France Alumni Day: Celebrating Diversity
|Created At:||31 May, 2023|
|Created By:||Allaa Ashraf|
Campus France initiated its inaugural France Alumni Day, a commemoration that showcases the diversity and talent present among international alumni, along with the distinctive values embodied by French higher education.
From May 13–28, a series of over 170 events have been meticulously planned across five continents, including a noteworthy gathering at the Quai d'Orsay in Paris on May 23. The event was graced by the presence of Olivier Becht, the minister responsible for foreign trade, economic attractiveness, and French nationals abroad, who addressed an audience of approximately 300 delegates, including esteemed alumni.
The minister expressed his gratitude to the attendees for choosing France as their educational destination and emphasised the country's commitment to standing by their side throughout their professional journeys.
Becht remarked, "You, in all your diversity, exemplify the facets of French academic excellence." He further acknowledged that the community of former international students in France symbolises both educational eminence and internationalisation.
Becht also highlighted that France achieved a significant milestone in 2022 by welcoming a record number of over 400,000 international students, placing it seventh among countries hosting the highest number of international students.
The global festivities aim to foster unity among alumni and underscore the strength of the France Alumni Network, which was established in 2014 and now boasts a membership of more than 372,000 individuals worldwide. This network enables international alumni to connect with their peers and with France.
During the event, alumni shared inspiring narratives of their experiences in France, emphasising cultivating a unique and enduring bond between successive generations of alumni.
Archippus Sturrock, a UK native and former student at the University of London in Paris, addressed the importance of equality, diversity, and inclusion within the context of an international experience in France.
Sturrock expressed, "Through travel, we encounter the beauty of diversity," highlighting that it was during his time studying in Paris that he discovered the strength to openly embrace his true self.
Kaiwei Wang, originally from China and an alumnus of the École Nationale Superieure de Chimie de Montpellier, echoed Sturrock's sentiments, stating, "France embodies freedom in numerous ways."
Wang further noted the contrasting perspectives on what holds value and significance in terms of one's career and personal life, emphasising the stark differences between France and China.
Since its inception, the France Alumni Network platform has facilitated approximately 3,200 collaborations between French and international companies and institutions.
Christopher Cripps, senior advisor for global engagement and diplomatic affairs at Sorbonne University, acclaimed France as the global hub for internships. He emphasised that French higher education institutions actively collaborate with employers to ensure their educational approach and curriculum align with market demands.
Cripps, an international student from the US who chose to remain in France, regarded this aspect as a distinctive feature of French higher education. He commended the focus on training students to immediately contribute at a high level to their employers upon graduation.
Cripps also admired France's dedication to preserving and promoting French culture and language. While acknowledging the availability of English-taught programmes in business schools, engineering schools, and universities in France, Cripps emphasised that France remains rooted in its history and culture, with certain disciplines exclusively offered in French.
Soalandy Randrianjafy, originally from Madagascar and a student at the Engineering Faculty of Life Sciences at the Institut Nationale Polytechnique de Toulouse, shared her appreciation for the close relationship between the French higher education system and the business world.
Randrianjafy highlighted that, despite completing her studies in March 2024, she has already accumulated over a year of professional experience through extended internships at prestigious companies in her field. This experience, facilitated by her engineering school's gap year system, enhances her prospects for securing substantial employment after graduation.
Julien Frémont, deputy director of international relations at the University Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne, highlighted the centralised nature of France as a country. He emphasised that the central French ministry validates educational offerings across private and public higher education institutions, regardless of location (e.g., Toulouse, Nantes, Bordeaux, or Paris).
Frémont underscored the significance of recognising that a degree obtained in one city holds the same value as any other part of France, which he regarded as a significant advantage for students worldwide.
Esteemed guest of honour Agnes Binagwaho, a professor of paediatrics and former health minister of Rwanda who studied at the Université de Bretagne Occidentale, advocated for the exchange of nationalities and knowledge, encouraging collaborative research and problem-solving from diverse perspectives to enhance life on Earth.