The Mancunion

Britain's biggest student newspaper, serving Greater Manchester

Year abroad: working at ELLE, Paris

Cimarron Young, studying French and Business Management, talks to us about her year abroad experience working at ELLE magazine, Paris.

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How did you land yourself with a position at ELLE, Paris?

I just sent them a cheeky email with my CV and then had a telephone interview.

Describe a typical day working at ELLE.

I worked in various departments, but a typical day working as an assistant stylist would consist of going to the studio, checking emails, meeting with the stylist to discuss which look we were going for for a shoot, search for and order in clothes in relation to the brief, maybe go to a press presentation for additional research on a designer’s new collections, which was always the highlight of the day as they would give out presents after each presentation (I once received a Swarovski necklace and Ray Bans!) I would then head back to the studio and start organising the clothes as they arrived and do the returns for any I didn’t like. Then a nip to the canteen for lunch where a three course meal would be less than a euro! They were very generous.

Did your language improve?

Very much so. It was incredibly difficult at first; I started to question my five years of education in French and wondered if I had in fact been learning the correct language, but as the months went on I found myself speaking much more fluently and naturally. Thank god I improved though, otherwise work would have been hellish!

What was the hardest thing about working in a foreign environment?

I reckon the hardest thing was the daily struggle of trying to impress your managers in a foreign language. Your communication skills have to be spot on in order to get anywhere in that line of work. Your brain is just constantly working all day and by the end of it you’re absolutely knackered!

Did you notice differences between French and English culture? 

There definitely are some interesting differences, for example, when you get into a lift you simply have to say hello and goodbye to everyone who gets off, otherwise you’re literally the rudest person on the planet and given many a dirty look. Also when you’re socialising with people you know, the french custom of kissing everyone hello and goodbye even when you’re in a group of ten people can get a bit awkward.

In terms of guys, if you get with someone on a night out or go out on one date with them you’re immediately their girlfriend. This English custom of ‘seeing people’ does not exist…I guess it avoids confusion.

Was the French fashion industry really like it is portrayed in films?!

Oh lord no, it’s more tiring than glamorous. You spend your life doing returns of heaps and heaps of clothes in a dimly lit, stuffy studio which can be physically demanding and not very mentally stimulating. (Mostly) everyone was lovely, but I did have some Devil Wears Prada-esque managers and the token fashion bitch.

What was the highlight of your year abroad?

Probably the Fete de la Musique in Paris. It’s this annual street festival, and there’s really good DJs playing on every street corner. It’s literally such an amazing atmosphere and you just get mega drunk and party on the streets of Paris with cool french people all night. Amazing!

  • Lucy Sabin

    Hi Zara,
    I really appreciate this interview; I’m currently looking for internships in Paris for my year abroad next year. I’d just like to ask: were you ever ‘exploited’ for your English (I hear a lot of people are treated this way, inhibiting their ability to practice French)? Were there people in the office that you socialised with? And how did you go about finding accommodation?
    Thanks!
    Lucy