Are you a Trini who happens to be fluent (or mostly fluent) in French, and want to study abroad? Think you don’t have the cash to make it happen? Then ‘alors aujourd’hui c’est ton bonheur!’ Today is your lucky day because I am going to share the inspiring story of Krysta from Diego Martin who earned her degree, for free, in France and still lives there today.
So how does it work? Krysta explained to me that if you can pass a French proficiency exam, you can apply to study for free at a public university in France. She had done French at A’Levels, and after passing the exam at Alliance Française Trinidad & Tobago, Krysta was finally accepted at the François Rabelais University in Tours.
Sounds like a dream come true, but as people often find out, making a life in a foreign land where you have to get by every day in a second language has a lot of challenges. Read on more about her story, the ups and the downs, and how she now helps other Trinis find opportunities in France.
1) Where do you currently live, and how long have you been there?
I live in Paris, going on 5 years, but I’ve been in France for 11 years.
2) What do you do for a living?
I work in B2B account Management for a French startup
3) How did you end up in your current country?
I had heard about the opportunity to study in France virtually tuition-free, so I took an exam with the Alliance Française to test my proficiency in French (which I failed twice), but still got accepted to the Université de Tours.
4) Is this a short-term adventure, or do you have plans to stay?
This was supposed to be short term (until my Bachelors) but I ended up coming back to complete my Masters in International Business Development. Then I found my first job in 2012… the rest is history!
5) What was the hardest part about adapting to life in your new home? Any culture shock?
There was a huge culture shock yes… from the language to their eating habits, and their way of thinking. At the university I had my core classes in French, the Minors were in English and Spanish. My French was not so good coming out of A-levels, so I was quite insecure when speaking or even trying to write my exams.
6) What has been the best part of the experience so far?
The number of personal obstacles that I have been able to overcome to get to where I am today, including doing several little jobs like grape-picking (which is not as glamorous as it seems when depicted in “A Walk in the Clouds”, a movie from 1995!). They have all made me much stronger.
7) What do you miss about T&T the most?
The food and my family are the top two.
8) What is your favorite food in your new location?
Ah… too many! Raclette (a cheese dish), cured meat or “charcuterie”, and home-made “tartiflette”, a potato and bacon bits pie.
9) If you could live somewhere else, where would your dream destination be?
Spain, though I already had the opportunity to live there for 6 months!
10) Do you have any advice for other Trinis who may want to go abroad?
Be brave, don’t let anything stop you – your family’s opinion, your fears, thinking that it is impossible to do X or Y. Jump in the deep end with two feet, don’t let anything be too easy… and you will only come out a stronger person spiritually and mentally.
Krysta also wants to share with readers that because of her experiences she was able to create the T&T French Association which helps raise awareness on the opportunities in France available to young Trinbagonians. She is happy to assist in any way possible, so don’t hesitate to contact the association via Facebook (link above).
You can also read Krysta’s in-depth interview with The Guardian here.