Moving Abroad for love: Shalize followed her heart

Moving Abroad for love: Shalize followed her heart

Moving abroad for love! Thousands of people all over the world follow their hearts and take a leap of faith. Shalize also followed her heart and decided to move to France, to be together with her fiance (now husband). 

Moving to a completely new world, with a different language can be a big culture shock. And for Shalize it wasn’t always easy. It took her time to adjust, but her curiosity and willingness to learn helped her settle in and fall in love with the country. Four years later, moving abroad has changed her life in some of the most unimaginable ways and she is enjoying every minute of it together with her husband, Gaylor. 

Are you thinking of moving abroad for love? Let Shalize’s story be an inspiration for you and follow your heart.

Moving abroad for Love: Shalize followed her heart

Hey Shalize, you moved from the US to France after falling in love and marrying a French man. Can you tell us a bit about how you met and how you came to the decision to move to France?

Gaylor and I met through a mutual friend, and it was pretty much love at first sight. The decision to move to France was difficult to make, but ultimately I chose to let love lead me, and it turned out to be the best decision of my life.

Before deciding to move to France, I lived in Los Angeles, and Gaylor lived in Angers, France. The decision for me to move to France wasn’t too difficult. We were both optimistic and open to do whatever felt right for both of us. Gaylor was open to coming to the states, and I was open to moving to France. The decision was ultimately based on our careers.

At the time I was in transition, I was signed to a modeling agency in Los Angeles and worked as a pilates instructor. I was in a place where I was no longer passionate about what I was doing, and I was looking forward to going back to school to finish my degree. On the other hand, Gaylor had a full-time career as a professional basketball player in France, so it made more sense for him to continue on the path that he was on. So I joined him in France, and after getting married and settling down, I started my studies online. Ultimately, we just wanted to be together. It didn’t matter where in the world we were.

Once you decided to move to France, what did you do to plan your move? Did you bring all your belongings, or did you both start fresh with new furniture?

At the time, I was living with two of my friends/roommates. The planning process was pretty simple. I sold all of my furniture on craigslist and just kept my clothing and other important belongings that were small. I also sold my car on Carmax, which was a straightforward process, and I moved to France with two large suitcases and a backpack. It was pretty much an all-around fresh start, which was just the BEST and most exciting feeling.

What were other things you had to prepare, and what are your tips for people who are moving to another country?

I planned on bringing my dog Bentley with me, so we went through a lot of preparation, getting him the shots he needed and ensuring we knew all the rules and regulations required to bring him from the US to France. I also focused on learning the basics of French so I wouldn’t be completely lost whenever I was on my own. This was super important because I didn’t want to feel too dependent on Gaylor for everything.

For anyone moving to a new country, I highly recommend getting as much of the language basics under your belt before getting there. There will be many other stresses and challenges during your first couple of months in your new country. You don’t want not knowing the language to add to that.

Moving abroad for love

Often, people think you can live in a country once you are married to a local. But this is not true for most countries – how was that in France? Could you live in France the moment you got married? If not, can you share your experience and tips on this?

While I was still in Los Angeles, I applied and got approved for a French ‘Long Stay Visa,’ which was valid for my entire first year in France. Although we got married a couple of months after I arrived, my status remained the same (as a visitor on a visa) until just a few months after our wedding. Then, two months before my Visa was due to expire, we applied for my ‘Carte de Sejour/residence permit.’

Although being married allowed that process to go more smoothly, being married did not automatically give me the right to stay in France legally. The first Carte de Sejour was valid for one year, then I had to reapply and was given another one, which was valid for two years. Now that I am coming up on my 4th year of living in France married to a French citizen, I will have the opportunity to either apply for the 4-year card or perhaps French citizenship. We are currently trying to figure out how to go through that process.

You have been living in France for some time now. Do you remember the first six months and how you had to adjust to a new life and a new home? Did you experience some sort of culture shock, or was it love at first sight (with France ;-)).

Arriving in France was definitely love at first sight to some degree, but there were also A LOT of other emotions that came along with it. I remember everything feeling scary, different, and sometimes even strange. I was literally in a completely different world. People spoke a different language. Buildings, stores, and roads all looked different. Certain processes and ways of doing things felt so foreign, and the biggest culture shock of all was the weather.

I was born and raised in Florida and then lived in California for three years before arriving in France. Sunny weather has always been the only kind of weather I’ve known. I was definitely not prepared for the long European winters full of grey skies and rain. It really affected me mentally, and it is something I still have difficulty with today.

Other than the language, I remained pretty open-minded with all the new things I was experiencing. If Gaylor was busy with work,  I would go out and venture on my own and discover places within the city. I also joined a gym to give myself a little bit of routine and normalcy. There were a lot of different emotions and phases that I went through. Still, the best part was that Gaylor and I were finally living life together for the first time, enjoying life together without having to think about how many days we had left together. Not having a ticket to return home felt great. It was a very happy first six months for us!

Moving abroad for love
“Gaylor and I have always been really good at communicating”

As you moved to the country of your spouse. For you, everything changed, but for your husband, it is home. For him, France is a familiar place where his family and friends are. How did you experience this? Was it sometimes a struggle for you; to find your way, make new friends? And how did you deal with that as a couple?

Having his family and friends here made it all that much easier. Both his family and friends welcomed me with open arms, and it felt comforting. I don’t have a very big family, nor are they close, so I really enjoyed getting to know them better and being a part of what felt like a really big family.

