Lost Girl of the Week: Katherine AinsworthExpats Abroad, France, Lost Girl of the Week, Lost Girls, Quitting & Career Management, Studying Abroad — By Amanda P on September 16, 2009 at 6:00 am
A few months ago, we bumped into a very good friend of ours, Katherine Ainsworth, in (of all places!) an airport in Minneapolis-St Paul airport. She was positively glowing with the news that in a few short weeks, she would be leaving New York City and heading to Paris to start business school-and a brand new chapter of her life. As you’ll read below, Katherine is living out a lifelong dream and consequently, showing us that it’s always possible to change the course of your life. Good luck, Katherine!
After college, I moved to NYC, where I worked mostly in media but also dabbled in fashion & did a stint at an internet start-up (who didn’t in 1999??). While I liked working in these “exciting” industries, I didn’t find my jobs particularly satisfying or challenging. Thus, I fed my adventurous spirit by traveling to increasingly distant places for vacations.
On my first trip to Morocco in 2005, I was entranced by what I found in the bazaars – at that point, very little of the traditional Morocco jewelry and home décor had made it to the US, and I couldn’t resist buying up enough extra jewelry (easiest to transport!) to sell back in NYC. This was the start of my jewelry business, Gitane NYC. I have since added amazing pieces from India & Turkey.
I continued to working full-time while building my jewelry business. Wanting to â€˜get a bit more out of life,’ I started thinking about business school, wanting to open doors to a more international career and perhaps take my small jewelry business to the next level. I started researching schools, talking to b-school grads and enrolled in GMAT prep classes.
At the same time, I started to get the itch to live abroad. I started investigating jobs and realized that it would be rather difficult (and extremely costly) for me to make the move. I desperately wanted to live in Paris, but the typical expat jobs (nanny, English teacher) didn’t appeal to me. I checked out ads in French publications online and every one of them seemed to require EU working papers, which I don’t have. And with weak French skills, I knew my chances of landing a career-elevating job were not good.
I realized that the solution to both of my goals – to go to business school and to live abroad – was the same: attend business school abroad! In the end, I only applied to schools abroad, and ultimately chose HEC Paris.
I was accepted to HEC in April (2009) and as luck would have it (and I say that with a straight face!), I was laid off from my job around the same time. So I spent the next two months getting my apartment in NYC sublet, packing up all of my belongings (hello, Manhattan Mini-Storage), saying goodbye to friends and taking French lessons in my spare time.
After bidding NYC â€˜au revoir’, I rented a minivan and drove halfway across the country with my two kitties and everything I would need for the move to France (in my case, mostly clothing & jewelry!). I stayed with my parents in Minneapolis for nearly two months in order to spend some time with them before I made the big leap over the pond.
August was spent in Montpellier, a lovely city in the SW of France, just a few miles from the Mediterranean. Through a friend, I arranged to stay with a family in order to practice my French before school started in September. It was quite a shock to the system to move from daily life in English to daily life in French! But I decided that it was better to have that done with before I had to juggle French courses with Auditing & Finance 101!
Although I haven’t yet started my MBA program (two weeks away!), I know that I made the right decision for me. If I stay in France when the program is over (which is what I’m hoping to do), I’ll have French working papers for at least a year and an already-established group of friends in Paris. (Now in my 30s, I decided that I’d rather not â€˜start over’ in a new city, knowing virtually no one, as I did in NYC after college.) I’ll also have a business degree from a world-class school and have a network of contacts throughout the world. And I’ll have memories that I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t left the US. What I won’t have is regrets!