One Year in Paris and TEDxESCP

Studying abroad in Paris

Studying abroad in Paris

Funny enough, I did that a year ago and still do today.

1 year in Paris. Wow. Save for a week long visa pit-stop in Vancouver, I’ve spent the last 13 months (post overdue) living a distant 8,000km from my hometown. What began as an academic exchange gave way to a year long jaunt through an internship that’s been personally rewarding and career defining. While probably not unconventional, I’d say I took a road less traveled from my Canadian peers (yet seems so commonplace here). Anyways, a couple important things I’ve learned over the last year:

Self reflection. There’s something about crossing an ocean to live, study and work abroad that’s allowed me to hone in on my personal and professional priorities. The French social norms, cultural references and life philosophies have made me much more aware of my North American background and values. Being abroad has also given me a new found appreciation for Vancouver’s beautiful outdoors and the West Coast atmosphere that I always took for granted (although I can’t say the same for the Pacific Northwest rain). Most importantly, studying and working abroad has highlighted the importance of getting an international taste of business.

Keeping in touch. Sometimes it feels like being frozen in time watching friends  graduate, enter the corporate world and move to new phases in their lives. The distance has tested relationships with friends and family – I’ve traded daily camaraderie for infrequent updates and highlight sessions. It’s deceptively easy for relationships fall way side and takes thrice as much effort to keep up. Facebook, Twitter, Skype and the telephone are all essential tools. It’s been the same over here to as many of the amazing people that I’ve met here have gone to study abroad, intern internationally or do a cross-campus exchange.

Realistic expectations. I hawed at my friend’s claim of the Paris Syndrome as a legitimate disorder. There’s more to the city than the temples of Ladurée, Louvre and Louis Vuitton. It’s not perfect: petty crime, maintaining tradition and the sometimes off-putting indifferent attitude. And that’s only the surface. But it reinforced how important it is to keep an open mind and maintain no/realistic expectations. Cross-cultural transitions past the honeymoon phase can be challenging, and it’s definitely important to “keep it real”.

TEDxESCP

On another note I’ve got to applaud the amazing TEDxESCP event I attended this weekend. I was fortunate enough to score a ticket to the inaugural TEDxESCP which a couple of my friends have been feverishly planning over the last 6 months.

TEDxESCP

TEDxESCP

Big shout outs to this year’s team on pulling off a fantastic event and putting ESCP on the TED map. It was a slam-packed afternoon which included design minded insight from Prezi, seeing the jaw-dropping work of an aesthetic and reconstructive plastic surgeon and the guitar-ific likes of RIMED. If you missed out on the ticket sales or the live stream, talks should appear on the website in a couple weeks. I’m excited to see who next year’s team brings to the podium, and who knows, maybe even attend.

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Departures

Marché de Noël

So there’s been a tidal wave of departures over the last week complete with farewells, bon voyages and makeshift plans of which city to reunite in next. As exams end and the holidays creep up there’s been a frenzied rush to revel in each other’s company before bidding farewell. Unlike the spring semester where people linger for a couple weeks or the summer, most everyone parts ways abruptly. This fall has been awesome; met tons of great people, caught up with friends I hadn’t seen in ages and besides a cancelled trip to Oslo (darn Ryanair!), the city has been good to me.

While Paris is garnished with traditional Christmas markets and blinged out trees, I’m sensing that December resembles August, which means store closures en masse and flocks of tourists. On that note, I’m Strasbourg bound and excited to check out the renowned Marchés de Noël (Christmas markets) and wander the Alsatian region. As 2011 draws to a close I’m anticipating the New Year celebrations and another great year. 2011 definitely raised the bar.
Joyeux Noël et Bonne Année!

Patrick

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Getting a Residence Permit (Carte de Séjour) in France

As part of my 2C visa (student internship visa), I needed to apply for something called the Carte de Séjour (CDS), or the “residence permit”. The CDS is needed if you’re staying in France longer than 6 months, as the 2C visa only lasts 3 months, after which the CDS covers the duration of the internship. What an adventure the last couple months have been! While there are resources online about getting a CDS, information for a Canadian student living in Paris and interning in France was scant.

2B and 2C Visa Warning

You can only start working on a 2C visa and you cannot work while on a 2B student exchange visa. The 2B visa lasts for 6 months and cannot be cancelled, which means starting an internship immediately after the school semester ends (4-5 months) isn’t possible.

2C/Resident Permit Application Process

Step 1: 2C Visa – The 2C visa only lasts 3 months so a residence permit is needed cover the rest of the internship. You’re supposed to apply within 2 months of entering France for the residence permit.

Step 2: Residence Permit – Récépissé- Many people apply for a residence permit so you’re given a “récépissé”, which is a temporary residence permit that covers you until your actual residence permit application. The wait for the actual appointment is months.

Step 3: Residence Permit – Actual – After successfully applying for a residence permit it takes an additional 6 – 8 weeks to manufacture the permit.

French Administration

Fun. This meant:

  1. Visiting 4 different offices
  2. Being mistaken for as a full-time student in France, thus being sent to the different (and wrong) offices
  3. Being told I had to apply in person a month after being told I could – and did – apply by mail
  4. A lot of this
  5. Vague requirements with nothing put in writing

In the end, I visited the central Préfecture and submitted these documents:

Central Préfecture

Hôtel de Police
114/116 avenue du Maine
75014 PARIS

Tip: Go in the afternoon when it’s less busy

Documents submitted for the residence permit récépissé:

  1. Passport with 2C visa
  2. Lease contract in French (or a housing attestation in French + copy of ID card of person who’s accommodating you  + original electricity bill with the landlord’s name)
  3. Original birth certificate with full parent’s names/birth places + copy of the birth certificate translated into French. Contact the French consulate for a certified translator to translate these documents
  4. Internship contracts in English and French (also used for the 2C)
  5. 4 photos (35mm x 45mm)

Note: Requirements differ by city

Patrick

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Flat Finding Flashbacks Part 2: Fall

Victory!

