Teaching English as a second language is a great way to travel the world and get paid to do so. High Heels & a Backpack will now be featuring a weekly interview series with inspiring wanderlusting women who are working as TEFL Teachers in various regions around the globe. This week, I’m speaking with Alicia, an upstate New Yorker with a passion for travelling who taught English in Le Mans, France.
What it’s Like Teaching English in… France!
Where were you teaching English?
I taught English in a city called Le Mans in France. It’s a city known for its 24 hour car race and its 13th century Roman walls that still stand around the old part of the city. It’s about an hour and a half southwest of Paris, and an hour from Tours, so it’s a great location!
How long were you teaching in Le Mans?
I taught there from September 2014 til May 2015 – so around 10 months.
What was your working environment like?
I worked in a high school, about 12 hours per week. Each hour was with a different class, and each week the group of students rotated – so basically a student would see me once every four weeks.
I was spread pretty thin throughout the school since I was the only English Teaching Assistant in the school, and all of the English teachers had classes that they wanted me to work with! I moved from classroom to classroom, sometimes pushing in and working with the teachers and the entire class, but mostly I pulled groups of 4 to 8 students out of their classrooms to work with them. Sometimes the teachers gave me specific things to work on, and other times they let me do what I wanted – they usually just wanted it to pertain in some manner to their curriculum.
What was daily life like teaching in France?
A typical day in France consisted of going to work for maybe 3 hours per day. I used the tramway daily to make my commute to work quicker. One way was about 8 minutes on the tram, plus another 5 spent walking. After work, I would often hang out with my roommates, go for walks to the main square (la Place de la République), and spend time planning the next trip! We got 2 weeks of vacation every month and a half to two months, so there was a lot to think about!
Did you have any teaching experience or qualifications prior to making the move?
Not exactly! Originally I had planned on getting a Bachelor’s Degree in Adolescent Education and had done 1 semester of observation at a high school New York state, but I had to drop out of that program and as a result, that one semester was the most experience I had in a classroom. I had also taken a handful of education courses by that point.
Did you experience any culture shock?
I actually didn’t experience culture shock in France. Before being an English TA in Le Mans, I had studied abroad in France before so the culture was familiar to me. And even when I first stepped foot in France to study there, I never experienced culture shock!
What was been your greatest experience while teaching in France?
I’d say making like-minded friends who are Francophiles just like me! It’s always great to connect with people that you share common interests with, so to meet people who love France and the French language as much as I do was a real treat. I still meet up once a year to travel with the 2 roommates I had during this time.
What piece of advice would you give to those considering teaching in France that you wish that you had been told?
Be prepared for just about anything! Some days, my teaching was easy and I was given a task to do with the students. Other days, I really had no clue what to do and my lack of experience made that difficult. I would say keep some quick, extra lessons on hand in case you need them at a moment’s notice. Also, be sure to build a rapport with your colleagues, as they’re your support system! They’re all very intrigued by having you there and they want to help you succeed. So the better relationship you have with them, the better off you’ll be when it comes to planning lessons!
What opportunities has living in France given you to travel?
Living in France gave me so many opportunities to travel elsewhere! Since I’m from the US, it’s not so quick and simple to travel to Europe (or cheap!). So while I was there, I made the most of my vacation time and took trains and cheap flights to countries I hadn’t been to before! Within my 10 months of living in France, I had gone to eight countries I hadn’t been to before.
What do you love most about the country?
Honestly, everything! The language is definitely high up on my favorites list, because it’s beautiful and I’ve loved learning it over the years. But you can’t forget French cuisine! Even a simple cheese and baguette sandwich is delicious. I also love how much more laid-back the French are compared to Americans – especially when it comes to work! I definitely enjoyed having massive amounts of vacation time and not working 40+ hours per week.
Any parting advice for working as a TEFL teacher overseas?
Prepare yourself to deal with opening a bank account, finding accommodation, speaking with principals/headmasters, etc. Use any resources you can to make things easier on yourself, whether it be other people in the same program, colleagues, or mentors. The more you prepare yourself, the more confident you’ll be once you find yourself in certain situations. But also realize that there a lot of sympathetic people out there who, even if they don’t know you, will try to help you out the best they can.
If you have any questions about teaching English in France, how to find a position, etc, then please feel free to reach out to Alicia for advice.
You can follow her adventures on her blog and on Instagram.
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If you missed last week’s interview with Leah in Japan, you can read about it here.
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Are you teaching English in an interesting location somewhere around the world and would like to be a part of the #TeflTuesday series? If you would like to share your story, please email me at: Melissa@highheelsandabackpack.com