Exactly one year ago, I started my first day of work as an English teaching assistant in Douai, France. If things would’ve worked out as I was hoping for, I would be doing the same thing today! Unfortunately, that’s not the case – but when I look back at this year and everything that has happened, I am like whoa.
I spent 8 months in France, teaching 12 hours a week to French high school students. I definitely had my ups (like my great class of senior students who always greeted me with a smile) and downs (like that one time that I ended up yelling in French at my sophomores who didn’t want to listen to a word I was saying), but I definitely learned a lot. If I ever have the opportunity to do the assistantship again, I would take it.
I lived in a small city but made great friends from all over, including my roommates from Spain, Italy, and Germany and my other assistant friends living nearby.
Foie gras, Camembert, and champagne… who needs it when there are so many things you can do with a quiche? This has become my go-to meal because it’s super easy to make, we usually have the ingredients on hand, and well, it’s just delicious.
Pre-packaged dough for the crust (or you can make it by hand if you want to be fancy), a few eggs, and a splash of milk are all you need to make your way towards a fantastic quiche. I’ve found that it doesn’t even really matter exactly how many eggs or how much milk you put in, but for a normal-sized quiche, I’d go with 3-4 eggs and between a 1/2 cup – 1 cup of milk. You can even use cream if you want! (See, the options are endless!) Throw in all of the other stuff you want, stir it all together, pour it into the crust, and voilà! 30 minutes later, it’s ready.
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!
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.
My boy and his family ever so graciously invited Grant, Matt, and me to celebrate Christmas Eve with them at home. It was my first Christmas to not spend with my family, but I was so thankful to have my little bubs there with me for our first Christmas in France.
We all sat down for the meal around 7:30pm, “we” being Grant, Matt, me, Michel, his parents, his brother and sister, his godmother, and two of his cousins. First up was a platter of little bread slices smothered with fish mousse, fish eggs, or pate. All three of us tried all three of them, and I was proud. I can’t say that I was a fan of the fish eggs but now I can say that I have eaten them! Next up, we all toasted our glasses full of a beverage called “kir”: creme de cassis mixed with champagne (or non-alcoholic champagne).
Last week was my first round of observations, and I must say it went rather well! In several classes, I’ve stood in front of the room and the students asked me questions about myself ranging from “What is your name?” to “Out of the seven deadly sins, which one do you identify with?” Haha! I can certainly identify with the grammar issues that most students have trouble with. I remember when I was just starting to learn French; I was timid to speak and I definitely made silly errors. I can easily understand the mistakes they are making, thanks to my knowledge of French, which helps me naturally explain what they’ve done wrong.
To say the least, my week has been quite fabulous.
I drove out of Dallas on Friday night to be reunited after a long 3 1/2 months away from my dear friend Stephanie, who is currently attending Baylor. We did our normal Waco things like Practically Pikasso, Pei Wei, Teriyaki Park, Jamba Juice, and Common Grounds. It almost felt like I just came over to her house from my apartment that was 5 minutes away, but then I remembered that I graduated and will be moving to France in 3 weeks. Oops.
Upon seeing lots of familiar faces on Friday night, I responded to the statement “I thought you were in France already!” about 50 times, saying “No, no, I still have 3 weeks.” While ending our night in line at the beloved Scruffy Murphy’s (a local Waco bar frequented by every Baylor student on every weekend ever), my group & I even ran into 2 French exchange students. I mean really, on the one night I’m in Waco at this one bar at this certain time, the Frenchies are in line right behind us? It’s destiny. I got to speak some French and chat with one of them about Lille – his hometown. Such a small world!