The Teaching Assistant Program in France, or TAPIF, is sponsored by the French government and is probably the easiest way for a young American professional or post-graduate student to get a work visa in France.
I’m two months into my stay and I am having an amazing experience, so I will be the first to strongly recommend the program.
Consider applying for TAPIF (applications for next year are due in January) if you:
1) are desperately Francophile, or European-phile, or Nutella-phile. Or love wine-tastings. Etc, etc.
2) just graduated at 22 with a liberal arts degree and want to find out if teaching is your thing; just graduated with a teaching degree at 25 and want an international experience before hitting the American classrooms; or are looking to change careers at 30 and need a transition year (I know assistants in all three categories).
3) want time to dedicate to finding a graduate school, studying, exploring Europe, or another project; in which case working 12-15 hours per week with a three-day weekend (or in the case of a British pal, four days) for about 750 euros per month sounds like a good deal.
4) want to hear the most adorable English ever (like when my 12-year-old student trying to find the past tense of “to teach” blurted out “tauched????” or my group of 17-year-olds who can’t seem to differentiate between the long “e” sound in “sheet” and the short “i” sound in…. you know what I mean.
5) want to hear about French politicians making the most adorable English mistakes ever (the president signing a congratulatory letter to Barack Obama with the closing salutation, “Friendly, François Hollande,” or right-wing leader François Fillon recently creating a parliament group called “Rassemblement-Union pour un Mouvement Populaire” whose acronym “RUMP” has created a media buzz.)
6) want an ego boost, which could happen when half of a class develops a crush on you on the first day (I am not being full of myself here; almost all of the other assistants I know, male and female, had similar experiences). Or you want to be a celebrity in some small way (the kids love to yell out “Hello, how are you?” or “I love America!” and then giggle shyly when you pass them in the halls).
7) want to improve your French: Despite teaching 12-15 hours of English classes per week, it is very possible to immerse yourself in the language. Of course I study on my own, go out on the town or to the movies, watch television, and hang out with French friends, but even at school I’m constantly surrounded by French. In the middle school, I conduct about 50% or more of the classes in French and colleagues speak French with me 99% of the time (even the English teachers). French teachers allow me to sit in on their classes (free lessons!). And of course I grab the free newspaper 20Minutes at the train station every morning to read during the commute…
8) you want a free French work visa (normally they cost over $100).
9) you’ve always wanted to live in a cozy French village, or in the middle of a big city. Chances are you will not be placed directly in a big city, but with the excellent regional train systems, you will most likely be able to commute if the countryside is not your thing.
10) you meet the short list of requirements on the TAPIF website: http://highereducation.frenchculture.org/teach-in-france/prospective-applicant
In my own experience, the program was well-organized (I received all necessary paperwork on time and the school was helpful in guiding me through it all).
Here are some websites and blogs that could be helpful:
An interview with The Local: http://www.thelocal.fr/20130507/its-a-great-foot-in-the-door-in-france
From the French government:
Blogs and advice from former and current assistants: