School applications had to be filed by December 31 and involved no less than 30 documents per institution, including formal IQ tests, immunization records, three years of report cards, letters of recommendation for the students and letters of intention for the parents, long form birth certificates, deposits, test fees, and administration fees. In all, I submitted six International School applications between the two girls, and woke up at 5 a.m. to do phone interviews with the head mistress. Despite our best efforts, the first three applications were denied after waiting 5 months for an answer. I soon learned that local Parisian parents try to get their kids into the international system (which follows the French government curriculum), which puts even more pressure on kids from abroad. Most of the schools told me they weren’t accepting new students or had just one or two places, but would gladly take my application fees.
We flew to Paris for the Victoria Day long weekend so the girls could do in-person interviews at the remaining schools and our 10 year-old could do expository writing tests in French, plus a maths test which included a geometry section. Note that her grade 5 Vancouver school curriculum had not yet covered geometry, and she was jet lagged. Again, after another few weeks of nervous waiting, we got no’s. Now, it being June, we were desperate. We strongly considered calling the trip off, and started looking into French schools near our cabin in the Okanagan – of which there were none.
Then, out of nowhere, Charlotte’s school recanted, saying one spot had miraculously opened up in the highly coveted French Immersion stream, which has only 13 students per class. Then, a week later, one spot opened up at a fourth school for Emmanuelle. She wrote the French and Maths tests from abroad, and was accepted. She would be going to school on the Champs Elysées at the Eurecole—right beside the Gap! Charlotte would be in one of the campuses of the Ecole International Bilingue, in a beautiful Hotel Particulier right in the Parc Monceau, the elegant park with dramatic gilded gates where Parisian brides come to get their wedding photos done. Finally, we thought, this might be happening.
With school acceptance letters in hand, I could apply for our travel visas. And then, the flood gates of French bureaucracy would once again open and try to drown me in a sea of red tape.