I thought finding an apartment in Paris in January was one of the most nerve wracking, time consuming, soul draining experiences ever. Nothing trumps this fall though, searching for a flat for was a trip down Flat Finding Flashbacks memory lane amped up on humid Paris weather and a flurry of back to school students. At least I didn’t have to spend another 20 Days in a hotel.

This month’s rundown:

205+ emails

170+ calls

15 viewings

8 viewings on “Superday”

4 day of cancellations

3 offers made

2 times being beat out just as papers were going to be handed in

1 new flat

Another 4 months in Paris

Finding a flat in the fall is tough, especially if you consider these circumstances:

  • Can hold 2 people, not a couple
  • Only a 4 month lease – competing against back to school students who want 10 – 12 month leases
  • Don’t speak French (well) Parlez-Vous Anglais?
  • Don’t have guarantors (French citizen who’ll “guarantee” your rent payments if you can’t pay)

All I can say is good luck! Not much to add here that I haven’t already mentioned except start early, always call and be ready to make an offer on the spot.

Patrick

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3 Magic Words: Parlez-Vous Anglais? Do You Speak English?

“Parlez-Vous Anglais?” is the Da Vinci Code to transitioning from French to English in every conversation.

Beginning with English or abruptly switching to English mid-conversation without these magic words when your French gets spotty usually results in this:

Sans Parlez-vous Anglais

Without skipping a beat, your remarks will be disregarded and the dialogue resumes in French. Insisting on anything other than French will be met with perplexed stares, furrowed brows and a one-sided conversation.

However, utter the 3 magic words: “Parlez-Vous Anglais?” (Do you speak English?) And everything changes.

You’ll often hear “A little”, or “Yes, but not well”, and then the conversation naturally pivots into English. Except for French administration/government, where I’ve received the snarkiest “no” with one part annoyance, two parts disgust, and three parts patriotism. This is the unspoken but just spoken code. A cultural norm. A French tradition.

It’s nearly impossible to bring English to a conversational duel in the French motherland and expect to win. Frenchies will call your conversational bluff and won’t high tail it in a showdown. Only two options exist: circling back to French or waving the “Parlez-vous Anglais” flag. French people are mighty protective of their language.

However, the French can be quite accommodating when speaking French!

Patrick

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Sundays in Paris: Le Marais, Musées and Marchés

Paris, like most of Europe on Sundays, takes its foot off the gas. Time slows and the blistering (kidding) pace of Paris screeches to a halt. Artisans and shopkeepers close their doors to catch up on some much deserved R&R. Which is cool, but what’s open on Sundays?

How is the falafel shop across from L’as du Falafel still in business?

Le Marais: Spanning the 3rd and 4th districts of the right bank, 80%+ of the shops are open for business on Sundays. The trendy Marais brims with an eclectic mix of stylish shops, opticians, chocolatiers and restaurants. Some of my favourite menswear shops and L’as du Falafel are here.

Museums on the first Sunday

Musées: In addition to being open Sundays, every museum is free the first Sunday of month, which means madness. Avoid the “Big 3” – Louvre, d’Orsay, d l’Orangerie and opt for many of the smaller museums or else risk being herd like cattle. All museums have free or discounted tickets if you’re under 26 and/or a student, so no rush.

Porte de Vanves

Marchés: Some of Europe’s largest flea and farmers markets are scattered throughout the city and périphérique. Treasure hunters can go crazy at the Marché aux Puces de St-Ouen and bulldoze through troves of antiquities and heirlooms. I’m a big fan of the farmers market on Richard Lenoir at Bastille for fresh produce, poultry, seafood and vegetables.

Other things open:

Parks – When are they not open? With many green spaces throughout the city, park life is a Paris staple. Parisiens are also masters of making public spaces their second home.

Chinatown – While most of the city is closed, the streets of Belleville Chinatown are bustling. Even more shocking is that box stores Monoprix and Franprix hold normal shopping hours. Un-French, but also quite awesome, especially when you run out of food.

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Opening a Bank Account/Credit Card in France

Premier

Being accepted to ESCP Europe means being entitled to a Premier card from BNP Paribas for free! Scratch that, BNP wants Grandes École business so much they’ll pay you 70€ for opening a bank account with them. Sweet. So this comes with a concierge and a private jet right? Not exactly. The card is a standard higher withdrawl/monthly limit (not ludicrously sky high) with no fees for 3 years (average time for a masters student). Nonetheless, everyone dons the gold card.

But you can only open a bank account after you have a housing contract.

To get setup you’ll have to book an appointment at either the Parmentier or Oberkampf BNP branches with your ESCP Europe acceptance letter, housing contract and passport. My housing rental contract didn’t suffice so I had to receive and sign a registered letter from the bank at my flat to confirm my address.

What’s awesome is those crafty Europeans have combined the power of debit and credit into a single card. It’s like Gillette Fusion. North America needs to get on it!

Some quibbles with the banks:

  • There are weekly limits, not daily limits on how much you can withdraw from ATMs. Plan ahead for paying rent.
  • If you want to withdraw money from a teller, you need to bring your bank card, an ID card – a Passport for non EU-residents, and a cheque. You go have to write a cheque to yourself to withdraw money. Very French.
  • Branches with tellers are few and far between.

You’re probably wondering if it’s worth it to open a French bank account if you’re only staying for a couple months. It definitely is. You’ll need a bank account to receive CAF – housing subsidy from the French Government – and getting a cell phone plan amongst other things. It makes withdrawing macaron money a breeze. And how can you say no to 70 free euros?

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