boats in a harbour
La Rochelle, France ©

Thibault Cheron under Creative Commons License

Before leaving the UK, my expectations were more of fear than anything but it wasn’t as frightening as I’d had expected. My ‘responsable’ in France was very helpful, arranged accommodation for us and was always ready to help.

I taught for nine months in primary schools as a language assistant where I taught ten classes spread over three schools per week. This was a great experience and has proved invaluable when applying for PGCE placements.

I attended training in France when I arrived. I found it useful knowing there was someone there who took us to sort out CAF/bank details/insurance etc.

The main challenge of the role was the language barrier to begin with, and also having to liaise with teachers where I only taught half the lessons. Sometimes it was difficult to know what they wanted. However, it was very rewarding seeing the students' English improve though and I miss them lots now!

My advice to future assistants is don’t expect to be able to use any technology ie. projectors/interactive whiteboards or even DVD players, as they’re rarely available in most schools, especially primary. Make sure you take out photos of your family and your local area and any resources that may prove useful whilst you’re out there.

During my assistatship I travelled lots - I visited the local towns of Poitiers, Bordeaux and La Rochelle, as well as Disneyland Paris. Other students visited cities such as Pau and the South of France whilst abroad.

The fact I taught whole classes and planned, taught and gave the children mini tests to evaluate their learning has meant that my experience of teaching has further developed as a future skill and I have now applied for a Graduate Teacher Programme place and a PGCE place. My experience is proving invaluable for this career direction. I was chosen as one out of 37 applicants for a GTP sponsorship, for example, and got called to an interview for a PGCE place. I think my experience abroad highly contributed to this. My advice is to go for the assistantship, especially if you want a career in teaching.