About Dana

As-told-by-ginger-correct.jpgBonjour! I’m Dana, a 20-something American who has been living and working in France since 2013. As Told By Dana started as a TAPIF blog to document my adventures living in France and traveling around Europe, but has gradually become my slice of the internet. It’s a mix of an expat / lifestyle / travel blog, and is the space where I like writing about various things: teaching abroad, feminism and social issues, politics and my perspective on world events, and my own personal life: the experiences I’ve had, the places I’ve traveled to, the memories I cherish, and the things I struggle with. It’s a space where I can see where I was then, where I am now, and how I’ve changed over time.

I grew up just outside Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the land of dairy, Green Bay Packers, beer, and music festivals. I graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in EduBkzRAV0URRun8PaqhYUWdQ_thumb_387f.jpgcation from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh in December 2012, where I studied French and English as a Second Language, joined a sorority (ΣΣΣ), studied abroad in Caen, France in Normandy, taught English at a summer camp in Fukuoka Japan, and waitressed during the summers. Back in Wisconsin, I was a state champion gymnast, captain of the diving team, and apart of a competitive marching band.

In regards to how I came to France: After briefly teaching in Wisconsin, I moved to the French Riviera to teach as an English teaching assistante through the TAPIF program in September 2013. When my seven-month stint was up, I realized that I wasn’t ready to leave France or quit traveling, so I networked a lot and eventually landed a job as a lectrice d’anglais at an engineering school in northern France, where I worked from September 2014 – August 2016. Now, I currently teach secondary English full-time at an international bilingual school and still currently reside in Lille, France.

In a nutshell, I’m a proud American with an international mindset. I love traveling, exercising, and getting to know my local area. My guilty pleasures include red wine and musicals, and my life mantra includes reading for pleasure, staying in touch, and sending hand-written thank you/birthday cards.

When I first decided to move to France, I thought that expat life and was the answer to all of my problems, and the only solution to my happiness. A few years older and wiser, I now realize that happiness is (mostly) a choice no matter where you are; family and close friends mean everything; and that although life’s struggles have not left me unscathed, scars do fade over time.

Thanks for reading and coming along for the ride.

To follow along, feel free to ‘like’ my Facebook page and/or  follow me on Snapchat (@mlle_dana), Instagram, and Twitter (both @astoldbydana1).




54 thoughts on “About Dana

  1. Hello Dana, fellow former TAPIFer here.
    I’m currently in grad school for translation and localization management in Monterey, CA and in one of my classes, we’re recreating a site. I chose to recode (learn to code with) the TAPIF site, and saw your review in the testimonials. I wanted to just give you a shout out 🙂

    1. aww!! I wrote that like 4 or 5 years ago!! crazy it is still there! 🙂 Thanks for reaching out, it’s nice to hear from you! Glad you’re doing amazing things!! xx

  2. I’m currently a senior at Michigan State University and I love your blog! I graduate in the Spring with a Bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education and plan on teaching French and/or English as a Second Language (ESL) after graduation. We share so many similarities; I also adore the French language and culture. This love was solidified for me after I studied abroad in the Loire Valley this summer for 2 months. I also am very interested in eventually moving to France to teach with the TAPIF program and to improve my fluency. Thank you so much for sharing your insight, wisdom, and adventures with the world. Not only are they very interesting, but they’re very inspirational and helpful for a young student like myself who is interested in pursuing many of the things that you’ve done. Thank you- take care!

    1. Thank you so much! That is very sweet of you! I am glad to know so many people I have things in common with! GOod luck with your student teaching this year!! 🙂

  3. Salut Dana! 🙂 This is a belated thank you because I remember first coming across your blog a few years ago when I was doing TAPIF in Argenteuil (2014-2015) and felt it was super helpful (since, as you are well aware, TAPIF is not the best at keeping assistants in the loop on pretty much anything before arrival lol). I’m glad I found you + your blog again, and will look forward to reading more! (Also, I read your recent posts and unfortunately came across the trolls in the comment sections. Nothing I can do about them, but just sending some moral support – you handle them so well!)

  4. Hi Dana! I just found your blog and it is AWESOME! I’m also from Wisconsin, currently a student at UW in the World Language Ed program for French. I’m student teaching 8th grade French right now and it’s a blast 🙂 I’m applying to do TAPIF next year and so I think your blog will definitely come in handy! I’m already stressing about which regions to choose as preference, though. I studied abroad in Aix and absolutely loved it there, but I think I want to try something new. However, I’m not sure if I want to be in the north or south… which do you prefer, and why? Which regions did you choose on the application? I loved the weather (obviously) and the people and the food in the south.

    1. Hi Sara thank you so much! My cousin and a few friends did the UW program in Aix and they all loved it (I went to UW Oshkosh and studied in Caen through UW Steven’s Point). Both the north and south are amazing regions for different reasons. The south is so beautiful and colorful with all the sun. The north is a great base for traveling. I currently live in Lille, but I do miss the sea. 🙂

      Good luck!


