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!
- Don’t let your location stop you from going. If you’re not placed in your top choice, go anyway! You’ll get to discover a new part of France. If you’re scared of being in a small town, really ask yourself if you think you could be outgoing enough to make friends and connect with coworkers in order to form a network. My fellow assistant friend Cydny lived in a super small town near where I was working, and she did it and loved it!
- You don’t have to travel on every holiday. Instead of escaping your city every time you’re not working, stay a while and find out what you might be missing out on. I didn’t realize that Douai had a church and a park until my Mom & Dad came to visit in February… for shame.
- Your job may or may not be stressful. From what I’ve heard from fellow assistants, the amount of real work you’ll do is completely dependent on your school and coworkers. I barely worked 12 hours/week. I had several small groups to myself that I met once/week with, a few classes where I split the group and time with the teacher, and other classes where I stayed in the room with the teacher the whole time. I probably spent an hour each night looking over notes or preparing lessons (sometimes more on the weekends if I wanted to get ahead).
- The French do things… differently. Paperwork. Friendships. Jobs. Food. The list can go on! You can take this as a good thing or a bad thing, but I suggest the first option. Sometimes paperwork takes ages, so call, email, and fight to get it done. Sometimes it takes more time to make a friend in France than a friend in America – that just means that when they make friends, it’s for real and not just on Facebook. Indulge in the local beers and wines. Try your hand at cooking French cuisine on your own. Basically, try to take as much as you can from living abroad, because for some people, this may be the only opportunity!
You really don’t need much advice going into this, because it is an awesome way to spend a year living in France. Live it, learn from it, and… let me know if you have any other questions that I could help out with! Bonne chance!