Moving abroad is a big step, so if you’re considering working in programs like the Teaching Assistantship Program in France, you may find yourself asking “Is TAPIF right for me?” Everyone’s experience with the program is extremely different, especially given the many factors that affect each assistant’s situation and time in France.
Take the time to consider the following questions when deciding whether or not you want to take part in TAPIF!
1. Are you interested in working in education?
Having previous teaching experience does not the assistant make. While many language assistants have worked as educators or studied education in the past, many others have not. All it takes is someone willing to try something new, and who is passionate about teaching French schoolchildren about his or her culture.
TAPIF is a great way to try out teaching; as an assistant you only teach 12 hours per week, and you never work alone with entire classes at one time. If you’re afraid you don’t have enough teaching experience, know that the teachers you work with may only task you with playing games once a week with students, or work on fun activities. You will not be expected to teach English grammar or create curriculum topics.
If you already know that teaching is not your passion, but are willing to try something different as a means to live abroad, then TAPIF may still be for you! Teaching English is definitely a means by which to see the world; as long as you take your teaching duties seriously and enjoy showing others a part of the world they may never have seen, then this is a great way for you to get abroad and learn and see more.
2. Do you want to improve or learn French?
Even if you become friends with many teaching assistants and speak English a large portion of your time in France, you’ll still have plenty of opportunities to speak French with teachers, school administration, roommates, friends, and language assistants from other countries that don’t speak English. Regardless of the level of French you possess before arriving in France, regardless if you are a novice or advanced speaker, TAPIF can give you the opportunity to improve your spoken French.
Don’t speak much French? Has it been 8 years since you last took French? Don’t worry! The TAPIF application requires a writing sample of your teaching philosophy and a language evaluation (either completed by a university professor or French Alliance teacher, or by passing a French Alliance exam). While I do recommend studying up for these if you’re a bit rusty, you do not need an advanced level of French to be considered or even selected to participate in TAPIF.
3. Do you want to experience living in a different culture?
Living abroad isn’t just about the language; it’s about the culture as well. Everything from the floor plan of your living space (a 9 meters squared studio?? a toilet separate from the bathroom?!) to the food you eat will be different. Filing your immigration paperwork, going to the doctor, and doing your grocery shopping will feel like completely new experiences.
What if it’s hard? Well, yes, adapting to a new culture isn’t easy. Sometimes it will make simple tasks seem difficult, something that can be a humbling experience and make you feel homesick for familiar things. However, one of the most empowering feelings of living abroad is some time further in when you arrive home one afternoon or evening and realize you’ve managed to navigate an entire day in a different culture without feeling out of place anymore.
4. What if the answer is no?
What if you really just want to take a Eurotrip with friends? What if you really don’t want to work with children or in education, or teach English at all? Realizing that TAPIF isn’t for you is an important step to finding the right program for you.
Volunteer opportunities: Don’t want to teach but still want to have a community impact? Check out volunteer opportunities with organizations like VE Global, Iko Poran, or the Peace Corps. Many of these opportunities will be outside of France and Western Europe, but may be right for you!
Language learning opportunities: Consider enrolling as a university student for language coursework, or at a language school like Institut de Langue Française or Lyon Bleu International.
Considering going on a working holiday! Many people can find short-term work as hostel workers or other jobs in the hospitality industry. While you may not teach English, your language skills will still come in handy working with tourists. Americans who plan on working in France for less than 90 days are not required to have a visa unless they are journalists or diplomats. Working any longer will require a long stay visa.