What IS a “Perfect” Assistant Experience?

There are always people who are disappointed with the Assistant program.

“The program is not organized enough.”

“I have to work 5 days a week.”

“I hate my school(s).”

“My students are misbehaved.”

“My co-workers aren’t welcoming.”

“I was placed in too small of a town.”

“My commute is too long and complicated.”

“I hate my apartment.”

“The salary is not enough to live on.”

“I am underutilized at my school.”

“The job is s***.”

I understand that TAPIF is a sort of crapshoot, and it really can be luck of the draw. You can be placed in an inaccessible town, with no one else around. You can be placed in a really bad school with really rough kids or really unorganized, unhelpful teachers. Your schedule may be very inconvenient and sporadic. Your roles with your students may not have a lot of meaning or direction. You may have to plan everything, or you may have to plan nothing.

But my question is, What do people who come to do TAPIF actually expect? What is a perfect TAPIF experience?

Is it supposed to be being placed in the center of the biggest town, having a 2-3 work week schedule (working Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday), starting around 10 and being finished around 2, and being provided with the most perfect, free, furnished housing which also qualifies you for CAF and reimburses you almost immediately? Is it working in a state-of-the-art school with unlimited wifi, resources, and materials? Is it transitioning into teaching with ease and having every single lesson go absolutely flawlessly while also having to do a minimal amount of preparation and planning outside of class? Is it never having any conflicts with your teachers, roommates, landlords, etc? Is it immediately having the biggest circle of friends and a stipend that allows an infinite amount of travel? Is it never having any paperwork hassles?

I definitely didn’t have the perfect TAPIF experience. I had to move half-way through my contract- I had no permanent internet until January. I never received my carte vitale. At first, I was lost when working with my technical BTS students, to whom I was supposed to teach electricity, mechanics, etc. One of the teachers I worked with was notorious for using me as an excuse not to do her own work or plan her own lessons–she was also my coordinating teacher but I didn’t hear from her until I arrived at the school, meaning that I found a place to live and stay in the meantime on my own. I never had an observation week (though I didn’t need one) and had a daily battle with being provided with a badly-equipped classroom, having to always search for and set up the projector and cable cords, which of course only worked half the time. In the end I had a group of really good, close girlfriends, but it definitely didn’t happen overnight and I had some extremely lonely, depressing days.

I realize that I come from a privileged position because I had a teaching degree before coming to be a TAPIF assistant, so my perspective and my experience was very different from someone who shows up to France with zero teaching experience. I knew how to teach, plan lessons, and manage a classroom, and I was very keen to do so. But at the same time, I definitely understand and sympathize with assistants who are struggling with teaching and finding support within their schools. It is discouraging and disappointing when schools do not take advantage of having a native speaker. But I also truly believe that attitude is everything- every experience is what you make of it. Overall, I had a good situation but I also had to work hard to make my situation good. I took my job as an assistant very seriously, and I look at my job as a lectrice as a full time job.

But really, I am curious: Has your experience with TAPIF been what you expected? What WERE you expecting, and how/why is it different? In retrospect, is there really THAT much to complain about getting paid 800 euros a month for 12 hours per week of work, with 8 weeks paid vacation, and a chance to live in Europe for 7 months?

Leave me a comment.

Bisous,

Dana

36 thoughts on “What IS a “Perfect” Assistant Experience?

  1. Hi,
    I’m thinking of applying for TAPIF for next year and really valued reading all the above comments. I was just wondering how much travel you managed to do on weekends/holidays etc. One of the reasons I’d quite like to go is to travel around Europe fairly easily but I’m aware that TAPIF assistants aren’t paid a lot and was wondering how feasible it is to expect to travel on a TAPIF salary? Thanks xx

    1. Hi,

      I traveled a ton during my TAPIF year, but I did save up a lot of money before coming here. I graduated in December and worked more than full time to save up 8K. I used that money to fund a large portion of my travels.

      Hope that helps!

    1. Hi,

      As for CAF, some assistants qualify. It is a social service in France that helps low-income people with housing and rent fees. You can apply for it as a foreigner with working papers. I have qualified for CAF both times. There is not a lot of logic in regards to how much you receive is determined, and the paperwork can be a pain, but it is basically free money to help with the low stipend!

      For the vacations, assistants get 8 weeks paid vacation: 2 in October, 2 in December, 2 in February, and 2 in April!

