Jan 29th, 2019, 10:52 PM

Life After AUP in Paris

By Jada Steuart
For AUP graduates who want to live and work in Paris, the process can be daunting. But for those who show patience and persistence, their efforts can pay off.

 "I feel at home here more so than anywhere else", says Lindsey Obrzut, an AUP grad student in Global Communications.

Like many other AUP grad students, Obrzut has remained in Paris after her MA course work to complete an internship, after which she says she hopes to stay in the city. With her internship nearly finished, she is already on the hunt for a full-time job following. And like many graduates, she is dealing with the trials and tribulations of the French job market, where entry-level jobs are hard to find due to the high turnover of interns. 

"I've learnt in my life to just plan the controllable," she says. "Use everything available and be conscious and smart".   

 

 

 

Obrzut, like other Masters students, is eligible for an APS, a visa that allows students to live and work in France for almost two years after graduating (only Masters students in the communications department of AUP are eligible for it).  It's one of the most effective ways of staying in the city, though students who wish to remain in Paris have other options. Among them are possessing a European passport/citizenship; gaining EU citizenship through a grandparent or relative from a European country; getting married to an EU citizen, or having a pacte civil de solidarité; pursuing further studies in France; and working for a company willing to sponsor them. 

According to Danielle Savage, AUP's director of Career Advising, the last option is the least likely. She rarely ever sees French companies sponsoring students. Savage says this is largely due to the fact that companies have to prove to French immigration that they cannot find a local to fill the job; and it ends up being a huge risk for the company in terms of the amount of money and time invested.

There are other, less common, ways people can stay in Paris, such as  the FACC training program for American students, which allows graduated students to live and train in France for up to 18 months. There are also different types of visas people can obtain such as the  “passeport talent”  or “profession artistique et culturelle”, which allows artists or self-employed people to live in France once they are able to provide validation of their work and employment. Former AUP student and graphic design artist/writer, Anne Ditmeyer, was able to stay in France on this visa.  

“How committed are you to staying in Paris?”

Danielle Savage shares the sentiment of many when she asks: “How committed are you to staying in Paris?” It's an important question because, for non-EU foreigners, staying in Paris takes a lot of persistence and patience.

Isabella Archer, who works in the AUP advising office, recently gained French citizenship. Her advice is to be "strategic and persistent”. For Archer, the process was long but manageable. She originally came to Paris to work as a teaching assistant with the Teaching Assistant Program in France (TAPIF). She also pursued a second Masters at the Sorbonne. Her student status helped as she was eligible for the APS. It also made the immigration process a more step-by-step process which she says made it more manageable for her as under the APS was then able to obtain a working visas through one of her jobs.  After working for a few years, she then applied for citizenship.   

The process was not as smooth for Leah Levine. After earning her bachelor’s degree at AUP, she deferred her graduation which allowed her to gain a convention de stage (deferring graduation at AUP means that students are able to do their internship after their graduation ceremony and thus are able to continue living and working on a student visa in Paris). Her internship, found through the AUP internship office, was at BBDO where she worked as an assistant social media manager. After completing her internship she took a short break and then started working at another company called TBWA as a community manager for L’Oréal brands. It was during her time there that the harsh reality of immigration in France hit.

“Everything stops the moment you walk out of AUP with your diploma, you are now an immigrant”, says Levine. For Americans, she says, the transition to French bureaucracy is a harsh reality. While working at TBWA, the amount of hours that she could work on her student visa had maxed out so her company began the process to gain a récépissé.   


AUP grad Leah Levine. Photo Credit: Jada Steuart 

 

Despite gathering the necessary documents months before the actual appointment in August of 2018, she was told that she would not be getting her récépissé because her contract was too short (3 ½ months). After that setback, she had to stop working and was unable to leave the EU as all her paperwork could be canceled. Levine lived in this limbo for almost three months during which time she could not take another job. To earn some income, she began babysitting for 16 children during the week and on weekends.

There was a bright light at the end of the tunnel however, on the week Levine's visa was going to expire, she went to the Prefecture with more documentation to make sure she was not staying in the country illegally. Luckily, she landed on the same woman from her original appointment. The woman remembered Levine and was surprised to learn of her setbacks and the woman gave her the récépissé for 6 months. In the meantime, however, Levine's company told her that they had filled her position. She still has her récépissé in hand, though, and is now looking for a new job in the city.

What is Levine's reason for staying in Paris after all these hassles? She has always wanted to work in the fashion capital and learn as much as she can from the experience. She believes working for fashion companies will give her expertise and ability to leave and be able to create whatever she wants, wherever she wants.  “When you work for the companies here you get the best of everything," she says.

For Korinah Sodahlon, another AUP grad, the allure of staying in Paris is more than just a job, it's a love of Paris. “The city is an endless fountain of culture, arts, and architecture," says Sodahlon, who graduated from AUP with both her bachelor and Master’s degree in Global Communications. After finishing her courses, she extended her degree to complete a 0-credit internship found through the AUP Careers website. She worked as a production assistant at a small production company called TV Only International, and then as a digital marketing and PR assistant at Turner Broadcasting.   


AUP graduate Korinah Sodahlon. Photo Credit: Aalyiah Heath 

 

After her internships with AUP, Sodahlon began using LinkedIn where  she spotted an internship at Louis Vuitton and applied.  After several months of not hearing back, she decided to send the recruiter a connection request on LinkedIn. After the request was accepted, she received an email contact from the recruiter inquiring if she resided in the Paris area. She quickly responded but never heard back. So she decided to send him a message on LinkedIn asking to meet for coffee to learn more about his career progression.  

“After hearing so much about the importance and the possible impacts informational interviews could have on presenting new employment opportunities from educators at AUP, I thought it was definitely worth a try," she says. It paid off. After a great meeting, he offered her an internship as an HR assistant at EMEA.  

Sodahlon has recently found a new job at Adobe as a Marketing Program Manager on a six-month contract. She says she plans on staying in Paris for the two years but has hopes of traveling to Asia after that.  

A common thread with many AUP alumni in Paris is the realization that the process takes a lot of organization, patience and persistence. From visas to job searching, staying to live and work in Paris can seem daunting. As AUP's Danielle Savage says, students have to really be sure of their commitment to staying in the city as the process of staying here will continually test that decision.