Episode 64 │ Beaches for Fun, Dinner for One (PERTH/PARIS)
"But there was something about being abroad, and being on another side of the world, and with different people. I felt a sense of freedom, I think, that I didn't feel in the U.S. I felt like I could let loose a little bit." (Sutanya, Episode 64)
This week's guest is a New Yorker in France whose Instagram account I've been following for a while. Sutanya Dacres is a writer living in Paris, and she also has a podcast called Dinner For One. One day I saw her post about seeking more podcasts to listen to, so I suggested Young, Gifted and Abroad to her. She responded saying that she studied abroad in Australia and still had very fond memories of it. Then, when I inquired about her interest in being a guest on the show sometime, she said, "Yes for sure".
Born in Jamaica and raised in the Bronx, Sutanya regularly spent her childhood summers in Jamaica, so she was used to getting on planes and learning to adapt upon arrival. Later on as an undergraduate student at the University of Hartford, in 2006 she got the chance to travel even farther away to Australia. Eyeing her options for junior year, she chose studying abroad instead of potentially rushing for a sorority. And even though one of her majors was French, she chose to spend a semester in Australia instead because it was somewhere she thought she'd never get to go otherwise. Plus, she had an aunt and cousins who lived there, and this would be a chance to know that part of her family better. So off she went to spend six months in the western coastal city of Perth.
Classes at Edith Cowan University in Perth comprised the same or similar ones that Sutanya would've taken in Connecticut, but she admitted to me honestly that she "didn't really go to class that much". She quickly became friends with one of the other American students, and once they realized that professors didn't take attendance and that classes were either "pass" or "fail", Sutanya and her friend decided to spend most of their days at the beach. They did what was necessary to meet the minimum requirements to pass, and then the rest of their time was their own to spend hanging out around the city and making local friends. She felt like she learned more about the country and the culture that way anyway. Furthermore, Australia gave her that quintessential fun college experience that she hadn't had in the same way back in the States. (Beginning to drink alcohol for the first time helped too.) And whenever she felt a touch of homesickness or just wanted to be in an actual house away from campus, she would go to her aunt's home to enjoy family time and Jamaican food.
Sutanya remembers her time in Australia as a seminal trip that gave her some of the best times of her life. Living there for six months also made the idea of moving abroad feel like something that could be a reality for her in the future. And a reality it became.
"When the fantasy ceases to exist anymore"
While living her post-university life back in New York, Sutanya met and later married a French man, and at the age of 27 she moved with him to Paris, France. That relationship didn't work out, but she decided to stay in Paris after the divorce and see what she could make of life as a single woman there. Her healing process included starting a podcast (Dinner For One) where she records herself cooking solo meals in her kitchen while telling stories about expat life, relationships, and lessons she's learned about herself. 2020 makes seven years that she's been living in France and she's intentional about exploring a different angle of the American-in-Paris narrative, figuring out what to do "when the fantasy ceases to exist anymore". And so far, Sutanya's enjoying her Parisian life more than ever. She loves her neighborhood in the 18th arrondissement, she has a vibrant group of close friends, and she doesn't plan on leaving anytime soon.
Although the coronavirus lockdown has been lifted in France and traveling between European countries is possible, Sutanya has decided to stay within France for the rest of this year just to be safe. She has a couple trips planned to the south of France, an area that reminds her of her previous summers in Jamaica and is the only other French locale that she'd consider living in if she had to pick somewhere other than Paris. Sicily, Florence, London, and Amsterdam are other cities that she could potentially see herself living in. As far as future travels go, Sutanya would also like to go to Corsica, Austria, Japan (especially Tokyo), Brazil, and maybe even Greece. Sutanya welcomes people to listen to Dinner for One Podcast, and she can be on Instagram (@dinnerfor.one) or at dinnerforonepodcast.com.
Be sure to listen to this episode, "Beaches for Fun, Dinner for One (PERTH/PARIS)" for more! And don't forget to check out the resource list below!
University of Hartford Study Abroad (homepage / full-semester programs)
EUSA (academic internships in Europe)
La Métisse Paris/LM Company (where Danielle interned while in Paris)
Danielle G. is the creator, host, and producer of Young, Gifted and Abroad. You can find her other writings at DeelaSees.com.