So, here we are.
If I remember rightly, it was around this time last year that I received confirmation that I had been accepted to be a language assistant. Admittedly, one of the biggest pulls of the programme is the pay: 800€ a month for twelve or so hours a week. If you want to be a teacher in future, it’s invaluable experience, but you don’t even need any teaching qualifications or experience: you’re an English language assistant, so your fluency will suffice. Personally, I had worked before in a school – but not in a teaching role – and others have volunteered with youth groups or tutored. The experience is helpful, but not required. Yet even after six months I don’t claim to be a teacher, or anywhere near one, in fact. Regardless, here are some tips from Yours Truly about doing a half-decent job of it.
No two experiences of a year abroad can ever be the same: whether that’s due to the location, or the placement, or the weather on a particular day in the middle of November. So far, I’ve told you – quite bluntly – what my experience has been like. In the name of fairness, I spoke to five other assistants across France about their experiences: what they knew before leaving, if their expectations were met, what they would change, and what advice they would give someone heading abroad this September.
Last Saturday morning I was sat on the back row of a tiny, Edinburgh-bound plane. On the other side of the cabin sat an older man and woman; her head perched on his shoulder as she slept; him sat attentively reading an English phrasebook. Essentials, such as ‘may I have a mixed salad please?’, were translated from (what I assume was) his native Italian. As Anglophones, the idea that we’d have to learn another language for a trip is hardly top of our priorities. Everyone speaks English, don’t they? Why am I even bothering with this bloody degree? What’s the point?
‘Where have you been to travel?’
‘Well… France, of course. Spain, Holland…’
‘Erm… Ireland, the USA, Canada.’
‘Ooooh… so you have money!’
At the moment, I’m reaching child-like levels of Christmas excitement. Not for the holiday itself, nor Santa bringing me a Nintendo DS (or whatever the weans are playing with these days), nor am I a female incarnation of Elf: I’m so, so excited for a break. A gin and some new socks wouldn’t go amiss, either.
I am a strong advocate of the fact that any form of study abroad programme – be that a year in Singapore, an Erasmus semester, or a work placement anywhere – is bizarre. Completely and utterly. ‘Let’s move you abroad for a year, hope you make some new friends, possibly all in a different language, and hope that everything’s the same when you get back,’ said absolutely nobody, ever. It’s been two months almost since my one-way flight here – minus that quick holiday at home – so now is the time to impart some of my sage(ish) wisdom to you, dear reader.