  2. Thank you so much for writing this post. It pretty much encapsulated my thoughts whenever I see assistants complaining on the FB groups . Of course everyone complains but I think some people forget that many French people hold the same frustrations! Haha

    My thoughts: When I was studying abroad, one of my good friends was also an assistant at the time. She was always forthcoming and while she had a good situation, she always quick to point out that the assistantship was not like our study abroad program where they literally held you by the hand. So I came back mentally prepared for the administrative battle. In the end, I lucked out . My coworkers are really sweet; we have dinners every once in awhile. The school administration helped the other assistants and I get set up with the bank, the OFII , offered very cheap housing for us ( a miracle in the Paris area) and there are direct trains to Paris from my town. Not to mention the fact that I only teach terminale and they are very polite in general. This isn’t to say I don’t have crappy or lonely days but I am very grateful for my situation.

    I know that I come from a unique perspective because I worked full time teaching ( in South Korea no less) for two years because I didn’t get into TAPIF the first time. It was such a blessing in so many ways because I feel so much more comfortable in France this time and I know why I want to be here. So I’ll be honest when I say that I’m less overwhelmed by my experience here than many other english assistants. One general observation I’ve seen is that assistants from other countries tend to have a higher level of French coming in. In my apartment, the Arab assistant needed C1 for her position, the Spanish, B2. They also had to interview for their position. So I wonder if the English( specifically American because we seem to be the most opinionated bunch)assistants would feel more acclimated if the requirements were more rigorous (although interviewing 2000+ applicants would not be realistic).

    Sorry for the novel, but thanks for prompting this discussion!

    1. Thank you SO much for your comment.

      I think this is the biggest problem with TAPIFers: Many who come literally do not care about teaching, or forget that their primary reason for being in France is to be a teaching assistant, not just to be in France; I took my job as an assistant very seriously, and I take my job as a lectrice even more seriously. I feel like assistants expect to have their hands held through the process, when in reality you are an adult with a job to do. They chose to come to France without teaching experience and I understand that that can be hard, but what did you expect?

      Interestingly enough, some of the same people I see complaining about lack of organization with TAPIF are the same people looking to be lecteurs, a job where you are truly alone and on your own. (at least there’s an american liason in DC for tapif).

      Maybe i’m just a very independent person, a true problem solver, so it’s hard for me to have sympathy sometimes (though my roommates kindly pointed out to me that me having teaching experience does put me at an advantage with being in front of a French classroom, and I am inclined to agree.)

      I had a good situation but I also worked my ass off to make my situation good. I didn’t sit around and mope, waiting for it to be fixed. I moved when I hated my housing, for example.

      What more could you possibly want, anyways?

      By the way, I’m hoping to move to South Korea next after I’m finished with France; Did you do EPIK? would I be able to contact you with more info? My biggest motivation is so I can save some money =)

      Thanks!

      Dana

      1. Dana

        I went to Korea with only a TEFL certificate so essentially I went in blind- years of tutoring can only go so far when you have a class of 1st graders your first day raring to go. So I try to be patient because I have been in that position myself and you know, it kind of sucks. But you push through it and you find your groove.

        And yes! You are free to pick my brain! I submit my email when I post a comment so don’t hesitate to ask me any questions. Also, because you have a masters in general, and specifically in education, I would definitely not limit yourself to EPIK (it’s being slowly phased out anyway). Definitely check out university positions or international schools; they pay more too.

  3. I was an assistant in 09-10 and probably the worst bit was that I really didn’t like one of my flatmates. This isn’t the fault of the programme of course, but a combination of having to find somewhere cheap to live in Nice on an assistant’s salary, the fact that I had no help or contact from my school beforehand and the profile of your typical assistant fed into it. I was 26-27 at the time, I’d already lived abroad, worked, etc., and she was fresh out of college where she’d been sorority president and acted exactly like that stereotype! It was just a clash of personalities, cultures, life stages…

    1. Hahahha, been there. Sometimes living situations make or break your entire experience, which is so frustrating! I moved during my time last year, and I actually just recently had a roommate change as well! Thanks for your comment!

  4. My TAPIF experience hasn’t been perfect, but I don’t blame it on the program. I have been really lucky in a lot of ways…. and then fairly unlucky in other ways, but that’s life. I think if you do enough research before you leave you should have a general idea about what to expect, so you can’t really complain about things like the low salary and not enough training. I knew when I applied to TAPIF that I had no teaching experience, and I’d read that lots of primary students got stuck teaching whole classes, so I knew what I was potentially getting myself into. I only work two days a week so when I consider that, I feel really lucky to make 800 euros a month, and I’ve been able to live off of it!

