S: Study Abroad: Smiles and Sadness Set the Scène

As my French studies were coming to an end, I had to make a décision: finish my degree without studying abroad or study abroad. I knew I owed it to my future French students to experience French first-hand, so, after months of debating the pros and cons, I made the décision to study abroad in France. It was the best décision I could have ever made in my life (and one of the most expensive décision, too)! There are two major characteristics that sum up my experience: smiles and sadness.

When I stepped onto the KLM flight, I had no idée what I was in for. I was nervous, excited, sad.

It’s true what they say after you return home: no one understands you (and you feel lonely as a result of this) and you are no longer the same person you were before you left home. Somewhere between the pain au chocolat, the hardcore French classes, meeting mon chéri, and traveling with my study abroad friends (SAFF), I became a changed woman. But, how did this happen?

I arrived in Aix in Septembre 2012.

It took me about a month and a half before I truly warmed up to the city.*

Why did it take this long? Well, for starters: I was alone for the first time Ever.

My boyfriend (of 7 years) at the time was hardly responding to my calls and texts. All of my family and friends were in the U.S. Needless to say, I felt like my life as I knew it was slipping through my fingers.

How did I overcome this feeling?

  • I made friends.

Chipotle in Paris. We. Just. Had. To.

  • I traveled with these friends.

Firenze, Italie.

  • I made progress in speaking, understanding, and communicating in a foreign language, so, ordering a baguette, a crêpe, a sandwich became easier.

  • I met mon chéri.

Traveling in Barcelone, Espagne.

  • I embraced the culture.

Making the French version of Christmas cookies.

  • I decided to take risques – in the sense that I would not miss out on experiences just because I was nerveuse, homesick, or whatever…

I tutored French with mon chéri (of course, this was before he became mon chéri). I said, “Oui” to mon chéri‘s (before he became mon chéri, of course) offer to show me les jardins d’Albertas, which was a brisk car ride away from Aix. (I went alone! But, I told my host mom where I was going because you never know…)

I traveled in France to Paris (with my SAFF)…

Climbing up to Sacré Cœur.

and to Lyon (with my two favorite mecs)…

as well as outside of France to Italie:

Venezia

Roma

and Firenze (with SA

FF)…

& Barcelone, Espagne (with mon chéri and 2 SAFF).

We drove to Barcelone.

  • I decided to accept that some things just weren’t meant to last. It was time for a change – time to move on. I was libérée.

When it came time to leave, there were tears. Back in Septembre 2012, I never would have thought that in Décembre, I’d never want to leave Aix. Even today (2015), I find myself reminiscing about the times I shared with my SAFF. I miss it; I miss them.

I miss the feeling of excitement and anxiousness of exploring a city that I didn’t know would become my permanent home.

And, of course the traveling with fresh eyes.

Firenze, Italie.

When you miss something so badly that you want to scream, you also want to talk about it.

Eventually, people back home begin to tire of your stories. They no longer know where their place is in your life (even though you know that you secretly wished they took part with you in your adventures). It becomes very difficile for them, for you! What can you do? You keep in contact with your SAFF so that you can still share stories and talk about the “good ol’ days” without offending anyone. At the same time, you learn who’s really important in your life and you “glue” them to your hip. And, sometime after you’ve returned/moved abroad, they will find a way to come visit you…And you can share your experience with them. ♦

*When you find yourself feeling all alone in a foreign land, don’t worry. Give yourself at least a month to get used to the culture différente and to make friends. It takes time, but by the end of this experience you won’t want to get on that return flight.


This is part of a blogging challenge: Topics ranging from A-Z. You can follow my challenge by clicking on the links below:

A: Adulthood: The Age of Absolute Ambiguïté 

B: Bilingue: La Vie is Better Being Bilingual

C: Christianisme: Combing the Cliffs of Clarté.

D: Death: Dealing with the Décès of My Dad

E: Éducation: The Endeavor of Easing into French Écoles

F: Food: Fancy or Faulty in France?

G: Going: Going Going Gone!

H: Home: My Heart Has Two Harbors

I: Interests: Intelligent, Insightful, Incredible!