However, at the time, we were living in Rouen, where Gaylor was playing basketball,  which is a couple of hours away from Gaylor’s family. So we weren’t necessarily surrounded by his family and friends either. So, we were both enjoying discovering somewhere new to some degree. Gaylor and I have always been really good at communicating, and he has always been really good about doing whatever he can to make sure that I feel comfortable.

I also knew that if I needed or wanted to go home at any point, I could. I didn’t allow any sorts of emotions regarding family and friends to get the best of me because I knew that at any given moment, I could hop on a plane and be with them again. 

As a basketball girlfriend/wife, you usually become friends with your boyfriend or husband’s teammates’ wives/girlfriends. I met one of my best friends that year! There is generally a great support system within the basketball teams as everyone is usually in a city that isn’t their own. So all you have is each other.

Often, people are afraid to move to a country with a foreign language. What is your experience with this? Could you speak French before you met your husband? And if not, how did you learn the language? It would be great if you could share your tips.

I knew absolutely no French before meeting Gaylor, haha, ZERO. With every visit to France, I made an effort to learn a little bit more each time. Gaylor taught me a lot. Because of this, by the time I permanently moved to France, I knew the basics and could understand a few things. While I was still in Los Angeles, I downloaded the Duolingo app, and it was super helpful for learning vocabulary and basic grammar.

After moving to France, my time spent with my mother-in-law is what helped me to progress the most. She doesn’t speak any English, so I had no choice but to try and be open to making mistakes if I wanted to have any sort of relationship with her. In the beginning, we could barely understand each other. We used LOTS of sign language… It was a struggle.

Today, we find ourselves having full-on conversations in French. It’s crazy, considering we literally could not communicate at all three years ago. When learning a new language, my biggest advice is to be sure you are going about it in a way that works for you. I learned through my experience that focusing on grammar was too confusing in the beginning. I did better by listening, writing things down, reading, and just trying. I learned the most through my mistakes, and it’s so super important that you are open to that. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. It is a little embarrassing and scary, but you won’t learn if you don’t speak and push yourself.

Another tip that helped me is watching TV in French. In the beginning, I’d watch French tv shows or movies with English subtitles, then I moved on to French subtitles, and recently I’ve been able to watch things without any subtitles at all. Listening and hearing the language you are learning daily is very important. It makes a bigger difference than you might realize!

With the recent pandemic, France has been on (several) strict lockdowns. Can you tell a little bit about this experience and how you deal with not being able to see/visit your family and friends?

The entire lockdown experience in France was pretty insane. However, I was fortunate enough to be able to go back home to Florida and stay with my mom for about four months. So, in my experience, the pandemic actually allowed me to spend more time at home than I had in years. It was also nice because Gaylor was able to come with me as the basketball season was delayed and games were canceled. So, although the pandemic was difficult and not the ideal circumstance, we were really fortunate to have such an extended amount of time in Florida with my family and “escape” the intense lockdowns in France for a couple of months.

Moving abroad for love

Living abroad is often a life-changing experience. How has living abroad changed you on a personal level? And has it changed you as a couple as well?

I always say that my experience abroad has changed my life in some of the most unimaginable ways, and that’s mostly just because I just didn’t expect it to. I moved here for love. I didn’t expect this experience to open my eyes in the ways that it has, and I most certainly didn’t expect it to ultimately change me into a completely different person. But I couldn’t be more thankful that it has.

I’m more culturally aware, confident in my decision-making and what I want and need for myself, I’m more optimistic than I’ve ever been in my life, and I’ve learned to value life in a different way. My goals have changed, my cares, worries, and even some of my values, and that’s all thanks to having the opportunity to see the world from a different point of view.

Getting out of the bubble that is America is absolutely freeing. We grow up having expectations based on what life is supposed to be, what we should be doing at a certain age, or even the pressures of comparing ourselves to family, friends, and people within our communities all go away. Not having that made me realize how much it was affecting my happiness negatively. I can go on for days about how this experience has changed me, but I’ll just leave it at that for now 😉 

As for us as a couple, I think G has benefited from this experience as well. He has been able to see his country from my point of view, and it has allowed him to appreciate certain things about his country that he definitely took for granted. We enjoy comparing our two countries and discussing the differences in culture. It has taught us to be more patient with each other, as well as with others.

How do you think you will look back on this experience 5 or 10 years from now?

It’s been four years, and I still can’t believe what I did. I mean, moving across the world for love??? Sounds INSANE. But I’m so glad I did it. Sometimes I think about who I would be or what I would be doing if I stayed in Los Angeles and decided not to go through with all of this. I’m sure I would have spent the rest of my life wondering “what if,”… and that just seems so sad.

I’m sure looking back on this in 10 years and seeing the life that we have created for ourselves will still be crazy to think about. But, I’m sure the feeling of being proud of ourselves for taking a leap of faith and believing in our love will always be SO strong and will probably be even stronger when we look back on it after ten years.

Any last advice for people out there who are thinking of moving abroad?

If you want to move abroad, or if you’re thinking about moving abroad, do whatever you can to make it happen and don’t give up. Even if it takes years to come to fruition, you are in 100% control of making your dreams come true. The only thing stopping you is if you give up. 

If it’s love that you’re following abroad, follow it. Love is one of the most beautiful and most important things to have in life. If following your heart abroad means that you have to make sacrifices in other areas of your life, I promise you it’ll be worth it. After all, what else could be more important in life than love? 

The challenges and experiences you have abroad will shape you into the strongest and best version of yourself. You deserve to experience that.


Want to follow Shalize on her journey as an expat living in France? Make sure to follow her on Instagram or check out her website:

Are you thinking of moving abroad for love? Take Shalize’s advice and follow your heart.

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