical skills. Was it difficult to orient yourself to a more applied type of study?

Well, there’s a lot less theory in business school. In France, one should get their theoretical background while pursuing a Bachelor’s degree and during ‘classes preparatoires’, which are elite French prep schools, where students can prepare for competitions for admission to business schools. ICEF taught me a lot of theory, and it also gave me a solid base, which helped make it easy to apply and study, as well as get a scholarship and learn the right skills for my future career. At French schools and undergrad programmes, there’s a theoretical focus in regards to such topics as economics, mathematics, philosophy and history.


ESSEC is a business school based in Paris, which was founded as a series of economics classes in 1907. Since 1994, ESSEC has offered an MBA in International Luxury Brand Management, which provides both France and the world with highly qualified managers for the luxury goods market.

ESSEC offers BBA, MBA, Grande Ecole (MIM), PhD and Executive Education programmes, with campuses in France, Singapore and Morocco. The school’s community of alumni includes over 47,000 graduates in 71 countries (one of the criteria for alma mater support is for alumni to work directly with students).

ESSEC relies on an innovative blockchain platform to store and verify the diplomas of its graduates. This platform can avert fraud and incorrect data.

- You work with the Printemps chain of luxury French stores. How are you able to mix work with studies?

I study and work under an apprentissage contract: the firm pays for my studies and gives me a wage. In return, I work 3 days a week and study on the remaining 2 days. However, the rhythm can vary, on weekly, trimester or semester basis. Everything has been developed so that one thing doesn’t interfere with the other. It’s quite comfortable and, in addition to getting my studies paid for, when I finish business school, I will already have two years of work experience at a major firm, which I think is more valuable than a standard internship.

The apprentissage approach to learning is well known throughout France and Europe. It’s quite useful for companies, as they can access special benefits. I wrote a detailed description of the particularities of this mode of study in one of my blog posts.

- How hard is it to find work in Paris? What do you need to do?

ESSEC’s network of alumni is very useful. It extends all over France. Though I am not looking for work at the moment, I get in contact with graduates to learn more about certain firms, or the industry in general. The word ‘reseau’ means ‘networking’ in French, and it means a lot here. So, this is a very strong business school since the majority of its graduates are successful in their career pursuits, thanks, in part, to the older alumni.

Of course, having a diploma also is very important, especially in France, which has quite an elitist approach to education. For instance, a basic business-oriented diploma from a university doesn’t have the same standing as one from Grandes Ecoles. However, even if you have a prestigious diploma, you still have to outclass all of the French candidates in order to get a job. So, it’s not a simple task. Without a French education and knowledge of the language, it’s practically impossible.

- How did your time there change your attitude to life in France?

The French have a generally more flexible attitude towards life. Life for them is about enjoyment, and this is true for work as well. There’s the famous French ‘art de vivre’, or ‘art of life’. At 23-25, it’s normal here to ‘find yourself’, study, do what you want and not get carried away with obsessions about success and so forth.

The inclusion of a diploma in an application for the French is important for pretty much all of one’s life. It is a key identifier. Policy and managerial hierarchies here are probably more important. It’s actually quite conservative – French people are not inclined to shake things up and usually take a long time to reach decisions about business. Also, one should remember that French have a very reverent attitude to their history and traditions.

- Do you plan to continue with your studies or find work?

This is my second Master’s degree. Maybe in 5-6 years, I might consider an MBA. So far, I plan to continue working with luxury French brands, but I might consider my own business in the future.

Sonya Spielberg, for ICEF HSE