To you, dear school that changed my life.

When I first entered the Cité Scolaire Internationale in Lyon, I had no idea how much that school would influence my future. My friendships, career and confidence mainly came from the 7 years I spent in that huge, concrete and window-filled prison. Building, I mean building.

Let me set the context: little 12 year old Emilie waited outside the CSI as other 11-13 year olds chatted away in their clans. They were Polish, American, English, Spanish, Portuguese, Arab, Japanese, Italian (all 5 of them), and so many other nationalities. Well-traveled, confident for the most part and bilingual always.

I was wearing black and pink Etnies shoes, black jeans and a DC Shoes shirt I cut to fall off my shoulders. My level in English was good, better spoken than written – but my passion for reading gave my parents confidence I’d do well in a school with a reputation for pushing kids to their limit. My 3rd year there, I had read the most books of anyone – I was pretty cool, I know.

The first week there, I made 3 friends: Lolo, Annabel and Jules. They all spoke English – one from Great-Britain, one from America and the last from Australia. The English CSI sect was forming itself – it would only gain strength with time.

Fast forward 6 years: we’re in our last year of school, about to go through the week from hell. The Baccalaureate + the OIB. Lord knows we all cried a little in those last few months. With the help from our professors, we applied to schools all over the world – though it always seemed cooler to either go to the US, UK or preparatory school in France.

Rarely did I feel like a country was too far or too different for me to get to. We were put in an environment from a young age where other cultures were discovered in our classmates, and where traveling was a natural part of our bi-cultural family structure. As I look back on my choices over the past 4 years of my Master’s, I’ve realised that the CSI made the rest of the world seem like it was only dollars away, and that any culture could be discovered and conquered. It made me confident in my cross-cultural communication, in talking to people from different backgrounds, and in applying to companies all over the world without fear of finding myself in the middle of nowhere without knowing the language.

The barriers that close many off are those that I find most exciting: the unknown, tiring & exciting adventures just seem like second nature to me. Truly, I am sure that’s a blessing. But it’s also really scary. Talking to a friend who moves around as much as me, we realised we go so long without seeing our family because we’re a world away – and we have no idea where to go next. Do we have to move around so much? When should we stop moving? Will we know when somewhere feels like home? What does home even feel like now? Is it when you meet someone you love, or when your job can’t get any better?

Promise you won’t let me still be moving around in my 40s guys – I can only memorise so many public transportation maps.

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