Monday, July 25, 2011

Becoming an assistant + CROUS accommodation

So the money I will be receiving from the scholarship clocks in at a ''not-too-shabby-but-not-too-glamorous-either'' €800 a month. I'm getting a room from the CROUS in a university residence - which is apparantly a privilege, since they are very hard to get. Essentially, the way it works in France is getting government-owned university accommodation is linked in with getting government grants. Around April, you fill in a hefty pile of papers, send it off, and if you're poor enough, you get:
a) grants, and
b) a CROUS room.
Because all French parents look after their children financially (food, accommodation, cinema tickets, trips to Subway, holidays, new clothes, pocket money, etc) until they are 32, you could be 18, or you could be 23: the CROUS don't care. They want to know what your parents earn. If your parents are poor enough, you could be eligible for a grant. Only if you're French though. You can still be eligible if you're an EU citizen, but you need to prove your parents have been working here in France for 2 years. So basically - not very many of us foreigners are going to get the gift of government aid during our stay here in this delightful country. Which means that I am extremely lucky with this room.
I didn't know this was part of the deal, so was surprised when I got a random email from a CROUS person informing me of the situation. As far as I can gather, here is what you're likely to get in any CROUS residence:
  • A studio: pretty self explanatory. The most expensive (although all CROUS accommodation is cheap)
  • A 'renovated' room: this means a room with bed, desk, storage space, shower and WC
  • A 'non-renovated room: as above, but with shared showers and WC per floor
What I'm hoping for is a renovated room - I don't mind sharing a kitchen, but I have been down the dark, dingy road of shared showers, and I do NOT want to wash my hair in a little box full of floating plasters and leg hair. Having said that, since I am also not a pussy, I will not be totally freaking out if I do have to.

Anyway, that little info de-tour did have a point, the point being: my rent isn't going to be very much. I'm going to estimate it at around €300 a month, but I'm fairly sure it'll come to less. This gives me €500 to play with, which is already not bad going (I can get by on €100 a week), but let's face it - I want to buy stuff. Which means, one of my best options is going to be picking up that trusty (rusty?) old card: being an English assistant. There's two ways you can get this gig (and if €700 a month for 10 hours work a week sounds like a good gig to you, then give it a go):
  • A programme. You apply through the British Council if you're, you know, BRITISH, or TAPIF if you're American. No idea what the Irish/Candians/Australians/Jamaicans/South Africans/New Zealanders/you get the idea do. But I'm assuming you could just type 'language assistant france [your country]' into Google and find out. How do these programmes work? I can only speak for the British Council, but as far as I can gather, it works the same for everyone. You apply (don't sit around picking at your fingernails: do it a.s.a.p). In your application, you select your preferred areas/towns. You wait for their letter. You get placed somewhere. You go.
  • If you forgot to apply/couldn't be bothered/didn't know in time it would be something for you to do, you apply through the more chilled out yet more precarious way: you go directly to the 'rectorat'. Think of the 'rectorat' as the local education authority. Basically, do a google search for the rectorat in the region/town you're interested in, and then send them your CV and cover letter (non EU people need to have their carte de sejour/visa shit sorted. No one will be taking care of that for you). If you're EU, no worries, just send your stuff off. To be honest, I'd advise calling (as much of a pain in the ass as that is) first, or at least emailing, so the woman in charge of English assistants has a vague idea of who you are. I'd also advise POSTING your application and not emailing it, because for some reason French 'fonctionnaires' don't like to use their email (or don't like replying to emails, rather). The crap thing about this system, is that you are basically a second-class applicant, in the sense that you will only be offered a job if there aren't enough assistants coming through the programme. Or if an assistant drops out. Or if a school suddenly decides they want an assistant at the last minute. Which means you will only find out whether you have a job or not in September or October.
So I sent my stuff off today to the rectorat in Strasbourg. If I can secure an assistantship, I'll be doing something I quite enjoyed when I was in Chartres (much prefer teaching kids, as opposed to the supposed 'adults'of the university), as well as something that will bring my monthly income up o a quite comfortable figure - AND, with 18 hours of lectures, and 10 hours teaching, I will definitely not be rushed off my feet.


  1. Sparklysparkles from tsr here; interesting blog! I'm off to Strasbourg too, actually, though figured that just studying will probably be enough on my plate without trying for an assistantship as well... have to see how far the ERASMUS grant goes, mind you :S

  2. Sweet what are you studying? Is it part of a uni year abroad?

  3. I do Law with French over here, so this'll be my replacement for 3rd of a 4 year degree. 4 weeks to go - nervous but looking forward to it!