Assistant Spotlight with Reuben Ramsay
HI Reuben! Where do you come from and what made you want to teach English in France?
Hello. I'm from Montreal, Canada. I grew up in and around Toronto though. Well [the opportunity] sort of came to me. In 2013, I decided I was tired of the 'status quo' or whatevah and decided to take up French again. I took French until grade 12, but you really can't be bilingual until you immerse yourself in a francophone environment, so I moved to Montreal in 2014. I came to a point in my life where I was feeling a sort of complacency. At the time I was in dance class and my dance partner Julia told me she lived in France. I asked her how, she showed me the program and I had to think if I really wanted this because for the application process alone, it cost me almost $200 to get a passport. All in all, an opportunity presented itself to me, I took it, and now I'm in the south of France eating all bougie. I also discovered my passion for teaching.
WHAT LEVEL DO YOU TEACH AND HOW DO YOU LIKE IT?
I teach lycée and collège level. I do like it. I wouldn't enjoy teaching little children personally. I prefer working with a more mature brain y'know. Lycéens are way more interesting, but can be challenging to engage, which pushes me to be more thought-provoking.
WHAT ARE THREE TIPS YOU HAVE FOR FUTURE LANGUAGE ASSISTANTS WHO WANT TO TEACH IN FRANCE?
These are my personal opinions.
1. You might want to consider getting out of the TAPIF mindset. For me, I really limit the amount of friends I have in the program. I keep maybe 1-2 assistant acquaintances semi-close. You never know what could happen. Other than that, I don't see myself as a 'TAPIF-er' or whatever. I am a Canadian working abroad. TAPIF is only a means to get here. This is not a vacation or a field trip, I take this job seriously as I would any other. I've seen people complain how they weren't prepared/warned by TAPIF about certain aspects on living here (excess free time, isolation, etc.) but in reality, if you choose to move states or countries outside of a program, you can't expect someone to hold your hand either. With that being said, come to France with an open mind that wants to discover the soul of the nation. Get involved in activities with the community! I came here to integrate, and I think that was the best decision I made.
With this being said, get used to getting shit done yourself. French administration is infamously counterintuitive and slow. If you don't understand what document you need, ask them to clarify. Don't be afraid to make them repeat themselves or to explain and give examples. Criteria can vary from bank to bank, region to region, landlord to landlord, etc. So even if the person you're dealing with lacks a bit of patience, be firm until you are confident that you understand everything.
2. Know what it is you want and shape your experience around this. I recognize that tip #1 is not for everyone. Maybe you do want to have a TAPIF experience and have friends from different countries. Perhaps you are doing this to travel. What's important is that you know why you're doing this beforehand to help you be happier when you're there. If you want to travel, budget your travel money the year before! If you want a little TAPIF community, start chatting with the locals on the FB group etc. If you want to integrate and have a very French experience, go places alone and chat it up with random strangers, download Tinder etc.
3. Be grateful and be grounded. When you're there, make sure you take in every moment and be grateful for the opportunity to be there. Explore and don't be afraid to try things you would have never tried back home. You can reinvent yourself. You're going to get lonely, it's normal so take the time to develop a self-care routine and talk to your loved ones back home for some much-needed venting!
AS A LANGUAGE ASSISTANT, WHAT RESOURCES DO YOU FIND USEFUL (FOR PLANNING LESSONS, FOR USING IN CLASS, ETC.)?
The internet has a lot of great resources, but I just go with the flow. I like to talk about controversial topics with my lycéens. We've talked about the n-word, the legalization of marijuana, sexism etc. I take the time to talk about issues that might change a student's outlook on life. I bought the app Heads Up! by Ellen Degeneres as a great warm up.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR FAVORITE LESSON OR ACTIVITY YOU'VE BEEN ABLE TO DO WITH ONE OF YOUR CLASSES?
I led a dance class!
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY DOING OR WORKING ON IN YOUR FREE TIME IN FRANCE?
I work out, I go to this awesome board game café often. I travel when I can. I have apéros with my friends etc. I spend a lot of downtime reading or watching things in French! I try to stay in the French world as much as sanely possible.
HAVE YOU DONE MUCH TRAVELING SINCE BEING HERE? ANY FAVORITE PLACES?
I've been to San Sebastian in Spain, Bordeaux and Paris. I love them all. San Sebastian was full of character and I plan to see more.
DO YOU HAVE ANY BUDGETING ADVICE FOR ASSISTANTS IN FRANCE?
Save as much as you can before coming. Find cheap rent (if possible). The rest is up to you and your hustle. Live within your means.
THAT'S ABOUT IT! ANY LAST THINGS THAT YOU'D LIKE TO ADD OR ANY PARTING WORDS TO CURRENT AND FUTURE TEACHING ASSISTANTS IN FRANCE?
Don't be afraid to talk to strangers in bars, the gym or at a café, you'll be surprised!