Niamh Twomey tells you about an alternative way to spend your year abroad.
Are you studying a language as part of your degree?
Keen to go abroad and practice? Eager to travel, meet new people and make a bit of money at the same time? Toying with the idea of teaching or simply unsure of what to do next? Here’s why working as an English Language Assistant in a school– in either France, Spain, Italy, Germany or Austria– could be the answer to your prayers.
Half way through the second year of my degree in English and French, with half my friends eagerly anticipating Erasmus and the other half preparing for the shackles of final year, I found myself between a rock and a hard place. I felt I was too introverted to fare well on Erasmus (and too lazy to organize it in time), and petrified by the prospect of graduating in a years time with a piece of paper, broken French, and no idea what I wanted. For me, taking a year out before final year to work as an ‘Assistante de Langue’ in a secondary school in the south of France turned out to be the best decision I could make.
I lived in an apartment with two very cool French guys so my French was improving all the time, I made great friends with lots of other Language Assistants from all over the world, and I definitely learnt as much from my vibrant students as they learnt from me!
I worked only twelve hours per week over four days, making around €800 per month (leaving me ample time and funds to travel and party). The contract stretched over seven months (October 1st to the end of April).
I would usually take half the class in a separate room (up to 12 students), or work alongside the teacher. The primary function of an Assistant is to help the students with their spoken English, so mainly I just encouraged conversation and motivated them with games or topics that interested them. Some teachers spoon-fed me activities to do with the students, others gave me free rain to plan my lessons.
It was incredibly rewarding to see the students enthusiasm to have a new, young and (if I may be so bold), fun teacher in the classroom. They bombarded me with questions about life in Ireland, the education system, our festivals and traditions, my drink of choice, and in turn they gave me an invaluable young persons perspective of the French culture.
Here’s how it works:
• If you have completed a minimum of two years of University in any discipline, have a working knowledge of the language, and are aged between 20 and 35 (this may vary from country to country); you are eligible for the program. (It’s a popular path to take in place of Erasmus, or in the years following your graduation from College when you’re getting on your feet).
• In the application, you chose whether you’d like to work in a primary or secondary school, and state your first, second and third choices of regions. When your application has been considered and you have been accepted, you will be informed of the region and the school in which you have been placed, and the choice is yours whether you take it or leave it.
• The closing date for applications varies from country to country, generally it’s February-March time, so it’s good to be thinking ahead over the Christmas holidays.
• You will make in and around €800, again depending on your country of choice.
Here are the links to the relevant pages, with more information and application forms. I hope I have inspired someone to take the plunge!
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