J: Joy: La Jalousie is Overcome by La Joie

K: Khimar: Kind and Kooky Knitted Clothing Traditions

L: Lesson Plans: Leading the “Little Ones” into Language through Laughable Leçons

M: Musique: The Many Musicians Making Love on the Streets of Aix

N: Naughty or Nice?: Not Only Noticing the Différences, But Also the Similarités Between France and the U.S.

O: Obéi: Only Open to Obeying the Rules of the Road in…

P: PACS: Passionate Partners Pledging L’amour

Q: Questions: A Queen’s Quest for Clarté

R: Raisons: Riding on the Pony of Real Reasons (to Take the A-Z Challenge)

S: Study Abroad: Smiles and Sadness Set the Scène

T: Travel: Time to Hit the Trail!

U: Under the Influence: An Ugly Upward Climb Until Reaching the Summit

V: Vulgarité: Venturing out into the Vast and Voluptuous World of Cultural Différences

W: Walking: The Wise and Watchful Médiéval Wanderer

X: Xenial: A Xenodochial but not Xenophobic Host in France

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Visas: le choix de ta vie

“So, are you going to stay in France?” is the #1 question I get from family and friends (yet, everyone already knows the answer). After hearing (or reading, in some cases), “yes/oui,” this next question always follows: “How are you going to make that happen?” That’s a very good question.

Unfortunately, staying in France (legally, of course) is not easy for US citoyens. Especially the type that prefers to make her way in the world as an independent super-hero.

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Let’s face it: The easiest way for US citoyens to reside in France and have the right to work is to get married to a Français/e. In this case, it doesn’t matter if you marry after your visa expires (or if you’re in France as a touriste for 90 days) because you’re entitled to a long stay visa for the spouse of a French national. So, you can return to the US, apply for this visa, and BAM! You’ve got a valid French visa that you can change into a CDS (Carte de Séjour). And this visa is free! There are two main types of CDS that apply to this blog post: Carte de Séjour Vie Privée et Familial (gives you working rights – you have the right to this CDS immidiately following mariage to a Français/e) and the Carte de Séjour Mention Visiteur (no working rights). There’s one label I don’t want to be attached to: mariage for legal immigration rights.

The second ‘easiest’ option is to apply for a long-stay visitor visa. There are several downsides to this option depending on your reasons for wanting to live in France. First, it doesn’t come with the right to work; however, similar to the spousal visa, with this type of visa, you have the right to apply for a CDS mention visiteur. Normally, this type of CDS will not give you the right to work, but can be renewed each year. If you marry a Français/e or PACSFrançais/e and have lived together for a year, you have the right to change the CDS mention visiteur into a CDS vie privée et familial. Second, the eligibility process for the long-stay visitor visa is long and strenuous. Not only do you have to prove that you have enough money in your account to support yourself for one year (normally, this amount is equivalent to SMIC, the French minimum wage of $23,000 for the year), but you also have to prove that you have a job in the US, to prove that you have health insurance for the year, to prove that you have a place to stay, to explain what you intend on doing, etc… Most of these requirements seem logical, after all, the French government wouldn’t want you to become a poor person out on the streets for the year that you’ll be residing there. But, for someone who has already built her life in France, this visa is ridiculous. If I were to apply for this visa, I would have no problems in the housing and health insurance department (according to French law, I’m entitled to MGEN for a year – even if I don’t have a job next school year); however, there’s no way that I have enough money in my account to fit the monetary requirement. Also, I’ve been living and working in France for the year, so, I wouldn’t be able to prove that I have steady income from the US. On the surface, it doesn’t seem like I would be approved for this visa.

The third ‘easiest’ visa option is the long stay visa for studies. In addition to studying in France, this visa allows you to work up to 20 hours a week. Unfortunately, my wallet isn’t ready for me to enroll in grad school (I’m still paying off undergrad). Though, I’m considering enrollment at the University of Cambridge Aix-en-Provence campus in order to obtain the DELTA (Diplôme in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). This would open the door to many more overseas teaching opportunities and would take less time than grad school. It’s also perfect for people who are already registered teachers. If I were a Française, I would take the Capes or the Agrégation examens. These are the two main examens that all future teachers must pass. The problem with these examens is that they are very difficult to pass… Even for Français/es. Despite this fact, I’d be willing to try them if I had the option. They’re very prestigious examens, too. With either one of these examens under my belt, I would be able to teach as a normal française (and receive the same pay!). Here’s to dreaming.

