As you can guess by the post’s title, it is true: I’ll be returning to France this coming year to start my second year as an English teaching assistant. Just like last year, I’ll be back in the Normandy region, this time teaching English to lycée (high school) level students.
This summer has been an absolutely crazy one, perhaps one of the most stressful and nerve-wracking ones to date. Again, from the title, I wasn’t even sure if I could even return to France for a consecutive second year, due to some, erm, complications with bureaucracy. It wasn’t until late August that things started to fall through and that I was able to finally breathe once again, assured that I could, in fact, go back to the country that has since changed me tremendously, for the better or the worse.
You might be asking: what happened? How did I almost not make it back to France?
Well… very funny story (actually, not really). I’ve already recounted this story a few times to my family and some of my closest friends, but it does bear reiterating for the sake of letting off steam from my system.
That said, I’m about to tell you the long, *complicated* story of how I almost didn’t return to France this coming year. So sit back, enjoy your tea, and read how this all unfolded:
How I Almost Didn’t Return to France
Let’s rewind all the way back to March, when I submitted my renewal application to be an English teaching assistant for the upcoming year. I was inspired to do so, especially having spent the past five or so months enjoying my time in France, as well as the opportunity to travel all over Europe and *relatively* enjoyed teaching English to my students (there are good and bad days- always the case, right?). I was so sure that I would be automatically renewed, since I got a good letter recommendation from my school and I’d reapplied to the Normandy region, which naturally has a shortage of assistants anyway.
However, the news came in late April: I was wait-listed. I received the news during lunch break at the collège (middle school) that I was teaching in. My heart sank, and I definitely felt unhappy for the rest of the day. Yes, I knew that I was wait-listed and not rejected, but still, it kind of hurt, especially when my other assistant friends had renewed and had gotten immediately accepted again. Not only that, but it put a wrench in my future plans, as now I was uncertain if I was even going to have a job for the upcoming year.
All I could do was wait and see if I would get taken off the wait list. I left France after my contract ended in late April/early May, and in the meantime spent time looking into alternatives to work in France. I came across several lecturer positions, which are essentially like that of English teaching assistants except at the university level and for better pay. I applied to a good handful of them, in places like Bordeaux, Montpellier, Paris, and so forth. Even though I didn’t have a year of a Master’s degree under my belt (a strong requirement to have, although exceptions can be made), I applied anyway to see if I had a chance.
Of course, in the next few days and weeks to follow, I got rejections from many of them, all stating that I didn’t have the one year of post-graduate studies to qualify. I wasn’t surprised; at least I tried.
*However* I got an offer in late May, saying that they had looked over my application and invited me for an interview. I was ecstatic, and made preparations to look good for the interviewer. The interview was over Skype, as I was already back in the States and everything.
Interestingly, the actual interview was nothing like I had imagined; I’d prepared to answer a bunch of technical questions about schooling, teaching styles, and so forth, but all I got were a couple of generic questions about myself and that was it; the rest of the time was spent listening to the interview describe the school, the students, and the expectations of a lecturer. If anything, the interview was more of me being talked at rather than talking at all. In any case, the interviewer essentially told me that she wanted to hire me for real, since my application looked strong and I had some special skills that set me apart from other candidates. She told me that she would go check with administration on having me as the lecturer, but until then, I was safe to believe that I was, in fact going to teach at the university level in the fall.
After hearing all of that, I got really excited, considering that I hadn’t heard back from my wait-listed position in the teaching assistant program and that I was moving up the ladder in terms of English-teaching in France. Funny enough, I’d gotten an email that same day after the interview, saying that I was taken off the wait list for the teaching assistant program and to confirm my spot in it. To be careful, I confirmed my spot, but was prepared to withdraw should I find out that I got the university position.
A week or so later, I received news from my interviewer that I was “selected to be the university lecturer for the upcoming year” (her words, not mine). Perhaps I misinterpreted her words, because back then I truly believed that I’d just got accepted for the job. Of course, there was still paperwork to be processed, but until then, I thought that it was safe for me to withdraw myself from the teaching assistant program and to move forward with a new career in France. Seriously, I was truly excited.
