My temporary life in Beauvais, France
Backstory: I graduated from Western Kentucky University in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in English and French. Soon after graduation, I landed a writing job in an unlikely place—Bowling Green, KY. Ecstatic, I dove in. For two and a half years I worked as a technical writer. It was great, until it wasn’t.
Following a struggle with anxiety, depression, and stress eating, I dropped it all and came to France to teach English. Drastic? Maybe. But it seems to be the only way I know how to do things.
In the depths of those negative feelings, I realized I had to make a new plan. Fast. A “normal” person might have changed jobs. I, however, applied to a program I’d been dreaming about since college graduation–TAPIF (Teaching Assistant Program in France)–and was accepted.
I turned on my heels and left some precious things in Kentucky. My boyfriend, my friends and family, my cats, my house…the list goes on. Now, I’m in my fourth month of a seven-month program, and constantly seeing that this was the right decision.
But really, what was I doing?
Leaving my home to travel, live abroad, and, most importantly, to teach. I was ready to share an experience with someone again, hundreds of teenage someones, in this case. I was ready to confront big questions: Can I see myself teaching? Could I thrive in an international position? What shape do I want my professional life to take?
Is “running away” always the answer? No. Did it hit the reset button on my life like I’d hoped? Yep.
So, here we are, in Beauvais, France. A sweet little town 1.5 hours from Paris.
Making Beauvais Home
A rainy town of 60,000 people, Beauvais wasn’t my first choice. In fact, I had three choices; I chose Rouen, Lille, and Strasbourg. You can imagine my surprise when I received my placement.
I had no idea what Beauvais had to offer. In this seven-month stint away from the comfort of home, how was Beauvais going to be my temporary home?
Determined to be comfortable, I did what felt natural: packed up a book and tried out coffee shops until I found my favorite: Dolc & Cafe. Go there. Order a crepe. Thank me later.
Over the first month, I found the four things anyone needs to feel comfortable in a new city: a favorite coffee shop, bar, restaurant, and friend — not necessarily in that order.
As time went on, just as I found my favorite places in Beauvais, I found my niche at school. I had never been in this type of position, and the idea was intimidating. Finally, I learned where to get my tea and how to find my classes. And eventually, I started to remember students’ names.
My day to day
Generally, my days are spent teaching English conversation to students who view the United States as an overwhelming place they see in series and films. Conversations with them help me realize again and again that I am here to represent the reality of the US, and the beauty it has to offer outside of Los Angeles and New York City.
Classes with the more advanced students are spent reading The Catcher in the Rye and discussing “finding yourself” as a teenager. Thanks to Salinger’s use of harsh language, classes are also spent reading the word ‘goddamn’ out loud to a group of grinning teens over, and over, and over again.
Would I do it again?
Yes, in a heartbeat.
Beauvais is not at all what I expected, but exactly what I needed. I find most experiences are like that: you have no idea you need them until they’re happening to you.
Ultimately, whatever this year’s experience had been, at home in Kentucky or here in France, I would have found the positive lessons. I’m glad those lessons were learned in Beauvais.
I’ve tasted the best crepe I’ve ever had, learned I love working with young people, met sweet friends, and grew in a way I wasn’t expecting. I became more patient, more spontaneous, and best of all, more resilient. Those changes make me feel like I could adapt to anywhere, doing anything. There is a certain feeling of freedom that comes with that.
In a very big way, Beauvais is answering the questions I came asking: What do I want to do? Who do I want to be?
What I love about Beauvais
Slowly, Beauvais has begun to reveal itself as a great place to live and work. Quiet and calm when you need it, but well-communicated for when you need to hop on a train to Paris or a flight to Morocco.
I’ve found many reasons to fall in love with Beauvais. Here are just a few:
- The people are charming, welcoming, sweet, and every other fuzzy adjective.
- The theater has several new shows each month. I’m over-the-moon excited about seeing the upcoming performance of Madame Bovary.
- The airport is easily accessed by a city bus. You can take cheap Ryanair flights from BVA to unexpected destinations: Morocco, Spain, and Portugal, to name a few.
- Though there are few traditional French restaurants, the ones you do find are spectacular.
- The atmosphere is calm and quiet. Though, if you need excitement, there’s a street full of bars. You’ll find everyone there on the weekend. Or stay in Place Jean Hachette for some peaceful wandering.
- The Saint Pierre Cathedral is jaw-dropping. Because Beauvais isn’t touristy, you can go to the cathedral during the week and be the only one there. Religious or not, you’ll feel the peace in your spirit.
- The Saturday morning market is full of fresh seafood, fruits and vegetables, cheese, bread, and anything else you may need for a classic French meal.
If you find yourself here, what is the perfect day?
If you have only one day to spend in Beauvais, here’s what you should do:
- Breakfast: Dolc & Cafe in Place Jean Hachette is perfect for a tea and a crepe.
- Sights: The St. Pierre Cathedral and the Musée de l’Oise are right next to each other. You can see both in just an hour or two.
- Lunch: Le Papotin is a fairly new restaurant in Beauvais and, trust me, it’s a hidden gem. You’ll find a great selection of wine, beer, cocktails, hot drinks, charcuterie boards, and a rotating menu.
- Bakery: Maison Savary is the best bakery in Beauvais. If you do nothing else while you’re here, go to Savary and try the flan.
- Sights: Take a short bus ride from Town Hall to the Maladrerie – Saint Lazare (it’s just one euro to ride the bus for the entire day!). You’ll find a space of what was once a small town, and what is now a historic site, dating back to the 12th century. Here, you’ll also find the theater. Stop in for a show!
- Drinks & tapas: La Bohemia is a lively place to stop in for a drink and an appetizer before heading to dinner. Their charcuterie boards and french fries are to die for.
- Dinner: Le Kiosque is a great spot for a classic, simple French meal. The food is top notch and the staff is extremely friendly. Try the creme brulee! You’ll find this conveniently located next to the Gare de Beauvais (the train station).
Three Months To Go
It’s bittersweet that my time here is halfway gone. I will remember this city as a safe haven, one that welcomed me, helped me adjust to life abroad, and forever changed my perspective on life.
If you find yourself close, come see what this drastically underrated city has to offer you.
By Explore like a Girl Contributor Skylar Wooden