Of course, the option that I prefer is by far the most difficult way to reside in France: finding a job that will sponsor a work visa for a US citoyenI’m lucky to have been accepted to work with TAPIF this school year and to have the option to renew my contract for a second time; however, before I applied for TAPIF, I spent months looking for a job that would hire me. I found nothing. Well, I found several that wanted to hire me, but none of them wanted or had the means to sponsor my visa. Thus, I’ve come to the conclusion that TAPIF is the easiest way for a US citizen to reside and to work legally in France. However, there are some stipulations: the TAPIF candidate must have already graduated university with at least a bachelor’s degree and must be between the ages of 20-30. The program can only be renewed once and program renewal doesn’t guarantee acceptance. But, thankfully, after about a month on the waiting list, I’ve been accepted to teach during the 2015-2016 school year! This time, I’ll be in secondary education, which should be interesting… if it’ll be anything like teaching in the US, I’ll probably be as tall, if not shorter, than the kids and look about the same age, too. But, if the kids turn out similarly to my students in French I and II in the US, then, it’ll be a blast! 

Throughout the past seven months, I’ve learned that sometimes independent super-heroes need to give up their powers for a day and give in to the system. Thankfully, the system allows for the option of PACS (Pacte Civil de Solidarité), or civil union.

IMG_7142

A vision of my petitte famille by one of my CM2 students.

So, while mon chéri and I fit the bill for mariage in the lovey-dovey sense, we come out empty handed in the financial sense. So, the PACS is our way of compromising. It’s “free” if you don’t count all of the documents a US citoyen needs and it’s similar to mariage in that the PACSé couple and the married couple is legally bound to support each other financially and must live together. Mariage has a hell of a lot more benefits than PACS; however, PACS is a safer, more cost-friendly way to “test” out the legal side of a relationship. In fact, “more than 40 percent of [disolved PACSé contracts] were not in order to break up but to permit the pacsé partners to move on to an official marriage.” Thus, PACS is more of a way to see if the couple can handle the legal side of being together.  It’s also much easier to end than is marriage. For example, to disolve the PACS contract, one of the partners simply heads to the Tribunal d’Instance and submits her/his case to end the contract. It’s free and, normally, there aren’t any lawyers involved. Mon chéri and I don’t intend to end the PACS, but it sure is good to know our rights. Also, I have the right to one of the previously mentioned CDS – depending on how long we’ve been living together. Since we’ve been living together for over a year, I have the right to a CDS vie privée et familial. If we didn’t have “un an de vie,” or a year of living together, then I would only have the right to the CDS mention visiteur. One important note: To get the CDS, you have to have a valid visa type D (longue visa).

IMG_7141

So, what happens if you PACS after your visa expires or if you PACS while being a 90-day visiteur? According to the Consulat Général de France à Chicago, the only option for PACSé partners is to apply for the long-stay visitor visa. In fact, the consulat advised me to get married! Saying, “le PACS ne garantissant pas les mêmes droits en matière d’immigration que le mariage” (“PACS doesn’t guarantee the same immigration rights as does mariage“) and that PACSé partners don’t have the right to apply for the spousal visa. Yet, PACS guarantees the right to a CDS. Confusing, I know! In any case, I decided to try to extend my visa in order to have the option of the CDS before my visa expires. I suggest everyone tries this option first as it avoids quite a bit of hassle in trying to decide which visa you’ll get approved for.

It’s been about 2.5 months since my file was sent from the Préfecture in Aix to the Préfecture in Marseille; however, I still have yet to receive la convocation (an appointment at the Prefecture to extend my visa). During this time, I’ve traveled to and from the US/France. According to the French consulat in Chicago, US citoyens must return to the US immediately after the visa expires. Apparently, the only way we can return in France (right away) is on a new visa. Otherwise, we have to stay in the US for 90 days before we can return to France as a visiteur. According to the Préfecture in Aix, however, US citoyens can return in France (right away) without a visa but with proof of PACS.

