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C’est la belle vie: One student’s love for the south of France

double degree
In Nice, you can expect to see Naomi Campbell yachting her problems away, Leonardo DiCaprio chatting to Jack Nicholson at a cafe, or Beyonce and Jay-Z taking a leisurely street walk. Nice is also where Charlotte Groenen is doing her double degree in business. Source: Charlotte Groenen

The French Riviera is known to be a celebrity stomping ground during the summer and is also home to the popular Cannes Film Festival. In Nice, you can expect to see Naomi Campbell yachting her problems away, Leonardo DiCaprio chatting to Jack Nicholson at a cafe, or Beyonce and Jay-Z taking a leisurely stroll. 

Besides the celebrities, Nice is home to one of France’s many top b-schools such as EDHEC Business School, where Charlotte Groenen from the Netherlands is doing her double degree. 

double degree

The French Riviera is known to be a celebrity stomping ground during the summer and home to the popular Cannes Film Festival as seen in this photo Groenen took. Source: Charlotte Groenen

“Living in Nice is amazing as it’s always sunny and because it’s on the border with Italy, you can find both great French and Italian cuisine,” she shares.

Below we talk to Groenen about life in France and what doing a double degree there is all about:

Where does your interest in business come from?

My father owned a small local business, where I practically grew up at and helped out. I first studied linguistics focusing on becoming a translator. 

Soon, I learned, I was missing out on the business aspect. That’s why, after a few semesters, I decided to move into a business major.

double degree

Groenen’s friends with a view of Marseille in the background. Source: Charlotte Groenen

Walk us through doing a double degree. Why choose France?

My bachelor’s required me to do a semester abroad. In my linguistic studies, I studied French and developed a love for the language, culture and country. 

I was sure I wanted to go to a French-speaking country. Maastricht University provided a double degree master’s in combination with the bachelor’s exchange which was the perfect fit for me. 

Furthermore, during my bachelor’s, I developed an interest in finance. This double degree is in finance at one of the most respected uni’s in the world in this field — a perfect match.

Tell us a bit about your internship experience and how you use the skills gained from uni. 

double degree

The coast of Nice. Source: Charlotte Groenen

I did both my internships in asset management. All my finance knowledge acquired at uni helped me understand the products, better understand the news in current global events, and how it could be related to funding performance in a macro-economic environment. 

What advice do you have for international students looking to do a double degree?

Make sure you want to work in the area where you want to do your master’s. That makes it easier to stay motivated. 

Moreover, a dual degree definitely gets a lot more interesting if it’s in two different countries. My opinion is: it’s a good idea and one of the best choices I’ve ever made.

What do you like most about France?

double degree

The coast of Antibes. Source: Charlotte Groenen

The food and the weather. Living in Nice is amazing as it’s always sunny and because it’s on the border with Italy, you can find both great French and Italian cuisine. 

What have been your most memorable, non-academic experiences in France thus far?

The reopening of all restaurants after COVID-19 at the end of May this year. There were musicians everywhere and the entire city took to the streets enjoying life again. 

I had an amazing lunch right after everything opened and then went for a few beers on a terrace. Making the most of the reopening. 

Have you explored the region? What location really stood out to you?

I really liked visiting the mountains close to Nice. It’s less than an hour to be in the middle of the Alps. From the beach in the city, you can see the snow on mountaintops — crazy.

What’s the local food compared to home like? Tell us your most and least favourite.

The food here is a lot better. The Dutch cuisine is not very developed whereas, in France, cooking is like art. I especially love all the seafood dishes in Nice. The only thing I enjoyed slightly less was the local “socca” (a pea-pancake) which I thought was a bit dry.

Is it hard for a foreigner to order food or strike up a conversation with the locals?

Definitely not. However, it’s a big plus if you speak French as a lot of people don’t feel comfortable speaking English. The French are very proud of their country and are always up for recommending local wine or restaurant spots. 

double degree

The view from the highest point of Èze, a cute village in southeastern France. Source: Charlotte Groenen

What cultural sites have you explored?

I’ve visited almost all the interesting villages in the Côte d’Azur and I learned that every village is gorgeous in its own way. Also, I realised I want to come back someday to live permanently.

What about your hometown. Share a little bit about it with us.

I am originally from Nijmegen in the Netherlands on the German border. It’s not large but also not tiny. We have a uni there so it’s thriving with students. I would probably take you for a beer with other students on the river banks and enjoy nature which is very close to the city centre. 

double degree

Notre-Dame de la Garde, in French for Marseille’s citizens “la Bonne-mère”, is a Catholic basilica in Marseille, France, the city’s best-known symbol. Source: Charlotte Groenen

What do you miss from home and how do you substitute it?

The only thing I miss was the Dutch snack bars. Dutch fries are the best but I temporarily substitute them with McDonald’s and pizzas. However, I know my first stop when I go back home will be a snack bar to get a “kroket” (mashed potato filled with minced chicken or ragout). 

Lastly, can you share three fun facts about yourself:

I used to work as a security guard at festivals (even though I’m definitely not strong), I really love learning new languages (mostly the grammar side), and I am afraid of frogs.