My senior year of college was filled with uncertainty. I was about to graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in English and a Certificate in French, but I had no idea what I wanted to do next. I knew that I didn’t want to go to graduate school just yet, and I didn’t want to work a traditional 9-5 either. I also didn’t see myself pursuing a teaching career, since my concentration wasn’t education. My concentration was Rhetoric and Composition (basically editing and writing), but I also wasn’t sure if I wanted to pursue a career in the editorial field either.
Instead of focusing on the things I wasn’t sure about, I started thinking about the things I knew I loved and wanted to do after graduation. I loved French and learning languages. I also loved traveling and I always told myself that I’d become fluent in French one day. I didn’t want to wait until retirement to begin living life or to travel the world and the thought of having only weeks of vacation per year just wasn’t cutting it for me.
Teaching English in France was the perfect solution to figuring out the next steps of my career while doing the things I enjoyed the most. So I packed up my life and moved to Cannes, France to work as an English Teaching Assistant!Want to teach English in France? Here's how! Click To Tweet
Here’s how you can do it too:
Choosing a Program
Teaching English in France can be accomplished through several organizations and programs. Two of the most popular programs for Americans are Fulbright and TAPIF. Fulbright is a prestigious cultural exchange program funded by the U.S. government. The Fulbright program awards grants to scholars, teachers, and students to study, to teach, or to do research abroad. TAPIF (Teaching Assistant Program in France) is a joint initiative between The French Ministry of Education and the Centre international d’études pédagogiques (CIEP) that gives people the chance to teach English in France for 7 months with the option of renewing their contract. The French government sponsors 1,100 positions for Americans. I’m currently an English Teaching Assistant with TAPIF.
With TAPIF, English Teaching Assistants (ETAs) work in French high schools, middle schools, or elementary schools for 12 hours per week. The daily tasks of an ETA vary per school, but generally we work with groups of students alone or alongside their main teacher to help them improve their English through activities and cultural lessons about our home country.
The teaching contract is from October 1st – April 30th with 2 weeks of paid vacation every 5-6 weeks. Assistants receive a monthly stipend of €965 GROSS/€790 NET.
I know the salary may not seem appealing, but you can supplement this income with a side hustle. For example, I give private English lessons.
To apply to TAPIF, you must meet the following requirements:
- Must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
- Must be between the ages of 20-35
- Must be a native speaker of English and must have completed a majority of your education in the United States
- Must have at least a B1 proficiency level of French
- Must have completed at least 3 years of higher education
- Must pass a background check
*This program does not require prior teaching experience or a TEFL Certification
The TAPIF application consists of an online application that entails the following:
- A 500 word texte de motivation, or personal statement about your motivations for applying to the program. The texte de motivation must be written in French and cannot be reviewed by a French professor or native French speaker for errors.
- A main application form that asks for: medical information, your top 3 regions of choice, your related experience, and your education history
- A professional/academic letter of recommendation
- A language evaluation by a French professor
- An $80 application fee
- A transcript
Applications open in October of each year and close mid-January. Application deadlines are usually extended and you are allowed to make changes to your submitted application until mid-February.
The Main Application
Once you’ve created an account, you can upload your recommendations, fill in the basic personal information, and choose your preferences. The application prompts you to choose your top 3 region
Along with your top 3 académie preferences, you’ll be asked to select whether you want to be placed in a large city, a medium sized city, or a small town. You’ll also choose whether you would like to be placed in secondary education (ages 11-18) or primary education (ages 8-11). Prior teaching experience is preferred for primary education.
You’ll have to revisit this application after you’ve been accepted to upload your FBI background check, so don’t forget your password!
Applicants are informed whether they’ve been accepted during the first week of April. You then have about a week to accept or decline (if I remember correctly). In this initial acceptance e-mail, you’ll find out which académie you’ve been placed in and whether you’ll be working in primary or secondary schools. For the next couple of months, you’re back to playing the waiting game. The next e-mail you receive will have your specific city or town placement, the name(s) of your school(s), and your work contract. Most people start getting more details in June, but some don’t receive any additional information until July or August. I received my work contract in June.
If you don’t receive an acceptance or denial e-mail at the beginning of April, you may have been waitlisted. I believe that waitlisted candidates received their e-mails a couple weeks later. If you’ve been waitlisted, don’t worry. You won’t be behind or miss anything. Usually when accepted candidates decline their offers or withdraw, applicants from the waitlist are moved up. Most people who are waitlisted end up being accepted.
After you receive your work contract or acceptance e-mail, the program correspondant will be in touch with information about the next steps.
1. Be patient
The entire process is very long and spread out. It takes a few months to receive further information or to be able to obtain your visa. Just relax and stay calm. Everything will fall into place.
2. SAVE SAVE SAVE
French bureaucracy is VERY SLOW. If you decide to apply to this program and move to France, be prepared to wait. For the first month, you will not receive your full salary. Instead, you’ll have to apply to a “salary advance” at the beginning of October to receive a percentage of your October salary at the end of the month. Then, if you’ve taken care of all the administrative things like opening a bank account and turning in your paperwork, you’ll receive the rest of your October salary along with your full November salary at the end of November. If everything goes smoothly, you should be on track to receive each month’s full payment at the end of the month from November on.
However, don’t count on getting paid or having access to your money on time. To put things into perspective, even though I did all my paperwork, submitted everything on time, and had my bank account set up, I couldn’t access my money or use my account until November. I opened my bank account in September, but it took over a month for me to receive my debit card and for my account to be approved. Then I had to wait a few more weeks for my debit card PIN to be sent in the mail. Finally, after harassing the bank a few times, I could use my money and my bank account.
In some cases, people didn’t receive their money on time even though they did all their paperwork, so it’s extremely important to come with emergency funds to hold you over for the first two months. The program suggests that assistants bring at least $2,000. This amount will vary depending on your lifestyle, spending habits, and the cost of living of the region you’re placed in. Keep all of those factors in mind when deciding how much money you should bring.
3. Brush up on your French
If you didn’t major or minor in French, don’t worry! You can take French classes at your local Alliance Française or another organization to get to the required B1 level of proficiency. As long as you’ve reached the proficiency level and you can write a short personal statement in French, you’re good to go!
4. Be flexible
Not everyone gets placed in a luxurious city like Cannes or in their top choices. The city or town placement is very unpredictable despite your preferences. Be open to being placed in a small town or even a village. Usually, living in a less touristy area gives you the chance to interact with more people where you live, learn the language quicker, and experience an authentic French lifestyle.
Although teaching in France has its ups and downs, I don’t have any regrets. If you’re ready to leave your comfort zone, gain teaching experience, travel throughout Europe, and have the adventure of a lifetime, apply to TAPIF here. Applications are due by January 15, 2019. Bon courage!
Want to keep up with my France adventures? Follow me on Instagram @dianamodupe!