    In some ways, my TAPIF experience has been better than expected – I only work 2 days a week, I feel like I’m not a completely terrible teacher which was a pleasant surprise, my conseiller pédagogique is awesome and sent forms off for me and recommended housing to me before I even left home, I speak French like 75% of the time and as a result feel like my French has really improved. At the same time, I’m at this stage right now where I’m completely burnt out on teaching, my co-teachers are pleasant but not exactly “welcoming”, my CAF has suddenly stopped coming in right before I’m going on a big trip, I live with a cold, passive aggressive French couple who is robbing me of 400 euros a month, and I haven’t made friends as easily as I’d hoped. BUT I don’t blame any of that on TAPIF. Everything can’t go perfectly – even at home I’m not always 100% satisfied. It’s easy and natural to try to blame your disappointment on one sole thing, but it’s more complicated than that.

    Anyway, I don’t blame the people who complain, as I do it too (it felt good to vent up there!!). Sometimes it is hard to have a good attitude when you’re so far away from your support system back home and you feel like you’re already trying hard, but things are still going wrong. But I realize that you have to fight the negative feelings and keep making an effort, and that’s what I’ve been trying to do – and so far it’s been working out, so I think you’re definitely onto something when you say that attitude is everything! I can say with confidence that I would not want to do TAPIF again next year, but despite the challenges I’ve had so far this year, I wouldn’t be surprised if I found myself re-applying to the program a couple of years from now.

    1. Thanks for your comment!

      Youre totally right in that it’s healthy to vent and complain sometimes, and being far from home certainly doesn’t make matters easier.

      You’re also so right- I am seldomly pleased in the US, so why should France be any different? Its just in different ways!

      I’m glad overall your experience has been a positive one 🙂 enjoy the next few months! stay the course!

  5. Great post as always, Dana!

    I was an assistant in 2012-2013. In some ways, my TAPIF experience surpassed my expectations and in others it fell short (which I think is typical of anything we anticipate).

    I lived in a small town, which I loved! It was charming and had a lot of interesting history–and it was close enough to a large city that my friends and I could go for the day on the weekend if we wanted to. But we didn’t do much partying or bar hopping because our town didn’t have much of a night life. Most weekends we had other assistants over, cooked dinner, had drinks and hung out (which is how I like to spend my evenings anyway).

    I worked three days a week–Monday, Tuesday and Thursday (this was back in the good ol’ days when there was no school Wednesday) and had a three day weekend every week, which was great for traveling!

    I worked in three different primary schools and didn’t have a lot of support in terms of materials or getting guidance on lessons. This was especially hard because unlike you I had no previous teacher training or classroom management skills. I did have a one-week observation period and in about half of my classes the teacher was almost always present and intervened if things got too out of control. My supervisor was also really helpful when I had a specific problem with French bureaucracy or with my schools, and he also had a lot of English storybooks I got to borrow. But…I didn’t have consistent access to a printer (let alone projector or speakers to play music or audio clips) and thus most of my activities were hand-drawn worksheets of which I made oodles of photocopies. Several of the kids complimented my drawing skills though and told me I should be an artist 🙂

    I lived in an old shoddy house with a somewhat negligent landlord and had one difficult housemate but two wonderful ones (also assistants) who became some of my closest friends. Rent was cheap because we lived in a small town and we also got most of it reimbursed through the CAF, which again gave us some extra travel money.

    There were definitely struggles, difficulties and low points, but all in all it was a fabulous year!

    As you said, being open and flexible and expecting things to be different than you expected really help you make the most of the experience.

    1. It sounds like you definitely made the best of a bad situation! 🙂 glad to hear it was an overall positive experience. I also had struggles but overall, a great experience. That’s why I’m still here!

  6. I think it’s definitely difficult NOT to have expectations before coming in to TAPIF. I know I certainly did (and still do); after having a great study abroad experience and reading tons of assistant blogs where everything seemed magical and happy, it has been really difficult not to compare my experiences with those of other assistants. It has been hard not to wonder why my time here sucks in some ways, or to feel like I’m wasting the opportunity, or to feel like my schools don’t like me and I’m not helping anyone.

    A lot of the assistants with blogs seem to have really positive experiences–but this is likely the Facebook/Instagram effect, where each picture and blog post is carefully curated and obviously doesn’t represent the whole picture. That’s why I really appreciate posts like this, where we acknowledge the difficult aspects openly and honestly.