So, when I visited family and friends in the US for 3 weeks, I had every intention of applying for an assistant-ship work visa; however, I never received my work contract. I was told by the woman at CIEP who’s in charge of English assistants that I would receive it in Juin. Then Juillet happened… still no work contract. So, I ended up returning to France without a new visa. At border control, I anticipated being asked a billion questions – questions to which I had prepared responses. For example, border control should let me back in France because I have to attend la convocation, I’ve been PACSé and thus am legally bound to live with my partnerand for insurance purposes (I have proof of insurance through MGEN for the entirety of my pregnancy). But, I never had to beg border control to let me back in. Instead, he took one look at my passeport photo and then stamped my passeport and told me to have a nice day! So, who’s really keeping track of how long US citoyens stay in France? Maybe it’s counted but nobody cares. Either way, it worked out to my advantage. Now, I’m playing the waiting game with the Préfecture in Marseille.

So, Santé to the hope of being approved for a visa extension (once I finally receive la convocation)! ♦

Partners bound by PACS

There’s quite a bit of information regarding PACS (Pacte Civil de Solidarité), the French version of a civil union, floating around the internet; however, there’s not much information relating to PACS and the south of France. Since every tribunal tends to be différent, I was anxious about what to expect at the tribunal in Aix. So, here’s my PACS story:

In March, mon chéri contacted the Tribunal d’Instance (information such as the address and phone number about the tribunal in Aix can be found here). There are 2 tribunals in Aix: the Tribunal d’Instance and the Tribunal de Grand Instance – it’s important not to mix up these two. The Tribunal d’Instance handles all PACS cases. Due to the number of people applying to PACS on a daily basis (and the fact that PACS is only offered on specific days during the week), it’s important to schedule the appointment to PACS early. As with most legal matters, an appointment is required and it can take up to 2 months before being able to book one. Mon chéri and I called the Tribunal at the beginning of March to schedule our appointment. We thought that would give us plenty of time to book an appointment for April. Boy, were we wrong! Our appointment was decided for May 20 and then re-scheduled for June 23 since I hadn’t yet received my birth certificate (which I sent a month before for getting the apostille – my mom finally received it in the middle of June – It took over 2 months!). Since we were scheduled to visit my family in the states on June 18th, we had to make a serious decision: change the flights or find a Notaire. After comparing prices for changing the flights and the price of a Notaire, we decided to go with the Notaire.

After scheduling the appointment, it came time to make sure all of the documents were ready. Required documents for French citoyens vs. US expats are not the same. Of course, expats need more documents as nothing’s ever easy for us.

Here’s a list of required documents for a US expat and a Français/e to PACS at the Tribunal in Aix (it’s important to have all of these documents ready by the time of the appointment & it’s important to note that the tribunal does not accept photo copies of any of these required documents)*:

  • 1 US birth certificate (It must be dated less than 6 months from the PACS appointment. The French are very particular about the length of time for important documents, so, make sure to request a copy of your birth certificate within this 6 month time frame, otherwise the tribunal will not accept the birth certificate. Requesting a birth certificate is different depending on the state; however, it seems that most states use Vital Check as an online way to request this document. Also, the cost differs depending on the state. I paid nearly $60 for mine because I had to use UPS to have it shipped overseas.)
  • 1 certified French translation of the US birth certificate (A list of certified French translators can be found here. The fee can be as low as 50€. It’s also important that this coincides with the 6 month time frame for the birth certificate.)
  • 1 apostille for the birth certificate (This can be attained by finding the appropriate facility that handles apostilles in your state of birth and then sending your birth certificate with the apostille application, a money order, and a self-addressed pre-paid envelopment to the facility. The cost for an apostille varies by state. An apostille is a form that certifies the validity of your document for foreign governments. Here’s an example of an apostille application for Illinois. This also has to coincide with the 6 month time frame for the birth certificate.)
  • 1 certified French translation of the apostille (A list of certified French translators can be found here. The fee can be as low as 50€. It’s also important that this coincides with the 6 month time frame for the birth certificate.)
  • 1 Certificat de Coutume for the US citoyen (This can be attained by booking an appointment at the Consulat Général des États-Unis d’Amérique in Marseille or in any city that has a US consulat, filling out this form, and bringing it with you to your appointment. A Certificat de Coutume for a US citoyen is a document that states that the US citoyen is not married and is not in a civil union. As of March 2015, the cost for a Certificat de Coutume is $50 or 48€.** The time-frame allowed for this document is 3 months, so, don’t request it too early.)
  • 1 Certificat de non Pacte Civil de Solidarité for the US citoyen (fill out the form and submit it online here. As one of the steps in the online application process, you’ll have to submit a scanned PDF of the identity pages in your passeport, your birth certificate, and a certified translation of the birth certificate. This form comes from Paris and states that you are not already PACSé. After submitting the document online, it takes about 2 weeks for it to arrive to the south of France. If you prefer the old fashioned way: the form can also be filled out and post mailed or delivered in-person to the Tribunal de Grand Instance de Paris with a copy of your passeport, a copy of your birth certificate, and a copy of the certified translation of the birth certificate. The time-frame allowed for this document is 3 months, so, don’t request it too early.)
  • 3 copies of the Pacte Civil de Solidarité (This is the PACS contract that you and your partner created. This is an example of the contract – simply, copy/paste it into a word document and fill in you and your partner’s information.)***
  • 1 Attestation sur l’Honneur de Résidence Commune (This is an example of the contract – simply copy/paste it into a word document and fill in you and your partner’s information. This attestation states that you and your partner will live together.)***
  • Attestions sur l’Honneur d’Absence de lien de Parenté (this is an example of the contract – simply copy/paste it into a word document and fill in you and your partner’s information. This attestation states that you and your partner have no blood relation. You need 2, 1 that you sign and 1 that your partner signs.)***
  • The US citizen’s passeport
  • The Français/e I.D. card
  • 1 l’Acte de Naissance for the Français (this can be ordered online from la Mairie. The time-frame for this document is 3 months.)
  • 1 Justificatif de Domicile (an EDF bill (electricity bill) is the most likely justificatif to be accepted. This proves that you live in the jurisdiction of your tribunal.)

