The time has come; in less than 24 hours, I’ll once again be heading back to France for another year of teaching. It’s been a long time coming, but I’m so glad that it’s happening so soon!
My bags are packed with just about everything that I need while also being under the weight limit (hopefully) for the overseas flight. I have a better idea now of what I need/don’t need to bring to make my second year just as smooth-sailing as the first. Also double-checking to make sure that I don’t forget my passport and work documents (and also to remember to get my passport stamped once I arrive!).
Even though it’ll be my second year as an assistante and that I’ll have a good idea of what to expect again in terms of teaching and processing paperwork, I still have those nervous, excited butterflies in my stomach that first-time assistant(e)s get before leaving. I’ll be at a new school, working with different people and having a different group of assistant(e)s to talk with. That said, I can already expect my experience this year to be unlike that of last year’s, but in any case, I hope for it to be a good one!
…and what’s this talk of not traveling as much this year, you might ask?
First, note that I wrote that I won’t be traveling as much, not to say that I won’t be traveling at all.
Second, if you know me personally, then you know that I traveled a lot during my first year as an assistante: I took full advantage of the two-week vacations every six weeks from school by visiting other European countries, as well as spent almost every weekend traveling domestically within France. In total, I visited 15 countries during my eight months abroad, 80 of the cities which were in France alone. Other assistant(e)s have commented that I traveled a lot, as well as my colleagues at school; some of them even jokingly asked, “where to next?” when the holidays rolled around.
That said, you might ask if the reason I’ll be traveling less this year is because I’ve exhausted the countries to visit? Not at all. There are still so many places that I haven’t been to and want to go to (e.g. Iceland, Poland, Slovenia, Turkey, even Morocco!) that I wouldn’t hesitate to go there if given the chance.
Essentially, why I won’t be traveling as much is due to two factors: time and money. Granted, those are obvious reasons, but hear me out: last year, I had ample time to travel because I was fortunate enough to have a very flexible work schedule, as well as a flat that didn’t cost very much to rent, so I had enough money to spend on trips out of the town. And of course, I did a lot of budget traveling, so in the end, I was even able to have a good amount of money left over when I finished my contract and returned home to the United States.
This time around, things will be different: I’ll still have enough money to live comfortably and whatnot (especially I’ll be once again staying at my school’s flat), but that money will be allocated to something else besides travel. In other words, I plan to start my Master in Education (M.Ed) program online at the same time I’m teaching in France. Since it’s school and everything, it’ll take up a good amount of my time when I’m not working, as well as requires me to pay for tuition (of course), so I’ll have to use my paychecks to do so. That said, I won’t be as financially free this year as the last, and while I would love to forget about grad school and use the money to travel instead, that’s not how it works.
At the same time, I don’t regret my decision to pursue more education after over a year of being out of the university system, as I realized that, in fact, I don’t mind becoming a teacher. It’s funny, because if you were to ask me a year ago if I wanted to, I would have replied with a vehement, “hell no.” However, after this past year of teaching abroad in France, I found myself drawn to teaching ESL, as I enjoy the technicalities of the English language and also how it’s acquired in other non-English speaking countries. I find it rather fascinating and while I still have doubts of whether this is the “best” career for me (if that even exists), I’m going to try anyway and see where it goes.
So to conclude, I’ll be traveling less this year due to grad school and work, but I still hope to do some traveling. I already have plans during winter break and will make an effort to do some weekend trips to nearby towns and cities. Maybe I’ll save up and use it for one massive trip at the end of the year, since my visa allows me to stay longer this time around. The wanderlust in me refuses to die, and I hope to continue to explore and discover new places and cultures in and around Europe this year, albeit at a slower pace than last year’s. Really, travel is amazing; it’s an experience that you can’t otherwise feel, let alone comprehend from textbooks and secondhand exposure. Overall, I’m happy to have traveled as much as I did last year and even if I can’t do it as much this year, at least I have fond memories to look back on, as well as inspire me to save up for the next one!
To all of the assistant(e)s this year, I encourage you to take advantage of every single free time you have in your schedule and just go. Don’t worry about the money and don’t let the fear of being in an unfamiliar setting stop you from doing it. You only have a few months to really make your stay in France count, so go for it! I also look forward to reading about your adventures, should you decide to write a blog post or two about them, so you can share them with me!
…but back to the main point of this post: I’ll be leaving soon for France, and I’m really looking forward to it. My hope is that the flight will go smoothly, as it’ll be 10-plus hours long; that said, I need to be mentally prepared! I’m very jealous of the British/EU assistants who are just a hop and a skip away from France- no jet lag involved whatsoever!
Any case, I’ll be scheduling posts on my blog while I’m gone for the next couple of weeks or so, as I need to get settled in, run errands, and begin teaching. I know in advance that I won’t have Internet access for the first few days when I arrive, so until then, enjoy my soon-to-come blog posts!
Wishing myself a bon voyage and luck for what’s to come this year. See you on the other side of the Atlantic!