    To anyone who is struggling: bon courage, and take it one day at a time. It’s not too late to change something about your TAPIF experience that’s making you unhappy. February break is only 3 weeks away!

    1. I was first an assistant back in 2007-2008, and I still remember one of my very first blog posts after arriving talked about how much I hated it. It got better, but I had about 2 months of really depressing posts, because I did no filtering out of the bad. I actually almost went home, but I stuck it out, and thankfully I did! My life would be so different now if I hadn’t.

      Good luck!

    2. I tried to keep a really genuine, accurate blog when I was an assistant-I didn’t try to sugarcoat anything and I tried my best to express myself when I had problems.

      My roommates pointed out that perhaps I had fewer problems teaching because I was already a teacher– and I supposed they are definitely right.

      That’s the funny thing about blogs and social media – you can choose what parts of your life to post about. But don’t fall vicitim to SCD- Social Comparison Disorder or FOMO– fear of missing out.

      Everyone has felt lonely lonely during TAPIF. Maybe you can sit down with a few of your teachers and ask for feedback, like where you can improve or how you can help the students in other ways.

      You’re totally right though, if you’re not happy about something, then change it! Simply said!

      Courage!

    3. Spot on. I really had felt alone about having this feeling of “wasting my opportunity” to be here (aka counting down the days until it’s over, not going out on Friday night, etc.) –it’s something I’ve talked about with my friends at home (but that often makes me feel worse because to them if I’m not loving every second in France I’m wasting it). Like you said, honesty and openness about this subject is important.

      1. aw! dont feel like you are wasting your experience– we all have shit days here. it’s normal. give yourself a break. nothing wrong with staying in on Friday night, but try to not let yourself get into an anti-social slump! Courage!

  7. I think you should be able to expect to not be left alone on your first day teaching ever, having absolutely no teaching experience of any kind beforehand and also not being allowed the two week “observation” period, with a full size class room of kids in a difficult school who immediately take advantage of the situation and start yelling at you/throwing things at you/cursing at you, etc.

    I was placed in two difficult middle schools, and with the one that was supposed to be “worse,” I actually had a great experience because the teacher’s really helped me and also never left me alone with the students as they knew how the students would react. At the other school, however, the teachers didn’t care about me at all, didn’t help change the above situation for way too long, and then in the end just treated me like a baby sitter, would give me half the class with a couple other people who worked at the school for the kids to work on projects and not at all benefit from the fact that they had a native speaker.

    That said, I still think being an assistant is a good way to be able to live in France and experience French culture and that’s why I did it for two years. I also think it’s okay to be disappointed and complain about it, as it is a really hard transition from the cozy college life/study abroad experience to TAPIF.

    1. I absolutely agree to all of what you said in the first paragraph– being given the two week observation and training days, not being left alone, having a supportive school.

      I never got any observation period; but I didn’t need it either. I think a supportive system is needed regardless, and that really can make or break an overall experience.

      Of course it’s okay to be disappointed and you have the right to complain (I certainly did my fair share), but I feel like there is sometimes a line… I’m not really sure where to draw it, which is why I was curious to hear other experiences.

      Thanks for your comment!

  8. I’m also going to apologize in advance for the long post, but I have a lot of feelings about this program based on my own experience.

    I think my biggest mistake was coming into TAPIF with high expectations. I spent 9 (wonderful) months studying abroad in France and was dying to find an opportunity to come back. TAPIF seemed like my chance for that. I ended up being assigned to the same region where I studied, and even living in the same neighborhood (the neighborhood part was by chance). I don’t think I fully considered how I wouldn’t have a support system this time around, at least not like the one I had last time. Let’s face it: no one’s being paid to make my TAPIF experience great. I’ve spent a lot of time feeling isolated and lonely, and it hasn’t helped that I live by myself.

    Another thing I didn’t think long and hard about was the actual teaching part, and I don’t think I’m alone in that. Again, I was primarily concerned about coming back to France. I have a great school and helpful teachers thankfully, but I just don’t like the job, nor do I feel like I was prepared to do it.

    In terms of $$$, I got lucky because I spent a lot of time searching for a housing situation before I arrived. I knew the salary simply wasn’t going to be enough to live in Paris. I’m generally of the opinion that yes, assistants don’t get paid enough/have enough hours, but it is possible to make it work.

