Expat Interview: UN worker Sibylle Eschapasse
Sibylle Eschapasse is originally from Paris and has been living in New York since 2002. She is a graduate of Sorbonne University and is working at the United Nations. Actively involved in the French and Francophone communities of New York, Sibylle is the President of the Association of French International Civil Servants at the United Nations, as well as serving in other Boards and Associations including the Committee of French Speaking Societies. She has a passion for philanthropy and writing, and is the author of a children’s book, “Argy Boy, a New York Dog Tale,” and is a weekly contributor to the Arts & Style Section of The Epoch Times.
You grew up in a family that really enjoyed travelling, would you say that you got your love for travelling from your parents?
I guess I have been influenced as we are all influenced by our families a way or another. Growing up, my parents made the decision to take my three brothers and me with them when they went travelling on vacation. My first real experience though that really acquainted me with living abroad was when we moved to Casablanca during my teenage years. Having said that, I believe my drive for adventure comes mostly from within, as while I have ended up in New York after a year in Wallis and Futuna and French Polynesia for my studies, my brothers stayed in France.
What are the memories you value most of all from your expatriate experiences?
I’d have to say that the ones I value the most are those shared with my family and friends. However, if I had to pick one that stood out in particular it would be spending 12 days crossing the Atlantic on a freighter on my way to New York and particularly my arrival in NY. Approaching the illuminated Manhattan skyline by night watched over by the Statue of Liberty was truly magical.
Do you feel that travelling helped to develop your character and make you the person you are today?
Yes absolutely, travel shapes youth! You learn a lot when you travel and discover new places. You encounter so many different ways of living, you become less judgmental and more humble. You learn so much from other people and from other cultures. But you don’t necessarily need to go to the other side of the planet to experience this. You can discover so much in your own city if you have the desire to learn from other communities. Travelling helped me to broaden my horizons and cultivated this insatiable desire that I have to discover new things every day.
Expat tips and advice
You moved to Casablanca, Morocco, when you were 15 and stayed there until the age of 18. Was it hard for you to leave your friends at home in Paris? Do you have tips for parents who want to move country about how they can make it easier for the kids?
It was not the easiest age to move. Not so much because you leave your friends, but because making new ones is not necessarily the easiest at this sensitive age. My advice to expat parents would be to make sure their children stay in touch with friends back home to ease the process. The most important thing to do though is engage children in the moving process and get them interested in their new home country. This will make them open to the idea!
Do you think it is important to maintain some connection with your home country?
In my view, yes. First of all, maintaining connections with your family and friends back home is very important. Some expats may return home after a while and having friends and contacts on your return may be of great help. Of course, some expats like to take advantage of the opportunity and turn a new page and that is fine too!
You went alone to New York, which can be quite unnerving at the age of 23. When did you start feeling at ease in the city, and was there something in particular that helped?
When you’re young you have less fears, so my young age was actually the secret to me feeling good right away. I felt at ease in New York from day one, despite taking some knocks along the way and building everything on my own from scratch. I adore this city, which stimulates and inspires me every day. Meeting friends along the way may help, but when moving or travelling, it is very important to learn how to be your own best friend.
Do you have any golden tips for expats that are about to move country or are considering it?
Prepare your move – visa needs, medical insurance, jobs, everything. I was very young when I moved and knew nobody when I arrived, but I was enthusiastic, determined and very persistent, somehow lucky, and opportunities came my way. Honestly though, if you really have the desire to live abroad, you should go for it. It is an incredible experience that will enrich you a lot. Don’t be afraid to follow your heart, it knows where to go and embrace the world! This is yours.