To TAPIF or not to TAPIF, that is the Question

Four months ago when I mailed in my request for a contract renewal to CIEP, the French organization responsible for coordinating all language assistants across the country, I had absolutely no doubts about what I wanted to be doing the following year. Another year in TAPIF, perhaps in a different region, maybe even “graduating” to secondary schools…the details were up in the air, but the intention was very much grounded.

Though more or less unspoken, a plan had begun to form in my sub-conscious: Spend a year in a new region of France, Explore some more, Make new friends, Visit old ones in their European hometowns, Use my free time to decide whether I’m really serious about pursuing a Masters degree in a French university (hello, criminally inexpensive tuition!!), Apply to said Masters degree, Prepare for a potential third and fourth year in France…

Then, I came back home.
Weeks and months passed by with no news of being renewed. Almost everyone I’d spoken to (including myself) was immediately waitlisted with no indication of how or when or if we would be selected. I pretty much resigned myself to thinking that it wouldn’t be happening, and started to gear up my enthusiasm for being back in DC. Being unemployed for the first summer since high school, I have had more than enough time to look at job postings, and happily have found several that are not only appealing, but that I’m also qualified for!! I guess having a Bachelor’s Degree and 5+ years experience in theatre and education counts for something.

Early one morning as I lay in bed unable to sleep, my phone buzzed under my pillow. I almost didn’t look, but I’m as much a slave to technology as anyone in my generation, so I pulled it out and clicked it on. I sat straight up in bed. A post has opened up in the académie de Grenoble at the secondary level and can I please confirm my interest as soon as possible so they can send my info to the académie to draw up my contract. I immediately sent the screenshot to all my friends, texted my mom (who was probably wondering what I was doing awake at 6:45AM), and suddenly realized that I felt…strangely conflicted.

This summer I have worked for a few weeks teaching theatre to kids at a very well regarded children’s theatre that I would love to continue a relationship with. I’ve had great interviews at several other educational theatre companies, who weren’t hiring for the summer but indicated that they would have some open positions during the school year for teaching artists. I’m being paid to write reviews for a local theatre website. I assistant directed two plays for an emerging company of young artists where I think I could make a real impact. There’s a part of me that is really optimistic about what a future in DC could hold.

Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 4.35.55 AM
Vizille on the map

But as details about my potential placement in France emerge, I am feeling more and more confused and conflicted about what to do. I learned last week that I would be placed in a high school and middle school in Vizille, a few kilometres outside of Grenoble, famous for it’s beautiful castle. Though Vizille itself has only about 7,600 inhabitants, it is accessible by train and bus to the metropolitan city of Grenoble, where I would probably choose to live. From Grenoble, I would have easy access to nearly everywhere in France: an hour or so from Lyon, where my friend Elisabetta is planning to move, an hour from my old haunts in Chambéry, 2 or 3 hours by high-speed train to Paris, and so on.

But you notice how all of this is in the conditional tense.

If I stayed in DC on the other hand, there are plenty of opportunities that could be available to me. I’d most likely be living something of a freelance lifestyle, which is daunting. I’d absolutely have to learn how to drive. I might be able to finally help my parents move into the house they’ve been building our family for the better part of 2 years (and I’d finally get to live there too!). I’d be able to start saving money for future plans. I’d be able to create theatre again with people who inspire me, and who I feel really understand that part of me which is difficult to share with non-theatre people.

But, in laying down these roots, do I start to draw myself away from my other dream? The one that includes sipping wine beneath a castle, walking 10 minutes down the street to get my groceries, and the thrill of communicating in another language.

Since returning home, I’ve felt more and more like I’ve been living a double life. In my first weeks back home, I was so surprised by the number of times I described myself as having “just graduated” which I suspect is because taking a year to teach English is France feels so unconnected to the rest of my experience learning and creating and teaching theatre, to the point where I feel like it didn’t even happen. I am striving now to find avenues to connect my professional and personal life to my experience in France, so I can feel like it was worth it, like it meant something in the greater scope of my life, but it’s not easy.