*Each tribunal tends to demand different documents; however, this post focuses on and speaks only of the tribunal in Aix-en-Provence (and the US consulat in Marseille) and PACSé between a US partner and Français partner.

**This amount is the exact amount one must pay at the Consulat Général des États-Unis d’Amérique in Marseille in 2015.

***The Notaire doesn’t have quite the same requirements as the tribunal because the Notaire makes these contracts for you…and he should since you’re paying about 350€ for his service.

After signing the PACS contract, then the non-french citoyen can head to the Prefecture and demand a carte de séjour. It seems simple… but nothing ever is as it seems. More on this procedure is to come. ♦

The Perks of Partnership

“Same-sex couples gain the right to marry” has been displayed on headlines all throughout le monde. Throughout the years, this media outbreak gave me false hope for friends and family faced with this situation. As I came to realize last month, same-sex couples do not have the right to marry. In fact, it wasn’t until I was scheduled to visit family and friends in the US  when I truly realized this level of discrimination against same-sex couples. There’s a difference between knowing that discrimination exists and experiencing that discrimination firsthand.

In France, as in many countries in le monde, opposite sex couples have the option of mariage or PACS (Pacte Civil de Solidarité), the French version of a civil union. In France, same-sex couples have the option of PACS (edit: According to a Notaire in Aix, same-sex couples do not have the same option of mariage as do opposite-sex couples – Despite the headline, “same-sex mariage becomes legal in France”. It’s possible that his facts are mixed up, but he’s a professional Notaire, so, he makes contracts between same-sex couples on a regular basis.). Mon chéri and I have decided to go the PACS route as it’s more affordable and practical than mariage. We may fit into the opposite-sex couple category, but the same laws with PACS apply to us as with same-sex couples. In France, those laws seem to be enough (the right to be on the same health insurance, the right to live together, the right to a Carte de Séjour…); however, when one partner is Américain(e), things start to get complicated. For an Américain(e) to change the visa status to the Carte de Séjour, he/she must already possess a longue visa. This is where the problèmes begin. The US partner of the PACSed couple doesn’t have the right to the spousal visa, so, the only other option is the Visa Visiteur/Touriste

So, what do PACSé couples do when one partner gets denied or doesn’t meet the requirements for the Visa Visiteur/Touriste? There should be a separate visa for PACSé couples. But, for now, these couples are forced to stress over how they will be able to build their lives together, a stress that I find very offensive. When entering into a PACS relationship, the couple has to (1) schedule an appointment at the Tribunal or (2) schedule an appointment with a notaire. The couple “signs their lives away,” so-to-speak, by defining and legalizing their future life together. This legality has mariage written all over it. So, why are PACS couples still experiencing this “second-class status” discrimination? I’m baffled. I guess we should’ve chosen the mariage route, eh?

