This is an interview of a a BCS Charpak Scholarship Holder 2017-2018 who went to France for European Fragrance and Cosmetics Masters (EFCM) at ISICPA.
To begin with, I was introduced to France during my 5th grade in school as we had an elective language subject. Eager as I was, I took up the language and was introduced to the jungle of “le, la and les”. As a little girl, I was always fascinated by the French with their art, music and food habits which has great finesse. But as life went on and I chose to take on a more serious career path in the field of science, I lost my touch with the language.
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After completing my bachelor’s degree in pharmacy, I got the opportunity to work for a small cosmetic company to develop products for men’s grooming. It was there that I was introduced to the finest art of the French – Perfumery
Thereafter, I developed a deep interest in this field and found the European Fragrance and Cosmetics Masters (EFCM) course offered by ISICPA, the number one school of perfumery in the world, to pursue my studies. Alongside, my childhood interest in the language was piqued as I chose to take up the language course at Alliance Française de Bombay. ISIPCA gave me the opportunity to spend nine months in this beautiful city of Versailles, home to one of the most magnificent castles of the world. Till then, all of this was just a dream and I had only seen France through the famous textbooks of the Saison series.
The French Experience
I am extremely grateful to the French family whom I got to know over the past one and a half years during my stay with them in Versailles.. Living with a family had a lot of perks, as I was introduced to the authentic French culture and their way of living, since both Madame and Monsieur had their roots in France. I learnt that the French really love their history, food, wine as well as art be it a painting, sculpture or embroidery. This is where I learnt how to appreciate art and the beauty that it brings in life, something that was missing in my approach. The couple with whom I was staying were retired, Madame was a nurse working in a hospital and Monsieur had his own business of locks. Living with the family eased the process of opening a bank account and getting an active French mobile number as Monsieur helped me through it all. The experience that will live on in my memories for a lifetime would be when they introduced me to their new pet dog, a springer spaniel, named Nikita. I was extremely afraid of dogs but they were really kind in helping me fight my fears. Going back to their home after a long day at school, and having Nikita waiting for my arrival, are unforgettable memories for which I am really grateful to them.
Study experience at (EFCM) at ISICPA?
Speaking about the school, ISIPCA has an excellent reputation in the fragrance and cosmetics industry. The EFCM hosted by them, in collaboration with the university of Versailles Saint Quintin as well as the second-year Masters of Business Management (MBM) course at the University of Padova, attracts a lot of foreign students from across the globe. The classroom was extremely multicultural as we were fortunate to have 34 students of 19 nationalities in one class. The course was divided into classroom lectures and lab sessions. The lectures were taken by people working in the industry and some of the visiting faculty at ISIPCA. All the professors who came to take the courses were adept in their respective fields and taught us current techniques of the industry. The lab sessions were very well managed and we, were divided into groups of two or three students. We had access to all the raw materials available in the lab and were taught by e professors who had acquired a rich experience in the industry. We were allowed to learn the formulations of lipsticks, foundations, shampoos, compact powder, mascara, and etc. all through the method of trial and error. This was a great learning for me personally, as I got to physically see the difference between different product formulations. Further, the school had organized an industrial trip to Grasse, so we could better understand the various techniques for processing raw material and learn about the different qualities of the rose de mae as well as tuberose flowers. We visited the manufacturing units of International Flavours and Fragrances, Payan Bertrand, International Perfume Museum and the rose fields in Domaine De Manon.
Since my interest was in the field of perfumery, we were given access to the raw material refrigerator and were allowed to make as many samples as we wanted. Further, the professor who conducted the perfumery course, Madame Joelle Mussard, was extremely knowledgeable in the subject and gave us the liberty to learn. It was a pleasure to have worked with people who understood different learning styles of people. One of the most benefitting parts of the school was the fact that the fragrance museum, Osmothèque, was inside the school itself and we , were allowed to visit and take up free sessions on perfumes. Additionally, I was offered an internship from June to September 2018 at the Mumbai office of Firmenich Aromatics in their Creative Department Centre for fragrance evaluation, processes for which needed to be completed while I was in France. I am really grateful to ISIPCA’s reputation for which I was able to secure my internship in the world’s second ranked company in the fragrance and flavours industry.Furthermore, living in France had a lot of perks for perfume lovers, as there were a plethora of fragrance boutiques and stores to visit and learn about the market, especially, since the school was located in Versailles and it was just a 35-minute train ride away to Paris. Having said that, living in France really helped me to improve my language skills. It was helpful to have some prior knowledge of French before I landed in France, as it enhanced my experience since I was able to talk in French with native speakers of the language. It was a very humbling experience when the French would acknowledge my efforts to learn the language and correct my grammar whenever I was wrong. Paris gave me an excellent opportunity to visit numerous museums during the weekends and to observe French art and design. The best advantage of being a student was that not only did we have free entry to museums but the rates for train tickets were also subsidised. Further, the CAF was extremely beneficial as I used to receive it every month without any troubles. The process for the OFII took a while as appointments were not given out immediately, but with the letter provided from the OFII office, I was able to travel outside France during the Christmas break.Moreover, the location of the University was highly beneficial as Paris was very well connected to all the other parts of Europe. During the French holidays, I got plenty of opportunities to travel across Europe, which was a great learning experience. I would highly recommend interested people to pursue their studies in France because my experience did not simply help me professionally, but it also exposed me to a new language, culture and a way of living, thereby shaping my personality, as well. It gave me an opportunity to make every moment a memory that is definitely worth remembering.
I sincerely want to thank the BCS Charpak Committee for offering me the Masters scholarship. I hope to be able to contribute towards the French alumni committee, in ways big or small.