How I Almost Didn’t Return to France This Year

Story time, folks.

As you know, I’ll be returning to France for my second year as an assistante d’anglais. I’ll be once again in the Normandy region, and I’m really looking forward to using what I learned from last year to teach a new group of students in a different town.

However, the process of getting back to France wasn’t all sunshine and unicorns. To say the least, this summer was absolutely crazy, dealing with tons of emails and miscommunication from across the Atlantic. My chances of returning were even jeopardized.

You might be wondering: how did I almost not return to France this year? Well, it’s a funny story (actually, not really), and although I’ve recounted it several times to my family and close friends, I actually don’t mind reiterating it especially since it was (and still remains) one of the most stressful things to have ever happened to me from my twenty three years on this earth.

…so sit back and enjoy your cup of tea, people, because things are going to get tisane in there (see what I just did there?). Allons-y!

_________________________________________________________________

Let’s rewind back to March: I was submitting my application to renew as an assistante for the upcoming year. Especially having spent the past five or so months enjoying my time in France, I wanted to return. I was certain that I would be automatically renewed, since I had a good recommendation letter from my school and I’d reapplied to the Normandy region, which has a natural shortage of assistants anyway.

In late April, the not-so-good news came: I was wait-listed. I received the email during lunch break at the collège I was teaching in. My heart sank; 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, for now I was unsure if I was even going to have a job at all.

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 looked into alternatives to work in France. I came across several lecteurs/lectrices positions, and I applied to a good handful of them: in Bordeaux, Montpellier, Paris, etc. 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, 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 were inviting me for an interview. I was ecstatic, and made preparations to look good. The interview would be over Skype and in English, so I felt pretty comfortable and confident with it.

Interestingly, the actual interview was nothing like I’d imagined; I’d prepared to answer a bunch of technical questions about the school, teaching lessons, and so forth, but all I got were some generic questions about myself and that was it; the rest was spent listening to the interviewer describe the school, the students, and the expectations of a lecteur/lectrice. If anything, the interview was more of me being talked at than talking at all. The interviewer essentially told me that she wanted to hire me for certain, 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 lectrice, 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 was elated, considering that I hadn’t heard back from my wait-listed position in the assistant program; plus, I was moving up the ladder in 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 renewing assistants 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 lectrice for the upcoming year” (her words, not mine). 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 assistant program and to move forward with a new career in France. Seriously, I was so happy.

However, things got interesting: I was “selected” to be the new lectrice, but I did not hear from the university’s administration 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 beginning to worry, so I email 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 told me that administration was preparing to finalize the lecteurs/lectrices for the upcoming year and go 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, but I guess not…

There was another catch: the admin also asked me if I had any post-grad studies completed, for it was needed for assessing the applicants. Again, my heart sank: I didn’t. I told her no, but also added that the interviewer had asked me the same question in which I answered honestly, and she had told that it wouldn’t be a problem. At this point, I was really wondering if this would affect my chances of being a lectrice, and I felt very concerned.

…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 lectrice this year. For the third time, my heart sank. Rather, it DROPPED. As soon as I read the email, I went into 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 foggy, and my body was shaking like crazy. I kept thinking to myself: how could this have happened?

Unfortunately, I wasn’t thinking rationally and, in that moment of confusion and anger, I responded. I’m not going to put down word-for-word what I wrote, but basically, I told her that I’d been under the assumption that I’d already been appointed the lectrice for the university, was informed by my interviewer that it was acceptable that I didn’t have my post-grad studies and, even worse, lambasted her (and administration) for being incompetent in having looked over such a crucial part of the application process.

At the same time, I begged- I fucking begged for the school to still consider me for the position, even though I didn’t have the qualifications; I would’ve 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 ended up with zero.

Mind you, it was late in the night when all of this drama happened (and ironically enough, on July 7th, or the “lucky 7/7.” Not so lucky, eh?). I was still in panic mode, I didn’t know what to do. Eventually, I decided to send an email back to the assistant program, basically telling them that I’d screwed up in having taken myself off the list and asking if I could “unreject myself” from it.

Miraculously, I received a response from them quickly, informing me that I would be placed back on the list and have a place to teach in Normandy again. However, French administration was just about to close for summer break when I sent that email, so it would take another month or so for them to get back to me with my school 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 stressed, this time about whether I would get a response about my status as a now-assistante, let alone enough time for me to get my visa and arrive in France before my contract started. In the meantime, I found some odd jobs here and there to fund my way to France, if need be (and then some for other reasons). You can bet that I spent many fitful nights praying to some unknown power that I had the chance of returning to France again (I’m not religious, by the way. Admittedly, there’s something comforting in praying for luck, even if we don’t know if it actually works or not. But I digress).

Finally, breakthrough in late August: all of France 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 the hard copy of my work contract arrived just a few days before my visa appointment. Showed up to the consulate, processed everything, and got my visa. After about four months of trauma and stress, I could finally breathe normally again.

 

…and that just about sums up my crazy story of almost not returning to France. In hindsight, I should’ve known better to have rushed into accepting the lectrice position, especially when I didn’t get a clear answer in the first place. In any case, I can say that my assistant program’s was very on top of processing my paperwork and I’m super grateful for their help in getting me back to France. It has truly been a crazy, messy experience, but I’m glad that everything has been sorted out. I’m excited to be returning, and I hope that it’ll be *relatively* smooth-sailing from here.

Fin.

 

— Rebecca

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5 thoughts on “How I Almost Didn’t Return to France This Year

  1. That sounds awful – I’m glad you managed to sort something out and get back onto the assistantship scheme! I’ve just started as a ‘lectrice’ in Lyon but don’t have a Masters as the university I attended in the UK had an exchange programme with a few French partner universities so a BA was enough, but I was curious as to why all of the others were older than me/ all had Masters qualifications.. this explains why!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It was definitely not a great experience, and I was really fortunate that the académie I wrote back to still had spots available in the program.

      Yes, for non-EU students, it’s pretty much required to have at least a year of post-grad studies (preferably a Master’s) to be considered as a lecteur/lectrice. I’ve heard of exceptions in past years, but now the requirement is more enforced. I’ll see if I can try again later, as it’s still an opportunity I’m considering!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I guess it also helped that Normandie isn’t in as high demand as the south coast 🙂 still a beautiful region, I haven’t been in years but would love to return someday! That’s France living up to its reputation as a qualifications-obsessed country for you – I think if it hadn’t been for my university having an exchange, I wouldn’t have had much luck either.

        Liked by 1 person

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