29 May 2010

Lectrice Job Search Strategies

For any fellow assistants out there interested in making the transition to lecteur/lectrice d'anglais, I have detailed my job search strategy below. Would also like to give credit to Eileen Fitzpatrick, whose blog entry about the lecteur job search was very useful to me. Her blog can be found here:  http://eileen.likeafrog.org/

*Note: I began my job search in early March, but I think anytime after January is an acceptable time to begin the search.  Most universities won't notify you of hiring decisions until spring or summer.  Some will want an interview, while others hire directly from the CVs

1. Write your CV in French. Look online for examples. Surprisingly, French CVs must include a photo and information generally omitted from an American CV (marital status, age, number of children)

2. Write your cover letter (lettre de motivation.) Again, look online for examples, because the French way is not quite like the American way.

3. Have a Frenchie (or several) proofread your CV and lettre de motivation. The more the better!

4.  Create an email to present these two documents. Incorporate the typically ceremonious French lingo "Veuillez agréer, Monsieur, Madame, l'expression de mes salutations distinguées" or one of its countless variations.

5.  Decide where to send your CV.  This website is a great resource of universities by region:

You may have a region in mind, or you may be like me, with absolutely no preference as long as you're on French soil. The more flexible and open you are, the more likely you'll find a post. I also made a point to personalize my cover letter for each university, which shows I put the effort forth to research their school rather than blindly send out my CV.  This little detail is worth the extra time and effort.

6. On the university websites, seek out the UFR de langues, or département d'anglais. Send your email to the head of the department, if you can find him/her.  As Eileen mentions in her blog, most universities are very good about forwarding if you don't send the email to the proper destination.

7. Now is the waiting game. Expect rejections but don't lose hope. Make a goal to send out several a day, and keep track of who you've contacted, who you've heard from and their responses.  

This is a very long process. The creation of my CV and lettre de motivation from rough draft to final proofreading took several weeks of perfecting and rewriting.  The actual act of finding a university, personalizing the lettre de motivation, finding the correct contact within the university's website, and sending the email is quite time consuming.  For the 40 or so CVs I sent out, I received 5 invitations to interviews and 2 offers.  In the end, persistence pays! 

28 May 2010

French Job offers

Since day one in France, I was determined to do everything in my power to stay here. Despite the catastrophes that seem to follow me to and fro, I truly believe that France is where I belong, at least for this part of my life.

Since March, I have been sending my CV to Universities and schools all over France, receiving mostly rejections or no response at all.  I've had a handful of interviews but nothing ever came of them. Most places told me that they have existing relationships with anglophone universities, and that English teaching jobs were reserved for this exchange. Or else, my NOT being a European Union citizen made matters too complicated. Or that all positions were filled... I was beginning to lose hope.

Today, imagine my surprise to find not one but TWO job offers to in my inbox! One from a business school just outside of Paris, and the other at a university in Toulouse! I'm trying not to allow myself to get excited, because who knows if these schools understand the visa requirements and intricacies surrounding the hire of an American... but I can't help but dance around my apartment and walk the streets of Metz with more spring in my step! The possibility of staying in France for another year has suddenly become very real.

::Croisant les doigts::

27 May 2010

Nice, Eze and Monaco: Learning to slow down

The stress of preparing my students for their English evaluations, the lack of news from job prospects, and the chaotic pace of my life pushed me to reserve an impromptu train ticket down south.  I would never forgive myself for living in France for almost a year without seeing Nice, so off I went! It was amazing to see the contrasts in the terrain. The Lorraine region is quite flat, but the further south one goes, the more savage the landscape becomes.  The jagged cliffs, outcrops of rock, and tropical flora reminded me that I was no longer in the north of France.

I stepped off my overnight train, greeted by an abundance of sunshine, endless rows of palm trees, the cerulean blue waves of the Mediterranean, world-class hotels, and colorful architecture.  My type A personality immediately pulled me into full tourist-mode. As soon as I left my things in the hostel, I hit the streets, checking out the ornate Russian Orthodox church, the Cathedral, the Marc Chagall

 Museum, La Vieille Ville (the old city,) and of course, wandered the beaches.  The heat quickly took its toll.  I went to sleep the first night, dripping with sweat, full-blown headache, and more stressed than ever, marveling at how Nice could be described as a haven of relaxation.  Certainly it was a lovely place... but I just wasn’t getting it. What was I missing???

The next day, I booked a day trip to the medieval hilltop perfume-making village of Eze and to the principality of Monaco.  I savored the scents of Eze, wandering the labyrinth of narrow stone streets, marveling in the gardens, even buying a small bottle of Fragonard perfume.  It was lovely to gaze over the hilltop at the various levels of terraces and elegant homes literally spilling down the hill.

