To meet Fanny Auger is a life lesson, a true journey. It starts in Lorraine, continues in Paris, before a stop in Dubaï in the Arab Emirates. After a few trips to London, she comes back to the French capital, in the heart of the 9th borough. Her general quarters. It’s between the rue des Martyrs et Barbès’ colorful streets, where she’s always lived, that the head of the School of Life decided to set up her unusal school. Portrait of this dynamic young woman who only has one goal in life : to make her dreams come true, and help you realize yours too.
Sitting legged crossed in front of a small garden table and a cup of tea, the head of the School of Life speaks quickly. She tells anecdotes and punctuates each sentence with a smile and a sip. Her gaze focused, Fanny Auger shares her childhood memories and her longing for being her own boss with a contagious enthusiasm. Her journey is impressive. Starting from the bottom, Fanny built herself gradually, as she travelled the world and met new people. She was able to seize the opportunities life presented her. « I don’t believe in magic », she says. « But things don’t just happen by chance ».
A childhood like Amélie's
« I grew up in the middle of Lorraine, in a house near the woods, with brothers and sisters I loved. I was very happy, but a bit lonely », Fanny tells. A good student, she loves school and reading. Two passions her classmates don’t really share. Therefore, Fanny doesn’t really feel at ease with them. « I felt my childhood was like Amelie’s in the movie : I lived in my own little world ». She smiles. As a teenager, when asked how she pictured adulthood, Fanny Auger instead tells of the dreams she had. « I wanted to be free and independent. I never really believed in Prince Charming », she says. Another wish? « I wanted to travel a lot. I could see myself living abroad or wherever in the world ». Bull’s eye.
You have to dream big
Fanny Auger never believed in Prince Charming, she says. The fairytale life, no thanks. Still, one could almost think a fairy godmother always looked after her out of the corner of her eye, allowing her to fulfill all of her wishes. No magic wand in this story. But resolution and boldness that work. « You have to dream big ». She says it in English, as a testimony to her international journey as well as her openmindness. At 37, Fanny didn’t meet Prince Charming but she asserted her freedom and her right to say no. Those assets she considers a success. But don’t think everything happened in a snap of her fingers. Fanny Auger worked really hard. And dared to try.
Leave for Dubaï, a daring moment
After two years of school in a university « without ambition or competition » in Metz, Fanny Auger studies at the Sorbonne, with « teachers that weren’t very inspiring », she tells bluntly. There, they tell her she’ll end up being a teacher. She doesn’t want to. After this fruitless time, she begins a master’s degree at Sciences Po in Paris, where she tries it all : marketing, journalism, and advertising. « I loved Sciences Po, because they taught you how to learn”, she says to sum up those two years.
After graduating, Fanny Auger got a job at L’Oréal. She has a bright future ahead of her in this prestigious company. « But I wasn’t happy at work, I was heartbroken, and I needed some change in my life ». At 26, she decides to let everything go - this security, Paris, France - and she applied for a job in Dubaï. A part of the world she doesn’t know at all. « It’s my most daring moment », she says today.
Out of 900 candidates, she’s handpicked for this one way trip to the unknown. Pushed by fate? « It looks complicated, but it really wasn’t. The best decision of my life. At 26, you have nothing to lose. And everything to learn. If it didn’t go well, I would have just gone home ». Fanny still remembers the day Sébastien, her best friend, took her to the airport. « My suitcase was to big for his car, we couldn’t close the trunk. I left without looking back. And that’s when I really started living my life », she remembers, emotion in her voice.
Clear-headed, Fanny Auger keeps from Dubaï an exceptionnal professional experience. « I was very free, and I quickly had more responsabilities. At 30, I occupied an incredible position that you could only get at 50 in France ». After almost 6 years in this Middle Eastern city, Fanny Auger gets bored. « I felt I was going in circles. That I wasn’t evolving personnally and intellectually », she explains. In the end, she realizes a great apartment and a company car are not enough. « I had everything very quickly, I was lucky », she admits. « I had a great salary, a high standard of living. But I realized I wasn’t a material girl. That it didn’t make me happy. To have it made me realize I didn’t need it/liberated me from it”. Fanny leaves her fellow expatriated friends and went back to Paris.
TO START A COMPANY, A NEW ADVENTURE
It’s in the French capital that the young woman will accomplish another one of her dreams : to start a company, like many of her parisian friends. For 3 years, Fanny Auger has been in charge of the School of Life of Paris, located in a quiet street of the 9th neighborhood. « I know this neighborhood by heart, I like that it’s a working class place and a little quirky ».
The concept of this peculiar school, Fanny Auger didn’t come up with it. The first School of Life was launched in London by Alain de Botton, a philosopher and writer from Switzerland (« a man who’s humble, cynical, and a bit different », according to Fanny). In London for a job, the future head of the parisian branch is walking aimlessly, waiting for her train to Paris. As she sits down for lunch, she sees the School of Life accross the street. « I’d read about it in a british magazine. I went in to know more ». She loved the concept : to give lessons on universal themes like love, jobs, happiness or creativity. Fanny Auger starts going to this school everytime she’s in London. « I went to a lot of classes : how to be more creative, how to realize your potential”.
She quickly realizes that in Paris, people are asking themselves the same questions but don’t know who to ask them to. It’s that gap that the School of Life is trying to fill. « It’s a place open to everyone where we share what’s happening in our lives, without necessarily wanting to gloat. The goal is not to give all the answers to those questions but to show new perspectives to think about », says Fanny Auger, who teaches the class on conversations. Something she is an expert on. She’s also an expert on transmitting knowledge. Something that reminds of her childhood (she’s the oldest out of 4 children) and her studies (she wanted to be a teacher). « I think it’s essential to give a bit of yourself and to pass down knowledge ». Fanny never stops. The next step? To publish a book on the ways of becoming a better conversationalist.
Fanny's favorite quote and a question to start a quality conversation with a fridn, a stranger in the street or your mother-in-law...