However, there is some hope at the end of the tunnel: today (Friday, 26 June 2015), the US supreme court legalized same-sex mariage. So, although the discrimination among couples in civil unions (PACS) and couples in mariage continues to exist, at least same-sex couples now have the option of mariage. ♦

All Good Things Must…

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I hate this quotation. I hate even more that, on the one hand, there is truth to it. For example, my work contract ended – meaning, I no longer teach 3 days a week in Marseille. In addition to saying goodbye to 16 teachers and 416 students, a lot of the friends I made through the TAPIF program will be returning (or have already left) to their home country (that’s a lot of goodbyes). Also, my visa has ended, so now I’m a touriste. Don’t get me started on how going from a working citoyen to a touriste has me cringing (it’s as if the diable ripped out half of my soul).

On the other hand, why focus on the “good things” that have ended? Why not focus on how this experience changed my life in so many positive ways and how these positive aspects will add more good things to my future? In this sense, not “all” good things have ended. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

The positives that came from a year of living and teaching English in France:

  1. I gained overseas teaching experience, which I’ve already added to my C.V. (and I no longer have to take the bus ride to Marseille 3x a week! YAY!)
  2. I bring up examples of lesson plans that I used while teaching this year in English teaching and tutoring job interviews. This actually helped me nab a short job this month!
  3. I can communicate in Français! (I can discipline in Français, too.)
  4. I can speak using the Marseillais accent! (It’s not perfect; it’s in progress!)
  5. I know several Provençal word/expressions!
  6. I’ve accumulated several English children’s books that I’ll be able to use with Pitchoune.
  7. I’ve learned a variety of French children’s songs that I’ll be able to understand when mon chéri uses them with Pitchoune.
  8. I opened up a network of friends who enjoy French and France as much as me!
  9. I made a life with mon chéri and I wouldn’t have it any other way. 🙂
  10. I’ve figured out the French bureaucratic system. (It still has its downsides, but at least I can be prepared for anything.)

So, although saying goodbye to so many people and experiences is depressing, my life is not defined by the sadness, non, not by any means. In fact, I look forward to more good things that lie ahead! ♦

Expiration Date: Visa Éternel, please?

IMG_7141 “When does your visa expire?” a friend recently asked. “It expires on May 15.” Does this mean that I’ll be heading back to the good ol’ USA on May 15? No. Absolutely not.

Y'all know you want to stay in France! ;)

Expats united to fight against bureaucracy to stay in France! Those smiles are killers!

There’s some confusion as to whether or not expats can overstay their visas. After weeks of research, I still don’t know that actual answer (do the politicians even know?). One thing is certain: without a visa, US citoyens can stay in France (and in the Schengen Zone) up to 90 days within a 180 day period. The catch: US citoyens must have their passeport stamped at the start of the 90 days. IMG_7139 Récemment, I visited the préfecture to beg for an extension on my visa. I decided not to take any chances with the 90/180 day business since I’m pregnant and I need to be in France once I hit 7.5 months (can’t fly after that). As I anxiously approached the counter, I thought my task was impossible. Mon chéri began by politely explaining that I’d like to extend my visa. After that, all hell went loose. That is, for the next 5 minutes or so, I babbled and babbled and babbled about why the nice lady at the counter should give me an extension. She tried to shut me up at one point (and Martin tried, too) but I kept going (I was nervous…). Eventually, she got a few words in: “it’s ok; relax.” To my surprise, she was willing to work with me when I mentioned the anticipated job contract, so, adding pregnancy and PACS, the French version of a civil union, were just bonuses. It’s possible that she found me amusing. Now, I laugh about the encounter. At least I can say that my first encounter at the préfecture was a pleasant one. I have forms to fill out and documents to conjure up before I can return the forms, but all-in-all my case is NOT hopeless! Yay!

My happy face.

My happy face.

