Creating together

Alex standing on a bridge overlooking waterAlex is a final year student in International Business Management, and was one of our only students able to study abroad (albeit virtually) in 2020/21, due to the pandemic. If you are interested in completing a placement or study abroad year between Stage 2 and Stage 3, you can find out more in the Business School UG Stage 2 Community 2021-22 on Canvas, or contact the NUBS Student Experience team.


Despite the Pandemic, I was able to complete a year abroad in 2020/21, which I found to be very academically enriching, but challenging. I (virtually) spent Semester 1 at the University of Cologne’s (UzK) department of Economics and Social Studies in Germany, and Semester 2 at the Grenoble Ecole de Management (GEM) in France. I was very surprised about some of the differences between studying in the UK and abroad. In this Blog Post, I will share the good, the bad and the ugly to help you prepare for your international experience.



Before my semester even started, I was given a very long list of modules to choose from, with most being taught in English. The majoirty of the modules were worth 6 ECTS (which equals 12 Credits in the UK, so the workload per semester is approximately the same), but some were 12 ECTS. These heavier modules are ‘Schwerpunkte‘, or the subject focus of your studies. There were modules offered for many different subject areas such as Marketing, Operations, Accounting, Social Studies, Economics and International Business. Being an international Student also had some great perks, including some special modules being offered only to visiting students. What I most enjoyed about this semester was being able to choose my modules more freely, and without having to worry about how they will affect my degree. I was able to experiment with different subject areas that I couldn’t do at Newcastle due to degree regulations, and have even found certain ones that I would like to pursue in the future. I especially enjoyed the modules ’Design Thinking‘, ’Decision Analysis‘, and ’Operations Research‘.

Teaching Staff

Some of my lecturers were ‘career academics‘, but some also had a career in the field that they were teaching. What surprised me was the number of current and former top-tier strategy consultants in the departments. This meant that a lot of the material covered was very relevant with a lot of case studies.


Most of my modules had a very large student cohort, so the lectures were not very interactive. Lectures and tutorials were not recorded, so it was important to follow the lectures closely. The tutorials especially were extremely important however, as exams were largely based on the materials and maths exercises discussed there.

My favourite part of teaching were all the guest lectures we had. We had some very impressive people come in from companies such as Accenture, and L’Oreal to show us how what we’ve covered in the lectures works in practice, and why it is so relevant for current events.


While the assessment form differed from module to module it was much less essay based and ‘academic’ than at Newcastle. Most of my modules were only assessed in the form of one exam, which was completely based on the contents of the lectures and tutorials. These were quite full-on, so no further research was required to achieve top grades

For other modules (mainly the smaller, 6 ECTS ones), I had more practical and applied forms of assessment. For my Operations Research module I had to create a Consulting Report for which I also had to use Excel – overall this was my favourite assessment and the one I most often mentioned in Internship interviews. This is because it was by far the most ‘hands-on’ and practical assignment I’ve ever completed. For the design thinking module, we got to go through the process of creating our own product within an international team – also something that came in handy during interviews. Overall, the assessment forms were very different from the ones at Newcastle, but still taught me many important skills that I will use in completing my assignments here.



While I wasn’t able to choose any individual modules, as I joined in the second semester of their last year, I was allowed to choose a major. I picked International Marketing and Advertising and had to do a capstone module and French lessons. For my Marketing Major I did 5 modules, ranging from 2.5 to 5 ECTS. Some of them only went on for a few weeks, others for the whole semester. The modules themselves were designed to be quite practical and case study based.

Teaching Staff

Most of the teaching staff were British, and most had a career in the field they were teaching in. For example, my sports marketing lecturer has organised major sports events such as the Olympics in the past and was especially active in tennis. This was great as they were able to give us a lot of career advice. Additionally, they were very approachable and always happy to help. The teaching organisation was less structured than in the UK and deadlines were sometimes changed without much notice which took some getting used to and was frustrating at times.


Most classes were relatively small in size and teaching was very interactive. For some modules we had to go into breakout rooms to work on smaller group tasks. Lecture materials were mostly based on case studies and current events in the field of study, rather than theory and frameworks.


Overall, the assessments in France were very practical and applied (based on case studies), and less academically focused. For a 5 ECTS module, we often had numerous assignments. For example, for my Sports Marketing Module, I had to do a 3000 word essay, a group presentation, and an exam. While this sounds like a lot, I found that the expectations were not as high as in the UK. Most of these assessments were also case study based and often about current events, as previously mentioned. Doing so many small assignments was very different to doing one big assignment for the same credits at Newcastle. Additionally, a lot of the work was group based; I did not have a single module where I didn’t have to do a group presentation, and some even required group homework that was compulsory, but not assessed.

For the capstone module (dissertation equivalent), we had to come up with a physical product and figure out the operations, logistics, marketing, and finances. To do so, we were put into groups with people studying different majors (e.g. finance, entrepreneurship, global business, marketing, etc.), which I thought was a great idea as it allowed us to look at our work from different perspectives. We first had to submit an individual idea, then a group presentation, and finally a (dreaded!) group report.

Overall, the assessment structure was very different and took some getting used to. While it was not academically ‘challenging’, the group work and practical perspective were difficult to adapt to.


It’s fair to say that the academic aspect of studying in Germany and France is very different to the UK. This is something that I keep coming across over and over again with my friends’ experiences, and what students from abroad say about their Erasmus experience at Newcastle!