Coucou ! Before I get into the details of the how and why I’ve been living in France for the last two years, I thought I’d give you a little background information about me. After all, it will probably explain some of the “why” of me being here. I’m Cam, a 23 going on 24 year old grad student currently finishing her second Master’s. I studied French and Secondary Education in undergrad and got a Master of Arts in Teaching just after that. My plan was to become a high school/middle school French teacher, but after graduation I wasn’t quite ready to start my full time teaching career. Even though my French was good enough to teach and I had made it through student teaching, I felt like I needed to improve my French. I thought that the best way to improve my language skills was to live in France especially since I had never spent time abroad in a French speaking country for more than six weeks. Because I finished my studies, I could not study abroad, so my solution was to teach English in France.
In the fall of my MAT program, I applied to the Teaching Assistant Program in France, which is organized by the French Embassy in the United States and France’s centre internationale d’études pédagogiques (CIEP). Basically as a TAPIF assistant you either work in a primary school or in secondary school. I was placed in the Académie de Besançon, a region in Eastern France, close to the Swiss border. When applying to the Program you can put you preferences of what region you want to teach in, but you are not guaranteed to get your top choice as some regions are competitive. I actually was placed in my first choice, which is not a competitive region, but where I wanted to be because that academy provided cheap housing, my ancestors came from there, and I wanted to have an authentic French experience that I couldn’t get living in a big city like Paris.
The city where I was placed is called Montbéliard, which is close to the city of Belfort and a one hour train ride away from Besançon. The funny thing is, my ancestors actually came from Montbéliard! While I was there I was placed in a high school and a middle school. With TAPIF, you only work 12 hours a week, but you get paid about €790 after taxes. I worked 8 of the 12 hours at the high school and 4 at the middle school. I would usually have between 2-4 hours of work a day and I had Mondays off. I lived in one of the schools boarding houses that had a separate wing for teachers and school employees. My floor was just for assistants. My roommates that year were three other language assistants, Jenny (German), Luna (Spanish), and Michael (American). I did not make that many French friends that year, but I made such good friends with my roommates with whom I spoke in French.
During my TAPIF year I improved my French speaking skills, made some new friends and traveled in Europe. I also realized that I enjoy teaching French more than I enjoy teaching English, but that I was not yet ready to leave France. To continue living in France, but to do something more challenging than TAPIF (which I could have done for a second year in a row), I decided to get my Master’s in French abroad.
I am currently about to finish my Master’s in French with a specialization in Linguistics and Pedagogy (all I have left is the defense of my research paper!). This program is run by Middlebury College and has an exchange with the Sorbonne (I took classes at the Sorbonne-Nouvelle Paris 3). I chose to do this program because two of my friends from undergrad did the program the year before me and I wanted to study in France, but not necessarily do a full program at a French University. This program is a one year program with an initial six-week intensive summer session followed by two semesters in Paris France ( you can also choose to do four summers in VT or three summers in VT and one in Paris).
This past Fall and Spring I have been spending my time in class, working on research, working as an English Language Assistant in a private school, and enjoying the Parisian way of life. After spending a year in province, I was ready for the city. I also didn’t think I would be leaving Paris so soon, but starting this Fall I will be on to my next adventure.
A couple of months ago I started panicking about what I was going to do when I finished my Master’s and how I could stay in Paris. As many TAPIF alum have done, I started applying to be a lectrice d’anglais, which is kind of like a university lecturer/language assistant at the higher education level. I sent my CV and a cover letter to I don’t know how many universities in Paris and around France. I also sent applied to some Montessori school assistant positions. I almost accepted a job as a full time Montessori assistant, but chose to decline the offer becuase I was chosen to be a lectrice, which better fit my qualifications and career goals. Out of all the lectrice positions I applied to, I was contacted by three schools for interviews. Two of the interviews were for positons at Engineering schools in the suburbs of Paris, which I did not get chosen for. The third interview, which I decided to do on a whim, was a skype interview for a university in Perpignan, France. Where is Perpignan you ask? Basically as far away from Paris as you can get, in the South near the Spanish boarder and on the coast Mediterranean sea. Two hours after my 10 minute interview, I was surprised to read an e-mail saying that I was the first choice for the lectrice position in Perpignan (I guess third time’s the charm when it came to the interviews!). In one weekend I had to make the huge decision of accepting a job that I was overqualified for, but would allow me to stay in Paris, or accepting a job that I wanted but was far away from the city and the people I had grown to love in the past nine months. I ended up accepting the Perpignan job because it aligned better with what I want to do (teach my own classes to university students and run extra-curricular activities part-time vs. assist children their teacher full-time), it is not in Paris, but in a beautiful part of France that I will have the chance to discover, and the visa is guaranteed with a lectrice position.
So, there you have it. Why and how I have been spending my early (and soon to be mid) twenties in France! What will I do next? Stay for another year in Perpignan, move back to Paris, teach English in another country, or maybe move back to the US (or Canada) to teach French? Who knows? If you have any questions about TAPIF/the Middlebury MA program/applying to be a lecteur/lectrice, if you want to share any of your experiences in France , or if you have any ideas about what I should write about next please let me know in the comments!
Zou bisous bisous,