In Monaco, I was surrounded by undeniable glamour as I wandered the footsteps of Princess Grace.  The second smallest country in the world (only the Vatican is smaller), densely populated with wealthy foreign 'tax refugees.' I was in awe of the Casino and the endless array of lavish automobiles parading in front to drop off the wealthy clientele, half expecting James Bond to emerge with a sexy Russian spy. The Port of Hercules was overflowing with yachts and massive cruise ships.  Spectator stands were still visible from the recent Grand Prix race. Everything about this spectacular place was gorgeous... but alas, too rich for my blood. I was anxious to return to Nice.

I fell into a deep sleep on the bus back to Nice, nearly a coma of exhaustion. The bus driver awakened me when we arrived, joking about how I need to slow down and enjoy life. If he had any idea how he had nailed my personality on the head! 

Day three, I slept in till 10am, enjoying a grasse matinée. I filled my bag with a book, a bikini, a towel and my camera, setting out towards the beach. How delicious it was to lay down on the picturesque (albeit rocky) beach. I finally began to understand Nice.  The children splashing in the waves, the vendors selling chouchou (candied peanuts), the slender women sunbathing topless, and the faint, drifting sounds of Provençal guitar... time was standing still, at last! Hunger was the only force strong enough to drag me from the beach, and so I wandered into the Vieille Ville (Old Town.) Without a doubt, this is the most splendid part of Nice; winding cobblestone streets, nothing but bars, cafés, tiny churches, and charming boutiques. The architecture is much less conservative in the south. I fell in love with the daring turquoise shutters, pink façades and orange tiles roofs. 

Leisurely, I wandered the marché aux fleurs (flower market), browsing through flowers, antiques, and produce. I settled on a Niçoise salade for lunch; crisp, fresh, and colorful. I basked in the sunlight and street music, watching the passers-by, drinking in everything I had been too busy to notice the two previous days. I headed back to the beach, ending my day there. My senses were heightened, I suddenly noticed the subtle changes in light as the sun set, how the cast shadows on the tile roofs and the pebbles on the beach changed direction, how the Mediterranean seemed to inhale and exhale the most refreshing breeze.  I gazed at the scores of people at the outdoor cafés along the Promenade des Anglais, enjoying the essentials of life: food, wine, conversation... and the endless expanse of the sea.  

While, bien sûr, there are a million landmarks, churches and museums worth exploring, the real treasure of Nice is the change of pace she can bring to your life, if only you will allow her. 



Port of Hercules, Monaco

The Casino, Monaco

View from a hilltop Garden

La Vieille Ville
Old Town Nice

On the way to Eze

Produce in the marché aux fleurs

La Vieille Ville 
Old Town Nice

The hills of Nice

A picture perfect Salade Niçoise

This is what Nice is all about

It took me three days, but I finally learned 

to relax and enjoy la vie niçoise!

22 May 2010

METZ in the spotlight

Grand Opening of Centre Pompidou Metz

With great anticipation, my fellow assistants and I awaited the grand opening of the Metz Extension of the Centre Pompidou, and with great fanfare we watched it all unfold. This is the biggest thing to happen to Metz since Saint Clement drove the Graoully out of the city.  The architectural marvel created by Shigeru Ban and Jean de Gastines, the Pompidou center has been a work in progress since long before our arrival last September.  We watched as it progressed, often wondering if it would ever make its deadline.  The feminine curves of the roof, dramatic, angular galleries jutting out of the exterior, and juxtaposition of building materials has created a new dimension, giving Metz relevance even 3,000 years after its birth.

We waited over two hours to be among the first to enter the museum opening day. The queue went as far as the train station. In line we heard a number of languages, and we beamed with pride, knowing that OUR city was in the spotlight, that the whole world was watching HER. As we walked inside, we could hardly contain the excitement of being a part of this historic moment for Metz.  The interior space is just as astounding as the exterior, it's a truly remarkable space. It felt like walking into a room of old, dear friends. Picasso. Matisse. Chagall. Warhol. Braque. Kandinsky.  We're all on a last name basis. The galleries have enormous windows, framing the greatest masterpiece of all, the city skyline of Metz, dominated by the cathedral.

We partook of the festivities surrounding the opening.  One night, white umbrellas equipped with flashlights were distributed to the throngs of people, who were instructed to wander around the museum grounds, the brilliant white of the illuminated umbrellas uniting with the white fiber glass roof of the Centre Pompidou.  We all became a living chef-d'œuvre, or Masterpiece. The effect was stunning; startlingly beautiful against the night sky.  We played rowdy game of follow the leader, weaving in and out throughout the crowds, twirling our umbrellas, spinning around, and changing directions without warning. A beautiful, childlike joy overflowed within us. Such simple pleasure... the best kind. Other festivities included a most impressive fireworks display, outdoor concerts, parades through the street, and even a mass freeze, in which we eagerly participated.

