Saturday, February 16, 2008
Work in France as an English Language Assistant
It is what I used to get my foot in the French door, as did other expats I knew in France. I did the program in the year 2004-2005.
The experiences of each language assistant can be very different, as can some of the requirements.
I initially came over on a 3-month tourist visa and did the Cambridge CELTA training program so that I would be a certified ESL instructor. Then I looked for work. They are desperate for English teachers in France, and yet it's near impossible to actually get a work permit to do it. A US resident such as myself quickly finds that obtaining a work permit in France is near impossible to do: even if you're a certified English language teacher such as myself. I was forced to return to the USA when my tourist visa expired.
Finally I came across information about the English Language Assistant (ELA) program at the French Embassy's website. In short, you apply to come to France for a 9 month contract and work in either their elementary or high schools for 12 hours a week. Your job title is to be a language assistant. If you happen to hold a masters degree in English as well then they may even put you at the college level to work with adults. You are paid a salary of about 800.00 euros, after social security taxes are taken out, and you get full medical coverage. You're also allowed to get permission from your school to work up to 12 hours more per week at an outside location (which I did, and I went to work at a private English tutoring company in France). Finally, if you enjoyed your first year then you can apply to stay on a second year, and can even ask for a new school if you want.
Some I knew also supplemented their income by working online (journalism & writing, online tutoring and instruction, web-design, etc), or getting short-term contracts at international organizations in Paris such as UNESCO and the OECD, or they worked under the table as a private language tutor (for which it's generally easy to find students). Furthermore, some, like a friend of mine, then just transferred her assistant work visa into a student visa and stayed on in France to complete her master's degree. So, in effect, the ELA program allows you to move to France with an official work VISA, and opens the door for getting your French bank account, an apartment, and full medical coverage: for up to two years!
So, get your application in and take off for a two-year adventure! Since you'll only work 12 hours a week in this program you'll have so much time on your hands to explore your French village or city that you won't believe how cool your life is!