Dear Mosman Rotary Club,
My name is Luc Berkmans. As some of you might now, I was the exchange student you hosted in 2010 from France. I cannot believe it has been twelve years already. Sadly, I always tell myself I will come back soon but life always decides the opposite. I have only had the chance to come back once so far, to show sister a bit of my life in Sydney.
This exchange program was a big turning point in my personal development I have to say. Maybe because I was a bit young at the time (fifteen when I arrived, sixteen when I left). Anyway, I am sure I owe a big part of my personality today to this experience and I will be forever grateful for that, along with the many memories of this amazing year spent with you. Of course, it was also due to the good care of my hosting and I especially want to thank the Ralph family and Barry whom I will always consider like my very own family.
Enough emotional rambling, let me tell you what I have been up to since I left Australia :
First, I went back to high school for my last year and to get my HSC equivalent. It was a strange year because my friends already graduated and I was kind of a stranger in my school, I was also missing my Australian life, mates and the freedom I had (High school is very time-consuming in France). At the end of the year, I graduated and applied to all the best preparative institutes for the engineering schools’ national exam. I went into engineering studies because I didn’t have a dream job in mind and my parents, both engineers, always told me it was a very polyvalent career that would open many doors for me. Anyway, it’s a weird system but that’s how engineering studies work in France : you chose a preparative institute where you will train hard for two years then you pass a national exam after which you get assigned a school depending on your ranking and your selection. I was selected by a preparative school in Paris and because it was quite far from home, I also lived at the residential school system. It was two amazing years where I met some of my best friends to this day.
After those two years, I passed the national exam and went to the city of Nantes to start studying at the engineering school. I was quite unhappy for two years as I was suddenly living alone, far away from my best friends with whom I used to live, and far away from my family. I failed to make new friends at this school and my studies turned out to be very disappointed. So, I quickly decided to leave. I went to Casablanca for a six-month internship and I got accepted into a finance double degree for one year in London after that.
Before leaving France for those adventures, I met my girlfriend Alice, who was studying pharmacy in the north of France at the time. That didn’t make leaving easy as I was deeply in love and we engaged in an 18-month long distance relationship right away. Thankfully, it worked out, we are still together today. It was a tough year in London where I had to work hard this time to graduate but the added experience was a great thing for my work résumé.
I came back to France after I graduated and started looking for a job. I didn’t have much success for a few months but I finally found something interesting in a big investment bank in Brussels. It was a nice opportunity because Brussels is much closer to Lille, where Alice lived, than Paris. It’s also a much nicer city to live in. I took a flat over there and lived in Amiens from Monday to Friday and in Lille for the weekends.
Work was a disappointment after another so I changed to consulting in banking after a year, then another year later I left the banking sector to work in IT. On the personal side though, I couldn’t have been happier with Alice so after three years together, I asked her to marry me in Bruges, June 2019. She said yes, and we decided to have our wedding in summer 2022. This way, we would have some time to live together (it wasn’t clear where yet) and prepare the wedding.
In 2020, COVID came to Europe. I was just starting my new job as a Process Analyst in IT and I was quarantined in my small flat in Brussels for most of the year. It wasn’t a fun year, I was alone for most of the year, I couldn’t see anybody in Brussels and I couldn’t come to France to visit Alice. I didn’t have any satisfaction from my new job (again, I know) either, so I decided it was time to come back to France and to start living with Alice.
I kept my job but in 2021, I was working remotely from France and Alice and I lived together in a flat near Lille. There were still many restrictions due to COVID but at least we did the quarantines together now.
Meantime, Alice was making progress in her pharmaceutical studies and she passed her national exam in 2021, where she got assigned to the hospitals of Amiens for the rest of her studies (from 2022 to 2025).
So, in 2022, we moved again to Amiens. It’s a bit smaller than Lille and situated halfway between Lille (where both our families live) and Paris. Today, we are renting a small but cosy house with a garden where I recently started growing some vegetables (it’s very rewarding, I’m looking forward to the first vegetables !). We’re adopting a kitten in couple of weeks, and we’re preparing our wedding. The wedding was initially due this year but we had to delay it to next year because of COVID so the nice thing is we are not in a rush to get ready.
I also started a new job a couple of weeks ago which I am quite excited about for once. It’s a tiny business selling a CRM software to companies and the job is remote with the occasional trip to the customer. It’s a bit early to tell but it seems very rewarding and
I finally found a good work-life balance.
That’s about it for my life up to this day. Going forward, Alice and I will eventually start a family and we want to travel a little together, as we haven’t done much of that yet. I really want to show her Australia as soon as we are able to go.
I hope you are all doing fantastic, I wish you the best and I hope to see you again soon !
My kindest regards and all my thanks again for the wonderful adventure you made me live in Sydney !