Alice Mola of Sincerely, Alice renown is a native New Yorker. A born linguist, she began teaching herself Japanese at age 15. Later majoring in Japanese for her undergraduate degree, Alice went on to study at Waseda University. She decided to teach herself French during the lockdown and fell in love with the language. We love connecting with inspiring individuals at Dreams Abroad, so we came up with some questions for Alice about studying in France and other topics of interest.
1) What made you choose France as the place where you would study for your MA?
I decided to choose France because it offered the possibility of doing my master’s for a very low cost, as compared to the US. Getting my master’s in the same subject in my home state of New York would have cost me double what I am paying now to study in France, living expenses included. I also thought my program had a lot of potentials to make connections in Europe since most of my networking was done in Japan previously. Lastly, I had begun learning French during the pandemic, and it seemed like a way to improve my skills even further. Before moving to France, I had only had a conversation in French one or two times, so it seemed like a great launching point for my linguistic skills.
2) According to your Goodreads profile, you have read over 150 books. Which one is your favorite and why?
My favorite book is The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It’s truly a classic and can be read by anyone. The first time I read this book, I was in high school. The way it depicts childlike innocence and magic makes me really happy, though it can be a challenging read due to the Yorkshire dialect used in the text.
3) Dijon is famous for its mustard. How much does this permeate living there?
It’s actually everywhere! It’s sold at many shops all around Dijon, and there’s even a group that is called the Brotherhood of Mustard. I once met them at the Office of Tourism here! They were showing how mustard seeds were ground to make mustard, which was very interesting. However, I did hear a rumor that most Dijon mustard these days isn’t actually made in Dijon anymore. Dijon mustard just refers to the type of mustard rather than it coming from one place.
4) What made you choose the apartment you rent?
I chose the apartment I currently live in because they were the only ones who would give me a chance. As a foreign person who had not yet arrived in the country, many landlords were suspicious and did not want to rent to me. I applied to over 50 different apartments on the website Leboncoin, but many of them never replied or flat out said ‘No.’
In order to get a long-term-stay visa, one needs to already have an apartment contract secured for at least your first three months in France. This is currently the rule for Americans, although I’ve heard other countries don’t require this. However, this created a vicious cycle where I couldn’t apply for my visa without an apartment, but no one would rent to someone who didn’t even have a visa to live in the country yet.
At the time my boyfriend, who I am now living with here in France, was transitioning his internship into a full-time job, which also didn’t reflect well on us. I only got cut a break because the woman renting to me had an American ex-husband. So, she understood my struggle and decided to give us a shot.
5) You recently turned 24. What do you hope to accomplish by the time you reach 25?
By the time I’m 25, I hope to be B2 level in French! I’m currently B1 level which means I can get around France with not too much difficulty. I really want to use French with more ease and grace, so I hope to have that one year from now. I also hope to be a bit more well-traveled now that I’m studying in France. This is my first time living in Europe, so I’d really like to make the most of it and see different countries that are only a train or bus ride away.
6) How did you meet your boyfriend, Guillaume?
I met my boyfriend online via a platform called Discord. We were casual friends for two years, talking every few days, and then decided to meet in 2020 for a Discord meetup in Paris, right before the pandemic hit in February. When we first met, I was getting out of a breakup and not really looking, but we had instant chemistry due to our long friendship and had a wonderful time together. When I returned to the States, we spoke a bit more about where we’d like our relationship to go, and began dating.
7) What new French food has been your most pleasant discovery while studying in France?
Surprisingly, I fell in love with the lemon meringue tart sold in my local supermarket called Casino. It’s one of the best lemon pasties I’ve ever had, and I’ve gone to several bakeries since and eaten the same thing. I’m not sure what makes it the perfect culinary storm, but it’s consistent, delicious, and incredibly affordable. I know it might sound ridiculous that my favorite pasty comes from a supermarket, but trust me!
8) Have you tried any Gallic drinks for the first time?
I have not had any French drinks as I don’t drink much alcohol.
9) On a scale of one to 10, how easy is it to understand the Dijon accent? What makes it more or less difficult to comprehend?
I have not had any experience with the Dijon accent, as my program is in English. All my French friends around me speak standard French. Perhaps the dialect is spoken by older people? As far as I’ve heard, even my good friends who were born and raised in Dijon do not have this accent.
10.) They say Dijon doesn’t look like it has changed much since the Middle Ages. How much does its tradition affect the character of its residents?
The history of Dijon lives on through its architecture and vineyards. Dijon feels like quite an old city, but it’s very welcoming and has an ancient beauty, especially in the massive churches. Dijon was a very wealthy place in medieval times, and when you visit any of the (free) art museums scattered around the center of Dijon, you get a natural feeling of luxury.
So, what next for Alice after studying in France? Upon graduation, she hopes to work as a diversity and inclusion officer. Given her background, that could be in France, New York, or Japan! We would love to catch up with her again when she does, making for a great follow-up interview.