  5. Hi Dana,

    I stumbled across your blog this past week as I was packing and preparing to leave for France to begin my TAPIF journey and it has been an absolute LIFESAVER. Thank you for all the amazing tips and insights.

    Congratulations on your new job! I was so excited to read that you’re living in Lille – I will be teaching in the academie of Lille and would love to know how your search for housing went as I will be on the hunt in a few days when I arrive! I’m hoping to live in the city but will be teaching in Estaires so I’m not sure if there is public transportation to get me to and from. Would you happen to know or be able to direct me to some helpful resources? I’d so much appreciate it!

    Thanks again for this gold mine of a blog!

    1. Hi! Great you’ll be living in Lille, it’s an awesome city. I’d hit up the Transpole office at the train station to get some more information once you’ve settled! To be fair I’ve never had to look for a house in Lille because I just took over a friend’s lease… it was easy. but we’ve had to find other roommates– we’ve always used LeBonCoin. I’d use that to find something– colocations are cheaper, and I’d avoid Fives and Lille sud and SOME areas of Wazemmes if you can… 🙂 otherwise Lille is great!

      Have a great year! maybe we can meet for a drink!

  6. Hi Dana!

    My name is Charity and I’ll be in the Sartre department this upcoming September. I’ve had your blog bookmarked since I first applied to TAPIF in January, it’s been so helpful! I have a couple of questions, hopefully it isn’t too much ^_^

    First off, I’m hoping to live on my school’s campus. I received my work contract yesterday which alerted me to the fact that they do offer housing (no mention about the cost, if any). Do you, or any past assistant you know, have any experience with this? I’m wondering if I would be able to apply for CAF while living on campus (in case the rent is a bit elevated.)

    Also, I noticed that you are currently working at an engineering school. Is this through TAPIF or a job opportunity you found on your own in France? If it is the latter, what advice would you give about finding work there after TAPIF (as a lectrice). I would like to move to France for a few years, but would only be able to do so if I am working.

    Again, thank you for this amazing and extremely helpful blog, and thanks in advance for any answer you are able to give me. Hop to hear from you soon!

    Take care 🙂

    1. Hello! Thank you for your kind message! I’ve never lived on campus housing but I know plenty who did. You could always take it to start so you at least have a place to go, and then move if you don’t like it (ie: If your housing is expensive, bad wifi, far from the city/difficult to get around). Usually places like that qualify for APL (CAF.)

      My job at the engineering school is because I am a lectrice. I’ve written several posts about becoming a lectrice or finding work in France. Here are some posts to get started:




      Good luck!

  7. Hi Dana! My name is Megan. Cara Lowry (my old co-worker at the French American school) told me about your blog because I will be teaching English at a university in France beginning this September. Your blog looks amazing and seems to include everything! I look forward to using your travel and teaching advice. 🙂

    I was wondering how your visa process went before you left for your first teaching position? I am currently having a very difficult time booking an appointment. I have to go to the San Francisco French Consulate (since I am an Oregon resident), but the website appointment page has been booked every month since May. I am getting worried because I am supposed to leave on September 9th. I heard from a few people that I might be able to pay for a visa service to help me through the process, so I’m trying to collect some info about different services that are available. Was it difficult for you to book an appointment? And do you know of any visa services that could help me?

    Thank you in advance for your help!


    1. Hi Megan! Funny you know Cara, she’s great! Congrats on your Lectrice position- where will you be teaching?? Thanks for your kind words!

      I am from Wisconsin so I always went to the consulate in Chaicago. I’ve seen on a few websites that the San Fran consulate is completely backed up… Ugh, how frustrating.

      Usually the university send your dossier directly to your consulate and then the consulate lets you know when they have received it. Then you can make an appointment, perhaps contact your university to get an update on the process? Good luck!

      1. I’ll be teaching in Poitiers. Very much looking forward to living in such a quaint town!

        Yes, the San Francisco consulate is very backed up. I’ve looked at other consulates around the U.S. and they seem to have openings, which makes it even more frustrating that I have to go to the one in San Francisco! My university let me know about a month ago that they sent over my dossier, but I have not yet heard from the consulate saying that they have received my papers. I have attempted to email and call, but of course that was not successful.

        Thank you for the reply 🙂 I’ll just keep checking the appointment site and hopefully a spot will open up this month!

  8. Salut Dana!

    First of all, I want to thank you so much for your AMAZING blog. It has been an incredible help to me as I start my TAPIF journey (I have been placed in the Academy of Limoges in La Souterraine). Though I have experience with living in France previously (studied abroad in Paris at La Sorbonne a few years ago), this experience is very different, especially when it comes to securing housing, bank accounts, etc. Also, as a fellow freelance writer (and Midwesterner – I’m from Chicago :D), I REALLY enjoy the clarity and beauty of your prose. 🙂

    I was wondering if I could send a few questions your way/have an email conversation with you about your experiences and your advice? I have had trouble getting in touch with my school in prompt and due times and could really use some advice from someone who has already gone through this process.