    In the end, I’d have to agree with what many people have been saying: it’s a different experience for every one. Would I do it again next year? No. Would I maybe think harder about accepting the position if I had to go back and do it again? Yes. And maybe it would have been different if I had been assigned to a different region, or maybe even attended a different orientation and met different people. But those things didn’t happen so I have to own the situation I do have. The thing I try to keep in mind though is that 7 months isn’t that long. I’m not bound to the French ministry of education forever. It’s easier to focus on enjoying and taking advantage of my time here when I realize it’s actually not that much.

    In the end, TAPIF isn’t the experience I had hoped for, but it’s an experience nonetheless–one that I feel like I’ve already grown so much from.

    1. Thanks for your comment!

      Im sorry you are having a hard time. I know it can ve very tough, esp. in a big city like Paris.

      I think you’re right, most assistants (myself included!) really just want to get back to france. It is a different experience from studying absolutely and there is no support system apart from fellow assistants, but thats kind of real life, right?

      Anyways, hang in there 🙂

  9. This is what I always tell people too when they write asking about the UCETAM program I did in Madrid. It’s the same with the North American Language and Culture Assistants program run by the Ministerio–the Spanish equivalent of TAPIF. I tell them no two experiences are alike and that it is impossible to know ahead of time whether they will enjoy it or not. I also tell them attitude has a lot to do with it. I am honest that I did not like my experience as an auxiliar and I explain why. But I always tell people not to judge my experience as typical. There is no such thing as a “typical” English language assistant. There will be things that go right, things that go horribly wrong, and things that will just become part of the experience.

    In fact, I’ve been musing about writing a post about why teaching abroad didn’t work out for me because people keep e-mailing me asking me why I didn’t like it.

  10. (Apologies in advance for the long response, but I want to add some positive feedback to this debate.)

    My experience hasn’t been perfect but, with a lot of hard work/motivation and quite a bit of luck, it’s been pretty great. I’d like to extend my contract for the next year, but I think I would still rather switch to a new school/place just for an all new experience…

    Firstly, I should say that I saved up enough money so that I could come to France in advance and meet with a few different French families search of someone to host.
    I highly recommend living with a French family, even though in the States I prefer more independence. Here are the pros and cons of living with a French family:
    PROS
    – Your French improves immensely & you are immersed in the culture/lifestyle.
    – You are surrounded by a “homy” feel, and are well-taken care of.
    – Chances are you can borrow things from the family rather than buy them. I did this with so many things, from kitchenware, to skis, a printer, etc.
    – They expect you’ll need help with some things; a family is a huge resource.
    – It will likely be less expensive. I pay 200 euros a month for rent + 100 for food.
    – French food! om nom nom
    CONS
    – Less “you” time; you are expected to participate/interact, in some cases with kids.
    – If you want to date someone, you have less freedom to hang out at your place.
    – Your lifestyles may not always align. If you are a partier you must make sure your host does not mind this, or find a respectful balance.

    Since I actually arrived before I’d received my school placement, I wrote the head of the TAPIF program, describing my situation of having found a great and affordable home-stay in the city center, and asked a French teacher at the University to correct my email and assure aligned with social code/politeness. I was granted the occasion to remain in the city and teach at 2 schools nearby, as I arranged this in advance.

    Secondly, I also arrived already TEFL certified. This prepared me to plan/teach lessons, but it’s still a lot of work — and work I want to do, at that… I have heard from some other assistants that they have trouble controlling their students, so they’ve given up and simply throw on Youtube when they have to “teach”.
    It’s a shame. I imagine this brings about some guilt and dissatisfaction.

    Thirdly, I sought out extra work in order to save AND afford to travel, as both were a priority for me. The unfortunate thing is that TAPIF requires you to get permission to have a second job (aside from occasional tutoring or babysitting, which is also technically illegal to be paid for in cash, but I guess it’s done? Don’t know…) This is unfortunate because it requires paperwork and then waiting… I NEVER heard back, so I took a second job and crossed my fingers that I would not get in trouble for doing so, and made sure it did not interfere with TAPIF.

    Even in the city center, living with a family, I often felt very isolated and alone. That’s part of being a foreigner. It probably helped that I consider myself more of an introvert and find happiness in holing-up and reading a book…
    But I also branched out to befriend other internationals. I especially enjoyed hanging out with the language assistants from other countries, but for some reason I found most of the English assistants (Americans and non-Americans) to be much, much more negative about the situation. I’m not sure why. At one group dinner of English assistants, they were finding comfort in complaining about the French and about the current situations in general. I began to feel quite uncomfortable, negatively effected by their negativity, even though I know I am very lucky to be making extra money, living comfortably, traveling over the breaks, etc. But then they had the nerve to put me on the spot by asking, “Don’t YOU hate French people too? Why haven’t you got anything to complain about?” Needless to say, I’ve distanced myself from this group, and am sad to hear that one girl is quitting her post and planning to hitchhike around Europe with nothing in her bank account as she looks for random work and strangers to stay with, until her flight home in May.

