So to go backwards in the process a bit… The application. I honestly think the most difficult part was choosing the three preferences of region. All I knew was I did not want to go back to Nantes or go to Brittany (Bretagne), which is the region Nantes believes it’s in (it’s actually in Loire-Atlantique). Nantes is an amazing city which I loved! I just wanted to try a different region this time, particularly somewhere in the south so I could see a new part of France. I also admit to being attracted to the accent of southern France. Bretagne in the north is a beautiful, BEAUTIFUL region. If you ever have the chance to go to l’Île-aux-moines, it’s almost like a fairy tale village.
So, where to go? I asked a my friends from France and former assistants what their favorite cities and regions were. I highly suggest asking people you know who have lived in France. The most popular response was Montpellier. After that, I think I chose Strasbourg and then Clermont-Ferrand based on the advice and the fact that you had to choose out of groups, so for instance Montpellier and Toulouse were lumped in the same column so I could only choose one.
How can you choose? Here are some questions to ask yourself.
- Do I want to speak English?I didn’t choose the Nice region (Aix-Marseille) because too many people said you could get away with speaking English all the time there, and that’s not what I personally am looking for. Same problem with Paris.
- Do I mind working in a ZEP (zone d’éducation prioritaire)? If you’re interested in urban development or working in disadvantaged areas, you may have the best chance to be placed in such a region in the Parisian suburbs.
- How much money can I spend? Granted, you have limited control over this as you can’t choose exactly what city you’ll end up in. Paris has some of the highest living costs. Tickets to the DOM-TOMs are costlier as are living costs (food shipments and whatnot), but the pay is also a little higher.
- Where do I want to travel? If you want to go to Germany, Strasbourg borders it. If you want to go to England, somewhere in the north might be good. If you’re in a DOM-TOM it might be a little harder to travel as most of these are islands (and French Guiana has been described to me as an inland island due to the jungle separating it from the rest of the continent of South America).
- Do you like the sun? Go south. Are you are a four seasons kind of person who doesn’t mind a little cold? Go north.
- Look up what each region is known for. What is there to do? What’s it known for (foods, nature, weather)?
- What are the major cities in the Académie? Look up some pictures of the region. If you want to be in a larger city, see how many larger cities there are. Look up blogs of former assistants in a particular region.
Go with your gut, but don’t hesitate to ask people what their favorite areas have been. You have no guarantee as to where exactly you’ll be, so just go into this with an open mind determined to make the best of wherever you are. Most people say this was the best time of their lives yet. So, here I am now, waiting to know where in the Académie de Montpellier I will be spending 7 months of my life.
UPDATES: I found out from a friend who did TAPIF in l’Académie de Poiters that all assistants in that académie are provided housing. It’s not necessarily free, but it’s cheap and you don’t have to look for housing on your own. Just in case that may help any future TAPIFers (or repeat TAPIFers) choose their preferences.
A map of the different academic regions: http://www.ac-montpellier.fr/sections/infos-pratique/carte-france-academies
Resource I wish CIEP had put up when I was trying to choose my regions! http://www.ciep.fr/assistantetr/informations-pratiques-academies.php