The Centre Pompidou promises to revitalize the city, bringing tourists from all over France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, and beyond to a city previously overshadowed by surrounding regions. Vibrant new signage indicating the directions toward the train station, museums, centre-ville, and cathedral give the streets new life. Metz has taken the center stage, and I’m so proud to see her shine.  I grin as I pass my favorite bakeries and tea rooms, watching the crowds of visitors clamor for their delicious specialties.  With pride, I give directions to passers-by, even to French people.  It legitimizes me as a citizen of Metz.  To have more knowledge about a French town than an actual Frenchie is a pretty awesome feeling! 

Admittedly, I am a bit taken aback by the sudden invasion of tour buses, foreign tongues, crowds filling the cathedral, and tourists photographing my apartment building.  All of my favorite places are under siege by outsiders. I was quite content to live in one of France’s best-kept secrets.  However, I understand that Metz is an extraordinary place, deserving of admiration, exploration, and inspiration. If she can do for others even a fraction of what she has done for me, it would be life-changing for them.  I know deep down that I must be content to share her.

Kathy, Kappes, Elli and Cole waiting in line for the Centre Pompidou 

Centre Pompidou



Gorgeous interior space

The line 

The illuminated umbrellas in front of Pompidou

Concluding the evening with a glass of Bordeaux

Fireworks finale

15 May 2010

Springtime in Metz

The abnormally long and cold winter in Lorraine has finally retreated, yielding to tulips, pansies, and hyacinths. The outdoor cafés of Place Saint Jacques are once again overflowing with patrons who come to sun themselves and sip Perrier or espresso.  Gone are the black pea coats; in are the sleek leather jackets, delicate scarves and sunglasses.  The fountain at the esplanade is once again gurgling with life, sending a pleasant mist into the air, and lovers inhabit nearly every park bench at the Plan d’Eau.  Kayakers and runners are out in full force along the River Moselle, as are children who come to feed the swans.  It’s so wonderful to see life breathed back into Metz. 

Le Jardin Botanique

Le Jardin Botanique

Avenue Foch

The Esplanade

Nothing like  a coffee en terrace at Place Saint Jacques

12 May 2010

Introducing Peanut Butter and Jelly to the French

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are a staple of the great American lunchbox... The concept of the lunchbox is difficult for my students to grasp. If they stay at school to eat, they buy lunch in the cantine, but most go home to eat (lunch lasts nearly two hours in France.) Funny how even my American high school did not have an open campus for lunch, and how French 7 year-olds have more freedom than I had at 17!!!

The concept of sweet and savory in the same sandwich is a bit alien to French tastebuds. During a lesson about the differences between American and French lunches, my students wrinkled their noses at the thought of such a vile concoction. Most had never tried peanut butter. I was determined to enlighten them.  Undaunted, I enlisted the help of my fiancé Jim to prepare a PB&J for each and every one of my 170 little monsters in my eight classes! 

Per my request, Jim had brought several jars of peanut butter from the States, (a rare and expensive commodity in France!) Two days in a row, we rose at 5:30am to prepare sandwiches.

My students awaited their promised treat with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. As we passed them out, I instructed them to wait until everyone had received their sandwich.

We counted down in English, and everyone bit into their sandwiches at once with great fanfare. Most nibbled daintily at first, growing more brazen as they discovered how much their enjoyed the taste. 

Among my classes, the sandwiches were most successful among my youngest students, with about a 90% success rate. As the students matured in age (and tastebuds), the reactions ranged from delight to indifference to downright disgust... Many cheered and asked for seconds, while several literally spit it out in their hands! With the oldest kids, probably only a 50% success rate. However, not a single sandwich went to waste, since the ones who enjoyed the taste pounced on the uneaten sandwiches of less enthusiastic classmates.

If anything, it was a fascinating experiment.  Summing it up precisely, one of my students quipped "A chacun ses goûts." (to each their own tastes.) 

The most adorable quotet came when one of my students declared to her neighbor; "I think in America, everyone eats peanut butter and jelly when a couple gets engaged!" I translated her comment to Jim, and we both just grinned.


01 May 2010

A Volcano Story

The series of catastrophic events I suffered as a result of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland are too numerous to be described in detail, so I have provided a timeline of my experience. I was meant to finally meet Jim (who I hadn’t seen since Christmas) in Paris after my stay in Istanbul... but the fates had other plans.  This was in every respect a travel nightmare. Dwindling finances, unexpected expenses, sheer exhaustion from days without sleep, emotional despair, lack of internet access to communicate with the outside world... After surviving this, I'm confident I can surmount any obstacle!

