I’ve been reflecting on my TAPIF experience lately while I am waiting to hear back if I’ve been renewed or not. For all of you newcomers, here are some tips that I wish I would’ve had before I headed over to France.
Finances depend on the city you’re placed in. I lived in a city of 40,000 people about 20 minutes outside of Lille. My apartment was provided by the high school I worked for and cost me 96 euro/month, all inclusive. I paid 26 euro/month for my cell phone plan (with internet). Once I took care of my monthly payments, that left me with around 600 euro/month to play with, meaning I was able to travel on holidays, go out with friends, and eat out when I wanted to. Remember, you’re working as a teaching assistant so you’re living a teaching assistant’s lifestyle. Ask your referent to help you find a place. If you’re working for a high school, ask if they have an assistant apartment! Look at the average price of apartments in the city where you’ll be working and subtract it from your paycheck – can you make it work? I hope so!
I didn’t see fireworks on July 4th, but I did head to the Bishop Arts District in Oak Cliff to celebrate Bastille Day, France’s national holiday, on July 14th.
Since none of my friends here are quite as nerdy nor French-obsessed as I am, I easily convinced my brother Grant and his friends Matt and James to go with. You might remember Grant and Matt from when they visited me in France for Christmas. The turnout was huge when we got there!
Lines were long and treats were expensive, but it was nice to walk around and see the traditional French courtyard game pétanque being played, a giant chess set being used by all ages, and a group of men being judged on the quality of their mustaches. The best part was having my ears perk up at the slightest sound of French being spoken. It happened more often that I thought it would! I even spoke with a member of l’Alliance Française in his native language as I hopefully filled out my entry to their sweet raffle.
My summer started with a bang in May, when I flew from Paris to New York with the dream team: Michel, Celine, and Aurelien. We all traveled together last year to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon, so this year we had to keep the tradition going. It was all of our first time in New York City, so it was no surprise that we paid way too much for a non-yellow cab to take us from the airport to our hotel, we were amazed when the lights of Times Square bombarded us, and we made it our goal to see as much as possible while we were there.
We spent hours in Central Park on our first full day (and only beautiful day) there, eating hot dogs, laying in the grass, exploring the different areas like Strawberry Fields, taking a horse and carriage ride through the park, and even Skyping with families back in France so they could live vicariously through us.
One of the coolest opportunities I had while I was an assistant in France was to go along on the class trip to York, England. For free! I went with 52 French high school students and 4 teachers, spoke more French than English, and discovered the unique charm (and the strong accents) of Yorkshire.
We took a coach from Douai all the way to York, with a trip through the “chunnel” on the way. It was so creepy! Nothing like I expected: the humongous coach pulled into what felt like a storage trailer along with an SUV, the door was shut, and we couldn’t see anything except the orange glow coming from the fluorescent lights inside our little storage unit. Thirty minutes later, there was light, and we were in England!