A Countdown

So I think I’m really going to do it.

I’m giving myself until the end of February 2011 to get everything in order.

That gives me a full two years in my current office. I do have some misgivings given the career future and financial stability I would be leaving. But then I remember that I am in the exact same place I was two years ago when I was getting ready to leave for the Peace Corps. I moved into a shared house to save money, got rid of half of my possessions to make for an easier move, started taking a Spanish classes, and went to work on the Hill because I couldn’t imagine leaving DC without having that experience. It was never meant to be for more than six months. But I fell in love with the Hill’s energy, and it treated me well. My only sadness about taking a break from that career path will be to leave (and possibly never return) without having had a Senate-side or Administration experience. But I have had a few experiences that most politicos would envy.

My February deadline also gives me a little over 6 months to save as much money as I can, learn French phrases, and do lots of research into different program options. Floyd recommends that I find a way to have an experience abroad that helps to further my career so that it isn’t a random gap in employment that I’ll have to explain when I return. I am reluctant to enroll in graduate school. But I am interested in a political position abroad. I don’t have the connections to become a political appointee in the US embassy in France. But maybe that is something I can work on during the upcoming 6 months. Or at least I hope to find contacts that could be helpful for a long-term move in the future (once I've become fluent in French).

What I’d really love to do is find a legislative exchange/fellowship program that would enable me, as a Hill staffer, to work in a legislative body in France, Spain, and/or the UK. Now that would add something to my resume--while allowing me to experience living and working abroad. So far, I haven’t had any luck finding such a program. But I’m going to keep my fingers crossed and keep talking to people.

My backup plan is to apply for a 3-month visa and enroll in a French immersion program for a bit and then a Teaching English program. Then, I’ll try for the same in Spain before a bit of random travel to England and Scotland to visit friends and maybe Italy, Greece, and wherever else the wind and my wallet takes me. All that before returning to the US to live in my mother’s basement as an unemployed, broke 31 year old (with a lot of great and/or awful stories).

I think my biggest fear is having to reestablish myself in my career and in my networking circles when I return. I don’t look forward to explaining my work hiatus (as a 29/30 year old) to a potential employer. But to bring it back to how it would have been if I had gone to Peace Corps, I would probably be in a similar sort of boat of starting over with lots of uncertainty.

For those of you in the know, this plan is not about my French soulmate--though the men I saw in France would make any straight woman want to return for a longer stay... For the past year, I’ve been talking to my mother about moving to NYC in 2011. Now I'm seeking her blessing for France. So this is just a simple upgrade. And for the record, France is my soulmate or at least she is the one I need to have an ill-fated, torrid love affair with before I settle down.


Monica said...

I wouldn't be concerned about the gap year or two in employment. I know a few people who've taken the time off to travel the world before heading back to school/work. That's cool and admirable and only adds to your character. It's only troublesome when you've been fired or whatever and are just loafing around. If it's hard to explain, then it's bad.

Organica said...

Thank you for writing these two great posts about France and your desire to move there for a spell. I think it's a great goal, and whether or not it works out exactly the way you'd planned, you will be better off in life for having had the goal and for working towards it. I do not think you need to worry to much about an employment gap - taking a French immersion program for a bit and then teaching English is definitely not a gap, it's a very good use of your time. I'm also keeping my fingers crossed that you can find an exchange program or an internship that gives you some relevant govt experience, tho.

A week into my trip to France, I was hell-bent on finding a way to move there. However, that feeling of excitement did dwindle a bit after spending a whole month in France. I was aching to come home. I think perhaps it was hard being on vacation for so long - I missed having a routine. It would be easier to live in Europe for an extended period of time with a job and an apartment, rather than staying in hotels and doing touristy things all the time.

Have you considered WWOOFing? Doing an extended WWOOF trip with French-speaking farmers would sort of be like an immersion program. Regardless of whether you find a way to move to France for a job or training program, I think you should go back for a long stay as a WWOOFer or volunteer. Then you could move to NYC when you come back. :)

Have you ever thought of buying Rosetta Stone? I have no idea if it's good, and it seems so expensive, but I guess it's cheaper than taking an actual class. I wonder if it's possible to share the CDs. I really want to get closer to fluency as well, so maybe we could split the cost of the Rosetta Stone software! :)

Do you have a specific French soulmate in mind, or are you hoping to meet one?? :D

Hippo Q. said...

Thanks for the words of encouragement, Monica and Organica. Life is so much easier when you have cheerleaders!

I am exploring all options when it comes to my experience in France. The main limiting factor for me is the visa. But I've found some interesting possibilities, graduate school, French immersion, teaching English, etc. I would love to hear about your experience wwoofing in France. Maybe I'll follow in your footsteps.

As for a French soulmate, Monica has informed me that I live in a world of make-believe. And she is probably right. But I had a crush on a nice French gentleman in Tours who ended up being more interested in practicing his English (and scolding Monica on French social norms) than making any moves on me. But I am always accepting applications for a French (or any other nationality) soulmate.