USC Upstate Business Major Studying International Business in Paris

November 20, 2009 at 12:38 pm

A self-described “small town girl” from Winnsboro, S.C., Charla Maria Coleman, 20, is living a dream this semester as she studies in one of the most famous cities in the world, Paris. A senior business administration major with a concentration in finance and economics at the George Dean Johnson, Jr. College of Business and Economics at the University of South Carolina Upstate, Coleman is studying during this fall semester at the American Business School Paris with students from around the globe.

“It’s not every day that you wake up and can go up the Eiffel Tower, stroll the Champs Elysees, walk under the Arc de Triomphe, go to the Louvre or visit the Musee d’Orsay,” says Coleman, “so I’m definitely taking advantage of all this while I’m here.”

Here, for now, is the ABS Paris, a university offering an international business program taught entirely in English with half of the student body hailing from 80 countries outside France. The ABS Paris is part of a consortium of 10 universities called the IGS Groupe that specialize in areas such as human resources, commerce, media, business management and health care management. The campus is urban, mixed in with neighborhoods, according to Coleman. She adds that ABS Paris enrolls under 400 students, making her classes a little bit smaller than those at USC Upstate’s Johnson College.

“I’ve never sat in a class where I have people from Russia, Africa, Finland, Mexico, Germany, Norway, Canada and so many other places,” says Coleman who is taking investment analysis, international business finance, international economics, French and French civilization. Investment analysis, she says, is her toughest class, covering the derivatives and bond markets. Her favorite classes are international economics and French civilization.

“French civilization is about the history and everyday life in Paris. We’re reading the Biography of Paris, which takes us back to the early centuries of Paris and the best part is that we get to do walks around Paris. It’s nice having Paris as your classroom. My professor showed us the old Paris which is mostly underground and shows us different ways you can tell the history in Paris, from the slanting of the buildings to the waterlines from where the Seine used to cover Paris,” says Coleman.

Coleman is the first student from USC Upstate to attend ABS Paris, which has recently become a partner school in the university’s study abroad options, says Deryle Hope, associate director of USC Upstate’s Center for International Studies. Hope says that Coleman received two scholarships to attend ABS Paris, in addition to financial aid. She is able to live in an apartment within 15 minutes walking distance of campus, and has been able to take side excursions to visit Normandy, London and Barcelona.

“I came over here with absolutely no background in French,” says Coleman who has only studied Spanish in school previously. But with a roommate who speaks French and by taking a French language class, she says that she has definitely learned a lot.

“Most people I meet here already know three to four languages,” she says.  “Having English as my native language and being the central language in the world, I don’t think I ever realized how important it is to learn another language.” Studying abroad, she says, was one of her goals to complete before graduating in May 2010 and it has opened the doors to possibly working abroad one day.

“This was truly the opportunity of a lifetime for a small town girl,” says Coleman. For further information, email Charla Coleman at