Kim French recently found herself faced with the dilemma of thinking seriously about a long-term career. Since leaving school at the age of 17, she has had a number of short-term jobs – working as a nanny, in particular – to subsidise more creative pursuits. Since her 23rd birthday, she has been drawn towards working with children full-time, and has been exploring the possibility of training as a paediatric nurse.
She was born in Harrow in 1976, to an English father and Italian mother. Childhood holidays with her two younger brothers tended to be six weeks a year in the small village in the Italian Alps where her mother comes from. Educated locally, Kim left school with 11 GCSEs, fluency in two languages and a talent for dance, clarinet and piano. She left home soon afterwards, and has worked variously as a waitress, artist's model at the Royal Academy Schools, nanny and dance teacher for young children, to help pay for courses and workshops in creative writing and photography. Aged 21, she began a three-year dance course, but quit after a year because she felt it was not creatively fulfilling, and later a back injury steered her away from her planned career in dance.
Speaking about her life and ambitions, Kim once said: 'I've led a disruptive life since leaving school, juggling with my time so that I can do jobs here and there to pay the rent and liberate time for what I really want to do. I enjoy the creative side of my nature, like writing short stories and doing photography, but it doesn't pay the bills. One thing that has remained constant is working with children. Perhaps it's something I get from my mother Ersilia, who works as a nursery nurse. Looking after children is a challenging and responsible job which I enjoy. But I want to be learning something new all the time, and recently I've been thinking it's time to acquire a new skill and qualification to take me a step further towards a career. Training to be a paediatric nurse would fulfil this side of me.'
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Girton College, University of Cambridge
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on loan from the Royal Society of Portrait Painters (P)