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Assistantships - Cynthia Perez '05
I started learning French as a freshman at Hope College for fun and I eventually made that into a French minor. During my time as a student I was able to spend six weeks in Paris through a study abroad program. It was my first time in Europe and my first time “living” in a major city. I was determined to find a way back.
When I graduated from Hope along with a certification to teach Spanish and French, I knew I still needed to work on my language skills. I applied to be an English language assistant in France through the French Embassy in the United States. Although I had been dreaming of living in Paris again, I decided that with the language assistant salary, it would just be too difficult. I put the region of Brittany as a preference on my application and months later I found out I had been assigned to a town of under 20,000 people to teach English in several elementary schools.
Lannion would be my home for 9 months. Through this I was exposed to a completely different side of France. Brittany, or Bretagne in French, Breizh in Breton is a region with a very strong cultural identity. In fact, some inhabitants speak Breton, the Celtic language that was at one time more widely spoken in the region. Almost everywhere in the region, signs are in both French and Breton although you generally don’t hear it spoken too much.
One of the four schools I worked in was bilingual with class taught in both French and Breton. Often, while eating lunch with the teachers I’d think, “Wow, my French is really bad today, I don’t understand anything.” Then I’d realize that they had stopped speaking French a while ago.
As far as the job itself was concerned, I taught about twelve hours a week. I created and selected all my own teaching material. This wasn’t too hard, but it took some time and thought. When you are assigned to work in elementary school you’re not really an assistant, you ARE the English teacher. Luckily there were a couple of training sessions to get me started.
I’m still in France but currently working as a university lecturer in Rennes, the capital of Brittany. For this post I applied directly to the university, as there is no centralized program such as for the assistantship. I teach English related to different social sciences. This job requires a lot more responsibility as I do a lot the same work as a regular professor.
Rennes is a very charming town and there’s usually something to do. At the university I have met people from all over the world, which I can appreciate being a foreigner myself.
My biggest complaint at least recently is that it rains way too much here.