pvtistes : Where are you from?
Rachelle : I'm most recently from Toronto, Ontario before moving to Paris.
pvtistes : Which French city(ies) did you live in during your working holiday?
Rachelle : I only lived in Paris and chose this city as it's always been a place I've had a connection with. I came for the first time when I was 16 and instantly fell in love with it. I knew that leaving Toronto, I wanted a challenge and adventure, somewhere where I could speak French and learn about a new culture. It was everything I imagined and more.
pvtistes : What are your date of arrival in France and your date of departure?
Rachelle : January 2014 - December 2015. Working holiday visa then Young Professional.
pvtistes : Are you a backpacker?
Rachelle : I love to travel, explore and observe-going on adventures in new countries is so inspirational for me. I've never 'backpacked', but have travelled a lot before moving to france.
pvtistes : What were you doing in Toronto before going to France?
Rachelle : I was working as a senior designer at an Advertising Agency before moving to France. I was in need for a big change, in a lot of ways and chose to pack up and move. I left my job, bought a ticket, got a visa and away I went!
pvtistes : Why did you want to go on a working holiday in France?
Rachelle : I spent my entire life in a french-emersion school and found that I was losing a language I used to speak every day. I wanted to experience life in a french society and take on all the challenges it would provide.
pvtistes : How did you feel during the 2 first weeks you spent in France?
Rachelle : My first 2 weeks felt incredibly natural, I knew I had made the right decision. I had enrolled in Alliance Française for a 2-week course just to refresh my speaking, so I fell into a routine quite quickly of exploring and learning.
pvtistes : What was your level of french prior your arrival? And now?
Rachelle : Since I've spoken french from the age of 5, it's always been something I could easily adapt and pick up. I will say that it's a lot better now than when I arrived, but wish it was even better than that! I struggle with grammar and verbs, but can certainly have a fluent conversation in French.
pvtistes : Could you tell us about administrative formalities?
Rachelle : I'll be honest when I say this normally isn't that easy. It certainly provided its challenges to get all of this in order and a LOT different than in Canada, which I felt to be annoying and not direct. However, I feel like I was quite lucky and it wasn't overly difficult for me. I lived with a couple for the first 6-weeks in an apartement in the Marais and they really helped with all of this! They set up an appointment with their banker to set up my account, provided proof I lived with them for my mobile phone contract and everything was quite seamless. With the APT (Autorisation Provisoire de Travail), this took a bit of time, but it wasn't too much of a burden. The working holiday was quite easy to get, but it was important to have all the paper work together, insurance details and flight information. For the young professional, a LOT more paper work, administration and time goes into it.
pvtistes : Did you find a place easily?
Rachelle : I couldn't believe how difficult it was to get an apartment in Paris, though I had heard it was challenging before I came here. I went into it with a positive attitude and made it work. Before arriving, all I had was the first 6-weeks in an AirBnb to get settled and then look for a place when I was in Paris. I looked online, found a couple agencies and saw a couple places. Typically, it's absurd all the documents you need to have, or the money you need to make to secure an apt. Again, I feel like I was very lucky because I had found an apartment run by an agency and I was able to have my father as my guarantor. I did have to provide statements from him, along with a letter, my bank statement to prove I had enough money for a year's rent and then of course, pay the agency fee, along with security and month's rent to secure the place.
pvtistes : Tell us about the job opportunities you got in Paris!
Rachelle : While I was looking for work in my field, I'm a graphic designer, it was quite challenging. I found it to be valuable to speak both french and english, as most jobs I applied for included that. I didn't have a network in Paris, but slowly as I met people, they became stepping stones to getting to where I wanted to be. I worked at a restaurant at first, just to practice french and interact with people, which was also a good way to earn money, too. I was fortunate because they needed some design work done and so, I was able to expand my services that way and produced some marketing material for them as well.
pvtistes : Do you think work is very different in France and in Canada?
Rachelle : Yes, it's very different in France than in Canada. I would say the environment in France is a lot more laid back and slow. In saying that, I feel like employees take more responsibility in Canada, from what I experienced and don't try to pass things off to others. Of course every situation is going to be different, but I love the work/life balance in france, especially with vacation time!
pvtistes : You have a website, could you tell us about it?