When I got the initial placement email, I felt okay saying, “I’ll wait to find out about my placement, before deciding” with a little voice in the back of my head going, you’ll probably turn it down. But the more details that are revealed, the harder it is to deny the reality of these two schools that are looking forward to having me. The reality of being back in France, in the mountains, in a region that I already know well, close to friends whom I thought I might not see again for several years, doing a job I enjoy for a regular paycheck…

I go back and forth every day — every few hours! — about what I will do.

But in the meantime, I have this blog geared especially towards people who understand exactly what I mean by living a double life, by being seduced by France, by suffering though reverse culture shock… If this isn’t the kind of thing I should be writing about here, I don’t know what is! So, I’m letting you all in on my Personal Drama of the Month. Comments, observations, advice, anecdotes are MORE than welcome in the comments 

26 thoughts on “To TAPIF or not to TAPIF, that is the Question

  1. Hey Anne! I found your blog while looking through TAPIF blogs on wordpress. Just a small piece of advice from someone who has done TAPIF twice and lived in the Alps twice–if you do TAPIF again next year, you can go to the Fête des Lumières and tell your friends all about how you’ve been there before which is a huge achievement and worth noting every five to ten minutes! Hopefully that helps with your decision 🙂 Let me know if you ever have any questions!!! I am pretty much an expert on this and everything else in France and the whole entire world basically. Now go to sleep!!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Hannah!
      Thank you, I will definitely put the Fête des Lumières on my “pros” list! Thanks for reading my blog and taking the time from your busy schedule of playing the Kim Kardashian game, orchestrating toilet paper wars, and watching 30 Rock to comment!! Actually, did you know that Tina Fey went to UVa?? Yeah, we like had the same professors and everything.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. hey there! I did TAPIF back in 2010-2011 and it was awesome! The thing I would say from the other side is this: the things that you want to do after a year in France will likely be available to you after another one, whereas the opportunity to teach in France doesn’t come around that often. I think after graduating, there’s a temptation to “get on” with your “adult” life and career, but there really is no rush! I think if you honestly feel that you can still build your career and connections after another year in France (which, from what you shared, sounds like you could do), then I think you should go back to France. Live it up, savor it, enjoy it! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Just tried to submit a comment — not sure if it went through. But just in case it didn’t, I’ll say: the temptation to establish your career after going abroad is a great one, but it’s likely those opportunities will be available to you after another year abroad. Going abroad with TAPIF again, however, is much more challenging — as well as getting such a great placement! If you honestly think that you won’t have career opportunities by doing this, then stay at home. But honestly, you most likely will! So live it up in France! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Erika! Thank you so much for reading and adding in your 2 cents. It makes me feel so much more at ease when I can crowdsource my anxieties hahah! There’s so much to think about, but I seriously appreciate your insight!!! 🙂


  4. I remember how badly I wanted to become a lectrice after my assistant year (it wasn’t possible to renew) and I applied everywhere and spent all of my free time looking for positions. And then… I was offered a position after countless rejects and two interviews. The position seemed perfect and I think I knew deep down that I wanted it, but I hesitated for almost a month before accepting. Looking back I wasn’t sure why… partly the money, and partly me feeling guilty for wanting something so bad I had worked so hard to get (my family didn’t really support the decision). In the end I gave up a few other opportunities to stay and become a lectrice and I’m SO glad I did because I had such a good year and met awesome people (and I’m about to start my third year in France!)

    But I understand your dilemma– I went through this all last summer (you’ll notice if you re-read past posts) and I was quite unsure/depressed/guilty about my decision, but it went away almost immediately after I arrived back in France; I renewed without hesitation.

    My advice is to go with your gut. Just remember that no decision is an ultimatum– you can always apply again for tapif and you can always find another job working in theatre education (I promise!) You can always settle in DC and you can always leave and change your mind and start over. In your early 20’s it feels like every decision is going to determine the rest of your life but I promise it isn’t the case. 🙂

    I think you know deep down what would be right for you.

    Good luck with your decision! bisous!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ahhh Dana, thank you so much for your reassurance. I’m usually the one telling all my friends that it’s not the end of the world, we have plenty of time in our lives to figure everything out. But somehow it’s been really hard taking my own advice! Now that I’ve been thinking about it, I had a similar reaction to leaving last year as well, thinking about all the friends I had made at work and having excitement for potential opportunities. I guess the grass always seems greener on the other side…. The good news is, I am suffering under a wealth of wonderful opportunity which is a much better position to be in than the opposite 🙂 Well, my blog readers will be the first to know what I decide and I hope you know that if I do end up back in France you will be MORE than welcome in Grenoble!!!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Aww no problem! I felt the same at too, feeling guilty about quitting my jobs and leaving the good things behind even though being in France was exactly what I wanted !

