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!
The start of this week was spent recuperating after our travels and then preparing for our classes this week. I have successfully lesson planned for the next 4 weeks so hopefully we won’t have a repeat our my first week when I just winged it . It’s amazing what a bit of organisation can do.
I might regret writing this part considering my mother and aunts read this blog but here goes nothing I have shared all my other experiences so far… So I am on Tinder as I am sure many people are, it’s a great way to talk to people and here I have found it’s great , a nice way to practice my french and maybe meet some new people, and well that is what happened. I was talking to one guy who offered to be my tour guide for the day and I thought why not, what have I got to loose. Of course after sending his picture and details to about 5 friends just in case, our little day date was this week and it was lovely. We went to Ile Saint Marguerite just off the coast of Cannes. This is what you get from talking to locals because I didn’t even know there were islands you could visit there. We took the short boat ride over and then spent a couple of hours walking around and chatting. I was extremely proud of myself that I was able to last the whole time speaking french and was actually able to make conversation. I have to say I didn’t understand everything and I’m sure I made every error in the book but I got through it. Other than the fact that we had to make a dash for the boat , everything went smoothly and I got to see an amazing sunset from the boat on the way back. So there you go, that was my Tinder Travels this week as I am calling it, it’s a great way to meet people I have to say. Of course be smart about it and don’t go meeting someone in an alley at night but during the day surrounded by people and you should be okay and just leave if not. I’m sure after my mother reads this there will be some questions but oh well.
Cannes from Ile Saint Marguerite
Sunsets, need I say more…..
After this is it was back to class on Thursday for more dancing and singing as I thought my classes about their body. I have to say the blank faces are becoming less or maybe I am imagining it but I think we are getting somewhere. When I ask ‘What is your name?’ and I get a correct response , I call that a success at this stage. Of course we only had classes Thursday and Friday so it was only a short week and then it was time for the weekend again.
Saturday morning came I spent most of it chilling in bed doing nothing which was great. Saturday night a teacher from a couple of the girls school invited us out for drinks with a few other people which was nice. We went to a bar for a few drinks (an Irish bar none the less) and a chat. Although the talking part didn’t really work out as there was a live band, who were great but didn’t really let you get a word in. After a couple of hours we decided to head to a bowling alley that was just across the way as it was open late and it was a little quieter. I was very proud of myself getting a strike and coming 4th if you don’t mind. By the time we finished it was 1′ o clock in the morning which is probably the latest I have been out while I have been here, haha. We couldn’t decided on somewhere else to go and most places were closed so we just headed home , kindly driven by our new friends who had picked us up too because we rely on public transport. It was a nice night with some new people and then we spent Sunday in bed because we didn’t get back until 2:30am and well France basically shuts down on a Sunday as well .
So that is it for this week,quite a relaxed one filled with lesson planning.
So this week I think Draguignan finally decided it was October because up until now the weather has been pretty good but for the last week it has been windy and raining and just generally pretty crappy. This week was the beginning of the holidays of Toussaint so I only had school on Tuesday and Wednesday which was nice. I spent the week talking about Halloween and trying to explain the traditions that we do. We got there in the end with the use of flashcards,me explaining things about a thousand times and also acting things out like an idiot. I can now see that this year is going to be part teaching and part me acting like an idiot but hey if the kids learn something by the end it will be worth it. I am also still like a celebrity in the schools, every time I walk in I am greeted with a chorus of ‘hello‘, it is very nice I have to say but I wonder how long it will last until the novelty wears off.
Also this week after having a cold and then talking so much my voice gave out and by Thursday it was pretty much gone, luckily I didn’t have classes. It was a strange feeling because I talk ALOT and I thought I had built up a tolerance for talking but no , one week of teaching and it was gone. The old favourite of hot water and honey plus me not talking at all and it is back and right as rain which is good. It would be a bit hard to be an English teacher with no voice.
