The Parisian default expression is a mix of contempt, aloofness with a dash of elite cynicism. People watching is also a thing here, as demonstrated by the regards I’m getting from a man across from me. I look straight pass him with a perfected face of utter boredom. I'm on the train from Paris’ major south station Montparnasse that'll take me out towards HEC’s leafy suburban campus 20 miles southwest of the capital.
Today is the first day of second semester of Year 1, and also the first day of my “Academie”, a month long academy cohosted by the school and a leading corporation in a specialization of our choice. I just managed to escape the default French academy for international students with a B2 level in French, and received my first choice of Luxury Retail Management in partnership with LVMH.
One of my New Year’s resolutions is to write more frequently about my day to day life here in Paris, a lot of which is actually quite unimaginable to my 22-year-old self just last year.
On the train, I review the list of today’s todo’s on the Clear app, reorganizing a few priorities while swiping right for some completed tasks from last night. I am one of those people who can forget what she’s talking about midway through a sentence, so you can imagine the existential crisis that would follow from the lack of a todo list. My arrival in Paris has unleashed my “Paris” todo’s that have been building since New York, full of apartment errands, follow-up emails, shopping lists, as well as deliverables for my new part time business development job with San Fran startup do.com.
I had just flown in from New York on a red eye Saturday night and forced myself to stay awake on three hours of sleep Sunday to unpack and clean the apartment, before dozing off at 10PM for 12 hours, effectively killing my jetlag. This morning, I slipped right back into my routine of a cup of my favorite Nespresso coffee with a croissant as I read and flagged my emails and imported my schedule to google calendar.
Our academy schedule is composed of a few lectures on luxury retail along with a big team project that’ll be presented in front of LVMH execs. My goal was obvious. In the next few weeks, I was going to figure out if luxury retail and marketing was the right career for me.
I found myself within a group of French girls who spoke flawless English. This gave me the opportunity to work effectively in English while still being able to practice my French whenever they switched over, sometimes in mid sentence. Our project focus was to create an omni-channel 360-degree experience for clients of the high-end jewelry brand Chaumet, a French brand that used to sell to the Kings and Queens of France and England, but unfortunately has lost market share in later years to competitors such as Cartier and the likes. Our initial strategy is to harness the power of digital to elevate the traditional prestigious French brand, perhaps through aristocratic and historical Parisian motifs while still remaining creatively relevant in the modern woman’s eyes (well that’s my thinking for now anyway). Luxury is an interesting field for me because China currently represents 20% of all global sales (for Chaumet, among others), and is a market that is only growing. While French brands have long entered the Asian market for decades, perhaps I could bring something unique to the table with the combination of American ingenuity, French prestige and my Chinese roots. Well, at least that's what I said in my school interview anyway.
The French pace of life is considerably slower and less rushed. Cooking is also a big thing in the culture. After our afternoon session, S and I went to buy some groceries at the market and cooked ourselves a hearty dinner in her apartment with pan sired duck accompanied with rice, green beans and tomatoes with egg. I went home feeling that this was going to be a great semester to come. :)