Seven Months in France with TAPIF
I've been incredibly lucky to visit France three times in my life: Paris for a few days at age 16, another stop in Paris + a two week foreign exchange in Lyon at 18, and a few days in Paris last summer. I have always dreamed of an extended stay, a chance to truly immerse myself in French language and culture. With a passport, any American can travel to France and stay for up to three months. Time spent in France beyond those 90 days requires more than a visitor visa. There are several ways Americans can qualify for a visa necessary to live in France, like studying at a French university or becoming an au pair.
Another way to achieve a dream of living in France: obtaining a work visa, which is my path to France. The Teaching Assistant Program in France (TAPIF) is coordinated by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy here in the United States. The program gives Americans under the age of 35 an opportunity to teach English for seven months (October 1 - April 30) in France's public schools. Contracts are available at both the primary and secondary level. Having taught elementary school for five years, I am thrilled that my placement is primary (students aged 8-11 years old).
At 27 and five years into my teaching career, I dreamed about living abroad but never truly opened myself to the possibility of it becoming my reality. In the Fall of 2017 I went back to school to turn my French minor into a major. It is because I took this step in the direction of my dreams that I learned about TAPIF from my university advisor. Now I have the opportunity to live out my dream of an extended stay abroad in France! Through this experience, I've learned a lot about continuing to dream and remain open to whatever opportunities life may bring.
The Application Process
I began my application for TAPIF in mid December 2017. The application includes a personal and professional letter of reference, a personal statement, and a list of your top three preferred regions. I turned to fellow francophiles who overwhelmingly directed me to the north. They described the people as welcoming and kind. I was also drawn to the north for its proximity to Paris. I intentionally did not list Paris in my choices. For one, it would be more expensive to live there. I also have a goal to get to know France outside of Paris. Lille and Strasbourg were my top two choices. I was unsure about my third, but had been told Amiens had the most opportunities for primary placements and decided to go with it. It is important to note that these cities label entire regions, and listing these cities did not mean I would be living in them (though I did preference a medium to large city and hoped this would be the case).
I submitted my application on January 15, 2018. Then I waited (...and waited). Finally, on April 6, 2018 I received my e-mail of acceptance to teach at the primary level in the Amiens region. I now know that I will be living in the city of Amiens and I am so excited! Bonus: I can get to Paris in about an hour and a half by train. I see many day trips and weekends there in my future. :)
There are quite a few administrative things that need to happen now. Soon I will apply for my visa, purchase a flight and book a hotel or Airbnb for my arrival. Once in France, I will be responsible for finding my own housing, visiting the doctor and setting up my health insurance, getting a French bank account and cell phone... the list goes on. Thinking about it all is incredibly overwhelming, so I am choosing to take it step by step, day by day. Everything that needs to get done will get done. It always does.
This description of TAPIF isn't comprehensive, but I hope it gave you a decent idea of the program and process that will take me to France this fall.
Warm wishes from me to you!