    If you’re okay with it, please let me know! My email/phone number can be found on my website: https://daniellelevsky.wordpress.com/contact, attached to this WordPress account.

    Thanks for everything once more!


    Danielle Levsky

  9. Salut Dana! I will be flying into Nice and then headed to Toulon to start my TAPIF contract in 6 days! I’m very excited. Your blog has been my TAPIF bible these last few months! As far as weather and attire in Toulon: did you pack boots & light jackets for the winter season? What kind of cold weather should I be expecting … basically…? Thank you so much! Love love love your blog!

    1. Hi Emilia! Thank you so much for your kind message!! I’m so glad my blog has helped you! I’m sure you’ll have a great experience in Toulon; not the prettiest city but there are plenty of assistants and it is extremely well-placed in the region. If you need help with apartments feel free to shoot me an email and I’ll give you my landlord’s info… Or if you want to meet some friends!

      As for attire, yes, boots esp for the rain! I borrowed a winter coat from some friends and bought a nice leather one for the other days. Winter is pretty mild thankfully! But it still can get cold! There are daily markets in Toulon, you could always buy a cheap winter coat while you’re there and then leave it behind when you go… That’s what I’d recommend!

      Good luck! Bisous!

  10. Hi Dana! My name is Karin. I’m 24 years old and from Cornwall, NY. I, too, went on a High School trip to France and fell in love with the culture and language! The summer between my sophomore and junior year in college, I went to Briancon to rebuild forts and castles. Then after I graduated from Ithaca College with a Bachelor’s in Speech Language Pathology & Audiology and a Minor in French, I just had to go back … so I was a nanny for 7 months in Marseille.

    I feel the same way about the American system of HS-college-Grad School-job-retirement and I don’t want to be part of it. I love to travel and living by the Mediterranean Sea was a wake-up call that I can live happily like that and seek adventure now; I don’t have to wait.

    I would love to return to France and am about to start my application for TAPIF. Do you have suggestions or advice as I begin my application? I really want to get into the program and any tips during this process would be greatly appreciated 🙂 I love french and I am passionate about education. I plan to take a TEFL course very soon and in the future my plan is to get a Master’s in education.

    Thank you!

    1. Hi! Thanks for your nice comment! It seems like you’re on the right track! Just really play up your level of French and your teaching experience! TAPIF has gotten quite competitive, so those are two of the biggest factors 🙂

      Good luck!

  11. You have a wonderful blog, Dana. Your pictures are lovely. I have picked up French last year to prepare myself for a France roadtrip next spring. Normandy is on the list too! Looking forward to following your future adventures! 🙂

  12. Dear Dana,

    I am writing to you form FRANCE Magazine, Britain and North America’s best-selling magazine about France. We publish a bi-monthly US issue and run a feature called “Americans in France” where we ask US expats to talk about their new lives in France. We would really like to feature you in our forthcoming September US edition. If you are interested, please could you provide answers to the questions below and supply me with a high res cover image of yourself by Friday, May 23rd?


    How long have you been living in France?
    What prompted you to leave the US and move to France?
    What has been your experience so far of French life? Have you made any interesting discoveries?
    What do you most like about France?
    Is there anything that you dislike about France?
    Is there anything you miss about the US?
    Do you plan to stay in France or one day return to the US?
    What advice would you give to Americans thinking about relocating to France?


    Peter Stewart
    Editorial Assistant
    FRANCE Magazine

  13. Hello Dana, I’m living in Toulon (mourillon), I’m the mother of a boy of 5 and I m looking for someone for pick up him after school to 16h at 19h, for now to July. If you are interested by this proposal or if you know someone for this job, you can call me 06, 22,19,36,53.
    Thank you

  14. Hello fellow assistant! I’m from Canada and currently teaching through TAPIF also but in Paris! Wanted to wave a hello! 🙂

      1. It’s been really tough, I’ve had many ups and downs but we all laugh about our problems in the end. Can you really do it again?

    1. Aw man, you’re welcome ! I love your blog and read a lot of your posts! I was wondering how you managed to obtain a work visa– are you PACSed? I’m probably going to have I return home for a stint this summer- looking for lectrice jobs but otherwise I will probably reapply for tapif for 2015-16! Bisous

      1. I’m so happy you enjoy reading it! 🙂 And I totally understand the work visa concern! It’s so difficult for non EU members. I did get PACSed (to my French boyfriend) and at the time applied for a long stay visitors visa but eventually put in all the paperwork for a work visa. It’s a long and irritating process, but you might see if you can apply for a work visa while here or if you can find employment before the end of TAPIF, then that could help. Feel free to ask many any more questions and I can try to help!

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