As I said we started our holidays on Thursday so we spent Thursday and Friday just relaxing and talking some time to recharge. We planned to head on a little trip on Saturday but the bus time tables just weren’t being our friend. We could get to our destination but then the bus back would have already left, there was no logic in it. Seeing as we didn’t have any plans I decided to head to the market on Saturday morning as I hadn’t had the opportunity to go up to now. Markets in France are one of my favourite things and I remember when I was on Erasmus we spent nearly every Saturday morning just wandering around the market. The sights, smells and sounds are amazing, friends gossiping away in french , the smell as you walk by the cheese stand or the sound of sizzling skin on the roasting chicken. The really are a feast for the senses and such a lovely way to spend a morning, especially when the sun us shining. I decided to get a chocolate éclair to treat myself which I have to say was an amazing idea. The French really do know how to do bread and cakes properly.
We have a little balcony in our apartment and as the sun sets right in front of it sometimes when you look out you can get the most amazing view of the sky all lit up. There is also a very large tree that is in the way and kind of blocks the view but it still looks amazing so I’ll forgive it, haha!!!
Now with the holidays we are planning on doing some trips so hopefully my next post will be filled with photos and my thoughts on new places. Also the good weather seems to have returned and as I write this the sun is shining so I don’t think they have really got the memo here that it is October.
This week was my first week teaching and it was an interesting experience. I spent Monday running between my different schools and calling people to try and figure our my time table as I hadn’t gotten it yet but once that was sorted I was good to go. I only work Tuesday to Friday from 8h30-12hoo which is grand. It’s nice to have Monday off so I can have a long weekend or if I plan any little trips I don’t have to be in school on Monday. Along with this it is great only working in the morning as I have my afternoons free to do other things.
So Tuesday I started and headed for my first school ready to get stuck in. Unfortunately they were not quite so ready for me so I spent the day researching Halloween for my classes next week which was a nice way to spend the morning. Wednesday I headed for my next school and got a shock when the teacher asked me did I have anything to photocopy. I confidently said ‘no‘ and began thinking this should be interesting. So I was just given the class to teach by myself and I had zero material prepared. It was probably the longest hour of my life with kids expectantly waiting for me to teach them and then the teacher just sitting at the back watching everything I did. To say I winged it was an understatement. After the initial introductions were done I noticed a poster of the body out of the corner of my eye and thought lets go with that. After some games of Simon Says and some verses of ‘head,shoulders,knees and toes’ the class finally came to an end and I let out a sigh of relief. Next up I had the youngest in the school who I think were about 4/5 years old so that was a little easier just going over the basics of ‘my name is’ and then some counting. The rest of the day went by with me making things up on the spot , but I don’t think anyone really noticed. When I came home I saw that I would have to get something prepared for class the next day and this year was not going to be like I thought it was. Thursday and Friday were spent in my last school with me asking ‘What is your name?’ and ‘How old are you?’ about 200 times I would say. I used the classes to get to know the children and gauge their level of English. Again it was a little intimidating having the teacher just sitting down the back watching you but they were all really nice so sometimes you just have to get one with it, act the fool and exaggerate your pronunciation of everything.
This week really has been an eye opener into what this year will be like. It looks like I will just be given the classes to teach by myself so planning is going to be key. I can’t be winging it for 45 minute lessons. Also I have to try and figure out going from one class with the oldest in the school down to the youngest and trying to make my lessons fun. Just talking to a class of 25 is not easy because after 10 minutes they start to get bored or it’s always the same people who will answer the questions. Oh well, I’m sure I’ll learn as I go and until then I’m just thinking back to all those times I went to school with mam and how she acted. Along with this I now know why my mam was always so tired after a day in school , I only teach for the morning and in the afternoons I am wrecked, so hats off teachers. With this after all my exaggerated pronunciation (which I’m sure looked hilarious) and talking so much this weekend I can feel the beginnings of a sore throat so I have spent it in bed taking preventive measures.
So that was the first week and it was interesting, I am certainly not a qualified teacher and don’t even know if the kids will remember anything I said but hey repetition is everything and if they can confidently say what their name is and how old they are by Christmas (hopefully) I’ll be happy.
Is it weird that although these kids are like more than 10 years younger than me I still feel too young to teach them? HAHA 🙂
Until next week.
No trips this week so here is a photo of Draguignan that I took my first week here.
