Picking a region for TAPIF is one of the most stressful aspects of the application process. While many TAPIF applicants may dream of crossing the Seine and the Notre Dame to get to work every day and seeing the Eiffel Tower from their studio window every night for seven months, the reality of the matter is that very few language assistants end up working in Paris.
The best way to pick an Académie for your application is to 1) Know what you want and don’t want, and 2) Be flexible. These two may sound contradictory, but hear me out!
1) Know what you want and don’t want
While selecting an Académie on your application, you will be instructed to choose 1 Académies from each of 3 lists, and then to rank them in order of preference. You will also be asked to select if you prefer a “Small town/rural area,” a “Small-to Medium sized city,” or a “Large city.” Note that the most sought after Académies are Paris, Lyon, Strasbourg and Grenoble. You will have a greater shot at getting one of your three choices if you apply for Académies like Amiens, Caen, Limoges, Poitiers, Reims, Rouen and Clermont-Ferrand. You will also be more likely to get your first choice if you do not select “Large city.”
So why are these regions less popular? The most popular regions for applicants are regions like Paris and Lyon because those are often the regions that people have heard of or traveled to the most. They also tend to be much more densely populated. While I won’t discourage you from applying to a more popular region, I will encourage you to do some research on some of the other regions.
What are the major cities in these regions? What are the some of the smaller but also interesting regions? What are the regional specialties? What is nearby to visit? What is the weather like?
Also ask yourself what size city you’d like to live in. If you want an authentic rural experience in the countryside of France, then you’ve got a good shot at getting what you want! The smaller the city, the less likely you’ll be to run into English speakers, meaning even more opportunity to practice your French! Don’t forget that even small villages and towns in France have their own culture and events. And most places in France are only a train ride away.
If you absolutely want to live in Paris or one of the more popular Académies, also note that if you say you are willing to work in a ZEP, a “Zone d’éducation prioritaire,” which basically designates schools in disadvantaged areas, then you are more likely—although not guaranteed!—to be selected for this Académie.
Consider your expenses and what you’re willing to pay while working as an assistant. After the Sécu, your assistantship stipend will be around 790€ each month; if you live in Paris this may not be enough to cover even your housing expenses. Less sought after regions and smaller cities may be more affordable.
2) Be flexible
Okay so maybe you got your first pick for Académies, but you got placed in a larger city than you were hoping to. Or maybe you didn’t get any of your choices, but you still got selected for TAPIF. Before writing off the experience or deciding not to go, do some more research on exactly where you were placed; be open to having an experience that may be different than what you were originally hoping for!
For example, I got placed in Châlons-en-Champagne and Fagnières in the Académie de Reims. While I was open to living in a small to medium sized city like Châlons, I already knew that I didn’t want to live in the school internat (not that there was anything wrong with it, just a personal choice). As I was looking for apartments, I realized there weren’t that many options for places to live in Châlons, so I cast a wider net. I ended up finding a great apartment with wonderful French roommates in nearby Reims, a larger city that had more apartments to choose from.
Where being flexible came into play was with my commute; I was commuting around 40 minutes each way up to four times a week to Châlons and Fagnières. At first it was exhausting, but in the end I got to know three different cities in France very well. Of course if I could have lived and worked all in the same city my life would have been a lot less hectic, but because I was flexible, I got to know more of France and my experience was more unique as a result.