Author Archives: lefrenchconnection

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”.


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.



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.



Filed under Lifestyle


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!


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Filed under Holidays, Lifestyle

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


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Filed under Career, Pre-Departure, Visa

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!



Filed under Lifestyle

Opening a Bank Account/Credit Card in France


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?


Filed under Administrative, Gear, Housing


I haven’t posted in a while, which is unusual for me. Maybe this post will explain some of what I’ve been experiencing.

I recently stumbled upon this blog entry and an excerpt of a story about the history of Rocky …


One of the most inspiring stories regarding rejection and frustration is the story of Sylvester Stallone. Since he had been very young, Stallone had wanted to star in movies. He had had a difficult childhood and had grown up in Hell’s Kitchen, a rough neighborhood in New York City. He wanted to make movies because he felt that it was a way to inspire people about what they were capable of.

Stallone tried to get parts in movies and was rejected continually. He was told that he looked funny, that he talked out of the side of his mouth and sounded funny. Stallone’s voice and the way he looks have to do with his head being pulled out with forceps when he was born. The forceps severed a nerve and caused paralysis in parts of Stallone’s face, which caused his slurred speech and drooping lower lip. From a young age, Stallone was handicapped to some extent. He attended a high school for problem children and after graduating he enrolled in beauty school.

One of Stallone’s first feature films was a soft-core pornography movie called “Party at Kitty and Stud’s”, which Stallone did in 1970. He was paid $200 for two days work.

As he tried to advance in the acting field, Stallone was told ‘no’ by agents again and again. He was apparently thrown out of agency offices in New York more than 1,500 times. There were not even 1,500 agents in New York at the time, but Stallone had gone to many of the agents’ offices multiple times–even after being thrown out.

Stallone got his first job by going to an agent’s office and spending an entire night there. He arrived at 4:00 pm and the agent refused to see him. When the agent came back the next morning he saw that Stallone was still waiting there, and he gave him a job. Stallone’s first gig was playing a thug that got beaten up. Despite landing this small role and a few others, the aspiring actor still did not have money to eat, and he could not even afford to heat his apartment during the cold New York winter.

Stallone’s wife at the time kept telling him to go out and get a real job, something that did not involve acting; however, he refused to do so because he was afraid that if he took a normal job he would lose his hunger to succeed in acting. Stallone felt that this hunger gave him an edge, and made him stronger. Stallone and his wife would have one horrible fight after another because he was so broke.

One day Stallone went to the New York Public Library, where it was warm. He had no plans to read anything; he just wanted to escape the chill of his apartment. He stumbled onto a book by Edgar Allen Poe and started reading it. According to Stallone, reading Poe’s work inspired him right then and there to become a writer. Stallone believes that Poe helped him learn to emotionally influence others by not focusing on himself, but by looking at people and the world around him.

Stallone went on to write a movie script called Paradise Alley, which he sold for only $100. Meanwhile, he was so broke that he sold his wife’s jewelry, which officially ended their relationship. The only thing that Stallone had had left at this point in his life was his dog. He loved his dog for the unconditional love it provided him, even though he had no money; this was more than Stallone could say for his wife at the time.

Stallone one day stood in front of a liquor store, trying to sell his dog. He eventually located a man who wanted to make the purchase. Stallone had hoped to sell the dog for $50, but the buyer refused to pay this much and only offered $25. Stallone sold the dog at the lower price, and walked away crying. According to Stallone, this was the lowest point in his life.

A few weeks later Stallone watched Muhammad Ali fight Chuck Wepner. The fight inspired Stallone. That evening Stallone went home and, in three short days, he wrote the script for Rocky. Stallone tried to sell the script and was rejected numerous times. Finally, he found two men, Robert Chartoff and Irwin Winkler, who really liked the script. They offered him $125,000; but Stallone refused and stated that he would only accept this money if he could star in the movie. The producers did not want Stallone to star in the movie because he was an unknown actor. A couple of weeks later they offered him $250,000 if he would not star in the movie, and once again he refused. Later the producers offered Stallone $325,000, and he turned this down as well. Stallone felt that Rocky was his story and that it was incredibly important for him to play the lead role.

Eventually, the producers offered him $35,000 and allowed him to play the part in the movie. They would also give Stallone a share of the profits. Ultimately the movie cost $1,000,000 to make and ended up grossing over $200,000,000–and winning an Oscar. Stallone said that right before he received the Oscar, he had read every rejection he had ever received and all of the negative things that people had ever said about him, because he had written it all down. One of my favorite quotes is from Stallone: “I take rejection as someone blowing a bugle in my ear to wake me up and get going, rather than retreat.”

