Higher Education in Business in Canada and the UK - Michel Assaad

Hometown: Alexandria, Egypt

Undergraduate 1: Faculty of Commerce, Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting, University of Alexandria

Undergraduate 2: Bachelor of Commerce, Accountancy, Concordia University – John Molson school of business

Masters 1: Accounting, Organizations, and Institution, London School of Economics LSE, UK

Masters 2: MBA, INSEAD, France

Field: Business

TL;DR: Michel grew up in Alexandria, he currently works as management consultant at L.E.K., he earned two Bachelor's degrees in Commerce from Alexandria University and Concordia University. He also received a Masters degree in Accounting from LSE and his MBA from INSEAD.


Michel, tell us a bit about yourself? When did you first consider studying abroad?

Let me start with the personal side. I am from a family that is European-Middle Eastern. My family, on both sides, immigrated to Egypt, so actually my family is not originally Egyptian but I grew up and was born in Egypt.

For me, studying abroad was a pragmatic decision. I was simply thinking “what is best for my education and my career? What are all my options?” I would also say that I started to think this way because my close group of friends were also considering studying abroad.

You pursued your first bachelors in Egypt, and then you pursued a second bachelors in Concordia. What made you feel that your education at the university in Egypt was not enough?

Yes, I pursued 2 bachelors. The first was at the Faculty of Commerce in Alexandria University. But I knew I wanted to study abroad and that I could benefit from furthering my education.

One of my reference points at the time was Saint Marc, my school. We learn in French, and there is a bit of space for creative thinking. Now, I am critical of Saint Marc, but one good thing is that there was a breathing space to think and to create. There was some diversity in both students and teachers. From a young age, I started reading in both English and French.

During my time at Alexandria University, I did not have a very clear benchmark, but I felt that my education was not critical enough. I also was not allowed to choose my courses, and that was limiting. So I was reading in parallel to what I was studying, especially in management and economics. I realized there was a huge part that is not even being taught. I wanted to be in a space that was more critical.

How did you start considering different options?

I have family in Montreal, Canada and I had been to visit a few times and was very impressed by the city It is like a melange between the US and Europe. Montreal has two big English-speaking universities: McGill and Concordia. Concordia is a younger university than McGill, and I remember feeling impressed by Concordia. To be honest, it was not a very well thought out decision; it was more about a gut feeling that I had after visiting both universities. One felt a lot more traditional and the other felt young, creative and “different”. Coming from a very traditional university in Egypt, I think I was drawn to the opposite of what I had experienced. In retrospect, and compared to my thought process later in life, I did not spend as much time considering the pros and cons and as I mentioned went with my gut feeling. I am glad it worked out I think one of the problems I see many people face is that they do not know what they want, or what their options are. I did not actually know that I needed to do things structurally and systemically. I did not know all my options back then.

Tell us more about the application process?

I first applied when I was a sophomore in university in Egypt at the Faculty of Commerce. I must admit that I wasn’t necessarily taking the process very seriously. I did not get in that year because I had not completed my application and sent all the required documents. Then I applied again in my third year of university. I was accepted that year, and I was able to defer for a year so I can go after I complete my degree in Egypt.

Why did you decide to repeat your bachelor’s degree rather than apply for a masters?

I did not want to apply for a masters straight away, and I wanted to spend more time exploring some of the basic disciplines of business on the undergraduate level before moving to graduate education. I knew my knowledge was lacking in some aspects and I also wanted to take more application-based courses (as opposed to the very theoretical courses we took in Alexandria University.) To be honest, looking back, I did not have much awareness of my options. It was one of the easiest decisions I took in my life.

Did you apply to other universities?

No- I only applied to one university: Concordia. Looking back, I should have applied to more than one university, but I am glad it worked out.