Teaching English in France

Meet Ellen Gibson of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and English conversation teacher who has taught English in France.


Did you go through a work abroad program or figure it out how to teach English in France by yourself? Why did you do it that way?

I went to France the year after I graduated college through the Teaching Assistantship program run by the French government. Being associated with the program allowed me access to several helpful resources for finding a job (obviously!), housing, figuring out other logistics, and connecting with other Assistants from around the world.

How did you decide where you wanted to teach English abroad? JobMonkey has information about teaching English in Asia and teaching English in Eastern Europe.

I wanted to spend time speaking French and learning about French culture to complement my B.A. in French.

What was your teaching job? Did you like it? Plusses and minuses?

I taught English conversation classes to high school students for 10 hours/week.
I loved the classes and I was granted a lot of freedom to structure them however I wanted. However, 10 hours per week of work was not nearly enough to keep me occupied so I ended up having a lot of free time. This would have been a great perk, but since I was living in a small town with little access to transportation and not much to do, it turned out to be a definite downside to the whole thing.

Describe your accommodations abroad? How did you find them? How was it?

I lived in an apartment on the school campus where I was teaching ESL to students. The apartment was spacious, furnished, and extremely affordable. It was actually a bit too large for me to live in alone, but it was great for accommodating guests and visitors.

How about transport? Did you buy a car? Use public transportation? How did you organize your initial flight?

I relied on public transportation the entire time I lived in France. Between larger cities, the SNCF train is easy to use and cheap, especially if you invest in a “Carte 12-25” discount card for anyone under 25. Transportation to and from the town where I lived was a bit more challenging, as there was only one charter bus that operated on limited hours and it took a long time to travel a short distance. I was also able to bum rides to the nearby city from friends and co-workers.

What did you think of your overseas English teaching experience overall? What did you gain from it? What were the best/hardest parts?

Overall my job abroad was worthwhile, but the benefits I gained could have been condensed into a much shorter amount of time. The best parts of my 9 months abroad were the amount of travel around Europe and to the French West Indies I was able to fit in, and being able to host friends and family who visited from home. I also gained a lot of confidence and proficiency in speaking fluent French, as well as well as some informal teaching experience. The good times I had were offset by the fact that I was isolated and alone in a small town with few friends and not much to keep me busy. The hardest part of my stay was coping with lots of alone time and having to travel every single weekend in order to socialize with anyone. I don’t regret going to France, but I was relieved to return home at the end of my teaching contract.

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