This is my last week of teaching in France, guys. My last week! I really can’t believe how fast seven months has gone by. While I plan to stay in Domfront for a few extra days after my contract ends in order to tie up loose ends, this is the week when I will have to say most of my goodbyes, and I’m just not ready! I didn’t expect to feel so much affection for this small Norman town when I first arrived, but now? I think there will always be a little space in my heart reserved for Domfront, the experiences I’ve had here, and the people I’ve met. I know I promised that my next post would be tips for living in a small town, but all things considered, I think a little tribute to Domfront (and France in general) is in order today.
I’m back with part two of a three-part post on small town French life. Today’s post takes a slightly less cheerful turn as I take an honest look at the most difficult parts about living in the middle of nowhere. But fear not! I will be back soon with a list of recommendations for making the best of TAPIF in a small town … it’s not always easy, but it IS possible to survive and thrive!
- You will sometimes feel like you’re living in a ghost town.
I’m back from a rather long blogging hiatus to bring you another three-part post about life in France! Today is Part 1 … stay tuned for parts 2 and 3, coming soon!
After I applying to the TAPIF program last winter, and before I knew exactly where I would be placed, I spent a lot of time imagining what my life in France would be like. In my more more optimistic moments, my brain presented me with scenarios like this:
Scenario #1: Julia is placed in the biggest city of her first or second choice académie, Grenoble or Montpellier. Both cities have a large student population, so there is no shortage of cheap housing and there are many places to go out and meet new friends. Since Julia lives in such a big city, there are plenty of other language assistants from all over the world who live there too. Julia therefore has a built-in group of friends with whom she can travel all over Europe, explore Grenoble/Montpellier, and occasionally vent about the French school system. Julia doesn’t need to worry too much about transportation because Julia lives in a city with buses, taxis, and (most importantly) a train station. She makes use of this train station to go on frequent day trips to surrounding towns, maybe to go hiking in the mountains (Grenoble) or to go to the beach (Montpellier). At school, she becomes friends with all of the teachers and her perfectly behaved students have a true passion for the English language. If she is ever lonely, she simply arranges a Skype date with her family or her friends back home or watches a movie using her high-speed wifi connection. Julia is never ever lonely and thrives in her new French life. Continue reading
When I came to France, I knew that I would encounter cultural differences; that’s just a fact of expatriate life. However, one thing I was not expecting is just how different the most common noises are. Every language has noises and expressions that you hear frequently; in English, for instance, you are likely to hear things like “hmm,” “um,” “well,” “like,” and “huh” on a daily basis. I never really gave any of them much of a thought before, but I have discovered that these noises are not universal; for example, you will never hear “um” in a French classroom, but you will definitely hear “bahhh” or “euhhh”! I have therefore put together a list of the most common noises that you will hear in France, as well as a guide on how to use them. Heed this information and you will be speaking comme un(e) Français(e) in no time!* Continue reading
Today is Thanksgiving … well, sort of. Canadian Thanksgiving came and went weeks ago, but this was the first year that I didn’t celebrate at all. On October 12, I had just recently arrived in France and was thousands of kilometres away from my family; more importantly, since I didn’t have a single friend in France yet, I had nobody to celebrate with. In the end, Canadian Thanksgiving went almost unacknowledged here in Domfront (except for my attempt at making an apple crisp without brown sugar. Trust me, it’s better with brown sugar). Continue reading
