Monday, October 27, 2014

Les Vacances de la Toussaint

As of October 19th, I have officially been in France for one full month-- which means I only have a little over 7 months left. Since my last post, I have been on quite the emotional roller coaster feeling pretty stressed out and homesick for the first time since my arrival. It's actually kind of amazing that with all the changes I have been experiencing it took me so long to begin to feel this way-- last time it was within the first week. While moving to France IS exciting and a dream come true, that's not to say it doesn't have it's difficulties. I have been trying to adjust to life as an au pair in the suburbs, while also juggling a confusing teaching program, while balancing being social, finding time to travel, and just enjoying my time here-- all while being completely immersed in my favorite language 24/7! It's thrilling... but definitely exhausting.

Needless to say, this two week vacation could not have come at a better time. While I only traveled the first week and will still need to be home to be an au pair for the second, I am so relieved to have a chance to do some traveling as well as relaxing!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Fille Au Pair

Ahhh, the life of an au pair. How do I put this eloquently... There are highs and there are lows and sadly, the last few days have been on the lower end of the spectrum for a variety of reasons. In sitting down to write this, I immediately thought of a scene from one of my favorite movies (500 Days of Summer) where the screen splits and presents the main character's expectations and reality on either side. To some extent, I feel like I had this ideal image of what life would be like as an au pair, and in many ways, those expectations have been met. But in other ways, I am definitely struggling with the reality of at least part of the situation.

I feel it's important to preface this post by saying the parents continue to be wonderfully accommodating and concerned for my well being. I feel very lucky that I get along with them and that they have done so much to help me get settled. The boys are really amazing too and are enjoying learning English through talking, reading, and singing with me.

However, like in any situation, not all expectations can be met and some things aren't ideal as a result. My two biggest struggles have become very stressful for me to deal with after a month of being slowly overwhelmed by them daily.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Les Écoles Française

It felt so great to get back into the schools twice this past week, even if it was just to observe for the day. I definitely feel complete when I am able to work with my students and I have been missing it very much since May. I have been anxious to receive more information about hours, grades, and even what days I would be teaching and where since I arrived 3 weeks ago. The majority of the other assistants received this information as early as two weeks ago, some just last week, but that was because they will be working in the middle schools and high schools. Apparently, the process of placing assistants is different in the elementary schools because I still have very little sense of what is going on.

View from the school in Saint Chamond
So far I know this much: I will be working in two elementary schools, one in Saint Chamond and one in Rive de Gier which is the next town over. I will be teaching four hours in Saint Chamond on Tuesdays and four hours in Rive de Gier on Thursdays and both will require a significant commute due to their location. I will have Fridays completely free from work. Because students only have a half day on Wednesdays, it is likely I won't work then either.

However, I will also be teaching other schools from a distance through Skype. I don't have much information about this either, but I know through process of elimination it'll likely be on Mondays for four hours, or possibly split between Mondays and Wednesdays. The point of this will to practice speaking with kids in small groups for about 10-20 minutes a piece. When they finish with me on the computer, they will return to their teacher who will have a written activity of some sort to accompany my lesson. Apparently, they are introducing this into the assistantship because schools that are far away from a larger town don't tend to benefit from the program. This way, they will be able to interact with a native English speaker, even if at a distance.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Deux Semaines de la France

... where do I even begin? Well, two weeks ago I arrived in France and it's been pretty hectic since day one. I plan to make some dedicated posts soon in regards to my experiences being an au pair as well as the TAPIF program, but for now I wanted to provide a quick update about some of the fun stuff... traveling!

Place Jean Jaures in Saint Etienne.
I have made it a real point to explore my new city of Saint Etienne. I really have already come to love Saint Etienne and appreciate that it isn't as large as I may have initially wanted. It's still big enough that it feels like a city, but not so big that it's difficult to walk all around. In my 14 days of being here, I have already made it into Saint Etienne 7 times, so I am starting to develop a pretty good idea of the different areas.

There are so many different squares that are so nice to sit at for hours. Just the other day I had some time to kill between appointments, so I went and had  lunch all by myself in Place Liberation Peuple where it was sunny, quiet, and I read a book and people watched. To put a cherry on top, I ordered a nutella crêpe afterwards-- perfect day and perfect 2 hour lunch.  I need to take some more pictures next time I am downtown, but I've been holding out for blue skies. Next step is discovering the nightlife a bit because I have heard good things, but that's easier said than done when living in suburbia... it will happen though! I am incredibly happy that I was placed in this region and am really excited to explore some of the nearby towns more-- the train really makes that so cheap and easy, so there are plenty of day trips in my future.