Life in France as an English Language Assistant

Posted on: 4 April 2024 by Niamh Lafferty in 2024 posts

A student outside a palace
Me at the Palace of Versailles. I remember being absolutely struck by the grandeur of this place!

Writing this near the end of my year abroad is a bittersweet thing. When I compare the sad goodbyes and homesickness I felt leaving Liverpool, to the wonderful memories I have today, I feel so lucky to have had this experience.

During this year abroad I have lived in a town called Orléans which is the capital of the Loire region in central France. As it was my first time living away from home, I was initially overwhelmed, but found support through networking within the program. Meeting fellow assistants from around the world, including the USA, Canada, India, Brazil, and Mexico made me feel more settled and has enhanced my cultural exchange. Our Thanksgiving dinner, for example, with dishes from around the world, was particularly memorable. As a Brit, it was my first time celebrating the holiday, and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Orleans Cathedral

Cathédrale Sainte-Croix d’Orléans. Taken in my first week here!

Working as an ELA has been one of the greatest things I think I could have done at this age, and I know that I picked the right path for my year abroad. Although it is only two days of work a week, the personal and professional development has truly been amazing and has given me opportunities which I could not get as a student. However, I think the best thing about it has been the kids' reaction to having me in their schools. Every student I pass saying hello to me, and even some of the little ones running up to me and swarming me with hugs makes me feel truly appreciated and spurs me on, on days when I might not be feeling the best.

Orleans Merry-Go-Round

Place du Martroi in Orléans. The merrygoround which you can see is a permanent feature of this square which I absolutely love.

Finally, one of my favourite things about working as an assistant here is that we are blessed with long weekends and school holidays which, for me, has meant lots of time to travel and sightsee. From the local chateaux, to the bustling cities of Paris and Lyon, and the breathtaking natural landscapes of places like Annecy. I certainly have seen my fair share of this beautiful country this year! I have travelled with some amazing people and have made some great friendships making it all the more special.

Day Trip to Annecy. This picture was taken on the Lac d’Annecy which was truly breathtaking!

So, if I had one piece of advice to someone who’s going on their year abroad and may be apprehensive, I’d say do it! Whether it's slow days by yourself or a weekend packed full of activities, take advantage of it all because before you know it life will be back to normal and you’ll be back to writing essays at uni!