By Erin McSwain
Ethan Brown has been asking himself a question his whole life: “What is something I always wanted to do, but never had the chance?”
That question started him on a journey that has taken him across the Atlantic and to France.
“I find France to be something magical,” said Brown. “Living here, I find myself surrounded by history and by people who come from a completely different world from what I grew up in. Wanting to stand out from the crowd, and striving to be different in any way I could, has led me here to living in France, and I don’t plan to leave anytime soon.”
Brown, who was born in Carrollton and grew up in Tallapoosa, strived to be unique while growing up. When he chose a language course in school, Brown’s parents pushed for him to learn Spanish. But since that was what all the other students were doing, Brown took French classes as well.
“After high school, I went to the University of West Georgia and found myself asking, ‘Where can I go and what can I do to benefit society?’,” said Brown. “I feel as though I am a fish living in a pond, but I need to dive into a deep, fast ocean. I feel as though I am capable of much more than what is presented to me.”
Brown had begun taking classes for his bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, when he went through a major life change. Wanting more, Brown considered studying abroad and was told that his only option was France. He took it without question.
“Life is a mystery made up of a series of hills and valleys. Seeing what is over the next hill, experiencing new and exciting things, keeps me moving,” said Brown. “I moved to Poitiers, France, and instantly fell in love with Paris.”
Poitiers (PWAH-tee-a) is an ancient town in west central France, a little over 200 miles from Paris. There, Brown found himself immersed in the culture of France and began speaking a mixture of French and English. Brown said that the French do not mind when this is done, since it often happens when foreigners learn the language.
“If you ever get the chance to visit France you must go,” said Brown. “France is home to many châteaux-forts (castles) and châteaux (large houses). As kids, we saw these castles in old movies and, visiting them now, I feel that I am a kid again.”
Brown gets animated when he discusses how French history is visible when visitors tour the castles.
“These castles are about 300 to 400 years old,” said Brown. “But the only thing that has changed is what is inside. The gardens outside the castles are lush and green. The experience is magical, and it feels as if you are in a movie living in the past.”
Brown moved back to Carrollton to graduate with his bachelor degree. Then he was lucky enough to be offered a gap program from EDHEC business school in France to complete his masters degree.
“A gap year in France would allow me to continue living in France and continue my education, so I would get the best of both worlds,” said Brown. “Now I am living in Lille, France, which is the ninth-most populated town in France. I love living in Lille (LEEL) because it is very affordable, and I would argue that the cost of living is the same or less than what it is in Carrollton.”
Brown said it’s so inexpensive because people do not need a car to live in Lille. Brown said the most efficient way of travel is the bullet train, which can take him to Paris (where he travels for school) within an hour.
“My typical weekend in Lille is very relaxing,” said Brown. “In France, everything shuts down on Sundays, so it is very difficult to find stores open. I do and don’t like this. It teaches you to relax, but it also can put a strain on your schedule, such as when you set aside a weekend to go grocery shopping. The only things open here on Sunday are a few coffee shops and a tiny farmers market.”
Brown said most visitors to France are eager to try the wine and cheese. Lille is too far north to growing wine, however, so visitors to this region must try the beer. Lille is just over 73 miles from Belgium, where Brown said the best beer he has ever had can be found.
“My favorite town to visit, the one that I would encourage anyone to visit if they find themselves in France, is Lyon,” said Brown. “I find it to be one of the most beautiful places I have ever ventured to.”
Lyon (LEE-awn) sits next to two rivers that enliven the town, Brown said.
“It is one of the oldest cities in France, so you can find old Roman ruins there. Another reason I love Lyon is because if you wish to see the ocean; it only takes two hours to get there. Lyon would be the experience of visiting Paris, but without the awfulness of Paris.”
Brown told himself that he would move wherever he could make an impact in international business. As of now, Brown said he will stay in France until he graduates in December 2019. Brown said that he wouldn’t mind being a student forever, because his school will be able to provide him with the best opportunities and connections.
“I may or may not move away from France,” said Brown. “Only because I need to go where I can make the most impact, but as of right now, the place I want to be is France. There is something magical about it that sparks imagination and inspiration inside you.”