A few days ago, I received a letter in my inbox regarding my application to renew TAPIF.  It wasn’t exactly news that I wanted to hear, but what can one expect when every assistant d’anglais who wants to do the program a second year in a row fills out the same form? There’s nothing on the form to set us apart from one another, nothing to show our accomplishments and diplomas. So, how does the CIEP choose? I’ll be the first to tell you that “knowing people” has very little to do with it as the directeurs of my schools put in a good word for me. Also, submitting your application several weeks before the deadline makes no difference, either, though, it’s better to submit early than after the deadline. Perhaps, I wouldn’t feel as disheartened if my conseilleur pédagogique hadn’t made it sound like I was sure to be immediately accepted. Rule of thumb: never trust someone who’s retiring at the end of the year. At least I haven’t been completely let down: I’ve been placed on a waiting list. I suppose this news means that I should use my degree for something better than 12 working hours a week. But, as I reflect on what I should do after Pitchoune is born, I’m left feeling torn. I enjoyed the steady paycheck that came with teaching (and I enjoy teaching) during the school day; however, it might be more practical if I teach a few after school programs. In this case, we would always have a secured ‘baby-sitter’ for Pitchoune and it would enable me to have a longer adjustment period if I don’t start working until La Toussaint (Fall break). After all, a newborn is quite an adjustment. Due to this fact, I’m not looking into full time work until the baby turns 1; however, I’m keeping my options open. In any case, I have a lot to consider as I send out my CV to formulate a Plan C. Any ideas/advice are welcome! So, while the job issue is up in the air for the moment, my rights to stay in France are much more secured. At least least there’s something positive to look forward to. ♦

Va Va Visa !

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Since receiving the acceptance letter from TAPIF in April 2014, I’ve dreamed about this day: receiving la carte de longue séjour, or long-stay visa. Things have been “non-stop” since I’ve been back in the states. I returned on August 27, took a trip to Chi-town for the réunion, or appointment, at the French consulate on August 28, and started working at BR on August 29. That weekend was Labor Day, so, naturally, I labored the entire time. In retail, there’s no such thing as taking a pause from laboring for “Labor Day.” But, I won’t be stuck in retail for much longer because I’m going to be returning home (aka to the south of France) next Tuesday! After 10 years of service, my contract with BR will finally come to an end. It’s a bittersweet ending, but I look forward to what lies ahead: Teaching English in France (and being with mon chéri).

On August 28, I missed my 8:00am train to the city, so, I was forced to drive in. It was a beautiful, breezy, sunny morning, so, I didn’t mind. Little did I know at the time, it would be the only beautiful day out of the 3 weeks I’ve been in the states. Though, it was a well deserved beauty.

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I arrived early at the consulate in order to meet up with one of my long-time SAFFL (Study Abroad Friends for Life) friends.

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We met in front of the consulate and had a nice 20 minute chat before I went inside. We thought that he would be able to join me in the visa room; however, the procedures have changed since 2012. Now, only people with appointments are allowed to go to floor 37. This was a bit of a disappointment; however, it worked out perfectly as the réunion lasted about 15 minutes. Afterwords, we had lunch, followed by a trip to the People’s Republic of China consulate so that he could pick up his touriste visa. Needless to say, it was day filled with going to/from consulats.

What the TAPIF candidate needs to bring to the réunion at the consulate in Chicago*:

  • 1 completed visa pour un longue séjour application: Visa Application in French
  • 1 OFII form – only the top half needs to be filled out: OFII Form 
  • The Arrêté de nomination (work contract) stamped by the French ministry of labor
  • 1 copy of the  Arrêté de nomination
  • Your passeport (they keep your passeport and put the visa on one of the pages)
  • 1 copy of the identity pages in your passeport  
  •  A self-addressed prepaid EXPRESS MAIL envelope from the US POST OFFICE ONLY (NO FEDEX / UPS / AIRBORNE EXPRESS accepted)

*Although most of the required documents are the same at every consulate, there might be certain consulates that require other types of materials. Be sure to read the consulate general’s website for your jurisdiction before going to your appointment. Here is a link to the TAPIF requirements at the Consulate General of France in Chicago.

I also brought my flight information and my lodging information (attestation and EDF, or electricity bill); however, these were not needed. Another unnecessary thing are bank statements. There was some confusion about whether or not this would be required; however, the employee who helped me with the visa informed me that it is not required for those with a work contract.

I was told that I would receive my visa in two weeks; however, I received it a week later. 🙂 ♦