Home is where… you can be yourself

I have been living over 8 years in France. That is more than the amount of time you spend in high school and more than all your teenage years.

Moreover, France is for me the country that gave me three years of education with almost no tuition fees.

France gave me many chances to practice what I learned at school, in amazing companies and international organizations.
France gave me my second family: my friends.
France has specially given me two things: challenges and experiences.

I always say that living in Paris can sometimes be compared to having a toxic relationship. When things go great you feel you are the main character of your own movie. However, fairytales never last forever, so when things become hard France can be tough. Not only you pay high prices for rent, food and transportation, but you also get the daily issues of any big city: angry, fast-paced people (include me in that list). It is a city that when it throws you a problem, the result can quickly be to feel lonely or miserable.

I remember in the beginning it used to hit me (and it would hit me hard). I lived the normal hard experiences of trying to find a decent studio, doing tons of paperwork every year to renew my visa, getting stressed for some exams and so on. Let’s say those were normal problems. Yet, I also had to deal one time with a ceiling of my apartment falling down, crying over breakups uncontrollably when walking in the street and the worst: living the terrorist attacks of 2015.

The first attacks, Charlie Hebdo, happened on my birthday, 7th of January 2015. My friends were amazing enough to still show up but we could not celebrate after such events. Some months later were the Bataclan attacks. A friend of mine got hurt. His friend passed away.

It was a Friday night, a friend of mine was arriving to Paris to visit me for the weekend. We had dinner and took a little walk by the Seine bridges. All of  a sudden all you could see bridge after bridge were police cars with their sirens on and the only thing you could hear was their alarms. I figured something had happened, but I never even imagined how bad it was until I took my phone out of my purse.

There it was, I had a million messages and missed calls. Everyone was asking me if I was alright but nobody would tell me what had happened. As my friend and I were quickly walking on our way back home, I called one of my best friends and he explained me the situation. Terrorists attacks were going on in many points of the city, my city. My Paris was been attacked. One of those locations was next to my school, were I used to have beers and bo-buns with my friends exactly one year before.

I got home, I turned on the TV. I still had my coat and boots on inside my place while I was texting and calling each and everyone of my friends. Little by little they were all telling me they were okey or at home. Except for one. I would call him non stop and still no answer. The news were showing that people in the concert hall were still kidnapped by the shooters. Then, I remembered that my friend and I had a common friend on Facebook. I texted this person to ask if he had news about my friend and he told me “He is in Bataclan”. Just like in a movie the phone fell out of my hands and I began crying as live news continued to describe the nightmare that Bataclan was. I cried non stop from that moment until 4am that I fell asleep sobbing. I woke up at 6am by some sirens near my street. I grabbed my phone and saw that I had a message. My friend was alive, injured, but f***ing alive. I cried again.

I couldn’t go to the hospital since it was closed for visitors. I stayed home until Monday. Then I went to work “to try to forget”. But I couldn’t. It made no sense to send emails when so many lives were taken away like that on a Friday night.

The next day, I was able to see my friend. I cannot describe that moment. I was just happy to see him and for us to be in the same moment, at the same place (even if that place was a hospital room).

Three years have passed. Three years in which our friendship has become super strong. He is definitely one of the most important people I have in France. Plus, he is unique.

During those three years I have lived many other things in this city. I’ve got my first job, I became an independent woman, I have travelled (and if you have read my article Traveling Solo you know how much I love that). I have also become an aunt and realized that I want to work in the digital industry but I also want to dedicate time to people in need.

That is the reason why, almost a year ago, I decided to apply for the French nationality. The first step was to send many papers from Ecuador and France proving my studies, work and others. Then, I waited. It isn’t only until three weeks ago that I got a letter stating the date of my interview: two weeks after!

So I studied a bunch of political and historical questions about France and presented myself at the interview place.

I believe the interview went well, couple of basic questions here and there and the last one was “Why do you want to be French?”.

How to summarize everything I have just written here in a couple of seconds? So, I practically explain that my love for France started in my heart one day when I was twelve and I wanted to learn French. Then I did a couple of summer camps when I was a teenager and I knew this is where I wanted to come as soon as finishing high school. The idea was to do my bachelor’s. But then I also did my master’s degree and ended up finding a job. And now I am happy here. This is the country that not only made me an adult but also prepared me for life. This is the country that has given me opportunities to succeed. It has definitely not been easy and there are moments when you feel you are going to give up, but when I think of the idea of leaving this city and this country I just can’t and this is actually what has kept me going.

This country gave me education, work, friends and experiences but most importantly,  this country made me feel that I could be who I really am (with my opinions, personality and ideas). Which is why home for me will always and forever be France. <3

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