When I explained to the bank teller why I needed to open up a bank account she replied (in French of course) with “Wow you’re so brave!” At first, I didn’t think much about her statement as I feel more lucky than brave. But the longer I stay in France, the more I realize that she was right.
I knew that moving to a new country, even if it was just for 7 months wouldn’t be easy but I had no clue just how tiring it could be. Things that are simple like knowing where to buy a towel or how to set up a cell phone suddenly become time consuming challenges.
I’ve been in France for almost a month now and it’s been a wild ride. I’m so blessed and lucky to be in a program that I have dreamed of since high school and I’m learning new things everyday. I started my journey with a night in Paris visiting my best friend who is also doing TAPIF and I found out that France has PINK BEER that tastes mostly like soda. I was in Paris during Fashion Week and it was such a cool experience to see the streets full of models and fashion designers. I only got to stay for a day so I didn’t experience Paris Fashion Week to it’s fullest extent… I guess that means I’ll have to come back next year 😉
After leaving Paris, I took a train to my small town of Belfort. It’s in the Eastern region of France which is close to Germany and Switzerland and has a very unique culture. One thing that is popular here ( and in Switzerland) is La Raclette. Raclette is a type of cheese made from from cows and it originates in the Alps. You warm up the cheese in a machine and pour it on potatoes and various meats. Having Raclette is a very social gathering and people will have small parties and enjoy this wonderful melted cheese (and wine) together for hours and hours. One of my students was surprised that I had already been to a Raclette and told me I was “integrating into French society very well.”
As far as teaching goes, we’ve pretty much just been in an observation period. Every academie and school have very different ways of how they “prep” their language assistants. I’ve spoken to some assistants who started teaching a lesson the very first day and some who did not have their schedules until the end of October. As far as my school, they had me observe classes at various times during the day so I could get a feel for what level the students were at and how confident they were speaking English. Some teachers wanted me to introduce myself and made the class prepare questions to ask me about my personal life and life in America. Some of my favorites were:
“Do you prefer Macron or Trump?”
“Have you ever seen Spider-Man in New York City?”
“Do you have children?”
Given the current political climate in America right now, it’s basically a guarantee that someone will have a question about your views on Donald Trump. I always answer in a diplomatic way but the French themselves are very vocal about their distaste for Trump.
The first two weeks are also filled with a lot of orientation and administrative things. When I was applying to the program, I kept reading about how important it was to bring several copies of all of your documents. THIS IS CORRECT. You have to jump through a lot of hoops before you’re actually legally allowed to stay in France. All of the paperwork and doctors visits can get overwhelming so it’s nice to see everyone at the orientation days to know that you aren’t alone. Our academie had two orientation days where we made sure all of our documents were in order, mingled with other assistants in our region, and went over strategies for the classroom.
We also had some time to explore during the orientation days. Besancon is extremely beautiful and has a lot of cool nuggets of history. The city is surrounded by water so it was a strategic area during times of war. There’s a lot of ancient Roman architecture and tons of beautiful cathedrals. I still have a lot of major things to visit in town like the Citadel and Victor Hugo’s house but I really enjoyed everything we saw during our short visits.
France has been good to me so far and I’m excited to see what else my time in Europe has in store. We’re currently on holiday for Toussaint two weeks and I’ll be heading to the Balkans tomorrow! I cannot WAIT to be back in Burek territory and I’ll definitely be blogging about my time there.
A bientôt !