Je suis acceptée! (Officially!) (Finally!)
Dates are significant. They mark events on a calendar to be remembered and observed, they stand for celebrations and occasions in the past or that have yet to come. For instance, the first time I left for France was June 2, 2016. That singular date was the starting point of the two most thrilling months in my twenty-something existence.
Another meaningful, and more recent date was April 27, 2018. That day that I was finally and officially accepted as an Assistant de Langue in the Académie de Bordeaux for the 2018-2019 school year. This September I will pack for a year in a single suitcase, and move to Bordeaux, France, for the seven month Teaching Assistant Program in France, managed by the Centre international d'études pédagogiques (CIEP, an agency of the French Ministry of Education). There, I will be teaching English at the secondary level to French middle and/or high school students.
In case it isn't apparent (it's funny because this whole website was inspired by my study abroad experience), I have previously spent time in France and kind of adore the place. I spent the summer of 2016 living in Lyon, where I attended an urban university, perched on the banks of the of the Rhône river. I lived with a host mother, traveled to various cities throughout France, and wandered down to Spain and Morocco. I get it, this is old news, but if not for that seminal summer, I would not have developed such strong aspirations to return to France after college. Between attending a school with an excellent French program that provided students with opportunity and information, and my own personal research, I decided two years ago that TAPIF was the step I wanted to take after graduation.
This past October, the application became active. Due to wrapping up classes as a double major senior, graduating, completing a time-consuming internship, working part-time and facing the inevitable fears of falling behind in the "career world" by participating in TAPIF that, despite my best intentions, I didn't get the leg-up on my application that I had planned for. Life got in the way and it wasn't until I was graduated, thrust out in to the real world and promptly felt chewed up by it, that I became more certain than ever that finishing that application and getting to France ASAP was the right path.
The application was extensive. It required passport photos, transcripts, relative experience, language evaluations and recommendations, proof of language skills and experience abroad and finally a personal statement (in French!) explaining why I was a good candidate for the program. The most difficult part of the entire process was ranking my top three preferred académies (school districts) in France, regarding where I was to live and teach. The country is broken down in to three groups (A,B and C) and applicants had to select one académie from each group and list them from "Choix 1" to "Choix 3". I wrestled with this decision for some time. Did I want to go back to Lyon? Where I initially fell in love with the country? Did I want to bite the oh-so-expensive bullet and live in Paris for a year? Did I want to live in a quaint town somewhere near the lavender fields of Provence? They all had their own allures.
Eventually I selected Bordeaux as my top choice. I have never visited the southwest region and sixth largest city in France, distinguished as the world's largest World Heritage Site by UNESCO, wine capital of the world and home to a feast of incredible sites, food and culture. Additionally, there is an airport and a TGV station in the city of Bordeaux, making travel throughout France and the rest of Europe accessible. The city of Toulouse was my second choice and Reims (Hello Champagne country!) was my third. Though I fell hard for Bordeaux, there's no way I could be mad about any of these incredible cities.
I finished and submitted application on January 5, 2018. Ten days before it was ultimately due. I worked tirelessly on it, past my doubts self-assured that TAPIF was what I wanted to do.
Something I should have known then was that the application was in fact, the easy part. It would be several months before I received any news (good or bad) and the wait was grueling. Right from the start of 2018, I felt as though I was stuck in a sort of suspended animation. Along with the anticipation of waiting to hear from TAPIF, I was also biding my time while my medical insurance company dawdled with the decision of whether or not they wanted to fund a potentially life-changing surgery. It was four months of restlessness and mini-breakdowns and panic attacks.
It took initially getting put on the waitlist for me to realize how desperately I wanted to be accepted. I had applied no other post-graduate jobs. TAPIF was Plan A, B and C. On April 5, I received the news I was craving, though it was not the result I had been wanting, and perhaps overconfidently expecting.
I was devastated. This was pure tragedy for a fresh, young graduate ready to conquer the world. Though it wasn't an outright "no" I began to consider the reality that my dreams of living in France might not pan out. Maybe I wasn't as qualified as everyone (myself included) had assumed?
I'm not a passive person, and I'm far too neurotic to sit idly and wait for more news. So, I began to research everything. I read about the likelihood of being offered a job after being placed on the waiting list, scrutinized Reddit chat threads between past waitlisted applicants, even badgered Natalie Cox (the TAPIF Program Manager) to get more information about my own ranking on said list.
My persistence paid off when, less than a week later, Natalie responded to my desperate emails. She told me that I was ranked high on the waiting list and that they should be able to offer me a position within the next month. A couple weeks after that, on April 27th, I received my official TAPIF acceptance.
Not only was I accepted, I was lucky enough to get my first choice -- Bordeaux!! I'll receive more details on my exact school, visas and other next steps throughout the summer. I can finally allow myself a deep sigh of relief and luxuriate in my excitement! I've fantasized about this for so long, and after two years, I'm going to live in France! I get the opportunity to see the world.
Until I know more...
À bientôt Bordeaux!