Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Moving to Paris

Now that I definitively have my Italian citizenship, it’s come time to enter the next phase of my life. What that is I’m not quite sure yet, but in the medium term I’ve decided that it involves moving on from my current job and heading over to the continent. I’ve been writing for my current publisher for two and a half years now, and although I’ve learned a lot and been afforded some great opportunities through it, the time has come to segue over to a different area of reporting.

I took this job, reporting for a monthly business publication and web site, when my assignment as a Washington political correspondent ended back in 2005. At the time, I was finding that my relative lack of business and economic knowledge was often a hindrance in my political reporting, and I was thinking about ways to fix that problem. Journalists, who are notorious for being more left-brained, have often been criticized in the US for their lack of business knowledge (though I’ve found that to be less the case in the UK). So I decided to seek out a financial reporting job in New York City to get up to speed. I was also eager at the time to return to the area I’m from, and the most plentiful reporting jobs in New York are in finance. I received a few offers but went for a position covering private equity investment, something I knew basically nothing about before I started writing on it. Since then I’ve covered buyouts in the US, venture capital investment in intellectual property in Europe, and private equity real estate investment in Asia. So luckily I’ve had the opportunity to get quite a diverse array of financial reporting experience under my belt, even if it was all private equity and venture capital related.

But as much as I’ve learned, finance is just not my passion. What really excites me is politics, particularly the emerging politics of the European Union. So now that I have EU citizenship, and therefore the ability to work anywhere in the EU, it’s time to switch gears and try my hand at EU reporting.

The first thing I have to do for this is improve my French. Though there are three main official working languages of the EU (English, French and German), it is French that is the essential language to know. Not only because the EU institutions are based in Francophone Brussels, but also because use and knowledge of English is far less pervasive among French speakers than German speakers. So, I’ve enrolled in a three month intensive language course at the Sorbonne in Paris, which starts at the beginning of September. The course itself meets three hours every day, and in addition to that I’ll be doing conversation classes three evenings a week. I’m going to really throw myself into this because I want to be as proficient as possible by December. I’m also going to be doing freelance writing for a Canadian web site in the mornings, something I’ll be doing from home between the hours of 8am and 1pm. So I’ll have plenty to keep me busy.

As part of this effort I’m going to launch a French language version of this blog. I won’t be translating everything I write into French, but instead from time to time I’m going to try writing some entries in French about life in Paris.

Come December it will be time to start applying for a new job. Once the course ends I’m going to head over to Zurich and stay with my dad while I apply. It will be good to keep him company now that my brother is leaving Zurich this month to go to university in the US. Where will I be applying? That’s a decision I’ll have to make in November! Obviously I’ll be looking for reporting positions in Brussels. But in addition, I’ll probably be putting in applications in London as well, and then it will just be a question of which city an opportunity arises in first. I’ve really come to fall in love with London since moving here, which is funny because when I first came here I was fairly ambivalent about it. I wanted to come to Europe because my family had just moved to Zurich and I had wanted to come back to the continent since leaving Prague in 2002. But London was just where my compa
ny happened to be based, I really would have gone anywhere in Europe. But since then I’ve begun to suspect it’s the perfect place for me, halfway between the continent and North America in almost every respect (except geographically of course!), it’s a comfortable and culturally familiar way to be in Europe. Of course the downside is London isn’t the place to be launching a career as an EU journalist. So I think getting away from London for a bit will help me decide what I want to do.

I’m definitely very excited to be moving to the continent though, because as much as I love London, it often doesn’t feel like “real” Europe. It will certainly be much more of a challenge moving to Paris than it was moving to London, but I think I’m up for it. And of course if I really hate it, London is just 2 hours away by train. And now that I have the EU passport, I know I can come back to London and get another job after this little adventure if I want to. I'll likely be taking the ferry over to France, so as I look wistfully back at the white cliffs of Dover fading in the distance, it will be good to know it's not necessarily a one-way ticket.

I’ve given my notice, signed up for the Sorbonne course and started to make packing arrangements. Now all I’ve got to do is find a flat in Paris! It’s going to be a busy few weeks.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sounds amazing, good luck!