Incredibly, the first thing Stallone did when he received the $35,000 was go immediately to the liquor store, hoping to get his dog back. He stood in front of the liquor store for three days waiting for the man to appear. Stallone first offered $100 and then more and more money until he offered to pay $1,000. The man still refused to sell the dog back. Finally, Stallone offered the man $15,000 of the $35,000 he received, and he got his dog back. The dog that is featured in Rocky is Stallone’s dog.

There is nothing wrong with failing. Stallone failed many times early on, and has since left a legacy of one of the most inspiring and fantastic movies ever written and produced. If you do not succeed the first time, just look at what went wrong and change it. Frustration and rejection make you stronger. Doing something and failing is better than doing nothing. At least by trying you will learn a lesson. Learning a lesson is among the most valuable experiences you can have.

Rejection is a numbers game. The more you are rejected, the closer you are to success. Let the law of averages work on your behalf, and never give up what you are doing. You need to push through in order to succeed, and to not worry about all the no(s) you are receiving. Each no will bring you closer to a yes. Put your emotions and negative feelings about being rejected behind you.

Life is often frustrating, and the road to success is also often frustrating. Your ability to handle this frustration and rejection, however, will ultimately determine the level of success you will experience. Imagine if Stallone had stopped early on when he experienced frustration and rejection.

Work through frustration and rejection, and never stop moving forward.

I came to Paris with the intention of experiencing three things mentioned in my blog a year ago:

1) The Learning!

I’ve learned that education has to be relevant. Taking and accepting what you’re given is usually not going to lead to best results or passion-driven work. Focus is important. I’m definitely a big-picture person, qualitative over quantitative, and a lover not a worker.

I think I’ve caught my big break. That transition from Early Childhood and Life to Early Career (for all those Wikiheads :p) is definitely in motion, as I’m starting to work collaboratively on a consulting project with one of the world’s leading experts in international technology transfer and business intelligence.

Still plan to hold down those transcript marks. But laying the foundations for my global network takes precedence.

2) The Opportunities!

Bringing back that Stallone article. My obsessive compulsion towards internship applications definitely has been apparent during my first two months here. Applying to 1oo+ online/on-campus applications, receiving 75 rejection letters to date (with 2-3 on average arriving in my inbox daily), and receiving 2 offers in London and Paris respectively. It’s been good times ~!

3) The City!

After waiting in line for an hour, chugging a bottle of JD with some new Parisian friends, and getting inadvertently bare-maced due to crowd control I finally got to see Skrillex perform for the first time at a Paris Nightclub.

Walking out of the club at 5AM with more energy than when I walked in, I couldn’t help but soak in the city atmosphere. Pubs were still open. I could make out new friendships being made on restaurant patios over the obligatory Parisian smoke, and of course hook-ups were still being devised. It’s interesting to think of the lost-time in N. American culture by closing off these late night “connections”.

Truth be told. I don’t think it’s Paris that particularly appeals to me, but moreso the change of scenery. If all goes to plan, Ill be back in July and stay til December.

This exchange is just an appetizer.

I’m hungry and it ain’t for food.


James Avendano studied at ESCP Europe’s Master in Management program on exchange in Spring 2011 and has written a series of guest posts here. Check him out on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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Filed under Guest Posts, Uncategorized

Flat Finding Flashbacks in Paris

Finding a flat is always fun. Finding a flat in Paris? Even funner. It’s been a little over a month since me and James moved into our apartment and February was a complete whirlwind thereafter. January was both mentally and physically draining since we were running to multiple apartment viewings and attending the first few weeks of classes. Not to mention living out of our suitcases in a hotel. Since ESCP Europe is in Paris, there are no student dorms available, ala every other university not in Paris. While Residence Vivaldi, a huge housing complex with an agreement with ESCP, was an option, I thought I’d have a richer experience finding a place on my own. And it was awesome.

Searching for an Apartment

Important things to figure out:

  1. Monthly budget – Paris is not cheap!
  2. Where you want to stay – Not all places in Paris are good, or close to school.
  3. When you want to move in – We arrived on the 13th of January.

Me and James had an initial budget of 600E/month and preferred something in the 3rd or 4th. We eventually increased our budget to 750E/month and expanded our search into the 3/4/5/6/8/9/10/11 arrondissements. I’d recommend avoiding the 18 – 20th if possible, which are not great areas. Depending on when you want to move in (immediately? Beginning of the month?) also factors into what’s possible. We also set a deadline for the end of the month to move in (anywhere).