15. You will be a sort of local celebrity, especially if you’ve been placed in a small town.
In a town of only 3770, people generally know who I am right away. This can be a good thing – some people around town, such as the librarian, are chatty and always ask me how it’s going at work – but it can also be a bit weird. My students, especially the younger ones, are always eager to report a “Julia sighting” when they see me in class … “Madame, I saw you yesterday in front of the school/at the library/at the grocery store/at the cinema!” It’s especially awkward when I realize that I saw the student in question there too, but didn’t recognize them from class and didn’t say hi! Continue reading
[Here is Part 2! I’m taking advantage of my temporary wifi connection …]
8. You will need to use your French at work …
You only need intermediate French to become a teaching assistant in France, but I can’t imagine how difficult it would be for me if my French hadn’t already been very good when I got here. Yes, I speak English when I am teaching, but to speak to school administrators, teachers who don’t teach English, and anyone outside of the school, it really helps to have a good grasp of French. Even though I make an effort to stick to English in front of the students, sometimes when you’ve explained an activity five times and the students still don’t get it, it’s better just to explain it in French to avoid utter chaos. Even the English teachers for whom English is their second language prefer to speak to me in French outside of class, which kind of surprised me! Continue reading
[Note: I haven’t been able to update the blog in a while (still no wifi connection in my apartment, and limited high-speed data on my phone), so not only is this post long-awaited, but it’s also very loooooong. As such, I’ve decided to start with just the first part today … which is still really long. Enjoy my ramblings, anyway!]
I’ve been working as a teaching assistant for about two months now, and let me tell you what a journey it has been! Before arriving in Domfront at the end of September, I had zero teaching experience, no knowledge of how to manage a classroom whatsoever. Many, if not most, of the English teaching assistants in France are in the same boat as me; a teaching degree is not one of the prerequisites of the TAPIF program. Still, the thought of standing up in front of a classroom full of kids and conveying the assurance of a qualified teacher was more than a little nerve-wracking, even though I was looking forward to trying my hand at it.
Now, near the end of November, I’m still finding my footing in terms of the whole teaching thing. I’m settling into both of my schools, getting to know the students and staff better, and gaining confidence as a teacher, and yet each day presents new challenges. At the same time, teaching is perhaps one of the most entertaining things I’ve ever done, and I never finish a day of teaching without at least one funny story to tell. My experience so far has been a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs, and it will be interesting to see where it takes me over the next five months!
For now, here are a few of the many things I have learned as a teaching assistant in France … Continue reading
Hello world! I have been meaning to update the blog for a while (and already have a couple of blog entries written out), but the lack of wifi in rural France has made it rather difficult. Luckily, the secretary at the collège where I am working and living has kindly allowed me to use his office computer on the weekends, when the school is closed, so I thought I’d give a quick update on my first week in Domfront! Continue reading
There are only nine days left until I leave for France! On one hand, it’s a good thing that I still have nine days left, because I still have a ton of shopping and packing to do before I board that flight to l’Hexagone. On the other hand, I’m getting impatient to arrive in Domfront and start unpacking, exploring, and generally getting settled before my first day as a teaching assistant.
Lately my nerves have been getting the better of me and I’ve been panicking a bit about leaving my family and friends and potentially not being able to stay in contact with them due to lack of wifi, but this weekend I finally heard back from my tutrice about the housing situation in Domfront and I feel so much better. She confirmed that there is still a flat available for me, and she says that rent is considerably cheaper than it has been in the past (yay! More money to travel! Or to buy cute clothes and accessories. Or to fund my camembert addiction. The latter option is most likely.) I also learned that there will be a teacher living with me some of the time, which, according to my tutrice, is a good thing because Domfront can be a lonely place during the winter (ha! At least I’ve been warned). I’m actually thrilled that I will have a flatmate, because I’ll be able to get some French practice in and maybe she (or he? I’m assuming she) will be willing to help me set up a wifi connection!
Can you tell that I’m just a little bit obsessed with wifi? I thought so.
Do I actually know what I’ll be paying in rent? No. Do I know whether this apartment is at the collège or at the lycée? Nope. Do I know anything about my future flatmate? Nein. But I have more information about my future life in Domfront than I’ve had all summer, and it’s a huge relief. Now I can finally start to relax and let the excitement sink in. I mean, I’m moving to France in basically a week! I can almost taste the wine and cheese now!
Between the packing, the shopping, the last-minute errands and the goodbyes, I’ll try to update the blog at least once or twice more before departure day. Now that I know I won’t be completely homeless in France, the whole thing feels so real. Time to give some serious thought to lesson plans and personal goals for my time abroad. À bientôt, mes amis.
Daydreaming about camembert,