25 Tips for Future TAPIFers

After successfully finishing my contract as a language assistant, here are some of the prime time tips I would like to pass along:

1. Above all, do not expect any two experiences to be the same. TAPIF is luck of the draw, although I personally believe a lot of it also depends on you and your overall attitude and ability to adapt. So be positive!

2. Realize that you are not in the United States and things are not done in the same way. Things take time. Things get lost. Things must be done on paper. Just be patient and flexible.

3. Do NOT expect teaching to be easy or to come naturally. I did a 4-year degree in teaching. Things take time and patience. Figure out how to manage a classroom, be confident and always have something up your sleeve to fill the time if an activity backfires or finishes early. Kids can tell the difference

4. Don’t be afraid to travel (or do anything!) alone. Barcelona was by far my favorite city visited this year, and I went there alone. Had I made my travel decisions based on whether or not I had a companion, I wouldn’t have had the experience!

5. Invest in a Carte Jeune and a regional train pass for even more travel discounts.

6. Read the Assistant Handbook. Read it again. And then again. All of the answers are there. Don’t be that person who asks all of the annoying questions on the Facebook page when the answers are in the handbook. And then, research assistant blogs (check my page for my favorites!) Of course, don’t hesitate to ask questions whenever you are confused about something– but make the effort to use the Searchbar in Facebook grouips and do some research first.

7. DO NOT worry about housing until you are in France.

8. When it comes to housing, go with your gut. If something seems shady, it probably is. Don’t accept under the table rent because you will most likely get screwed over. Don’t settle for an apartment like I did. Be realistic about what you want and need in an apartment/neighborhood. But, do not be afraid to move if the situation is not working for you. Don’t take something dirt cheap but that doesn’t have basic necessities (ie: Safe neighborhood, washing machine, etc.)

9. Live where it’s fun and commute. Many assistants who were placed in smaller towns lived in Toulon and just got to work by bus or boat. I loved my time in little Valenciennes but there were enough assistants there to make it work.

10. Get to know your colleagues. Use them as a resource, especially at the beginning when it comes to housing, banking, cell phones, etc. And then, make friends with them. Celebrate holidays with them. The same goes for your secretary– s/he will be a great resource for you, especially when working with the rectorat.

11. Make a connection with your Proviseur, and then towards the end of your experience ask for a letter of recommendation (and perhaps a couple of colleagues.)

12. Don’t wait until the last week of September to arrive. Housing takes time, bank accounts take time, cell phones take time. I left the USA on September 2nd and arrived in Toulon on the 16th. This way not all of the apartments will be gone and you will just feel less rushed and stressed.

13. Buy a bike, or join a gym. Stay active- or the baguettes, cheese, and wine will catch up with you.

14. Use any networking you have in your area. You never know how it could help you (for me I was able to stay in my mother’s colleague’s friends’ son’s apartment for free for a few weeks while I searched for my own and got settled!)

15. Get involved with and befriend the other assistants; you will need each other for support. But, try to meet locals as well.

16. Branch out and search for second job opportunities. Every little bit of money helps.

17. Travel around your region during the weekends. There is so much to see in France.

18. Travel during breaks, or save up your money to travel at the end of your contract. Just do not head straight home after your contract. I made a good balance of usually traveling for one week of each vacation, and then a month at the end of my contract. It also helps with the adjustment period once you’re back stateside.

19. Speak French. This seems obvious but if end up hanging with mostly English-speaking assistants, not speaking French is bound to happen. But, don’t speak French with your students !

20. Get a hobby- you will have a lot of free time. Whether it be volunteering in your city, applying for grad school or other jobs, writing a book, training for a marathon, or working extra hours like me— find something to do because there is a lot of downtime.

21. Bring your student ID card to France. Ask for student discounts whenever possible. Or Buy a youth ID Card from STA travel and use it as a student ID.

22. Ask your secretary for a Pass Education, which gets you into all museums in France for free. Additionally, use your residency visa to get you into places for free such as in Paris or Versailles!

23. Get involved with your community. It makes the experience much more memorable.

24. If you plan to stay in France long-term, get started immediately. Those of us who started in January were a lot more succesful that those who waited until April.

25. Enjoy your time. This is a unique and life-changing year in one of the best countries in the world! Embrace your time. Don’t be like me and start worrying about the future way too soon.

Other advice? Comment Below!

Bisous,

Dana

17 thoughts on “25 Tips for Future TAPIFers

  1. When you leave France, have a plan to deal with your mail. My local water company mailed a bill for closing my account to my old apartment a month after I’d left. Apparently they couldn’t do the normal prélèvement automatique for that particular type of bill. I knew nothing about this closing fee, even though I had an online account with the water company, until my old landlady so kindly mailed it to me in August, and thankfully I haven’t had any issues with the water company since. I could have easily fixed this by asking my boyfriend if I could forward my mail to him, but I didn’t know how to set that up so I just did nothing. (We met while I was an assistant and are long distance now, but I’m visiting him for Christmas!)
    I still haven’t heard anything about the taxe d’habitation so I’m bracing myself for the next headache.
    Lesson learned: if you can’t figure out how to do something, doing nothing is not. an. option. When I go back to France for grad school I will need to get over my (stupid) fear of confrontation.

  2. Hello! I’m getting ready to do the Auxiliary program in Spain, and am really interested in doing the program in France after. However, I don’t know any French. One of the reasons I’m so eager to go is to also take French lessons and try to learn the language. Is there a language requirement to apply? If so, do you know how strict it is? I’m wondering if I could pass after a month of intensive study in France.

    If not, by the end of the year I should have dual EU citizenship–I know it’s best to go through the program, but do you think it would be possible to find a job without it, only speaking English?

    Thanks!

    1. Hi! You definitely need to speak French to do this program. The Frenchs’ level of English is generally very low and you do need to write an essay in French as part of the application process. Take some classes and make sure you’re at least at a B1 level. Good luck!

  3. Hi, there! This may be a bit of a silly question but did you ever encounter a drug test along the way? (Visa appointment, OFII, ect?) I plan to do a full month of travelling before starting the program and would really love to check out Amsterdam and experience a famous brownie. If it’s a substantial risk, it’s definitely not worth it at all though. Thanks for all of your fantastic advice!

  4. Hi Dana !
    Do you know if it’s possible to do the tapif program on a working holiday visa ?
    I’ve read a few things about students visas being ok (even though it is advised against by the program ).
    Merci !

    1. Hi! I’m not any expert but I believe you can do the program
      On a student visa if and only if you play your cards right … For example, being placed at a school near the uni and one who’s class schedule is going to be flexible with your work one, etc!

      1. I doubt it because as far as I know The U.S. And France do not have a working holiday visa agreement.. Not sure if the same can be said for other countries though!

    1. Ah that’s unfortunate! It provides a lot of the logistics about visas and paperwork, as well as information regarding housing websites 🙂 a lot if it is now downloadable via PDF for iBooks 🙂

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