Q&A: French Students Toast Rider

Thursday, December 17, 2009

This semester, Rider University’s College of Business Administration welcomed six students from Centre d’études Franco americain de management (CEFAM), an international school of business in Lyon, France.

Under a partnership established by Rider and CEFAM last February, the fourth-year students are able to receive dual undergraduate degrees in Finance, Marketing, Business Administration, International Business, Human Resource Management or Global Supply Chain Management from Rider and CEFAM. During their fourth year, students from CEFAM are required to study in the United States. Currently, its partner schools include Temple University, Northeastern University, Siena College, Pace University and now, Rider University.

The students are Mathilde Andrin of Cosnes Et Romain, a Marketing major; Thibaut Bernigaud of Ecully, an Entrepreneurial Studies and International Business dual major; Noemie Berthaud of Anse, a Marketing major; Anne-Laure Girard of Couzon Au Mont D’or, a Marketing major; Gary Hauguel of Luneray, a Management and Leadership and Entrepreneurial Studies dual major; and Mareva Koulamallah of Lyon, a Marketing and Management dual major.

Recently, Bernigaud, Koulamallah, Girard and Andrin took a break from studying for finals to share their thoughts about their first semester at Rider University. All four students have international experience as interns and have traveled to the United States before, but this was the first time they were studying at a university in the United States.

Q: Why did you decide to study at Rider?

Girard: We had a choice between five different universities. I did not want to go to a city because I knew I wouldn’t travel. Rider was very good because it’s between cities. On the weekends, we have been able to travel to Philadelphia, New York City and Baltimore. We went to Seattle for Thanksgiving with a friend. We want to go to California in January and Florida during spring break. Rider also had the major I wanted.

Bernigaud: I really wanted a smaller size campus, so I could see the same people on a daily basis. Rider also has a really good location I feel like I am close to all the major cities, including D.C., New York City and Philadelphia. This semester, I visited Baltimore with the International Club, and I went with a friend to Virginia for Thanksgiving.

Koulamallah: I thought Rider was the most welcoming of all the universities. It was also small. Deans (Larry) Newman and (Steven) Lorenzet were friendlier compared to the other universities when they came to visit. I also liked that they offered programs in Marketing and Management. The location is convenient because it is between New York and Philadelphia. I really enjoyed my first semester.

Andrin: I wanted to experience the campus life. I was used to living on my own. I have no brothers or sisters. I wanted to have the real American college experience – living on campus with roommates. They also had my major. I liked where Rider is located.

Q: What was it like when you first arrived at Rider?

Bernigaud: It was a shock to me at first being here at Rider because of all the signs and cars. I really felt like we were well taken care of by the Center for International Education.

You’re really dependent on those people because they are the only contact you know. We would gather with all the international students. We are still sticking together today. Coming to a campus, it is like a movie because you see the sorority letters, the dorms and the academic buildings. That’s something I was really looking for – the buildings. It’s really cliché, but this is what American colleges look like.

Koulamallah: Different. I’m the only one from CEFAM who is not living on campus. I’m commuting. Even if you think you know the language, everyone talks fast and has an accent. The food was also a culture shock because of the big quantities. In New Jersey, everyone is welcoming here. I also like the gym facilities. I held a belly-dancing class for 20 girls this semester and I plan to do it again next semester.

Girard: It was all new. In France, we don’t have a campus. I live with my parents and commute to school. The dorms are great because you are always with people. It’s not boring. You can go to another room and talk to new people all the time.

Andrin: It was exciting and scary. We met a lot of people. We were the international students at the same time. We all went our different ways but also stayed together.

Q: What has been your greatest lesson so far at Rider?

Bernigaud: I learned a lot about myself. Before if something went wrong, I would spend all my time wondering what went wrong, instead of moving on. I would have felt affected at home. Now, I’m like, “Everything happens for a reason.” I’ve learned this from the peers I have met at Rider and as I go on job interviews.

Koulamallah: You can go beyond your abilities because in my case, I live by myself. The experience has taught me maturity and leadership skills.

Girard: We learned more about our culture when we are away. Most of the time, Americans ask what do you think. I kind of realized that stereotypes about us are true.

Q: Overall, how would you describe your first semester at Rider?

Bernigaud: It’s all a learning experience – personal, school-related and professional. Being a senior on the edge, I don’t see the future the same as I did before. I’m trying to get the best out of every moment regardless of the context. It’s almost like a countdown. I have this objective. In six months, I’ll be on the (job) market.

Girard: It was work during the week and fun on the weekends. We had a lot of work because we were taking six classes. We enjoyed the weekends – shopping in New York City. Through the International Club we went to Baltimore and the Natural History Museum in New York. I loved it all. We really feel at home here.

Andrin: It’s been a great experience. I think we settled in well.

Q: What are your career goals?

Bernigaud: I don’t know if I want to stay here or not. I’ll either work for a French company here or work for an American company in France.

Koulamallah: I want to find an internship in New York. I want to become the director of marketing cosmetic company like L’Oreal.

Girard: I want to do fashion. I have an internship in the spring at Tommy Hilfiger. I will be doing visual merchandising. After I graduate, I want to work in the fashion industry in New York.

Andrin: I’m trying to find an advertising job through optional practical training.

Q: How do you think this experience studying abroad will make you more marketable?

Bernigaud: It shows employers that I am able to take risks, willing to take sacrifices and make an investment in my life. It takes a lot of courage. I guess a company sees that a 20-something studying abroad and it shows that he is interested in the global market.

Koulamallah: Having knowledge of other cultures is the basis of business ethics. These are not things that you read in books. I can also be marketable with the network that I built. It’s daring to study abroad. It shows employers that you are willing to take risks, you are adaptable, you are dynamic and you are moving at the same pace as the world.

Q: What have you learned from students here at Rider? What do you think you have taught them?

Bernigaud: Enjoy every moment and enjoy life to the best you can. Carpe diem. I thought it was more of a French thing, but I guess people here believe that, too. It makes me more tolerant of others cultural differences. Koulamallah: The students here are more goal-oriented, career oriented and competitive. You learn from them in terms of motivation. They are not scared to make mistakes. In France, you hide when you are wrong. I have learned that it’s important to make mistakes because learn from them. I have brought in the perspective of the French culture.

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