A step away from Hollywood: Film student in Los Angeles

  • Vivre a Los Angeles
Published last year

Lisa originally comes from Charente Maritime, France. In her quest for new horizons, she moved to New Zealand where she spent six months before moving back to France. A few months later, she decided to move to the USA for her studies and better career prospects. Passionate about cinematography, she is now living her dream in Los Angeles and shares her enthusiasm with Expat.com.



Salut, je m'appelle Lisa, j'ai 24 ans. Après avoir travaillé un an à Disneyland Paris en 2015 je suis partie vivre en Nouvelle-Zélande pendant 6 mois en 2016. A mon retour j'ai travaillé dans un casino de jeux en ...

Please introduce yourself. Where are you from, what are you doing in the USA and what were you doing before you arrived?

I'm 24, and I'm from Charente Maritime, France. I have always wanted to study cinema – which I haven't had the opportunity to do in France – and this is what brought me to the USA. I've worked at Disneyland Paris for a year before moving to New Zealand for six months, and at a casino before I started to think about my life and career.

What brought you to Los Angeles?

Since I've always wanted to study cinema, Los Angeles seemed the ideal place to be if I wanted to pursue my dreams. The industry and the study programs are very developed in Los Angeles. I also liked the idea of being under the sun among huge palm trees. I had never been to the USA before so I set out blindly.

How long have you been in the country and why did you move back from New Zealand?

I've been in Los Angeles for four months. I didn't enjoy my stay in New Zealand very much. Even though New Zealand is an amazing country with beautiful landscapes, I didn't click with the people's mindset. Perhaps I was going through a period when I wasn't myself, so my stay didn't turn out as I had expected and I decided to move back to France sooner.

What is the process to move to the USA?

Procedures are simple but can be time-consuming especially when it comes to obtaining some specific documents. It's better to get started well in advance. I also had to take the TOEFL test to be able to study in the USA. This test is compulsory for all international students in the USA. I also had to produce proof of sufficient funds to support myself throughout my stay in the USA – US$ 26,500 for a year of study as I'm not allowed to work with a student visa. For the rest, I had to get a translation of my previous diplomas, an insurance and, pay the visa fees.

Los Angeles

What is your favourite thing about the USA, and what is your least favourite thing?

I enjoy the laid-back attitude. People don't judge you and dress up as they like. I still don't believe it that I'm living in Los Angeles. It's like the honeymoon period.

On the minus side, and I won't even surprise you this time, I don't like the food here. Everything has a lot of fat or sugar and is extremely costly. I also find it hard to cook when there's pizza and 15 restaurants next door! I struggle to resist and try as much as I can to eat healthy food. You also see many hobos on the streets, and it surprised me at first.

How would you describe the USA in one sentence?

The USA is an unbounded country.

How does your life in the USA differ from the one you had in New Zealand?

I don't think my life in the USA is very different. However, compared to Auckland, there's so much more to see and so many things to do in Los Angeles. Auckland is quite limited in terms of leisure. Other than that, people are as relaxed as in New Zealand but, in my opinion, more friendly in Los Angeles.

What has surprised you the most about Los Angeles?

Traffic congestion! Expect to spend at least an hour in public transports at peak times.

How easy or difficult it is to find accommodation in Los Angeles?

Housing is easily available in Los Angeles. However, it can be quite difficult to find a nice affordable apartment with all amenities. Flat sharing is recommended for expats since rent prices are high in LA. You should also limit your search to the place where you're going to work or study so that you can save time on your daily commute.

Living in Los Angeles

What are the local labour market's features? Is it easy to find a job in Los Angeles?

Poverty seems to be a common thing in the USA, and I still find it hard to cope with this reality. On the other hand, it helps you realise that you could lose everything quickly here. As a student, I'm not allowed to work in Los Angeles except on the university campus. Of course, there's a great demand for limited positions, but I still tried my luck.

What are the year’s biggest holidays or events in Los Angeles?

Coachella is no doubt one of the major events in Los Angeles. There are also many film festivals. The city is very focused on arts, so there's always something going on. I've also noticed that Americans enjoy eating at the restaurant or chilling at the beach.

How do you find the lifestyle in Los Angeles?

Americans have a relaxed lifestyle. I've been here for a few months only, but I find it nice since I'm stressed as a person. I really enjoy the sunshine and the people's attitude. They never judge you and do whatever they feel like without thinking what other people may think about them.

How is the transportation system in Los Angeles? How do you move around?

I've often heard people say that it's impossible to survive in Los Angeles without a car. This is not true at all! Of course, it will take you longer to reach somewhere, but the bus and subway are very efficient. I usually take the bus, and if I've something to do nearby, I just walk.

Have you been able to adapt to Los Angeles and the society there?

Definitely yes! I had already practised my English language skills during my stay in New Zealand, so there wasn't much to worry about. I only found it hard at the start to locate myself but thanks to the GPS this also worked out fine. I'm now used to the different neighbourhoods and enjoy strolling around. I confess spending the first few days crying – not because I wasn't prepared to live in Los Angeles but because I was finding it hard to get around.

View of Los Angeles

How is everyday life for you in Los Angeles?

I only have three three-hour courses a week on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 7 pm to 10 pm. So I'm free for most of the day but I don't stay in bed till late. I work on my courses and projects and do some shopping nearby. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, my flatmate and I tour the city to discover its secrets.

Are there activities for people who enjoy nightlife?

I don't enjoy nightlife so I'm not aware of what's happening, but there must be a lot for those who do. You can also find a bunch of nice pubs in Westwood, and cinemas.

What new habits have you developed in Los Angeles? And what old habits have you quit?

I now walk a lot, unlike in France where my car took me anywhere I had to go. I don't have a car here so I have to adapt and it's quite nice. I'm also trying to quit smoking which I took up in France.

What is your opinion on the cost of living in Los Angeles?

The cost of living is high in Los Angeles. You can't move here on a whim thinking that your salary will be enough to pay your rent. For a bus trip, you will pay around US$ 1.75. For a beer, it depends – you just need to choose the right bar and enjoy the happy hours. And if you want a loaf of bread, count some US$ 1.50 to US$ 7.

Los Angeles

What do you miss the most about your home country?

The legendary French gastronomy, of course, and my friends and family. Other than that, I've managed to adapt quite easily.

Give us some useful tips that soon-to-be expatriates in the USA will benefit from.

Make a bucket list before moving – this will keep you busy for a while. You should also open a bank account and subscribe to a land line. You don't have to stress as Americans are really warm and welcoming people. They are also very helpful. My banker, for example, made me tour the neighbourhood at lunch time when he learned that I had just arrived in LA. Also, keep an eye on your money and bank account. I've downloaded an app that helps me group my bank accounts and keep track of my transactions and expenses. Also, you better remain down to earth as – like anywhere else in the world – you can also find yourself in an uncomfortable situation. Make sure to seek as much information as possible before moving.

What are your plans for the future?

I would like to work on projects that could help me get started in the film industry. It's still quite vague, and this is why I chose a wide program so that I can explore different aspects of the industry to better shape my career. I've even ordered a camera. I would like to be an active part of the film industry and enjoy the city to the maximum.

What is one thing that you will take with you from the USA?

Some sunshine!