So as I write this I’m sitting on the boat waiting to leave France. I finished my year as a language assistant a week ago before spending a couple of days away with my parents but now it is time to say ‘Au Revoir‘ to France for the time being. This year has been amazing and better than I thought it would be and I was a little sad to leave my schools. From the chorus of ‘no’s’ and ‘please stay’ to all of the lovely pictures and gifts that I got from my three schools it certainly made it a little hard to leave. Along with that I had to leave the girls in the apartment not knowing when we would see each other in person again, the problem with us all living in different countries. Travelling to a different country not knowing who you are going to be staying with can be hard, you never know if you will get along or how the year will go. I was very fortunate that we all got along so well and became like a little family, moaning about school problems together and going on day trips to avoid boredom setting in. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of girls to pass the year with.
Before setting off to be an assistant I didn’t really know what I would be doing and the idea that I had was not very accurate so lets talk about a few things you might want to know before becoming a language assistant. Of course as I was in France the paperwork and ‘l’adminstration’ was complicated, I think they must have a form to fill out for every little thing that goes on in society so be prepared. From the schools to health insurance to the infamous CAF you will probably spend half of your time filling out forms that you have already filled out a thousand times before. Also be prepared to have about 100 photocopies of every document you have because you never know when they might asked for ‘your mother’s mother’s birth cert‘ or something ridiculous. Once everything is filled out be prepared then to wait an eternity for a response, they aren’t going to rush, sure they take 2 hours for lunch so that stamp on that form can wait until tomorrow.
Another thing to note is to not be fooled by the name of the job ‘assistant de langue’, of course literally translated this means language assistant and when you hear this you think yes I’ll be in the classroom assisting the teacher with English. Well that is what I thought as well but let’s be honest that’s not what I was doing. I was basically the teacher for 30-45 minutes which when you arrive the first day is very daunting, thinking you will only be helping a little bit but are actually teaching the whole class when you have nothing prepared is certainlyone way to start the experience. Let’s just say that after that I was lesson planning every week to make sure that never happened again. The old favourites of Simon Says and Bingo are great when you have no idea what to do. I would say be prepared to be in front of a class of 25-30 eager kids staring at you waiting to say something. Preparation is key and I wish someone had told me that before I came over, would have made my first week a little easier.
Even though I had many days when I would come home to the apartment and have a moaning session with one of the girls about the french school system in the end it all worked out. When you see the progression in even one child from the day you come in to the day you leave. Maybe they have a little bit more confidence when they speak or can proudly say ‘My name is‘ then it all makes it worth it. As I told myself there is only so much that I can do in the short time that I am there but I can give them the basics and make my classes as fun as possible. Those were the things that made the experience, everyday walking into the school to a chorus of ‘Hello Emma‘ and ‘Are you doing English with us today?’ to meeting my kids on the street and hearing the whispers ‘C’est le prof d’anglais’ as explication to their parents who were looking at me strangling thinking who are you saying hello to my child.
I would certainly recommend being a language assistant to anyone who is doing a foreign language. It is a great way to travel and see a new country, you only work 12 hours a week so you have plenty of time to explore. You will get to meet some amazing people in the other assistants who you will party with having only said hello to them once about 2 months ago at orientation. You will get to have some amazing classes basically acting like a child again, that is if you do primary and of course there were people who did not have the best of experiences with their classes but for me it was all positive. It true that there may be days when you really just want to shake the kids when after 4 months of doing the same to questions every class and they still don’t know, or when your teachers are just getting on your nerves or nothing is going right but hang in there. In the end you will look back and think that they were the things that made the experience and made you a stronger person for sticking it out.
Alors c’est au revoir pour le moment la France mais je reviendrai , c’est sur.
I wanted to update you guys but haven’t been in the mood to write so here is a short post with lots of photos about our night in Nice.
