…moved to France, that is!
Last month I was finally able to share some news we had been sitting on for a while: we moved back to France! While it wasn’t exactly a secret, per se, we had avoided telling too many people beforehand because we just weren’t sure that it was actually going to happen. We also knew that if it was going to happen, chances were high that we’d have to leave relatively quickly; given the current situation with COVID — and the fact that the more people we told, the more they wanted a chance to see us before we left — we just couldn’t risk any potential exposure, no matter how nice it might have been to say a proper goodbye beforehand.
Similarly, because of COVID, there was a huge possibility that we wouldn’t have been able to come to France at all. We had already had one opportunity fall through and were incredibly lucky that there was even a second opportunity at all — but that’s a story for another day.
So how’d this all happen?
Though there’s always a lot of planning when it comes to moving abroad — planning that often lasts for many months — it was not our original intention to move to France at all. It had been our plan (had been for years, in fact) to move to New York at the conclusion of my Master’s degree. Dani and I have both spent a good amount of time in the city, and it’s been our dream for 10+ years to move back there permanently. Leaving our jobs in Michigan so that I could attend graduate school seemed like the first logical stepping stone in a move further East; after all, a program of study is always finite, and once I finished my Master’s, we’d be forced to move on to something else. For us, that “something else” was New York or nowhere, and early in 2020 we began making plans in earnest.
And then March arrived, COVID hit, and the world ground to a literal halt.
New York was particularly badly affected, but in the early days of the pandemic, we naively assumed that things would be fine by the time we actually planned to arrive in the city, sometime in mid- to late-summer. We didn’t know just yet how seriously COVID was going to affect the economy, but unfortunately for us, it didn’t take long to find out.
I can’t speak for Dani, but I must have sent out a hundred resumés in the month and a half between my Spring Break in March (which marked the end of my Master’s exams) and my graduation in early May. I applied to every single teaching job for which I was qualified in the city of New York, in public schools, private schools and charter schools. I applied for jobs teaching French and my secondary certification, history. I applied for “humanities” positions at private schools, hoping that my background in French, history, and music would be enough to qualify me for those jobs.
Then the NYC Department of Education announced an indefinite hiring freeze. Dani’s entire industry, live event production, essentially evaporated (and still has yet to return). I began looking at jobs outside of the classroom, in education-adjacent positions that I thought might be a good fit: jobs in Edtech, instructional design, educational consulting, and even copywriting and editing jobs in the hopes that my freelance experience might let me get my foot in the door.
We received no phone calls.
At this point it was late May, and it was very clear that we were likely in this COVID situation for the long haul, with no indication as to when things might start getting back to some variety of “normal.” While we were still committed to moving New York, we realized we had to be realistic and start considering some other options as well. New York also isn’t the kind of city you can just move to without a plan — at least not for us, anyway. Financially we knew we could weather maybe a month or two of job hunting in the city itself, but with the uncertainty of the pandemic’s long-term effects on the economy, we also knew that we could wind up getting really, really screwed if we decided to just try our chances. Plus, we knew that the absolute last place we wanted to be without access to employer-sponsored health insurance was in one of the most expensive cities in America during a global pandemic.
Back to France…during a pandemic?
Sometime around Memorial Day weekend (if memory serves), my old boss from the university I worked at in Lyon reached out to see if I would be interested in re-joining the team as a lectrice d’anglais, and I decided to go for it. Dani was also excited by the idea of returning to Lyon, and since we didn’t have any other serious prospects — well, why not? Unfortunately for us, that opportunity fell through at the literal last second — as in, the university’s semester was already underway, and “my” classes were being covered by a colleague until my arrival. We were back to square one, and had been living with Dani’s parents for more than three months since our lease ended in Pennsylvania in June.
And then…an e-mail. From an educational technology company based in Paris, for a job as a Quality Assurance Manager that I had applied to on a whim when we were still living in Pennsylvania. I didn’t actually believe I had a chance at getting it (the labor laws in France make it extremely difficult to be hired as a non-European, or at the very least as someone who doesn’t already have valid French working papers) but since it fit my background and, from what I could tell on their website, seemed like a fun place to work — I went for it anyway.
First, I was contacted by one of their recruiters for a quick introductory chat. From there, they expressed an interest in a formal interview process, and I went through a barrage of Zoom calls over the course of about 10 days, one of which I messed up so spectacularly that I was certain that was the end of it. And yet…it wasn’t. They wound up offering me the job, with full visa sponsorship for myself and Dani. Whether or not the Embassy would grant us those visas remained to be seen, but we decided to go for it anyway, despite having been recently burned in our attempt to get to Lyon for my teaching position. We managed to snag a last-minute appointment in Chicago (as in, we made the appointment on a Friday and had to leave from Michigan the following Tuesday) and crossed our fingers for the three weeks in between the submission of our file at the visa center and the return of our passports, with visas enclosed, just days before our scheduled flight from Detroit to Paris.
So here we are — just wrapping up our very first month in Paris. We arrived on a Friday in November, and I began my job the following Monday. In light of the pandemic, my company has adopted a “remote first” policy, so I work from home full-time and could really be based anywhere in France. We’d like to eventually move to Lyon, but given the current travel restrictions/confinement in France that have made it difficult to travel between regions, and the fact that we have to apply for residency now rather than at the end of a year, we’ve decided to stick it out in Paris for the time being. We spent the first few weeks in an AirBnB, and have since moved into our own apartment that we look forward to making our own, for however long we may be here!
My job has been going really well. Despite being fully remote, my team has gone above and beyond in helping me feel welcome and supported. Everyone has truly been so kind and helpful — I truly can’t believe that this is the job I managed to stumble into. It’s a great mix of my professional background in education, curriculum design, and writing and editing. While I do sometimes miss being in the classroom, I have to admit that I do feel more than a little bit relieved. The prospect of starting a new teaching job in a brand-new school, in the conditions under which teachers are being forced to work currently (whether fully remote, hybrid, or — insanely — in person) was something that had been causing me intense spells of anxiety all spring and summer. I truly feel for my colleagues in teaching right now, many of whom are really, really suffering, both mentally and physically.
Other than that, Paris is still pretty heavily restricted due to COVID, so we’ve mostly been hunkered down at home. Nevertheless, it’s still the Paris we know and love, if a little quieter — and we’re making it work.
I’ll share a little more later on what it was like to move abroad during a global pandemic, but that’s it for now — dinner and a glass of red beckon…