Friday, 9 January 2015

Succeeding in a Strange City // Behind the Scenes of my Life in Paris

I loved Paris best of all when I was exploring with friends at the weekends. I always seemed to stumble across things that were more fun with them, like this street artist. We actually purchased one of his amazing works that he produced right in front of us and it is now sat in my room.

My six months in Paris was unlike anything that I have done before. It feels so strange to be writing about it in the past tense, and yet it seems like it all happened a strangely long time ago. The reality is that I've only been back for three weeks, but it's given me a bit of space from the experience to really reflect and understand exactly what I have achieved over the last six months. Since I didn't write much about my life in Paris while I was there, I wanted to take this opportunity to tell you the truth about my experience.

So, let's start at the beginning. I first went to Paris for my university year abroad to do a PR internship. I spent the first two months floating between a little bit unsatisfied to utterly miserable. At first I thought that it would get better, but eight weeks into the job I was being completely taken for granted. I received little to no training, and six weeks in I was told I had been doing one of my main tasks wrong since the beginning. Despite working hours of overtime under immense stress with short and important deadlines, I was told quite bluntly that I wasn't working fast enough. My mistakes on my urgent work that I hadn't been taught how to do was pointed out to me in between sighs of frustration on a daily basis. Now that I look back on it, I believe that I was bullied and my confidence began to suffer as a result.

I went to Montmartre with Phil. The Basilique du sacre cœur was stunning, this guy was doing some pretty impressive stunts outside with this football. Let's just say that at one point he was hanging horizontally from the ground on a lamp post... with the football spinning on his foot.

I would come home and cry because I thought that I couldn't do anything right, and there was no way out, because by leaving I would be failing myself. Although I had plenty of people who advised against it, my parents supported me to make the decision to negotiate with my university and the company a way to get out of there. At first the company tried to convince me to stay and promised that things would change. They didn't. Four days later I made the decision to never go back.

Now I understand that work can be stressful. I understand that interns are put under pressure and are often trained on the job. I also know that you need to have the self-respect and confidence to know when you are being pushed for the better, and when you are being pushed onto the ground and trampled all over. If you are being told that you aren't good enough on a daily basis, you just aren't happy or most importantly, if your health is suffering, then something needs to change. Leaving that job was a risk for me, but it was the best decision that I ever made.

It's clichéd, but you can find some great street music around Paris. I thought that these guys looked so cool. The second picture is from the Arts et Metiers metro stop which is decorated in the style of a submarine. The Parisians can have a sense of humour too!

Please don't think that I am trying to scare you, but unfortunately my experience was not unusual. Since then I have heard numerous stories of friends who are interning at companies and they are completely mistreated. I am lucky in that my parents would have been able to help me financially should I have been out of work for too long, but I want you to know that you always have a choice to change your situation and you are never helpless. You are not to blame and there are many others going through the same thing as you.

But let's move onto more positive things, shall we?
I still stand by the fact that Paris was one of the best times of my life. The day after I left my job, I applied for an internship at a startup near where my old office was. I just so happened to find the ad online, and I can't imagine what it would have been like if I hadn't.

From the experiences that I've had, a smaller company leads to more responsibility. Fewer resources and processes that aren't as well established as in corporate companies means that there is more room for creativity and input from everyone. In my short time there, I had the opportunity to lead projects and learnt and improved so many skills.

Startups are also very fast-paced. This teaches you a lot about decision making, being accountable for those decisions and so much more. You can see your ideas and your work come to fruition throughout the whole process. In larger corporations, you may hand your work into your boss so they can put their name on it and hand it to their boss, then never hear about the outcome.

At first I wasn't sure how much I liked the look of the Eiffel Tower in the daylight, but it's really grown on me. There's no doubt that it is stunning when lit up. The other picture is of Canal St Martin at night. I used to get frustrated when the daylight went and I was forced to take pictures in the dark, but I love them now. The lights look so beautiful the way that they reflect off the water.

I couldn't write a post about my time in Paris without mentioning the people. Work was just one aspect of my life in Paris. It was a main part, but one of the things that made it so special was the people that I worked with. My internship allowed me to meet some of the best and most interesting people I know, who I'm sure I will call my friends for a very long time.

I hope that no part of this sounded like moaning. Being thrown into a new environment, by yourself, and having to speak a different language is very intense. For me, these factors made it feel almost impossible to escape a bad situation. Trust me, it felt incredibly dramatic at the time. I am pleased to say that I am only stronger because of the decisions I made in this situation, and I am so proud of the person that I am as I leave Paris. I am anxious and excited to see what challenges the next part of my year abroad will throw at me in Italy (which I will be documenting each week on my brand new YouTube channel).

I'm still going to be making a few little blog posts about some of the fun things I got up to in Paris. I'm also making a video next week about some other aspects of what it was like to move abroad and work there for six months. If there are any areas you would like me to cover in that, then please leave a comment or feel free to tweet me or email me.

A special thanks to the people that supported me during my time in Paris, I couldn't have done it without you.

Have you ever made an important decision that you feel has really shaped you? Is there anything you would like to me to cover or explain further in my Paris video?

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BigMummah said...

Glassdoor ( is a good resource ... we found the site only recently. One of the site 'headlines' for the first company you worked at was: “Dreadful, truly unpleasant working environment, exceptionally poor leadership ” xx

DippyWrites said...

It's a shame the first placement didn't work out, but I agree, if you're really suffering, then you shouldn't keep doing it! Can't wait to hear more about Italy!

Valérie said...

It's a shame it didn't work out at first, but I'm really glad things got better! It's true - when you're stuck in an environment where there's a constant pressure it's just better to step out of it. I've experienced similar situations, but kudos to you for experiencing all this in Paris! It must have been scary, but I'm sure you've learnt a lot about people and yourself. The feeling when you get out of the bad situation is so relieving! :) Love this post.

Valérie | Scribbles of Valérie

PS: Subscribed to your channel! I'm looking forward to your next videos!

Emily said...

Thanks so much Valérie! I agree, but I couldn't have asked for things to turn out better. I'm definitely pleased it did now looking back on it! :) x

Emily said...

Thanks Albertine :) It was a shame, but things really worked out for the best and I've only learnt as a result. I can't explain how excited I am about Italy :D x

Lu Suito said...

It's bad to read that it wasn't working out for you at the beginning, but I'm also glad to hear that it all got better at the end. I haven't been in a situation like yours, but I'm sure you have learnt a lot about it, and besides being abroad helps you get to know yourself a bit better and make new friend and learn from another culture, which is a great experience itself.

I also loved the post and can't wait to read about Italy.

Lu | Ankalli by Lu

Sinead Danielle said...

It was actually really refreshing to hear you being so honest about your experience - I know of a lot of people who've shared similar experiences and it's never easy, but being brave and putting yourself first is definitely the way to go. I'm glad you managed to find a better internship, I feel like with big companies the name going on your CV is the best thing, but responsibility wise you get so much more out of smaller start-ups.

I can't believe your 6 months in France are over, I remember commenting on your post where you were talking about settling in! My semester abroad went just as fast too - I remember it being so weird once I was back. But all the best for Italy - how exciting! Looking forward to hearing about your adventures there :)
fabuleuse, toujours ♥

Migle said...

This was such an interesting read to me. Well done for leaving the place where you weren't happy. It's scary, I've had one pretty similar experience in my life but in the end is so much worth it. And the best of luck in Italy!

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