My Early Hour: Amy Benziane, writer and educator

This summer, Amy Benziane and her family left London for Bordeaux, France. Here, she tells us what an average working week now looks like for them. It all sounds rather idyllic…

Amy Benziane, 30, moved to Bordeaux in July 2019. She lives with her husband and their daughter, aged four, and Battersea rescue cat, aged nine.

What’s your home like?
We rent a two bedroom flat a short bike ride from the city centre; it’s in a quiet residential area with lots of other families. Although we weren’t able to bring too many things with us to France, we made sure we had enough pictures and books to make it feel like our home. We’ve also stocked up on house plants and we’re planning a ‘grow your own’ section on our balcony.

What time are you up in the morning?
I usually wake up around 7am, either thanks to an alarm or sometimes due to my daughter announcing “It’s wake up time now!” Great on a school day, not so relaxing at the weekend.

How do you feel?
Ready for my coffee.

What do you do first thing?
If everyone else is still asleep, I sneak out of bed, make myself a coffee and then sit in the kitchen to look out of the window. I turn the radio on and enjoy the view. If there’s time before everyone wakes, I’ll check over my to-do list and calendar for the day. We all have breakfast together, but four days a week it’s a speedier affair as our daughter needs to be dropped off at school.

In three words, describe mornings in your home?
Music filled, organised, peaceful.

Tea or coffee?
Oat milk latte….

How might the rest of your day pan out?
Once we’ve dropped our daughter off, my husband and I will cycle to a nearby cafe or walk into town to explore. We both work for ourselves and spend a lot of time reading for work and pleasure. I sometimes bring my laptop so I can do some writing or planning for my online tuition. Often I’ll just stick my notebook in my bag so I can scribble away as I people watch.

We pick our daughter up for lunch and eat together, usually it’s a picnic at the park near her school. Once we’ve dropped her back off at school that’s the time I usually start my tuition for students based in Asia and the home educated families I teach.

Our evenings revolve around making and eating a meal together, and then more reading. Unless we’re watching a film together, we try to switch off all devices at around 8pm so that we can destress properly. One of us usually goes out for a run while the other stays in to do bedtime. Then, I’ll do some writing and make my to-do list for the next day while my husband works on learning French.

What’s your workspace like?
I have my laptop or a notebook with so that I can pitch up anywhere and work. I need a quiet space when I’m tutoring so our bedroom doubles as an office. My husband made me a beautiful wooden stool, and I’ve put up some photographs from our wedding and travels.

Where is your daughter when you’re working?
My daughter is at school four days a week so I try to do most of my work during this time. We’ve previously relied on family to support with childcare, but since moving it’s just the two of us and school.

Tell us about your business: when did you launch, and how/why did it come about?
For a decade I’ve been working with teens to encourage them to dream big and work hard so they can achieve anything; I felt it would be remiss of me to ignore my own advice. So, in 2018, my husband and I decided to take the things we enjoy, books, nature, music, teaching, and find more time for these in a totally different setting: Bordeaux. I made the decision that I would leave the classroom in favour of a career as a freelance writer and educator.

Now my time is split between teaching and writing. I provide online tuition to students from across the world, at the moment I’m tutoring English, media studies, politics and French. I love using the skills I’ve developed in the classroom and working one-to-one is so satisfying. My focus is enabling people to feel like what they have to say matters; whether that’s through increased confidence in an exam, or through writing where my focus is on parenting, education, and creating a simple, joyful life.

What’s the greatest challenge when running your own business?
I think the biggest problem is we’re often our own worst critics. We look at those who are apparently ‘successful’, and we try to compare ourselves to them without looking at the journey they’ve been on. Things started to feel ‘right’ for me when I was able to put this aside and have the bravery to do what I want to do, regardless of what the inner critic was trying to convince me.

What makes it all worthwhile?
When I made the decision to leave the classroom, it was because I felt it was time to be brave and make a change. I wanted to be a role model for my daughter and show her that I would do things that challenge me, make me feel nervous, and eventually allow me to see how strong I really am.

Being in a role where I can support others, through my online tuition, is such fulfilling work. Some of the students I work with have had really tough times in mainstream education, so working with them to achieve their goals outside of the usual classroom setting is really important to me.

Personally, this career move has allowed me to take a step away from the hectic lifestyle I had learned to accept, and to stop being just ‘Miss’. It’s also given me the time and space I needed to become a more confident writer.

Are you a happy lone worker, or do you enjoy the buzz of a shared workspace?
Definitely a lone worker! When I’m planning or creating resources, I need time in my own head and when I’m providing online tuition I need silence and privacy.

What’s the secret to career success?
Have confidence that what you have to say matters. Whether that’s in a pitch, at an interview, or your internal thoughts. Don’t underestimate yourself, but equally don’t forget to give yourself permission to recharge and restart tomorrow if everything doesn’t go to plan today.

Is the juggle real for you… do you find it difficult balancing parenting/relationship/me-time/time for friends/career?
My daughter isn’t in school on a Wednesday so I’ve been strict with myself not to plan work at all on this day. My husband and I both work from home now so seeing one another is much easier than it used to be. When we lived in London, at least one of us would be out of the house for 13-hour stretches. We’re still adjusting to our lifestyle here in southwest France, making new friends and finding our way – literally and metaphorically – but I feel like we’ve reset in such a positive way since our move and got the juggle right for now.

Describe an ideal weekend?
Exploring Bordeaux; there are many parts of the city we have yet to enjoy. Then going to the beach for the day; I’ve spent most of my life living right by the sea and feel so relaxed after a day of swimming and playing in the sand. Having friends and family come over from the UK to share all this with us would be a bonus.

If you could wake up anywhere tomorrow, where would it be?
I’d wake up in our flat, in Bordeaux; I don’t have itchy feet just yet…

Educator | Writer
Instagram: @AmyBenziane
Twitter: @AmyBenziane