Moving the Family to France for B-School
Visas, check. Loan approval, check. Housing, check. Diapers, check.
Most parents of three- and one-year-olds concede when it comes to international travel. However, my husband and I can never deny our wanderlust, despite the pain and tears associated with jet-setting, family-style. For years, we dreamed of working and living abroad, and exposing our children to new languages and cultures. When INSEAD (INSEAD Full-Time MBA School Profile accepted my husband, Mark, into its MBA program, we decided to jump headlong into the vat of impending adventure and adversity awaiting us in Fontainebleau, France.
When we broke the news that we'd be leaving our comfortable setup in San Francisco for a more risky venture at a business school most Americans have never heard of, our friends, family, and co-workers skeptically asked the following chain of questions: "Why an MBA? Why INSEAD (pronounced incorrectly)? Seriously—with two kids? But you don't even speak French!"
Their bafflement reminded me of another controversial decision I made several years ago.
As a child from "the wrong side of the tracks" in a small, oil refinery town in Texas, I vowed to make something of myself. With a slew of scholarships and the support of the village that raised me (primarily parents and teachers), I began my quest to become the next John Stossel—without the mustache. I eventually earned my bachelor's degree in broadcast journalism from Brigham Young University. While in school, I reported for the college newspaper, assisted in television studio production, and ultimately produced historical and community features, as well as occasionally anchoring the news for Salt Lake City's classical radio station—a massive feat for a girl from the barrio.
That accomplished, I graduated, married my husband, and we U-Hauled our way to San Francisco. My Stossel idea fizzled when I landed a fulfilling communications position with the San Francisco Center for Economic Development, a small nonprofit organization dedicated to attracting and retaining business in the city by the bay. My work was fascinating—investor relations, grant writing, and public/private sector partnerships energized me.
However, the harangue of questions and glares came abruptly when I had my first child during my early twenties. I indefinitely paused my successful, budding career to raise our son full-time. My associates questioned me, stupefied by my choice to serve society in the way I felt best. I acknowledged their concerns but regret nothing regarding my new, less glamorous career choice. My happy little boy knew his alphabet at age 15 months and began playing violin at 2. I figure I must be doing something right.
That said, business school is the next logical step for our family. We view the hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt we will incur over the next 12 months as an investment in our future. We jointly chose INSEAD for its renowned international network and reputation, among other reasons. The intense and condensed education attracted us, as one year less of school equals half the opportunity cost of missed work and living expenses. Also, because we prefer global employment over domestic work pursuits, INSEAD aligned with our goals more than the Ivy League universities to which Mark had applied. Obtaining his MBA abroad drastically increases international exposure and education, and in turn, our chances of working and living in another country after school. INSEAD is the safest way to broaden our horizons to global opportunity, and to meet a myriad of fascinating people along the way.
After researching INSEAD family life, we determined that our French experience will not only build character and improve intercultural and language skills, but will also provide a healthy family life during my "widow" period. Having interviewed friends from top-tier schools all over the U.S., I realize that, realistically speaking, I will rarely see my husband for the year he's in school studying, testing, and networking. INSEAD's acceptance letter relieved me greatly—living in a small, safe town that provides excellent government-sponsored education for my three-year-old thrilled me. Living (literally) next door to one of the world's most famous chateaus and forests further excited me. We also fell in love with the idea of frolicking in French fields, baguette and stinky cheese in hand.
The moving-out process proved difficult—no, actually heinous. Obtaining visa and loan approvals, insurance, and housing for four people, and then selling almost everything we owned temporarily strained our relationship with each other and our children. The rushed process and loss of daily routine and even toys truly disturbed our little boy and baby girl more than we had anticipated. To anyone contemplating an international move, especially with children, I suggest starting early and asking for help. Accept meals, babysitting, and assistance when offered. Then, hire a French-language tutor upon arrival.