Saturday, 30 March 2013

Pieces of wisdom for future assistants!

I can't believe I'm saying this already but there's only 2 weeks left of my contract here in France! It's crept up out of nowhere.... where has the time gone?! Naturally, being so close to the end, I've spent some time thinking over the journey. Was it how I had imagined? Would I do anything differently if I had the chance? 

So, this post is for you guys. These are things I've learnt that I hope will help you when you come in October and start this amazing journey! So, here goes!

You will feel comfortable, free, foreign, confused and a million other things all at the same time. 
Especially in the beginning, you feel like you're on a giant emotional roller coaster, not knowing from one day to the next how you feel about being here. There were days I felt completely comfortable and others where I felt so foreign, and it would take something little to trigger both feelings. Don't worry because there are many more highs than lows, and the lows are what remind you that you're doing something out of your comfort zone.

The program is all about luck. 
It starts with where your placed and then if you’re offered housing. Then it’s what your ‘responsable’ is like. Then it's your colleagues, school and students. It’s the other assistants around you. It’s who’s looking at your papers at CAF, MGEN or OFII. Everything is up to chance, so be prepared to not always be in control.

Stop trying to fit in with the teachers at your school. 
The people you work with won’t necessarily care about you. Before I came I thought the teachers I worked with would be more welcoming and take more of an interest. For me, this only happened with a few. For a long time I tried really hard to talk to them and be friendly, but it got to the point where I realised I should just stop caring so much. I accepted that I was an outsider and would never be one of them. Be prepared to feel alone and ignored when you’re at work, but don't let it get to you.

Paperwork will be just as annoying and frustrating as you’ve heard. 
You WILL have problems and delays. Before leaving home, have a general idea of what different french bodies might ask from you and start to compile them. Make several photocopies of all your documents, bring envelopes with you and passport sized photos of yourself. Have as much of your paperwork organised before you come, so you only have to do the things you could only do in France. Follow instructions to the tee. Give them the correct papers they want, as promptly as you can. Keep every letter you've ever been sent. That's the best you can do. It's always one step at a time with French bureaucracy. 

You won't always be doing or going somewhere extraordinary.
Just because you’re in France doesn’t mean you have to be going away somewhere or doing something amazing all the time. You’re living and working here. Life goes on like usual. Don’t feel guilty for being at home watching TV instead of travelling every weekend or something. Don't imagine that life here will be wildly different to back home. It's of course different, but it's still day to day life, even in France. 

But... do take full advantage of being here.
Travel as much as you can, try and make some friends. Don't be too scared to get out there.

France will mean more to you than you thought it would.
As much as France makes it hard for you sometimes, you'll love it anyway. You'll learn how to live here and things that you found frustrating in the beginning start to become normal. And there will be some things you know you'll miss when you return home. It's gotten to a point for me when even if I'm enjoying myself somewhere else, I can’t wait to return 'home'.

Enjoy and appreciate every second.
All I can say to all those who are about to embark on this journey is to appreciate every second because it will go quicker than you ever thought possible. 

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Let it snow!

The weather in northern France this week can be described in one word: crazy! The weather last week had tricked us all into a false sense of security. We had a few sunny days, temperatures in the double digits... spring was finally on its way in. But, the weather Gods had other things in store for us. Instead of spring, we got a snowstorm! Oh, the good ol' North.

One of the advantages of having such an insane amount of snow fall is that it completely shuts down everything. No one can drive, buses and trains don't run, basically getting anywhere is impossible and dangerous. This meant that I experienced not just one or two snow days, but THREE. No work at all this week for me! Quelle chance!

Putting our free time to good use, this Australian and a friend from Trinidad and Tobago made a snow woman. Both of us were obviously rookies: two girls from island nations who never see snow, which led to some very serious conversations. How many segments should her body be made of? Was her bottom too fat? Is her head round enough? Does she have more of a shoulder on the right than the left? I know... solving world peace right here guys. 

This is what we ended up with: a snow woman that was made of objects we found in my friend's apartment. A green wig (because who doesn't have that just lying around?), yellow sunglasses with the union jack printed on them, a red peg used as a mouth, a gold paper crown that came from who knows where and a scarf. Plus a random bucket to make her look stylish (because the wig just wasn't quite enough). I think she turned out pretty good, what do you think? 

Important question now, are you all ready? Is a snowman made out of two or three round segments? Answer in the comments below and help us break the impasse!

P.S: you know you want to say 2!


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