Teaching English is a great way to move to France. You get a liveable salary, insurance, and six weeks of paid vacation, plus additional holidays. But most of the hassle that comes with teaching lies in the paperwork, as all things do in France.
I was hired through TAPIF (Teaching Assistant Program in France), which is a coordinated effort between the French Embassy in the US, the French Ministry of Education, CIEP (Centre international d’études pédagogiques), and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy. I was an assistant from 2014-2015, so things may have changed slightly. Please note that if you are looking into a different program, the process may be completely different.
How to Apply
The application requires an essay (in French) and two letters of recommendation (one which serves as a testament to your French level). You also give your preference for region, school level, and big/medium/small city.
I would recommend starting and sending the application early, especially when it comes to asking for recommendations! I began mine at the end of October when it opened online and submitted it around the end of November, but they aren’t due until January usually.
Tips on Location Preferences
One of the hardest parts of the application is deciding where in France you want to be. The salary is not high enough to support living in Paris, unless you have money saved up that you’re planning to use considerable for your living expenses, or potentially find a job as an au pair.
Outside of Paris, the cost of living is much, much cheaper. The application gives you a choice of three types of areas: large, medium, and small academies. I selected the Aix-Marseille académie as my first choice, which was where I was placed. Remember that most of the académies have a wide range of cities and small towns in them; where you will be ultimately placed is a bit random.
Often, your choice will depend greatly on your own personal preference. But I would advise you to keep an open mind — you may be placed in a city you have never heard of and absolutely fall in love.
Get Ready to Face the Snail
I would recommend making copies (around 5 each) and saving all of the following documents in a binder and on a flash drive. I promise it’ll make your life infinitely easier (and also, the people at the consulate appreciate organization when it comes to getting your visa!).
- Visa (once acquired)
- Birth certificate with apostille and its translation
- Driver’s license or other government identification (for proof of residency)
- Bank information (often not needed, but helpful)
- Vaccination records (they might ask for these at the OFII appointment)
You’ll also receive a folder of documents once you are accepted, the most important of which is the arrete de nomination. Make as many copies of this as you can, as you’ll need it for pretty much everything.
Basically, be over prepared for everything and you’ll probably be ok. You never know what random document you’ll be asked for, or when.
Finding an Apartment
I found my apartment through LeBonCoin, France’s version of Craigslist. I was paying 400€ a month for 12m2, which included water (but not electricity or internet) and moved in March with one of my friends (which was ultimately cheaper and easier because I already had a bank account set up and had proof of income).
Finding an apartment requires a bit of luck — my landlord thankfully let me pay him the deposit (caution) and one additional month in cash, then once I got my bank account I gave him two checks as a back up. This is much more than you have to do if you have a French garant, but he gave me the checks back when I moved out.
Opening a Bank Account + Transferring Money
Once your account is open, you have to wait about a week (or more) until you can get a bank card and check book. All of your online login credentials will be mailed to you one by one, so don’t lose these papers!
To send money from your US bank account to your new French account, I recommend using TransferWise. It’s really fast and the fees are minimal (by clicking the link it will give you your first transfer free).
Here are some of my favorite sources for teaching material, in addition to dictées from songs and short writing assignments.
My Favorite Posts from Teaching
Teaching Les Français to Speak (English) → an overview of my teaching experience
Vitrolles, a Provençal Mystery → proof that even if your schools are in smaller cities, it is often easy to commute from a larger town
The Cost and Promises of France
Chez Anne, in Cezanne’s City
France Probably Doesn’t Want Me Here, But I’m Here Anyway
Les Marchés Aixoise + I signed a lease!
Other Blogs about TAPIF
When I was first getting started, I found many blogs so helpful in guiding me and building a (virtual) TAPIF community. Here are a few of my favorites (I’d love to discover more! Please share yours or your favorites with me via email or Twitter):
Want to do it again?
For those who wish to renew their contract consecutively, you can apply directly through CIEP (the renewal period closes in March). To apply through TAPIF again, you have to wait a year.
Do you have a question not covered here? Please send me an email!