After years of detailed research and surveys (not), here’s my answer to that million-dollar question (okay, million-dollar for a select number of non-Europeans in France on short-term visas):
Dumb f*cking luck and determination.
Though my journey to living in France long-term has come to fruition, I’ve been reliving the stress of that quest recently through a couple of friends. It’s reminding me that even though I somehow worked it out and it’s all over thank the lord, no two paths to a life in France are the same, because there’s no simple way to do it. So I can’t actually give much advice. I wish there was some magic membership card I could just share with these people, but of course it doesn’t work that way. And if in the end it works out for me and not for them, what’s that about? Did I do it right and they do it wrong?
Blurg. Here are the different elements of my dumb luck:
- My maître de langue position allowed me to stay a second year in Poitiers, during which I started working on the CAPES, even though this was technically against the rules (like so many things in France). On a side note, I did ask if I could have my old job in Reims before applying to new places, and was told that that contract was strictly limited to one time, for one year.
- The rectorat somehow accorded me a titre de séjour for my stage year (wtf? they will probably never do this again in the history of time).
- I met, fell in love with, and moved in with J, who is wonderful (definitely also luck) just in time to get a vie privée card the following year.
Here are the different elements that could be more chalked up to determination:
- I sent out dozens of CVs and forged my own way to get a lectrice position and later a maître de langue position.
- I got a really fun and really useful masters degree in foreign language education, which I loved (LOVED—though speaking of luck, that program doesn’t exist anymore).
- I blazed my way through CAPES preparation and passed it the first try.
- I also had a plan B, which was an M2 (just the second year of the MEF masters degree), which probably would have worked out in some way, if it had come down to it.
That feels a little like bragging, but I’m trying to say that I think that with a good dose of dedication, staying in France can work out. The path to it working out is just always foggy, probably involves some back-up plans, and possibly a return trip or two to the US.
I mean, if anyone’s asking.