It’s amazing what a difference one month can make!
Not too long ago we were scrambling to pack up our lives up into boxes and bags. We were saying goodbye to two years in Belgium and wondering what France and the INSEAD experience would actually be like. Today we’re nestled into cottage living in Samoreau and Laurens has gone full-force into MBA student life. As for me? I’m back to being unemployed, creatively inspired and very, very happy.
The first few weeks of moving to a new country are always the most exhilarating and yes, exhausting! I’ve found that the stronger we start off in a new place, the more the successful the year will be. We moved with high hopes and an open mind. Here are the biggest changes we’ve gone through since moving from Belgium to France this January.
Samoreau: a peaceful retreat
As a self-proclaimed city girl, I’m surprised at how much I enjoy where we live now. We’re in a small village outside Fontainebleau’s center. Choosing to live here was a pretty easy decision, although we knew we were compromising INSEAD campus convenience to live in an area with more space and easy access to Paris. Buses aren’t always reliable and it takes me 30-40 minutes to get to campus, but on the other hand, within a few minutes walk, I’m near a beautiful forest and the winding Seine. Oh, and it’s not a real French experience without a mind-blowing bakery nearby. We have that, too. It’s a dangerously delicious 3-minute walk from our front door.
It was pretty easy to get used to the quiet, calm Samoreau life. I’m inspired to write more than ever, and when I have writer’s block or just want to get out, I take the train to Paris to get my bustling city vibes for the week. Our landlords are friendly and welcoming which really helps since we’re living on their property. They’re only around a few days a week, so it’s as if we have this big domain to ourselves. Fontainebleau itself doesn’t have much to do, but there is a gorgeous chateau to visit and quaint city center that I still need to explore better. More to come on that later!
Building bonds at INSEAD
The hardest part about leaving Belgium was leaving our friends and the city behind. I have to admit, I wasn’t sure if I had the energy to give this new circle of people the chance it deserved. I was emotionally spent when we arrived, but the rush of a new place invigorated me to make the most of it and we also didn’t have much time to waste.
This is the fifth time we’ve restarted our social lives together as a couple, and each time is completely different from the last.
Before we arrived, we were told over and over that the INSEAD community would be a treasure trove of networking possibilities and a source of ‘lifelong connections’. At the opening ceremony, the students were promised it could even be the best year of their lives. It seemed like a lot of lofty promises from a prestigious school, but I have to say that it’s slowly starting to live up to the reputation. From the very first day, INSEAD did a great job of incorporating partners just like the students. We have access to all the facilities on campus, can audit some courses, and felt really welcomed from the beginning.
With the bar set high, it was time to jump straight into the social stuff. All the mixers and social events have felt like being back in college all over again. There are themed costume parties, bumping house parties, and trips every weekend around Europe to join. What’s also been great is that we’re meeting such interesting people with equally convoluted paths and international aspirations like us. Our story is in no way ‘unique’, and it’s energizing to be around such open-minded people who get the life we’re living. What’s good to note is that the partners’ community – of mostly women – are just as driven and accomplished as the men they joined here. They’re here to make the most of this whirlwind year and have been great to get to know so far.
A new rhythm for us
Once all the novelty starts to fade, there’s usually a moment in our move where I realize the vacation feeling is over. Depending on the country, it can feel like a dip, like the come-down from a weeks-long high. Luckily, I haven’t felt that dip yet and I’m genuinely content for now. It probably helps that we’ve lived in France before and there’s not much that can surprise us at this point.
Our day to day looks really different than it did in Belgium. Each day is different for Laurens, and he even has classes on the weekends. This month I’ve learned to give him the space he needs as well as to keep myself busy with my own projects: to introspect a bit, plan things out, and start executing. I have the whole day to do exactly what I want and I feel immensely happy about that. There aren’t enough hours in the day to do what I want lately; I find the days just zoom by!
Career-change and the next creative projects
After working for two and a half years in Belgium, I’m finally free to take a step back and recalibrate my goals, passions, and desires in my own space and time. It’s so refreshing. I realize this is pretty much a luxury, so I’m cherishing this year that’s disrupted our inevitable routines of adulting. For sure our time will come to go back to the ‘real world’, but for now, this leisurely life is a lovely relief. I’ve never been so on fire to create and to share my stories, so it’s a really exciting time.
I have several things in the works that I’m excited to share with you. I want to take my blog to new heights, and now that I finally have the time to do that, I’m really thrilled to see what will happen! I’ll be taking more photos than ever and improving my skills as a travel and food content creator. I even tried to dabble with vlogging, so let’s see how that pans out. It felt so weird to do, so might take a few more tries 😉
When the only certain thing is uncertainty
I must admit, the year’s timeline is pretty cloudy and that uncertainty is putting me off a bit. During the year there are two opportunities for Laurens to travel for two months each. That’s four months that we can’t plan for now, and a part of me just wants to use those months to stay behind and explore Europe and continue here. Maybe I’m starting to become allergic to moving and uprooting so often. I also know that it will be so hard to leave France, period. We’ll have to see what happens in the coming months, but as I always say, expat life always proves to be beautiful chaos. Day by day, day by day….
Love, love, love
The twentieth of January marked our seven years together, and it just made me realize how much I still enjoy my relationship after such an unconventional ride together. This month has also been as much about us as it has been about moving to France. Each country we take on together reinforces the fact that we’re a team, no matter where we go. It brings us closer but also adds another level of newness and excitement to everything we do. He encourages me, supports me, and gives me the space to live my life the way I want. Even though I’m following him, he always reminds me that I’m more needed in the equation than ever and that makes all the difference.
Paris, ma belle!
Of course, I can’t talk about our first month in France without talking about Paris! Because of how close we are to the City of Light, it makes sense for me to commute there once or twice a week, and to spend weekends there if I want. Our second week in Samoreau, I took the train by myself to the city center and it felt so, so good to step off the train and hop down into the metro. The smells and sights all came rushing back to me and I walked, shopped, and ate until my heart was happy and my feet hurt. It was so cold and grey that day, but I didn’t care at all. Paris has always been my ultimate muse. In the coming months, I see a huge part of my time being spent there, so expect a lot of Paris content. 😉