Is the HEC Paris Summer School Worth It?

I attended the HEC Paris Summer School in Luxury Management in 2016, and this is a question I get asked a lot online from people trying to figure out whether to go for it or not. In this article I’m going to break down my experience of attending it, and why it was worth it for me. I hope you can use my experience to figure out whether it’ll be worth it for you.

Why I chose the HEC Paris Summer School

For my bachelor’s I studied Computer Science — however, I was always interested in marketing and business. I was also particularly interested in luxury as an industry. I was also not particularly interested in being a software engineer, and that’s why over the summer break I wanted to do something that would be interesting to me, as well as valuable for my education — that’s when I started looking for summer school programs.

I found HEC Paris through a Google search. I’d never heard of the school before, and I quickly learned that it was one of the elite business schools of the world, and it had a Luxury Management Summer School program. It was 2 weeks long, it wasn’t as expensive as the American summer schools (those can run up almost $10k or more!) and the course content looked super interesting. Plus it was in Paris (or so I thought).

I applied and I got in!

The Experience

The Campus

The HEC Lake

The HEC campus is located in a quaint little town called Jouy-en-Josas, near Versailles, almost 25 kilometers south of Paris. I guess that’s just close enough to justify the name ‘HEC Paris’? Either way, the campus is quite beautiful. There’s a lake and lots of open space. The S Building where the summer school classes are held is really modern and state-of-the-art. The residences at the time I went were quite old, but they’ve updated them now, and they’re quite modern and comfortable as well.

Academic Coursework

My coursework was absolutely top-notch and high quality. Every day there were either 3 hours or 6 hours of classes with a 10-minute break in between. We learned the fundamentals of Luxury Management, touching upon various core topics as well as highly relevant case studies.

I was taught by Patrick Albaladejo, who’s an extremely experienced and knowledgeable professor with tons of industry experience. On top of that, we had some amazing guest lectures by Michel Chevalier and Gachoucha Kretz as well as Chanel’s CTO at that time.

My group for the Dior project.

Besides classes, we had two assignments — one 4-page paper due at the middle of the course, as well as a group assignment to suggest an innovative idea to a luxury brand after identifying a pain point.

My group chose Dior as our brand, and we first went to the Dior flagship store on Avenue Montaigne to understand their sales process, and then created a presentation detailing a new loyalty program that we imagined for the brand.

Being the first time attending an academic program outside of India for me, it was truly amazing and a big step up from the memory/rote-based learning I was used to at home.

creating connections

I met some truly interesting people at the summer school, some of whom I’m still in touch with today. It was an interesting mix of students from all over the world, as well as at different points in their academic careers.

Some students were bachelor’s students (like I was, at that time) who joined the program for the experience, and others were current master’s students who were collecting ECTS credits for their programs through this course as well.

I learned a ton from the people around me, inside and outside the classroom. We had picnics, explored Paris together, stayed out till 2am, roamed around the campus (which is beautiful, by the way) and partied hard. It was truly amazing, and you can see what my experience actually looked like in the video below.

It was a fantastic experience to work with people from different cultural and social backgrounds, something that provided me more learning than the actual course itself.

What did I get out of it

The HEC Paris Summer School was a life-changing experience for me. It was the first time I did an academic program outside of India, the first time I worked with students from around the world, the first time I travelled abroad by myself at the age of 19.

Academically, aside from gaining a background into the luxury industry, I gained exposure to the world of business studies and marketing, which solidified my decision to study business and marketing for my master’s. Through the program, I also learned about the HEC Paris Grande École program that I’m currently in right now.

In the program, I met some amazing and inspiring people that exposed me to different ways of thinking, different food, and different cultures and backgrounds. I learned how to use chopsticks during summer school as well! Even though I’m not in touch with most of my classmates from the program anymore, those people contributed to the development of my global understanding and my worldview.

Is it worth it?

That’s something that a lot of people ask me. I get tons of messages from people who’ve seen my YouTube video on the summer school asking me ‘is it worth it?’, ‘I’m interested in making a career in xxx, is the summer school worth it for that?’, and so on.

Here’s my take on this — the summer school program is not something that’ll wildly assist a career change or will give you something super impressive to put on your CV to convince employers. Although it does look good on my resume, I don’t think it’s something that will definitely open any doors for you, by itself.

If you’re into luxury (or any of the other summer school programs available at HEC), it’s a fantastic program to do to build your knowledge, meet interesting people, and gain a unique life experience. From that perspective, it’s totally worth it.

I would highly recommend doing it if you have the time and the means to do so. However, do adjust your expectations out of it.

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