However, this was when things got interesting: now that I was apparently “selected” to be the new lecturer, I was to send in paperwork for processing, so that I could get my visa and head over there starting August. The thing was, I did not hear from the university’s administration at all for the next month or so; it certainly didn’t help that I was traveling in Asia with my family at that time, so who knew if emails got lost in the sending process (highly doubt it, though). After a few weeks, I was starting to feel stressed, so I kept emailing my interviewer, as well as the person she had CC’d in the email exchanges we had beforehand.
It was not until I came back from vacation in early July that I *finally* received a response from one of the university admins. She had told me that administration was preparing to finalize the lecturer for the upcoming year and going over applications, so she just told me to wait a bit until then. At first, I found it strange that they were still looking over applications when I’d thought they were done doing so, but I guess not…
But here was the thing: the admin also asked me if I had any sort of post-grad studies completed, as it was needed for assessment. Second time that my heart sank: I didn’t. Told her that, but also said that the interviewer had asked me the same question in which I answered honestly, and said that it wouldn’t be a problem. At this point, I was really wondering if this would affect my chances of being a lecturer, and I definitely felt unsettled.
…then the news came: the admin emailed me a few days later saying that, since I didn’t have the post-grad studies yet, I could not be a lecturer. For the third time, my heart sank. Rather, it DROPPED. As soon as I read the email, I went into a panic mode; that was probably the first time in my life that I was having a full-blown panic attack: my heart was beating uncontrollably, my vision was tunnel-like, and my body was shaking like no other. I kept thinking to myself: how could this have happened?
Unfortunately, I wasn’t thinking rationally and, in that moment of confusion and rage, I replied to the rejection email. Not going to put down word-for-word what I wrote, but essentially, I told her that I was under the assumption that I’d already been appointed the lecturer for the university, was informed by someone else that my lack of post-grad studies was okay, and lambasted her (and the administration) for being incompetent and having looked over such a crucial part of the application process. At the same time, I begged- I fucking begged for her to still reconsider me for the position, even though I didn’t have the qualifications; I would even be willing to take Master’s courses on the side while teaching. But alas, it was still a firm “no,” as the university would be breaking the French law to hire me, and that was the end of that.
Well. I was an emotional wreck: I had just been rejected from a university position that I’d thought I had and was already taken off the wait list for the teaching assistant program. I was fucked. Now, I faced the fear of being jobless completely, especially when I’d started out with two opportunities and now had zero.
Mind you, it was late in the night when this drama happened (and ironically enough, occurred on July 7th, or the “lucky 7/7.” Not so lucky, was it?). Still in panic mode, I didn’t know what to do. To try to make things right, I sent an email back to my teaching assistant program, basically telling them that I’d screwed up in taking myself off the wait list and asking if I could “unreject myself” from it.
Miraculously, I received a response from them shortly thereafter, saying that I would be placed back on the list of teaching assistants and have a place to teach in Normandy again. However, considering that French administration was just about to close for summer break when I sent that email, it would take another month or so for them to get back to me with my school/city assignment and work contract. But until then, it seemed like I still had a chance to go back to France.
For the rest of July and August, I was still under stress, this time from whether I would get a response from the French about my status in the program, let alone in time for me to get my visa and arrive in France in time for my contract to start. In the meantime, I found some odd jobs here and there in freelance writing, as well as tutoring, to fund my way to France, if need be (and then some for other reasons. More on that later). You can bet that I spent many fitful nights praying to some unknown power that I would get news back about it all (even though I’m not religious).
Finally, a breakthrough in late August: French admin was back from vacation and schools were just about to open up. I received news about my school assignment, contact information, and an electronic version of my work contract, in case the hard copy didn’t arrive in time for my visa appointment, which was scheduled in early September. I was then able to get in touch with my school’s colleagues and thankfully, my hard copy work contract arrived just a few days before my visa appointment. Showed up to the consulate, processed everything, and got my visa.
That just about sums up my crazy summer in a nutshell. Basically, it was just a bunch of miscommunication and disorganization, but I’m glad that it was all able to get sorted for me to, once again, return to France. Crisis averted!
I’m excited to be going back to France for a second year, and I hope to keep you updated on my adventures while there. I’ll be leaving next week, so until then! Thanks for reading this *very long* post, and have a good day. 🙂
— The Finicky Cynic
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