Best Places to find an Apartment:

  1. ESCP Intranet – Definitely one of the best/safest options. Many flats available near the school
  2. Fusac – Lots of quality postings we followed up with
  3. Craigslist – Tons of Nigerian scammers! We eventually found the apartment we moved into here
  4. American Church in Paris – Didn’t follow up with any options here but some friends found their places through here
  5. or Seloger – Hugely popular with the French locals so you’re at a big disadvantage. Many agencies/landlords are looking to rent for upwards of 6 months

Predeparture Options:

Residence Vivaldi – I haven’t heard the best things about the facilities and rooms here. Although, they might be the best bet if you can score something for 400E/month.
CIUP – A bit far from the school, but basically dorm style rooms that you with people from Canada. It fills up fast!

Untested Options:

Various vacation rental sites/Parisattitude etc. – Definitely on the pricier side and sometimes it didn’t make sense for 4+ months.

I recommend setting up a spreadsheet to track everything. Sometimes we didn’t know which apartment an email was responding to since we contacted so many listings. If you’re willing to pay agency fees, you can definitely get an apartment faster. Since we were  adventurous, we decided to make it our goal to avoid paying agency fees (up to a months rent!). Finding accommodations for 2 people (not a couple) is exponentially more difficult than finding accommodations for a couple or a single person. Very few places have two separate beds or a sofa bed. We even considered buying a futon/sofabed for some apartments.

Setting up Viewings

Always call if you can; apparently landlords receive 30 – 50 emails after posting online. It definitely helps to speak French or have someone make calls in French on your behalf. I was also sending emails in French and English to make things easier for the landlord.

Apartment Viewings

This was one thing I didn’t account for sucking up so much time. Not only was I exploring the area the apartment was in, but I was at at the whim of the landlords schedule – be prepared for numerous last minute cancellations or reschedulings. Some of the neighbourhoods I walked around were not high on livability – ie lack of Boulangeries/Boucheries/Supermarkets. Some neighbourhoods weren’t for me. A place near Trocadero – and the Eiffel tower – was to touristy and expensive (daily) to live for 4+ months; although a week there probably would’ve been nice.

Signs you’re in a good area:

  1. Canada Goose down jackets. Wildly popular.
  2. Hip parents and stylish kids. Kids are fashion accessories. No joke.
  3. Cobblestone streets. Luxurious.
  4. Dressed up little dogs.  To have another mouth to feed & the space for a pet in Paris? $$
  5. McDonalds that serve hamburger shaped macaroons. Only the finest McD’s stock these.

Making an Offer

You’d be crazy to try to negotiate on price. As a student looking for a short term rental with minimal paperwork, we were in a weak position to negotiate. All we could was say was that we were interested and that they would get back to us. At times it felt like if they “liked” me then I would be at an advantage, so be extra friendly when viewing! Sometimes we were simply outgunned – other people wanted the apartment longer and we couldn’t compete.

Multiple Offers

Since landlords have their own schedules, sometimes they’ll accept your offer and want you to move through the paperwork immediately. This happened to us a couple of times and it was difficult to give a definite answer since we were holding out for another apartment. On the flipside, we were telling multiple landlords that we were interested in moving into their apartments. Always hedge your bets.

Signing the Paperwork

If you get a landlord that doesn’t need a French guarantor and the last 5 years of employment history you’re in luck! Try to get the housing contract read by a French person if you can. Ask if you can get CAF (housing assistance from the French government) or if you can use the contract to setup a bank account. Sometimes since you’ll be renting from a renter, so they’ll need to provide a letter attesting that they’re accommodating you from xxxx to xxxx to be able to setup a bank account.

Life Lessons Learned

  • Don’t wait for perfect. After a while we were indifferent to the likability of the apartment. It became “could we live here or not?”
  • Expand your horizons. We considered an unfurnished apartment and buying all the furniture since rent was ridiculously low
  • Hedge your bets. We were setting up viewings for apartments up until the day we moved in. Even after verbal confirmation.
  • Nothings a sure thing. We were 90% we were going to sign the papers for one apartment but at the 26th hour the landlord went with another offer
  • Expect randomness. Last minute cancellations, reschedulings and getting beat by other offers eventually became expected


Filed under Housing, Lifestyle, Pre-Departure