Stories that Shaped Us: The Difference Between Studying and Living in France
Aubry Andreas studied abroad with ISA in Paris, France Fall 2016 and is an alumnae of the University of Denver. Aubry felt such a strong connection to French culture and chose to return to France after college to teach! Today, Aubry works in partnerships and visual media with the National Park Service. She talks about how studying abroad introduced her to a passion for photography and design, and how both experiences in France impacted her growth. We reached out to Aubry to learn more!
When did your passion for travel and exploring other cultures begin?
I became interested in traveling and discovery at an early age. I loved getting National Geographic magazines and looking at all the amazing photos of people living in different cultures. I especially loved learning about Eastern Africa. I always had an affinity to France, though. Perhaps I just liked the way French sounds, but once I started learning the language in middle school, I really fell in love with the idea of traveling.
How did you time abroad in Paris impact you personally? How about your professional goals?
Living in Paris really opened my eyes to how different cultures experience life. I found that the French culture really suited me and I loved living there. Before, I felt like I had to have my life path decided before I even graduated. The French culture is very relaxed and people truly live in the moment, so I was able to slow down and learn to not worry so much about the future. This then allowed me to center myself and reflect on the things that I really wanted out of life.
Professionally, I learned that I actually really enjoyed creative pursuits and that I would enjoy working in that field.
What was your experience like returning to France to work as an English Teaching Assistant?
My experience working in France was very different from study abroad. Unlike university programs that are structured and offer support to students, I was on my own to navigate a lot of the administrative side of living abroad. I remember trying to open a bank account and struggling to communicate. What would have been an easy task in the U.S. turned into an hour-long struggle that resulted in a splitting headache, and also a French bank account!
But, I was also able to integrate into the community, which was harder to do when studying abroad. There were no other Americans in my town, which forced me to get out and interact with locals. I loved going to the weekly farmer’s market and making friends with my French coworkers. Because of this, I gained a deeper appreciation for the culture.
What advice would you share with anyone who is interested in working in France after college?
If someone is thinking about living in France, I would say definitely go for it, but also make sure you set yourself up for success before you get there. Do some research into whatever program you’re interested in. It’s invaluable to talk with someone who did the same program in the past and to get advice on how to navigate the process. It’s also likely that you’ll go a month before seeing your first paycheck, so definitely save a good amount before you leave your home country.
Lastly, be open to whatever location you end up in. This is especially important if you are teaching abroad with TAPIF. You may not get any of your location choices, but that shouldn’t stop you from taking the opportunity.
What are you up to now? Did studying and living in France influence your passion for photography and media design?
After I finished teaching in 2019, I started working in partnership positions with the National Park Service. I work in visual media and design materials to better inform park visitors while also highlighting park research. Studying in France definitely contributed to my professional endeavors. I rarely played with photography until I bought a camera to document my time abroad. So, it’s likely that I may have never went in the direction I did if it weren’t for study abroad. The perspective I gained as a foreigner in a new country greatly contributes to my job communicating ideas and information to visitors. By being in that position, I can now put myself in first-time visitors’ shoes and understand what may or may not help them have a successful visit.
If you could photograph any city in the world, which would you choose?
I would love to photograph Kyoto, Japan. The famous Torii Gates are there as well as other unique architecture. It’s much different from any other city I’ve been to, so I think it would really inspire creativity and provide new perspectives.
Inspired by Aubry’s journey and want to discover your own while immersing yourself in an abroad experience? Fill out your details below to let our team know and we’ll help you find your adventure today!