So, the last time I wrote of this process was almost a year ago now in a blog post entitled ‘Crazy’. I wrote, “I might be going crazy. I must be– it’s a crazy notion, to try to move to Paris. I’m 24, I’m just starting out in my profession, I have family here, I have a nice apartment and friends. And now I want to just give all that up to move to France? Well, yes.”
A year later, I’m still just as crazy, and, in fact, growing more crazy by the day. The process of becoming an expat isn’t simple, and there’s no clear road-map to follow. I spent an entire month just trying to get someone, anyone, to answer one question. I saved up a third of my paycheck (on good months) for something I wasn’t sure I’d ever see a return on. I said good bye to Minnesota institutions and traditions, like Minnesota State Fair, in preparation for departure. And, most of all, I battled my own inexperience and anxiety to get through.
What I accomplished in a year:
Saved just over $4,000: This sounds like a lot, but it’s actually just under half of what it recommended you bring with you when moving overseas. I’m going to have to seriously crack down and try to hit my $6,000 minimum before leaving.
Improved my French: A little. Un petit-peu. I worked with a phenomenal French tutor for close to six months, just working myself up to a liveable standard. As I will be applying to a French language school, this does not concern me nearly as much as the money situation.
Found an affordable French language program: This was the most important and, thus far, most difficult step. The online resources are haphazard at best and scammy at worst. Applying to an American institution (such as the American University of Paris) would be the easiest route but, being American, these institutions are off-the-charts expensive. I finally settled on the Cours de Civilisation Française program of the Sorbonne, which offers French language and culture studies at reasonable prices to beginners. Getting the Sorbonne to talk to me, however, was a monumental challenge– particularly with my A2 level French.
Found a vet who specializes in exporting dogs: Because I own the cutest Chihuahua in existence, I naturally need to bring him with me (and because he weighs 6 lbs, he’ll be relatively easy to keep in a Parisian 10 meter squared studio). I have a feeling that this will become more stressful as I get closer to the date, and am still trying to figure out a safe way to export him.
Set up a Campus France account: Campus France is the first step for an American looking to acquire a study visa in France, and it’s best thought of as a gauntlet you must conquer to test your dedication. Unhelpful, confusing, and sometimes downright inscrutable, if you can successfully guess what Campus France is requesting of you, you can move on to the second stage. Think of it as a pre-visa application.
Started reducing what I take in: I’ll be moving from a relatively spacious two bedroom apartment to the aforementioned 10 meter squared studio, so I can’t really be too big on ‘possessions’. I’ve already promised myself that I’ll be taking no more than five to ten books (and ten is really pushing it) and about 1/5th of my current wardrobe. I’m still trying to figure out if my beloved DVD collection is coming with me– that is the one front I’m still acquiring on. Everything else is sell, sell, sell!
Renewed my passport, got certificate of graduation, school records: All of those paperwork things that can trip you up at the last minute.
Whew. It doesn’t look like a whole lot, now that I think about it, but I have a plan and I’m following my timeline. With four months to go before I plan to leave (with January being the ideal arrival month in Paris) I’m in crunch time.
So, if I seem a little crazier than usual for the next four months, just remember– I don’t hate you. I just hate Campus France. [Je plaisante! S'il vous plaît approuver ma demande de visa.]