TAPIF, or the Teaching Assistant Program in France is a cultural exchange program organized by the French Ministry of Education, Centre International D’Études Pedagogiques (CIEP), and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy. It is a whirlwind seven month experience in which native english speakers can live and work in France as an assitant de launge etranger (foreign language assistant). For seven months you are paid a modest wage for working 12 hours a week with (usually) adorable French children.
In this section of my little piece of the internet I am going to try and recap my experiences in the program that provided me with some of the best and also some of the hardest times of my life. If your a newly accepted TAPIFER (congratulations) I hope that you gain something form my experiences. If you have never heard of TAPIF I hope this convinces you to apply.
The TAPIF Program
Requirements to Apply to TAPIF:
- Must be a citizen of the United States (there are similar programs for Canadian, Irish, Scottish, Spanish, Italian, Mexican ext. I just don’t know the links!)
- Between the ages of 20 and 30
- Completed at least three years of higher education (community college counts!)
- An intermediate level of french (measured by a DELF B1 certificate or a fantastic letter of recommendation from a french professor or language evaluator)
Requirements I Suggest:
- Flexibility, you may not be placed in your 1/2/3 choice of teaching (and living) location and you may not be in a big city. Being flexible and open to new experiences will make a HUGE difference in your time with the TAPIF program.
- Curiosity, you are going to be miserable if you stay inside, don’t explore, don’t talk to the natives or your teachers when you have a 12 hour a week work schedule. If you don’t have a curious nature now get it while your there (no one knows you anyways!).
- Understanding that this is NOT study abroad. Some assistants seem to forget that this is not a study abroad program, you are in France to work for them NOT the other way around. That doesn’t mean you are going to be walked all over but it does mean that you have very adult responsibilities that you may not have had while on a semester across the pond.
- An intermediate level of self sufficiency. Again, this is not your study abroad experience. You will have to secure lodging, feed yourself, find a way to get to work, and plan amazing (budget) trips during your many vacations. While there is a Professor assigned to assist you with questions and administrative tasks you are ultimately responsible!
- APPLY (next applications are due in the Fall so even if you are thinking you may want to do it…just do it!)
My Path To TAPIF
I have always loved french culture but I never planned to be a teaching assistant. Before my first trip to Europe for a semester abroad I thought that world travel was reserved for those who had lots of extra money in their back pocket. Boy was I wrong, and once I figured out that you didn’t need to have a wealthy ‘investor’ to travel or a great job my wanderlust kicked into full force.
I first heard of TAPIF while studying abroad in Grenoble France. One of my friends showed me the program and told me I should apply, why not I was graduating the following semester anyways. Why not turned into a application hurriedly done and forgotten. In all honesty I never expected to hear anything back other than the oh so polite but bitterly painful ‘Thank you for applying, but not this time.’ Why would I be accepted anyways?? My level of French was not amazing (I didn’t even know I passed my B1 exam until AFTER I was in France for the TAPIF program), I did not have a tun of teaching experience, and there were probably hundreds of more qualified applicants. Thats the funny thing about life though, once you wedge your toe in the door sometimes that door opens further. My last minuet application turned into a waitlist status, which turned into me rejecting life on a tropical island (reunion island), which turned into me departing the USA with $2000 in my pocket and spending seven amazing months in the Nord of France.