Rachelle : Saevil Row is my design studio, which I did have before I moved to Paris, but being here has given me time to truly focus on it. I have clients internationally and focus on custom design solutions for print, web and stationery. My focus is mostly branding and web design, which I love and have garnered a strong visual inspiration from living in Paris.
pvtistes : Did you have a chance to travel around France?
Rachelle : I travelled a bit in France, but not as much as I would have liked! I went to Provence for the lavender fields, which was amazing! Reims for Champagne, naturally. Normandy for la plage and cider and as well the most stunning Mont Saint Michael.
pvtistes : What would you say about French people?
Rachelle : I made friends with a few french people and they were so, so lovely. I think they're mainly nice, BUT have experienced some really NOT nice ones as well. I feel like Parisians have a tendency to stare, so that's weird, and do find some to be quite cold. I luckily met most of my french friends through other people, I don't know how I would have made friends if I wanted to! Actually, it's amazing how many Canadians/Australians I have met here, as well. It does surprise me how many french people don't speak english!! That I found to be weird, but each person I've encountered has always had the desire to speak more english, if theirs weren't perfect.
pvtistes : What did you miss from Canada during these 2 years?
Rachelle : I missed how easy things were! I've come across some very annoying and weird challenges, mainly bureaucracy and I just roll my eyes because I know it would never happen back home! Otherwise of course I've missed my family and friends, but I've been very fortunate as everyone has visited me and I've gotten to share my french, Parisian life.
pvtistes : What will you miss from France, once you'll be back home?
Rachelle : Oh goodness, this list will be so much longer- I'll miss the fresh croissants and delicious pastries. I'll miss hearing french every day, I do love the language. I'm going to miss the metro, it's such a great way to get around the city. Above all, I'm going to miss the inspiration I get from the city on a daily basis, just looking around and seeing new things each time I'm out. (I'm getting choked up now!)
pvtistes : What is your best memory in France?
Rachelle : The person I've become, since moving here and meeting some life-long friends.
pvtistes : I was about to ask you about the most difficult thing you experienced in Paris, but I know you had a very tough night on November 13th, 2015
Rachelle : I was supposed to meet some friends at Le Petit Cambodge, one of my favourite restaurants in the city, when I got in a bit of a bike accident. Unfortunately I was sent straight to the hospital because I couldn't walk and knew something was wrong with my ankle. Little did I know, it would be the best bike accident I could have been in, because a few short hours later, when I was to be eating dinner, the attacks happened. The fact that it was the restaurant that got hit made me sick to my stomach. How could something like this happen, so close to home, a place I frequent and a place I was supposed to be, had I not had the accident. I'm very grateful I was safe in the hospital when it happened, but so sad and heavy hearted to experience it in Paris.
pvtistes : What have you gained through this Working Holiday experience, personally and professionally ?
Rachelle : I've gained more personally than professionally. I've gained a completely new perspective, outlook and admiration for a new culture and way of life. Things I know I will carry throughout the rest of my life, and I don't regret a single second.
pvtistes : What would be your advice to Canadians willing to go on a working holiday in France ?
Rachelle : JUST DO IT. GO! Take the risk, what's the worst that can happen? Experience life and a new culture - immerse yourself in the possibilities of what could be. Don't over analyze the negatives (money, fear, anxiety) and focus on how strong of an experience it will be and don't look back. Sure, I had some money saved up that helped, but there was a time where that was all gone and I had to work hard to make things work, and I did! Everything always works out if you want it to.
pvtistes : What are your projects now ?
Rachelle : I will be back to France for the rest of my life, Paris is my second home now. I'll be doing a bit of travelling in the new year, while working on some projects. I'm not exactly sure, but that's the beauty of it. My life used to be so planned and scheduled, now I'm just doing what makes me happy, so we'll see where I end up!
pvtistes : Thousands of "pvtistes" are going to Canada every year with a PVT. In your opinion, why should they go and discover your province, Ontario ?
Rachelle : Canada is an amazing country for so many reasons. There are plenty of work opportunities and a strong quality of life and health. The people are so nice and friendly/accommodating. In Ontario, you have a great cultural community-food, art, museums, skiing, lake houses, lots to explore!