Does living in the bustling atmosphere of central Paris, with a stunning view of the Eiffel Tower or the Sacré Coeur Basilica outside your window appeal to you? Or perhaps life in a small village in the Champagne region of France suits you better? Every year, thousands of Americans come to work in France and make this dream a reality, some for 6 or 7 months, others for a year. Surprisingly, it doesn’t take much except a little planning.
One of the primary ways that young Americans come over to the land of good cheese and fine wine is by teaching English. Teaching English abroad can be as easy as filling out an online application, as the French government hosts thousands of anglophones to serve as teaching assistants in its primary and secondary schools. The application usually opens in the fall and is due in either December of January of each year.
Although you will be teaching English, a basic knowledge of French is required for the application, as your students may need to occasionally communicate with you in their native language (just think if a French assistant came to your school, yet spoke absolutely no English!) Contracts are for either 7 or 9 months, you must have completed at least two years of university-level education, and be between 20 and 30 years of age.
Generally, candidates list their preferences among the regions of France, and the government then puts them anywhere within one of their preferred regions. It is important to note then, that even if you name your top choice as the Académie of Lyon, you could still be placed in a tiny village several hours from Lyon itself. Additionally, while the idea of living in Paris is wonderful, housing is much more expensive and difficult to find in the city – although not impossible by any means. Full details can be found here.
If you would prefer to work in a non-school setting (in a private company or teaching individuals, for example), there are options for you as well. If you already have connections with an agency or company that is willing to sponsor you, obtaining a visa will be much easier (and a working visa is a must for a French employer to hire you). Many of these jobs are easier to land if you’ve already been in the country for at least a short period of time, so many teaching assistants in schools choose to stay on and find work in these private companies afterwards. Consider becoming TEFL certified, as this will increase your chances of finding work at one of the many English language schools in France, such as Wall Street Institute.
Despite the difficulties that can arise in dealing with governments, visas, housing, etc., following your dreams and seeing another part of the world is absolutely worth every hassle. Even if you’ve never taught English in your life and hold a degree in something entirely different, the English Teaching Assistantship can still be for you!