Friday 31 August marked the ninth anniversary of my move to London. I was 17 and realising my dream by spending my last year of high school in a foreign land, living amongst people whose language and customs represented a struggle. Some people say it was brave, I think it was foolhardy. I had no idea what to expect, let alone that nine years on, I’d still be living in London.
I moved to England on 31 August, which in my personal mythology is quite significant. Even though I had started learning English a couple years before, I only realised in earnest England existed when princess Diana died. A British couple was staying at our house, and I couldn’t understand why the event made them laugh whereas the telly broadcast interview after interview of their crying compatriots, analysis of why the country was losing its legendary phlegm and questions over the survival of the monarchy. Great-Britain was a monarchy! As a 12 year-old French pupil, my idea of the monarchy was Loire Castles and François I, Henri IV’s chicken for all and Louis XIV building Versailles. Not a constitutionally-defined institution, and certainly not one which would have survived in the 20th century.
So to understand, I started reading books on the Royal Family, then and now, in a voracious, non-discerning manner. Trust me, that’s a lot of crap writing. Around the same time, I discovered Harry Potter. The common point between books on the Windsors and JK Rowling’s is that they were published in English before being translated, giving me no choice but to learn the language quickly. It was a matter of understanding, which for me has always been synonymous with survival.
Fast forward to 2002. I was still obsessed with England, had taken a few short trips to the country and Jersey and more importantly was bored in my local high-school. Which is when I read an interview with Jodie Foster (likely in ELLE) about how she’d gone to a French Lycée in New York. Some random Internet search taught me there was one in London, that it was one of the best French schools across the world (France included) and that it ran a program of scholarships for teenagers living in France but wanting to study in a different country. Oh and the deadline to apply was a week from that day.
I got in, and that’s how I moved to London.