    So yes, TAPIF can be a rough situation to put yourself into if you are not prepared to work hard, not only to teach, but also to create a place of understanding and belonging in a foreign culture. But if you have some will to do this, I think the tradeoff is priceless.

    1. Thanks for your comment!

      I agree with all of this. I graduated in the fall instead of the spring in order to work and save up money so I could live and travel. I also found extra jobs tutoring on the side to earn extra cash.

      It is normal to have complaints and it’s good to vent, but important to remember that you are in a foreign country on someone else’s turf.

      You are in control of your life. 🙂

      Best of luck for the second half! Hope you get renewed!

  11. As I was a TAPIF assistant from October 2005 – April 2006 and October 2006 – April 2007, I don’t remember what my expectations of my program were. There were aspects of teaching that definitely surprised me – such as having classes canceled due to strikes. I know I shouldn’t complain about my TAPIF experience since I viewed France as a glorified vacation. But I did want to be working more – I don’t felt like I worked enough during my second seven month stint.

    During my first seven month stint (in Rouen), I felt like I was broke – until I received my CAF allowance. Once I received that monthly allowance, I started enjoying France more 🙂

    1. I also feel like assistants should work more– and perhaps get paid more. I know the stipend is legit next to nothing, but it’s not like that is any secret… that’s why I brought extra savings. I think that is the responsibility of the assistant to plan ahead and figure out what kind of lifestyle they want.

      Thanks for your comment!

      1. Now that I think of it, maybe one recommendation I would make to the TAPIF program is to provide assistants living in medium or big cities a greater stipend. My second seven month stay was in a small town named Eu and my stipend was more than enough money – mostly because I lived at the school and my rent was only 50 euros per month.

      2. I know the give larger stipends to those on the islands, but i agree the amount paid doesnt line up with the economy, though the program doesnt keep the stipend a secret

  12. Like you say, I think you can’t start with preconcieved notions of what will happen. Which isnt to say have low expectations. Just maybe don’t have many expectations at all! I keep thinking (particularly when I hear fellow assistants griping or complaining — which i have also been guilty of myself!) that in order to have a successful TAPIF year, what you need more than anything is flexobility, a sense of humor and endless patience. I have always been good at keeping plans open ended and adapting quickly to unexpected circumstances, so for me the potential road blocks have only slowed me down rather than derail me. But I definitely can see why it isn’t possible for everyone!!

    I do also think that as more and more assistants have an increasing online presence, and the netwprk expands, people start to romanticise the position a little less and come to it knowing not to expect the placement of their dreams. I honestly would have been so lost at the beginning of the year without the regional facebook groups and people I met through blogs, etc.

    1. Yes, I agree completely ! I think having no expectations is the best way to go about it. I love that there are so many blogs and online groups nowadays because it just makes the transition so much easier (and that was definitely the goal I had for my blog!)

      Oh and don’t worry, I’m also a guilty complainer– we all are.

      Thanks for your comment!

  13. I was in a small town, worked 5 days a week (more my choice in the end as there was nothing else to do), lived in a crappy room, had no materials (the printer in the teacher room rarely worked), worked with a teacher who was absentminded and never to be found, etc. I was miserable my first few months.

    But it turned into one of the best experiences. I found my stride. I learned how to work with the absentminded teacher, and he became one of the most helpful and nice people I have met in France.

    A lot of it as what people make of it themselves. And in recent years, I see a lot of complaints and expectations that I didn’t see before. Or maybe that’s just with the online groups I’m in?

    1. As we talked about last night, some of the complaints I’ve been seeing around the internet is what sparked this post. It’s just the whole expectations versus reality. I think the rule of thumb is go to in with no expectations, because then you are never disappointed.

      I had a great experience in Toulon, and I learned a lot along the way too.

      1. Yep. That’s why I figured you wrote this post. My French prof played a huge role in helping me keep my expectations low. I didn’t expect to be in a big town. I didn’t expect to have free or cheap housing (even though I did in the end). I did, however, expect it to be highly unorganized.

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