Monday, January 27, 2014

The Madness Driving My Insanity


There are a million blogs about moving to Paris, why add to it? Well I guess because I got tired of reading all of the idealistic blogs where everything seems to go perfectly and thought 'what am I reading a Nora Ephron script?'. Sometimes we need some realism right? You can't live life thinking it's all sunshine and rainbows and then being disappointed when it doesn't end up as perfect as everyone else's expereince. At least one person needs to be like 'this is my experience and it sucked.'


Well let's not jump ahead of ourselves, maybe I'll get lucky and I'll have some Richard Curtis style experience (but you know French instead of British)? Maybe not. I'm a realistic pessimist and that's not going to change.

So Why Paris?

Cedric Dequin

This French guy got the better of me. If you're ever in San Antonio and meet a guy named Cedric he won't tell you this at first (in fact try weeks later), but once he gets you into a vacant hallway, and shoves his hands (or head) up your skirt, and his tongue in your mouth, he'll let you know that he's married. Winner, winner, chicken dinner. I know, how cliche, a cheating Frenchman. 

Any way I got the idea that I needed some fresh scenery, so why not Paris? Actually it was supposed to be Antibes (from previous experience), but then it somehow became Paris because there were more opportunities there, versus in the south of France.

On to the How...

So first off moving to Paris if you're an American sucks. Americans are not a disadvantaged people, we have no reason to move to another first world country. In fact it's pretty damn near impossible. Unless you have lots and lots of money (you can buy Maltese citizenship for €546,000).

Short of marrying a European, or getting a long term visa because you have a really obscure skill (like being Kanye West), you're only going to get about 90 days. If you have tons of cash just itching to be spent you could try living on what you have and applying for a carte sejour. You would just need to make yearly trips to the Prefecture to prove you have enough money to live in the country on your own.

Basically, if you have enough start up money, but not enough to sustain you for months on end, your only other option, if you're not a student, and you don't have a company willing to sponser a visa for you, is to try to become a nanny. If you're like me, and you don't really do children, this can be quite a daunting task. Somehow I doubt its anything like The Nanny portrays it to be. 

There is one more option that is kind of the same but goes by a different name and it's called "cultural exchange tutor", and that's what I applied for. 

Interexchange


I found this website called Interexchange and that's what started off this whole mad journey. They offer tutoring jobs. In exchange for teaching some family English you get room and board. Sounds like a pretty good deal huh? Until you get to the fine print. 

I started my application, and paid the fee, and waited the 4-6 weeks like they asked. Then I heard nothing. So after sitting like a plonker for a few weeks I contacted them to see what the deal was. Turns out my application was incomplete, they needed more. In order for them to begin looking it over I needed childcare references, a collage (like I was in the 6th grade again cutting out pictures from Teen Vogue), and an essay for why I would be a good nanny.

Um what? Hold up. I told them I didn't apply for a nanny job. In fact I had asked for adult learners, but they were like 'it's just a formality'. But they wouldn't process my application without it. Even though I explained that I had no childcare references because I've never worked with children, and have no plans to start, they said 'it has to be turned in if you want to take part in the program'.

And then I started to to think about it... I was giving them $790 for them to find me a host family, the host family was paying them however much to participate as well, interexchange is exploiting both of us, why am I paying them? So I requested my money back and said 'screw it I can do it on my own' (you can but it takes some work).

That's Where TEFL Comes In


So during my research into this tutor thing I learned that there's a huge demand for English speakers to go to non-English speaking countries and teach them English because colonialism rules and England won that war (go English language!) and soon enough everyone will speak English, so people gotta learn. There aren't many countries in Europe who have a demand but low and behold France is one of them (and Italy and Spain) so I found another option.

After some research (Google worked overtime), I ended up deciding on the online version of the TEFL (you save like $1000), and frankly I wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible so I could start my new awesome experience. But Murphy's Law rules my world and it wasn't meant to be. 

Before we continue I should probably tell you I am overly inquisitive. I analyze and question and analyze until I'm sure I know what's what. So what did I do with this TEFL thing? I bugged the shit out of them for weeks asking tons of questions. Their site isn't very helpful to be honest and it gives you very flourishy descriptions without actually telling you anything about it. All of the information you need isn't available until after you give them money. It's pretty fucked up. But once I was sure I knew everything I handed them the $240 fee and said "let's do this". 

You go into this online thing thinking, oh it's online I'll just spend every hour of every day on it and finish it in like a day. Um no. This thing caps you. You're only allowed to take 3 tests a day so basically "at your own pace" is really a minimum of 6 days. 

Now teaching English sounds easy enough right? I mean I already speak it how hard can it be? But then you start getting into second grade stuff and it's like fuuucckkk English is really complicated. I really feel for English learners. 

Don't get me wrong, grammar, and tenses, and syntax, and that was one of my favorite things to do growing up. I used to complete those little worksheets like a boss. Future present tense had nothing on me. But after not having paid attention to it in like 20 years I had kind of forgotten the actual basics of what compromises our language and started bombing the hell out of my TEFL tests. At the end of it I got a 74.3%. One of my minors is bloody English! (Ok literature but whatever). 

And I don't even want to teach, I'm just looking for something to supplement my savings, and get me a visa so I can hang out in France for a few months. But any way it's actually more complicated than it seems and they don't exactly tell you that up front. Just an FYI you need a 75% to pass the course. And if you get a low score you can't make up anything. The only option is to take it again and that costs $150. Well you can guess what I told them. 

I can honestly say if teaching isn't your thing, like something you are genuinely passionate about, don't do it. Using it as an avenue to move abroad is not the way to go unless your dream in life has always been to teach. I've read blogs from English teachers in other countries and it sounds like horrible, low paying work. There's a very funny blog by a guy teaching in South Asia that I'll include in the links. 

If you do decide to go the route be very careful about what school you apply to work at and what country you go to. Try being a freelancer (so you can avoid predatory schools), try being knowledgeable in something really obscure (like medical English instead of just plain English) as you'll get paid more, and try to research which countries are less saturated so you don't end up less in demand (remember there are tons of people who are also teaching English as a means to live abroad and what did Economics teach us? Supply and demand. less demand, less $$$). 

I have no plans to be a teacher and I don't think I would have liked being one. I was a teachers assistant one year, which sounds all noble but isn't. I had high grades and high test scores, and I was in honors classes growing up (fancy title which just means your level is more advanced than your grade), so I guess they figured I would be a good candidate, and they offered me the position in exchange for extra credit. FYI just because you're smart, doesn't mean you're going to make a good teacher. I ended up assisting a remedial reading class and it was some Gangsta's Paradise shit without the epiphany. No bueno. 

In the end I decided just to move for the 90 days, have some fun and then come back and finally put an end to my life as a career student. I'm an American Millenial, growing up is hard to do. 

Another Option


So I should mention if children are your thing, and you like taking care of them, becoming an au pair is a good option for you. Most au pairs in Paris have their own studios (yea! No insane Paris rent), you get paid (at least) £80 a week, and you have to take French lessons so you're forced to learn French. It's an easy enough way to live in another country. 

Some sites to try:

aupair-world.net
greataupair.com
http://aupaireurope.ca/how-to-become-an-au-pair-in-france/
http://www.thelocal.fr/20130404/teaching-english-in-france-ten-tips





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