Even for the most seasoned traveler, arriving in a new city can be daunting. You can research a city thoroughly, but it isn’t until you are on the ground that you really get a feeling for the place. Imagine this pressure when you arrive in a city that will be your home for a year or more – it’s rather overwhelming.
Before talking about my own arrival, I would like to comment on why I chose Lyon. I’ve been fortunate in my life that I have lived in very small towns as well as large cities. Small towns are less hectic and allow a sense of familiarity that you don’t get in larger cities. Large cities have plenty of things to do and a wide variety of cultures, cuisines, and customs. Simply put, Lyon has both; it is big but not too big. Emlyon IMBA’s biggest strength is its extremely diverse and dynamic cohort. Emlyon’s second biggest strength is Lyon itself.
I arrived in Paris on August 19, and I was able to take an express train (TGV) directly to Lyon. Lyon is very well-connected by rail and equally as well-connected by air, with direct flights throughout Europe, Africa, Asia and North America. I was met at the station by Sarthak and Vamshi – two of my classmates in the International MBA program. They had never met me before, but I felt like I already knew them. What’s amazing is how well we interacted as a cohort before anybody even arrived in Lyon. We developed a WhatsApp group back in May, and I knew most people way before I left Florida. It was awesome having someone meet me at the station after nearly 24 hours of traveling with well over 100 pounds of luggage!
Within my first 24 hours in Lyon, I had managed to walk around the city with half a dozen classmates, visit several bars, and go to campus to start a French language bootcamp. All of us had tons of questions about Lyon, but by spending time with each other we were able to share our insights and fill in some of the gaps together. My classmates helped me identify good restaurants, share some good neighborhood tips, and create quite a to-do list!
During the first week, Emlyon staff gathered a large group together and we took a LONG walking tour of the city. What I learned is that Lyon is like a timeline city going from west to east. On Fourvière Hill (west of the city) are Roman ruins over 2000 years old. East of there you will find Vieux Lyon with a mix of both working class and merchant neighborhoods built during the late Middle Ages (15th and 16th centuries). You’ll find winding and narrow streets, churches, and beautiful building façades (and even more beautiful ‘hidden’ courtyards in these buildings). You continue east and cross the Saône River and head to Presqu’ile – the area between the Saône and Rhône. This area dates from the 18th century and is full of history, especially from the era of the French Revolution. This area is the heart of Lyon, and I am thankful to call this part of the city my home.
If you continue east and cross the Rhône, you’ll get to a part of Lyon with wide boulevards, gorgeous parks, and elegant buildings built mostly in the 19th century. It’s no surprise that this history (as well as Lyon’s cuisine) are both recognized by UNESCO. Lyon is a microcosm of French history and culture, and there is no shortage of things to do.
After learning about Lyon when I arrived three months ago, I can say that I still haven’t settled in yet. However, I don’t mind. I live in the neighborhood Les Pentes de la Croix-Rousse – a former canut (working class silk worker) neighborhood dating from the 19th century. The neighborhood is full of craft stores, specialty food shops, cultural institutions, restaurants, nightlife and every random thing you can think of. I literally discover one new place or location I haven’t noticed before every day, and I realize just how truly lucky I am to live here. The International MBA program definitely takes up a lot of my time and energy, but living in Lyon provides the opportunity to escape some of these stressors and just appreciate a truly unique place.
Written by Andrew Wilson, United States, International MBA 2018-2019