My Life as a Nomadic MBA Student in Southwest France
- Written by Paola Roldan - IMBA Student - United States
- IMBA Student Blog
Riding the Wave of a New Adventure
It’s Tuesday, approximately 10:30 AM. The parting of this morning’s hazy clouds reveals a warm sunbeam to those of us floating on our surfboards at La Côte des Basques, a popular beach in southwest France. As someone accustomed to the tropical waters of South Florida, the sharp, icy water of the Basque coast is quite a shock to me, but I know what I had signed up for when I moved here approximately three months ago.
This has been my typical daily routine since I landed in Biarritz, France. I wake up, check the waves, come back inside to work on my courses, go out for a surf, and then come back to have a quick lunch before heading to my coworking spot for an evening of remote work.
Coursework and surfing may get swapped around depending on the tides and how the waves look when I wake up. After all, good surf waits for no one! My thoughts are interrupted by a small set of waves coming in, and I paddle into one that swiftly guides me toward the mountain range in front of me.
One of the most common questions I get asked is how I manage a workday while being 6 hours ahead of most of my coworkers. Luckily, I got used to the time difference pretty quickly. I actually prefer having the mornings free to work on my coursework – long before anyone in Eastern Standard Time has woken up.
Studying on the Move
Having most of my coursework online has allowed me to work at my own pace, and the flexibility is a huge plus when juggling so many other things between work and leisure. I have taken my class assignments with me to several cafes as I discover my new town and even on France’s high-speed trains on the way to other cities to visit friends.
After all, being an international student is more than just studying in another country. It is about exploring your new surroundings and immersing yourself in a new culture. Thanks to my flexible classes, I have been able to balance these worlds beautifully.
Strengthening my Language Skills
In fact, one of the reasons I chose to live in Biarritz (besides surfing) was because of the increased chances of language immersion. In the three months I’ve been here, I’ve noticed a lot fewer people are likely to switch to English compared to bigger cities like Paris. This helps a lot when trying to master the French language because I am forced to speak and communicate in French. This was especially apparent when communicating with my landlord, bank, and electricity and water companies, all of whom really put my language abilities to the test!
This, however, is the reason why I love this little corner of France so much, not in spite of it. It is a melting pot of French, Spanish, and Basque languages and dialects – all of which I interact with to some extent daily.
Networking While Attending a Hybrid MBA Program
With Paris just a few hours away by train, I am still close enough to ISM’s main campus that I can pop in for student networking events if I please. The networking events and in-person courses that I have joined so far have allowed me to make strong connections with some of my fellow students, with whom I periodically check in to see how courses are going. This has been a great way to maintain a support group when I don’t see my peers on a daily or even monthly basis.
Encouragement for Prospective Online MBA Students
What I’d say to prospective degree-seekers curious about this nomadic lifestyle is that this way of life is perfect for someone who loves continuously learning, exploring new languages, and is good at time management. Although it may seem like all fun and games sometimes, I must still keep up with my responsibilities with my job back home, as well as maintain my studies within my MBA program.
It is a lot to juggle, but with determination and organizational skills, the benefits of experiencing new places as a nomadic student make all the setbacks worthwhile.
The tide has now dropped to a still low, meaning my morning surf session has come to an end. I shiver as I collect my leash and board and start making my way up the winding path to my flat, offering a couple of Bonjours to passing joggers along the way.
If there is one thing that is sure to keep me motivated between working a full-time job and managing MBA coursework, it’s a slap of icy Atlantic seawater to the face every morning. And when the water is too cold for me to brave, a fresh baguette will have to suffice!