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Teaching English in Toulouse, France: Alumni Q&A with Jemimah James
Written by: Jemimah James
Last Updated: January 8, 2021
What is your citizenship?
What city and state are you from?
How old are you?
What is your education level and background?
Have you traveled abroad in the past?
Some international travel with friends, family, business, etc.
What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?
I had always been interested in living abroad (specifically France) and English teaching seemed like the perfect way to make that happen. I studied English at university plus I had volunteered at a local church teaching English to people from other countries, so I knew I was up for the challenge!
What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?
Being stranded in a foreign country, without a firm grasp of the language and no job prospects. Eeep!
What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad?
Most were really excited for me, though of course, I had a few friends who were a bit concerned about me going alone to the other side of the world.
Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?
I chose to become TEFL certified to insure the best chance of finding employment. I chose International TEFL Academy because they have contacts all around the world and I wanted to be sure my certificate would allow me to travel where ever the wind may lead.
Which TEFL certification course did you take?
France - Toulous
How did you like the course?
I enjoyed the course a lot. The trainers were all very supportive, encouraging and insightful. Plus they were a lot of fun! It was long hours, learning theory and grammar etc. in the mornings, then teaching our own classes in the afternoons. We all taught over six hours of classes plus one to one lessons to students of various ages and abilities. The month was intense but certainly worthwhile. I made quite a few friends, not only with the other students, but with the "guinea pigs" who came for free lessons.
How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?
It prepared me for many of the different situations I've found myself in since. When you're told, "ok you have a class of eight students, they need to work on their listening comprehension and speaking. Can you start tomorrow?" having that training behind you definitely gives you the confidence to say "Yes!"
Which city and country did you decide to teach English in and why?
Toulouse, France. I chose to come here because of the sun, the relaxed atmosphere, the food (of course) and the language.
How long have you been in this country and how long do you plan to stay?
I have been in Toulouse for eight months and am in the process of working out how to stay for another year.
How did you secure your English teaching job?
I work in many different places. I found them through word of mouth, online, and by running around with my CV in the hot sun!
What school, company, or program are you working for?
I work for primary schools, a high school, a number of training centers, and give private lessons.
How did you get your work visa?
Being from New Zealand, I am eligible for the Working Holiday visa which is offered to anyone under 30. Unfortunately it's only for a year and can't be renewed, so I'm looking into returning on a student visa after the summer holidays.
Tell us about your English teaching job!
All up I work about 20 hours a week. The pay varies hugely between schools, anything from €18 to €34. Plus I have a few private lessons which earn me between €10 and €25 an hour.
I'm able to save a little, enough to travel in my free time, but not excessively. I certainly live a very modest life here!
I work in primary schools with children aged 5-8, a with children aged 15-17, plus at a training centre with adults working in business (some online or over the phone which was a bit different!).
The good thing about working in schools is that I get the school holidays off. But on the flipside, those then become weeks where I don't get paid.
How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like?
I live in a two-bedroom apartment with another girl who took the TEFL course. Including bills, I pay €318 per month which is pretty ideal. It took us a long time to find somewhere that 1) had any kind of facilities (most places don't even have an oven let alone anything else) and 2) would take on two foreigners with no contracts or previous work history in France. But it's not difficult to find an inexpensive place to live while searching as there are plenty of people renting out spare rooms to students.
Please explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, travel opportunities, etc...
- Life in Toulouse: Being a student town with close ties to Spain, Toulouse is a very relaxed city where the inhabitants love nothing more than sitting in the sun, eating tapas and listening to music
- Public Transportation: The public transport is great for people under 25, for €10 per month I have unlimited access to the busses, metro and trams. Plus the public bike stations are a quick and easy way to get around.
- Food: The food is fairly inexpensive, if a little limited in scope. But the french staples of bread, cheese and wine are always good.
- Local expat community: There's a huge expat community because of Airbus, but I try to stick with French people where I can to improve my grasp of the language.
- Travel opportunities: Blablacar is a perfect and cheap way to get around. And with the Pyrenees on your doorstep and Barcelona only a 3 hour drive away, what could be better?
What are your monthly expenses?
I don't go crazy with my expenses and try to save where I can. On average my expenses are:
- Rent and bills: €318 (approximately $340 USD)
- Internet/phone: €20 (approximately $22 USD)
- Mobile: €11 (approximately $12 USD)
- Transport: €10 (approximately $11 USD)
- Food/drink: €200 -maybe a little more when I'm feeling social (approximately $215 USD)
- Travel: €200 (approximately $210)
How would you describe your standard of living?
Somewhere between when I was a student and when I was working full time. I don't feel like I lack much, but I do have to be careful.
In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably?
Anything over €1000 (approximately $1075 USD) a month would be ideal.
What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching English in France?
You won't regret it! I was a little scared that I would be stuck without work or a roof over my head but there are a lot of opportunities in Toulouse and a very supportive expat community.
Depending on your students, you may find it challenging at times, and a little overwhelming, but the good days completely outweigh the bad.
Hailing from Auckland, New Zealand, Jemimah had always been interested in living abroad (specifically France), and English teaching seemed like the perfect way to make that happen. She studied English at university, plus she had volunteered at a local church teaching English to people from other countries, so she knew I was up for the challenge! She took ITA's TEFL course in Toulouse, France, and remained there to teach English to people of all ages.
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