Transcontinental Program in Beijing

Maxime Pautet, Morgane Auffret, Delphine Courtot and Teddy Beaugraduate management students from Grenoble EM, as well as Joëlle Silvestre, Head of Exchange Programs at GEM, give us their feedback about their experience through the Transcontinental Track in Beijing. 

2013, September 2nd, 6 am, the alarm is ringing. Just the time to finish packing our luggage and we are ready to go. 10 hours flight from Lyon with one hour break in Zurich; and here we are!

Life in China still exudes a certain fascination for many foreigners, and we are sure its charm will speak to you too. Moving to China attracts expatriate for the economic opportunities as well as the cultural experience. China is ranked as the third best country to live in for expats according to a HSBC survey.

Due to our drive and determination, we wanted to experience the Chinese culture to broaden our knowledge and experience. We got accepted in the “Transcontinental program” in order to study the first semester in Beijing (and the second semester in Vancouver by the way). Studying in China is a great life experience. Once you cross the language barrier, there are so many things you can enjoy. However be prepared to experience a massive shock culture. You are told so many times before going to China, but forget everything you have been told, the change will be bigger than you could ever imagine.

Beijing is one of the best cities to travel in China. We had the opportunity to see the Chinese culture by visiting many famous places such as the Great Wall of China, many temples, the hutongs, and much more. What is also great about this program is that classes are organized in a way that allowed us to travel a lot at the beginning of the semester and during Chinese holidays. Getting to know more about the country by going to Shanghai, Inner Mongolia and South of China was amazing. Plus, you can enjoy all of this with a restricted budget as travelling in China is very easy and cheap by train.

Classes you will be attending are the same as back in Grenoble with one exception. Teachers come for a week or more to teach their lectures; therefore you are going to have 30 hours of the same lecture in a week. The bottom line is all classes are conducted in English with international lecturers. Additionally, all of them require an in-depth team work via several presentations and debates.

The expat’s first rule is: Do not drive. Be careful when you get to China as the traffic rules are inexistent. In fact, it is the “tallion law” which prevails on everything. If you ride either a bus or a truck, you will be fine. Besides, if you ride a bike like we did from our apartment to the university, pay attention on everything all around you, otherwise an accident easily occurs. The accident rate on Chinese roads is notorious; you should think twice before hitting the road here.

For expats living in China for a short time only, taking a cab is the preferred method of transportation. Cheap, fast and easy. Chinese cabbies apparently have nerves of steel, and it’s far easier just to hail a cab rather than drive yourself if you don’t know your way around. However, beware of unlicensed taxis. In crowded places and as soon as you seem to be lost, people will get to you in order to know whether you want a taxi or not. The answer is NO or you will either lose 800 yuans or get troubles.

Have you ever thought about eating scorpions? We had not but we did eat some scorpions and in fact, it is pretty good. Forget everything you know about Chinese food. You will not eat spring rolls or nems. Indeed, it is Vietnamese. Chinese food is made of dumplings – which are cooked balls of dough. They are basically based on flour and might include meat, fish or vegetables – rice, noodles, tofu and vegetables. Last but not least, you will probably eat some dog meat without knowing it…

If you have the opportunity, don’t think twice about moving to China. Despite the recurring critical image in Western media, many expats never regret their decision. Quite the opposite, sometimes. If you have the soft skills to match with the culture shock as well as the language barrier, your trip to China will be quite often frustrating, but enormously rewarding at the end. In a word, studying at Beihang is a great opportunity to discover a country very different from what we are used to, and it will definitely broaden your mind! If you wish to follow our adventures, here is a link to more detailed stories and pictures:

Now that Maxime Pautet and Morgane Auffret have shared with us their Transcontinental experience, the following part of this article is based on Delphine Courtot and Teddy Beau’s feedback of their adventure.

It has been one month since we started the Transcontinental Track at the International School of Beihang University in Beijing. What we expected from this program was getting a better understanding of the Chinese business practices and culture. Today we can say that this goal has already been partly achieved.

The reason why many of us chose to attend the Transcontinental Track in Beijing is that it offers us the opportunity to have the same core courses as our fellow students in Grenoble but in a totally different cultural context. Furthermore, it is a great experience to value on a CV and we all hope that it will allow us to increase our professional opportunities. Another advantage of the Transcontinental Track is that it is not seen as an academic exchange, which means that we can still go abroad for one semester or a whole year as an exchange student. It’s a great program if you want to spend a lot of time abroad.

This is a personal challenge to take up which allows us to break the everyday routine of Grenoble. At the beginning, it was a little bit difficult to adapt to this new environment, but since we are 30 French students having the same courses and living in the same dormitory, we were able to adjust quickly. It makes us feel more secure but sometimes it can be difficult to meet other foreign students as well as Chinese students because we tend to always stay together.

Regarding the courses, each week we have a new course taught in English by international professors. They always try to link their lectures to China and the Chinese culture, which makes the class even more interesting. However our schedule allowed us to discover Beijing and to travel around China. We also enjoy the numerous restaurants of the city and since the food is really cheap here in China, we can try and taste many Chinese dishes. Finally, we definitely appreciate Beijing’s nightlife, which has a lot to offer!

The rest of this article will now be dedicated to Joëlle who is going to further develop the academic advantages of the Transcontinental Track, as well as her first impression of Beijing as she joined GEM’s students for the launch of the semester there.

The 2nd session of the Beihang Transcontinental Program was launched on Sep 10, 2013. 30 students from ESC 2A take part in this program this year, as well as some Chinese students from the partner university which is accommodating our classes on the BUAA campus. In the first place, our students have attended the official Opening Ceremony ran by the International School. They were greeted by the Dean, Dr ZHOU Hong, who courteously delivered his speech both in English and Chinese. As a matter of fact, BUAA is one of the best universities in China; indeed, it is the base of the Ecole Centrale which reputation goes far beyond the borders.

Untitled-2The GEM program consists of English track core courses, most of which are delivered by ESC professors but on the BUAA premises instead of on the Grenoble campus. Besides the core courses, our students also benefit from Chinese courses to better understand the Middle Kingdom , along with some Company Visits organized to illustrate a “Business in Asia” focus. So far our students have started their HRM courses, visited Decathlon Beijing and had the opportunity to meet with an International lawyer. We wish them a fruitful stay in Beijing!


This was my first time in China and I felt really excited about it. I just adored the neon signs from my 17th floor at Vision hotel. I was amazed by the variety of means of transportation which people from Beijing ride or drive. From almost antic bicycles and rickshaws to enormous pick-up trucks or luxurious cars, you can see everything here. I was impressed by the quietness of the atmosphere and the green scenery once on the campus’ premises.

Another amazing experience is to see people peacefully doing their gym, singing or playing an instrument that I had never seen before, in the middle of a crowd as if they were in the middle of nowhere… I was mostly impressed by the huge and solemn Tian’Anmen square & the Forbidden City. I had fun wandering in the shopping district and watching people bargaining for any kind of goods. I was also lucky enough to meet delightful people and eat delicious food. When do I fly back? There is so much more to discover here! Zaijian!


2 thoughts on “Transcontinental Program in Beijing

  1. Pingback: Back to France | The Daily Munchies

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s