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 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
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