As this week has only been an observation week we have been trying to make the most of the days when we aren’t doing anything before we start teaching next week. Along with this there is not very much to do in Draguignan so we have to try go out and do things otherwise we would go mad in the next few weeks. First up on the agenda was a afternoon trip to Saint Raphael. The bus in the Var region is only €3 for a single trip so we wanted to take advantage of this even if the bus does go through every little town and somehow makes it through the narrow streets without crashing into anything. We set off in the afternoon and after 1hr 30mins we arrived in Saint Raphael which is a lovely village by the coast. It was nice to get out and see the sea because being by the sea is one of my absolute favourite things, I could sit and listen to the waves crashing against the beach all day. There was not very much to see in the town but it was nice to have a look around anyway and it was gorgeous and sunny as well so we made the most of it. Boulangeries and Patisseries are everywhere in France and they are so good that stopping myself from buying things everyday is a challenge because everything looks so good. As we were out for the day I decided to treat myself to some ‘macrons‘ as I had never really had them before. I got a chocolate, lemon and caramel one and then popped back to eat them by the sea. Is there any better way to spend a Wednesday afternoon? Getting the bus meant that we were a little restricted for time but it was still a lovely day. I also got a post card to add to my collection of all the places I have been. I have it proudly stuck up on my wardrobe to give my room a little decoration as I haven’t gotten anything else to stick on the walls yet to make it more homely.
Watching the waves crashing in Saint Raphael
My caramel macron, so photogenic and tasted amazing.
When it comes to the weekend in Draguignan as I said there is not much to do, we can’t pop out to bop the night away unfortunately. Friday came and not wanting to spend it in again we decided to head out and try find a little bar to have a drink in for a change of scenery. Of course as with many places in the world there is an Irish pub in the town centre so we popped in for a drink and a chat. After a late-ish night on Friday come Saturday morning all I wanted to do was chill out and catch up on the Bake Off now that I have internet. After spending the morning relaxing we thought we would get some culture in and head to the cinema. The tickets bought we settled in to watch ‘Radin’ a french film about a man who hates to spend money and how his life changes when his long lost daughter comes into his life. Although I have to say I didn’t understand every word it was actually a very good film with some parts that made you laugh out loud.
Sunday’s in France are a day when the world pretty much stops, shops close and people mainly stay inside and have family time. Luckily for us some of the bus routes still run which meant that we could make a day trip to Toulon for a little picnic by the beach with some other assistants.After a 2 hour bus ride which went through every town possible we finally arrived. The weather was lovely and it was nice to go and see a new city and meet some new people. Having eventually found the right beach we had a very french picnic with bread, cheese and wine, stereotype alive and well. It was lovely to sit and relax by the sea with some nice food and new people and just relax. Again due to bus restrictions we didn’t really get to explore the city so I will definitely have to head back and see what the city has to offer. I have to get a post card for my collection if nothing else.
Le Port du Toulon
Place de la Liberté, Toulon.
Now it’s time to get ready for our first week of teaching. I am still waiting on my timetable for 2 of my schools but they don’t seem to be worried so I’m trying not to but it is a little strange. I’m sure everything will be sorted Monday morning and I’ll be able to relax. I already have children’s songs stuck in my head that I have been trying to learn to teach the kids so it’s going to be a fun year.
I’ll let you know how the first week goes and if anything exciting happens.
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.
As I write this post I am sitting in the airport waiting for my flight to Nice to start my journey to Draguignan , my home for the next year. I am heading over to France to be an English language assistant for the next year which is exciting. Sitting here the excitement is building but a few nerves are creeping in. I have been away from home before when I was on Erasmus for the year so it is not that I will be away from home although this time does feel different. I am travelling very much alone this time and will know no one when I arrive which is a new experience for me. I know that the first few days will be interesting until I get settled in and know the lay of the land so to speak. It feels strange but this feels to me like my first proper step into adulthood with college life over and now into the ‘big bad world’ as they say.
It will also be interesting when I begin to work in the schools as not only will there be the challenge of working with new people there will also be the added language barrier. It will be interesting to see how things work in the school system and what the children will be like. It will present a new challenge for me which I am looking forward to facing and making the most of it. It will be interesting to teach English as a second language for the children and hopefully I will get to teach them some interesting things about Ireland also.
I am looking forward to the year ahead and all the mystery that it holds. I want to make the most out of the opportunity and the experience so expect lots of blogs posts of all the things I get up to or just when I want to get my emotions down and out of my head.
So all that is left to say is ‘Au Revoir Irlande et Bonjour France’!