“Moving to France” blogs are a dime a dozen, obviously, and most of them cite Paris, French, fashion, or something like “it’s so romantic” as their reasons for doing so. Macarons and champagne, whatever. It’s not like France needs any more marketing anyway.
My jam with France, however, is politics. To an almost embarrassing degree. A politically aware family + taking French sort of melded into a natural interest. In high school I read Is Paris Burning?, fangirled over de Gaulle, followed the 2002 elections with extreme curiosity, and then went to college and basically just wrote a thousand papers on French foreign policy. In grad school, I branched out into adjacent fields to round myself out and spent less time reading in/interacting with the language as a result (btw, if there’s anything I’d now do differently if I could, it would be this, so if you’re reading this and doing this exact thing, don’t). Old habits die hard, however: when a professor asked us one day who liberated Paris, I proclaimed, in front of 20 proud Americans and being one myself, that it was General Leclerc (it was the Third United States Army; also, #gunner).
Anyway, I live for this. My friends and I went to the French Caribbean on vacation, and while they went out like normal humans, I spent the entire evening glued to Le Grand Journal and it was the best evening ever. France has far and away the most vibrant political landscape I’ve ever seen (I’ve tried to build electoral models, there are like 76 parties), and its political history from Lutèce onwards is just spectacularly interesting to me – hence the landscape, I suppose. Modern-day French politics and French governmental affairs are absolutely my top interest, so wanting to attend a French policy school was the obvious result of all of the years I spent on that, but various circumstances led me to stay in the US for grad school. When the opportunity to do a semester at Sciences Po came up, I already had a full-time job in the middle of a recession and just couldn’t bring myself to take what felt like a huge risk by quitting it. Afterward, since I already had a master’s and didn’t want to do a PhD, I looked at business schools in France, but quickly realized that taking on a ton of debt to do something that only nets a strong B for overall appeal, that isn’t a policy program at all, solely in order to check an arbitrary “studied in France” box, made zero sense for me. So I went back to my life for a while, periodically checking to see if maybe a more fitting program of some sort popped up, and then… I found it.
An “executive” (mid-career) master’s. In my actual professional field, 100% on target. At France’s best policy school. During what is certainly one of the most boisterous times in France’s political history.
^^ me, basically ^^
So I hyperventilated for a bit, told everyone about it, started preparing my application, and then… life happened. I had commitments. I got a promotion. I didn’t really have the money. I second-guessed everything. It was absolutely love at first sight, but it just had to wait, or maybe never even happen.
As I’m sitting here writing this two years later, it feels like a fog I didn’t know I was in had slowly lifted, like when you step outside on the first cool day of the year, and maybe it’s a little overcast, and you’re surprised by the mental acuity you feel in that moment when the air hits your nose. Now all of the ducks are more or less aligned, but beyond that, I’m finally realizing that if I don’t finally do this, I’ll regret it forever.
The program is 16 months, and it’s exactly everything I’ve ever wanted. Now all I need to do is, well, go.
Next up, I’ll write about the financial side of this affair, which is the one area I wish more expat blogs would cover in greater detail.