Interview: Valeria Voyakovskaya talks Paris

Wednesday, November 11

Back in October I published an interview with Olga Ai in which she spoke about moving to Paris in order to be with her beau and shared her favorite places to go to after long day in the university. This month's guest is Valeria Voyakovskaya who I met through Instagram in the beginning of autumn. Keep reading to find out what the minimum wage in France is and what to take with you when you're heading for a stroll along the Seine river.

Where are you from and how old are you? When and why did you move to Paris?
I'm 18 years old; I moved to Paris with my parents when I turned 10. Before that we lived in Moscow for a year, and as for my hometown, I was born in a little city near Irkutsk which is located close to the Baikal Lake in the distant and mysterious Siberia.
What was it like - to start from the scratch in a different country? Which difficulties did you face after moving?
Most of the difficulties were caused by either the language barrier or the lack of independence. At first, I was afraid to talk with French people. At the same time I wasn't allowed to get together with the Russians I met on Vk since my parents used to tell me that "one shouldn't trust social media", "you're too young for this", etc. All of that made me hate France and push away the language; I wanted to go back to Russia where all my friends were. As I grew older, my parents stopped restricting me from doing what I wanted to do, and I finally got a chance to explore everything Paris has to offer.
How well do you speak French and how/where did you learn it?
I speak French fluently. When I was 8 and still living in Siberia, my mother (a French teacher) first introduced me to the basics of grammar. Back then the language seemed strange and repulsive to me; I will never forget how French "r" made me feel as if I had a scratchy throat. 
When we came to Moscow, I was given a choice: to go to a school with in-depth study of either English or French. Apparently, I was an aesthete already back then - but no, I didn't pick French for the sake of its elegant sound. I chose it because the building of the French school looked prettier, brighter and newer - whilst the English school was located in an old one and had those awful squeaky floors. 
However I only started speaking the language fluently in high school after constantly living in France for around five years. Also, one should keep in mind that it's much easier to learn foreign languages as a child. I love French. After so many years I can finally call it my native language.
What do you do in Paris?
It's my freshman year at Sorbonne where I study archeology and art history. At the same time I'm trying to make some money on the side by giving private Russian lessons. I would also love to start working the evening shift at one of the restaurants since we have plenty of them here! France is the land of gourmets: Frenchmen glorify food - every dish looks picture-perfect, every glass is full of flavor and aroma... The minimum wage (regardless of what you do) is €1100, taxes included, so it's not only an opportunity to sneak into the kitchen and gain some culinary experience, but also a great way to make some extra cash. 
Of course, since I'm obsessed with art, I do go to various exhibitions and conferences at least once a week. Back in school (I studied physics and mathematics) my classmates didn't understand the point of my regular visits to museums, but now I have a perfect excuse to spend there as much time as I want to. The more the better, the fact! Makes me so happy.
What do you love Paris for the most, and what you dislike about the city?
I noticed that Paris is one of those cities that make you the best version of yourself. By surrounding yourself with distinctive aesthetics, you're developing your own taste and expanding your definition of beauty. This is what makes the city so alluring to me. As for what I dislike, I'd say the northern part of Paris. Two words: Muslim community. People rarely talk about it, but this area of the city can be very unpleasant and scary.
Name your three favorite places to go to in Paris:
Firstly, museums. I would recommend visiting Fondation Louis Vuitton - it is a contemporary art center, that inspires not so much with its collection (which is rather small) but with its marvelous architecture. It reminds me a skeleton of a giant dinosaur lying in a pool somewhere in the forest. Inside you feel as a speck of dust placed in an immense white space. Now that's what I call true contemporary art! It is a temple for the new generation - abstract, just like our thoughts. 
Next, restaurants. My favorite it Coutume Café. This is where I had my very first espresso two years ago - I wanted a cappuccino but ordered the strongest of all coffees by mistake. And then I had one more, and one more, and one more... Until I was converted into this new religion! I soon became friends with the local barista and started hosting my coffee meet-ups here. I often come to Coutume to write my assignments, and when I have some extra money I enjoy taste testing coffee here - would love to learn how to distinguish Brazilian coffee from cheap Vietnamese. It's a true art! 
When it comes to walking around the city, I love strolling along the Seine river - the embankment is very long and goes all the way down to the water. You can walk under the bridges or sit on the bank with a guitar and a bottle of rosé - a type of pink wine that's light and refreshingly sour (the best is produced in Provence). When the weather is nice, people spend hours hanging out by the river - from students to elderly couples, from businessmen to tourists. This place is great for connecting with people - unlike, say, the aforementioned galleries and cafes.
Where do you wanna go the most this month?
I would love to go see contemporary ballet. Everybody knows the classics, but not so many people are familiar with modern dance - I personally knew nothing about it until I met a friend that is in love with it. Coincidentally, a few days ago I opened the Dojo app and saw the poster of Ballet Trisha Brown. I think that's a sign!
Photos: @Fotocinella


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