La Vie Jolie: My post-graduation year abroad as a Language Assistant

La Vie Jolie: My post-graduation year abroad as a Language Assistant Boulogne-Billancourt by Patrick Nouhailler

This article was written by Stephanie Barrett, published on 21st October 2013 and has been read 3652 times.

I am about to set off to Paris – Boulogne-Billancourt more precisely – not for a third year abroad, but for a post-graduation year abroad. Though I graduated in English Literature in June, in a few days I will be joining the scores of current language students heading to foreign shores to work as a Language Assistant with the British Council.


Obviously, as a graduate, doing a year abroad isn’t compulsory for me, but I share with those for whom it is and those that have chosen it as an elective, a desire to get to grips with another language. Judging by the few others I know who are also doing a post-degree overseas adventure, I don’t think I’m alone in my decision being primarily language-learning fuelled, and also in using this year a means of productively buying time before taking the first tentative steps on any sort of career path. 

I can’t wait to…

1. Hang with the locals

Now I’m not a student, and don’t have to be burrowed in the library for 30 hours a day, I’m looking forward to spending lots of time socialising with the Parisian over a carafe of wine; practising my French, whilst making new friends.

2. Learn to make the perfect macaron

Now I have so much more free time than I did when I was at uni, I plan to join up to lots of community clubs and societies, and do all the things I didn’t have time to do as a student. I’m not going to lie, the most drool-inducing draw to France has to be the boulangeries and patisseries. I am going to sniff out the best ones, and hopefully find a course when I can learn to bake French melt-in-the-mouth delicacies for myself.

3. Explore!

Boulogne, Paris, France…Europe. I want to go everywhere. Whilst submerging myself in the Parisien culture, I also need to make the most of being on ze continent. Passport at the ready…

I can’t help but worry about…

1. Money 

A downside of not being on a third year abroad is the lack of Erasmus grant. I’m sliiiiiightly concerned that the other language assistants will be on a much more relaxed budget that I am, with the knock-on effects of that they might live a more extravagant social life that I can’t keep up with, and might have much more free time, rather than searching for extra part-time work, that I’ll be definitely needing to keep my head above the Seine waters.

2. Not being a student 

As a graduate, I think my outlook to this year might be different to those doing an Erasmus year. Rather than a year-aboard, I’m embarking on what could well just be a life-abroad. I don’t have any commitments like studying to return to after my 7 months with the British Council, meaning my stay here is very open-ended. This means it can’t be all about the good times, but some Serious Life Decisions need to be made at some point, a looming horror which won’t concern the TYAers.


How easily accessible are PG Tips? Can I buy English tea somewhere? How expensive will the tea in the Marks and Sparks on the Champs Elysée be? Will the Lipton Yellow Label that everyone has reassured me about really do the job? Because the 200-bag box of PG I’ve packed will not last long…

Any questions?

Despite the fact I am leaving frighteningly-soon for le gai Paris, I still have so many unanswered questions regarding my work, my accommodation and my French competency! 

1. Work

Almost all my e-mails from the British Council have warned against me e-mailing with questions, which has left me in the dark about a few fairly important matters, like which school I’ll be working in, whether I’ll be taking whole classes or just doing English conversation with individuals or small groups and how the 12 hours I’m contracted to work will be distributed across the week. Without this information, it’s pretty hard to visualise the shape of my week, and apply for other part time work.

2. Living

I’m also fairly clueless as to how equipped my apartment will be, which will make unpacking upon arrival a lucky dip. I might end up having to drink from the tap and sleep curled up on the floor. And of course, I don’t know what I’ll be required to wear at my school, as I don’t know the school. And I thought packing for uni was hard…

3. French

This is la grande question: will my French be up to scratch? Having not learnt French since my A-Level three years ago, it’s rustier than some of the padlocks on the Pont de l'Archevêché. I’m just hoping that if I stay motivated, and immerse myself in the language, it’ll all come flooding back to me; I really don’t want to be stranded in Paris with a persistently bemused face of sheer incomprehension!

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