So this past weekend we headed to Nice for the night as it was one of the girls birthdays and we wanted to celebrate. We got the train down Saturday morning and spent the day wandering around the sights before heading to our Airbnb that evening. We also got to watch the sunset over the sea which was just gorgeous and something I have been wanting to see since I got here. This was the first time I have ever stayed in an Airbnb and it was lovely. It was a shared apartment so the owners were still there but they were so friendly and made us feel very welcome. That night we met up with some other assistants for dinner and then drinks to celebrate. We met some other Irish girls which was lovely and then people from America, Germany, Canada and Puerto Rico which was amazing. It really was a world affair. It felt very weird to be speaking English as I am so used to speaking French with the girls here but it was a nice change. We had a lovely evening and were out until about 3am, which has to be the latest since I have been here and it was also our first proper night out which was nice.
Now enjoy the many pictures of the sunset that I took because I mean sunsets…who doesn’t love them and I’ll talk to you soon.
What night out of mine would be complete without a couple of crazy selfies!
After a plane, a train journey and two taxis, I can officially say that I have arrived in France and at my home for the next year. Flying in over the Côte d’Azur I have to say is one of the best pre-landing sights that I have seen. With some magnificent yachts dotted amongst the pure blue sea, it really was a wonderful sight. Once we landed and I excited the airport a lovely wave of heat hit me as the sun shone down and it made me happy to be back to the sun. After a short taxi ride to the Gare de Nice Ville it was time to boards my train to head to Draguignan and my final destination. The train was delayed and after much confusion and swapping trains we were finally on our way. If there was ever a train journey to take in your life time this is it. Passing along the beautiful French coastline with unobstructed views of the sea it really is beautiful and then you head into mountainous areas as you head more inland but it is still stunning. Once I stepped off the train in Les Arcs- Draguignan I again was hit by the beautiful heat and after another short taxi ride (there is a bus but I had a huge suitcase to carry so taxi all the way) I arrived in Draguignan.
I have not spent much time in the south of France before so all of this was a new experience for me and between the buildings and terracotta roofed houses it is different to other places I have been to. I remember coming to the South when I was younger on holidays but I can’t really remember the details so it is like seeing it again for the first time. The town of Draguignan itself is surrounded by beautiful rolling green hills in a valley and having walked around for the past few days it really is beautiful and I am looking forward to exploring the surrounding areas more over the coming months and seeing places like Nice, Antibes, the Provence region and of course a visit to Monaco and Monte Carlo is something I can’t wait for as I remember visiting them on holidays when I was younger and can’t wait to go back and explore them more now that I am older.
I am staying in an apartment with 3 other assistants from America, Italy and Spain which is great. We each have our own room and then a common area of kitchen and dining room/sitting room along with 2 showers and 2 toilets so it is perfect. After living in my little room on Erasmus with a shared kitchen with 30 others this is like a palace and we also have an oven which is just wonderful. Another great thing is that we are all speaking French to each other and so even though I have not been here that long I can already feel that my French is improving with our simple conversations and also my confidence in my language which was exactly what I wanted. Our apartment in on the small campus of a teacher training college and so it is very secure. It is strange but us and the caretaker are the only people who are staying here and so during the evening and weekends we have the whole place to ourselves which is interesting. With it being only a 5-minute walk from the centre of the town and luckily only a 5-10 minute walk from each of my schools it is the perfect location.
The WiFi on the campus doesn’t stretch to our apartment and as my new laptop doesn’t have a space for an Ethernet cable I have been sitting outside the reception building to connect to the WiFi. It’s not so bad when the sun is shining and there is not one around, it’s kind of like I have my own garden to do work it. An adapter is in the post so hopefully soon I won’t have to venture out but can surf the net from the comfort of my bedroom which I think will be best come winter (Update Adpater is here and I am back in the world of the Inter Web). It’s not too bad as I have had some time away from the internet which I think is good every once in a while, to not be glued to my phone or laptop but talking to people in real life and discovering a new town and new places. I don’t think I can endure that for 7 months but for a couple of days it’s not too bad.
When this post goes live I will probably have been here about a week (internet problems) but so far it has been great. The girls I am living with are so nice and we have really become friends in the short time that we have been here which I know will only grow over the next 7 months. We have figured out that there is not much to do in Draguignan especially at the weekends but I’m sure we will figure out things to do and places to visit in the coming weeks. For now, we have time to explore before we all start working in the next week and seeing what life as a language assistant is like and of course you’ll be along for the ride.
Let me know if any of you have been language assistants or similar and how you got on.