15 April - Devastating News
My last night in Istanbul, I receive a frantic email from Jim that his flight to Paris the next day is canceled due to the swirling clouds of volcanic ash.  The flight will be rescheduled for the following day.

16 April- Stranded in Slovenia
-I fly out of Istanbul headed for a layover in Ljubliana, Slovenia, but my flight is diverted to Maribor.

-Upon arrival in Maribor, I discover that my flight to Paris is canceled.  The ash cloud has also shut down airports in the UK, Germany, Belgium, The Czech Republic.... and all of France.  For how many days was anyone’s guess.   The closest I can get is a late flight to Zurich, which, I am told, would probably end up being canceled. I accept the ticket... What choice did I have?

-Bawl my eyes out due to lack of sleep and uncertainty of seeing Jim.

-Befriend a wealthy and famous Egyptian hotel magnate and his entourage, who invite me to breakfast at their 5 star hotel. I share their cab, and I feast on the most decadent breakfast I have ever had, and hang out with them in their suite. To make a long story short, Egyptian hotel magnate turns out to be a total creep, and I am thus forced to hightail it back to Maribor airport. 

-Flight to Zurich is boarded... then delayed... then unboarded... then reboarded. Ultimately, we manage to fly out of Slovenia after all! I would later learn that this would be the last flight out of Maribor for several days.

-Land in Zurich, rush to the ticket line for a train to Paris, where I wait for an hour and a half. When it’s my turn to go up to the window, the ticket queue is closed. I’m told to come back at 6am tomorrow.

-cry myself to sleep on the cold floor of Zurich Airport. All around me, stranded passengers are camping out in the airport. Astoundingly, every single flight on the departure board is listed as CANCELLED.

17 April - Escape from Zurich
Arrive early at the ticket queue to be first in line, and manage to book a train to Paris, which costs over 200 Euro since only first class is available.

Arrive in Paris two days late, and receive word from Jim that his flight has been canceled AGAIN and he won’t be able to fly out until at least Thursday.

Arrive at the hotel we were meant to share (with a tragically gorgeous view of Sacré-Coeur), cry myself to sleep yet again.

18 April: A night with the nuns
-cancel the remaining nights in the hotel since it’s too expensive to stay in indefinitely while waiting for Jim's arrival.

-Wander around the city of Paris with tears in my eyes, trying to avoid the abundance of kissing couples, feeling more alone than ever before. THIS, my friends, is what hell must be like. To be stranded in one of the most romantic cities in the world without the one you love... Torture.

Drag my suitcase up the steps of Montmartre. Spend the nights with the nuns at Sacré Coeur. In exchange for two hours of Eucharistic Adoration from 3 – 5am, I am given a place to sleep for only 5 euros. I can only take advantage of this offer for one night, unfortunately.

19 April

-Expected to leave Sacré Coeur by 7:30am, I rush to an internet café and book a hostel for the night.

-Wander the streets of Paris, determined to make the best of it, but the inevitable tears continue. By now, my face is so tear-stained from several days of crying, it will remain blotchy and red for weeks to come.

-Meet up with a Parisian on couch-surfing, with whom I have drinks and a personalized tour of Paris on his motorbike. Begrudgingly, I enjoy myself a bit. Head back to hostel and sleep.

20 April: Hospitality from a friend of a friend
-Have lunch with Emily, a girlfriend from the states who’s living in Paris. While she’s unable to host me for the night, her friend Sarah (an assistant like me) would be willing to.

-Wander the beautiful streets of Paris yet again, realizing that I rarely need a map anymore.

-I arrive at Sarah’s, bearing desserts and baguettes in gratitude. We share a lovely dinner together and I crash on her pullout couch.

21 April: 
-Another day of exploring the city. 

- Spend the night in the dirtiest, sketchiest hostel of my life (FRIENDS hostel) in what I consider the Bagdad of Paris (otherwise known as Métro stop Barbes Rochechouart.) Accosted by drug dealers and groped in the 30 feet from the Metro Station and the hostel.

-Jim's flight for the following day still had not been canceled, so I felt safe enough to book a new hotel for his hopeful arrival the following day.

22 April:
-Leave the god-forsaken FRIENDS Hostel for the lovely Hotel Lorraine near Gare de l'Est. 
-Wait expectantly by the window for several hours... becoming more and more anxious until finally...

I turn around.

He's there.

We're together.

At last.

In Paris.

Related Posts with Thumbnails