Moving abroad isn’t always easy. When I first moved to Paris, I moved to a city that I had visited once before, where they spoke a language that I didn’t know how to speak, and I knew exactly one person in this new city which was my boss, Yohans Bellaiche. Quite frankly, it was a lot to take in during the first months, but also very exciting!
I first wanted to learn how to speak French as quickly as possible. In high school I took French which covered the basic “je voudrais une baguette”. Extremely useful if you are in a bakery, but less so if you are working in a lab. Luckily, I found a good course where I could talk to other people that were in the same situation. It turned out that I wasn’t the only person that struggled with French and understanding French culture, but that everyone was just trying to understand how everything worked outside of their country.
The next step was to find a permanent place to live. In the south of Paris there is a so called ‘Cité Universitaire’ where almost 5000 students live in houses that were built by different countries. The idea behind this university campus is that people of all nationalities should mix when they are young so that once they’re older they will understand each other better. I first lived in the Dutch house, which was among the first to be constructed just after the first world war. I lived in small room in the basement which once flooded after a severe rainstorm. That time I even had to barricade the door by blocking all the holes with socks. Luckily, I was able to move out to another room in another house on campus quite quickly after that. This is when I knew I had to start to look for somewhere else to live.
Now, a little over two years into my PhD I have my own apartment on the east side of the city. It’s much bigger than the 10 m2 student room with a single bed that I had at Cité Universitaire, but of course in Paris you will always be short on space. I feel like I’ve made some big steps when it comes to speaking French. I can even say that I have some friends that don’t speak English! This has also allowed me to enjoy the other things that Paris has to offer like go to movies, comedies, and plays.
In short, it will be hard to leave this city after I finish my PhD!