Where are you from?

Cannes, France

What was it like growing up?

There was a huge emphasis on academic performance. By the time I was in high school, classes were from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., in addition to Saturday morning classes. Also, there were no school sports. All sports took place as part of a club, after school hours.

What brought you to Cleveland?

My husband is from here. I moved to Cleveland in the fall of 2014. Before I came here, I was living in New York City, where there is a large French expat community. So, I have to say, I was concerned about moving to Cleveland which does not have the same global reputation.

But, two things struck me once I got here. First, I got the sense that a lot of things were happening in Cleveland. Coffee shops, like Phoenix and Rising Star, were opening. Restaurants were opening. There were all these people with small business and non-profit ideas. There was this feeling that Cleveland is a place where things can be created and that there are few barriers to community and professional engagement – or at least much lower barriers than in New York. That was very exciting.

I was also struck by how welcoming the professional community in Cleveland was, in particular Cleveland’s professional women. When I moved, my husband had a job here, but I didn’t. I had to network to find one. People were most helpful in that search. You don’t get that in New York. It’s more competitive there.

What were your first thoughts about coming to America? Did those change?

I came to the United States when I was 17 to attend in college in Maine.

Going to an American liberal arts college was fantastic. It blew my mind. I was able to choose my classes. There was so much freedom.

I was also able to get involved in so many extracurricular things that were not encouraged in France. I became an editor of my college newspaper and got involved in student residential life, in addition to taking dance classes for college credit. I just had so much fun.

What challenges did you face as an immigrant transitioning here?

Americans are typically not very curious about where you come from.

They seldom ask deep questions about your cultural, social or political differences. And yet, other countries do things differently – and sometimes better – than the way things are done here. Sometimes listening to the way other people do things could offer valuable lessons learned and/or alternative models. It’s a missed learning opportunity.

What is your occupation?

I am a former UN diplomat. I currently work in business development.

What traditions or customs do you continue to practice?

Most of them have to do with cuisine. Meals are very important socially. My husband and I love hosting people for dinner. I do traditional French three-course meals, and usually serve French cheese and wine. Also, I will go to great lengths to find a bakery with a good croissant.

The French generally read a lot of literature. One reason for that is because the French government had a deliberate policy of subsidizing books. So, in my house, I have stacks and stacks of French novels. It helps me maintain my language.

I had a baby this winter, and I speak French to him too. I’m also working on getting his French papers. He’ll be a dual U.S.-French citizen.

Why is it so important to welcome immigrants and refugees?

I think civilizations have, traditionally, developed, grown, and transformed through cultural exchange. So it’s good for the United States to attract immigrants, their talents, their world views and their diversity.

With refugees, it’s simply the right thing to do, morally. It’s good for us (they are often very hard working and motivated), and it’s the right thing to do from a human-to-human perspective.

What suggestions do you have to make Cleveland a more welcoming community?

A lot of it is already in progress. If more people move downtown, then more people will interact with each other. The people who live in the suburbs and drive in and drive out each day don’t have a lot of interaction with other people. More interaction will make Cleveland more welcoming.

The more we can create a sense of community, the better. Now, that is truly a tall order. But, I think Cleveland is working really hard to figure it out.