        I will definitely take you up on Grenoble and ditto for Lille – you are always welcome !!

        Liked by 2 people

  5. Hello other Anne!
    I was agonizing in the Spring about whether I wanted to try to come back to France or not (and talked it out numerous times to Dana, incidentally 😉 ), and ultimately I decided I didn’t. I got a job in bilingual education in Seattle (my home) and I start at the end of August. There’s something I’ve noticed about being back– I no longer feel like I’m “living temporarily.” I think when I was living in France, there’s a sense like you described, of the experience being sort of separate from real life, or inapplicable to “the future.” (I may write a post about that actually, inspiration!) I don’t really think that’s true because of how many skills we all gain in living there, but it is true to the extent that I wasn’t building a life that felt like it had future possibility, because I was always going to leave.

    I think the feeling of having a future here is what made it worth it to stay. I agree with the person who said we can always come back and start what we want to do later, but it feels SO good to be starting it now. I’m excited to have a paying job that’s in a field I want to do, where I’ll make connections that could lead me other places. I’m excited to be back with friends that are staying around for a while, or meeting people that I’m not going to have to leave…it’s a different life than expat life, that’s for sure. And the best thing is, if I get tired or have an identity crisis or miss my friends in Europe too much, it feels like I could apply to TAPIF again, or a master’s program, or a lectrice position post-masters, and be back again, but with more direction. The future still feels full of possibility.

    That being said, if I had the opportunity to go back and teach in Grenoble…..I would be just as conflicted as you!! Probably one more year of temporary/expat life will not destroy the future of possibilities, maybe it would even lead to new ones in France 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Anne, YES! I think you’re absolutely right about the discomfort of the “temporary” lifestyle. Your job in Seattle sounds fantastic. Congratulations! It really sounds like you’ve found a great fit 🙂 I love having options, I just wish it were easier to choose haha! Thank you, as always, for your thoughtful comments!! I really feel lucky to have this small but steady blog community to share perspectives with. Bisoussss xx

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes it is a great community!! And thanks :). I just sent your blog to a friend of mine who is heading off on her first TAPIF adventure and was placed in Bellay, but is looking at living in Chambéry! Exciting connections 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I completely relate to what you said about feeling like you just graduated, it’s also hard for me to believe last year actually happened. I was an assistant in Echirolles, between Gre and Vizille, and it made me smile reading about them 🙂 I’m facing a similar dilemma: as much as I want to travel I feel pressured to stay in the States and “be a grown up.” You’re not alone!


    1. Thanks for your comment!! We are obviously on the same page! I read your posts on the subject and definitely agree it’s so hard to justify leaving when there’s the pressure to figure out your entire life, only to then be told not to stress, there’s still plenty of time!! Not to mention, it’s tempting to trade in being unemployed for croissants and côtes du rhône!


  7. Hey there, Anne! Nice to meet you 🙂

    I really liked your honesty in this post! I’m doing TAPIF for the first time this year and every feeling going through your mind is 100% relatable!

    When it comes to making a decision, you are the only person that is going to know what to do for yourself and whatever decision you make is going to be the best one for you. Everyone has their own opinions as to what they would do, but have no shame in committing to the decision that you ultimately make. And when you make a decision, own it and rock it! I know you will 🙂

    Life’s all about making the best of the decisions we make. And plus, if you decide not to do this program, at least you’ve done it once and can still tell people about the experience!

    Take a breather and on your pro and con list, be honest about it (as I’m sure you’re being!!). You will figure it out, I have no doubt.

    Bonne chance, mon amie!


  8. Hello Anne,

    I’ve come across this almost a year later, and I’m more than curious to know what you decided to do. Did you come back for a second year in France? Either way, I’m sure you made the right decision for you at the time. Thanks for sharing your thoughts regarding TAPIF renewal–as others have said, I think it’s very relatable!

    ~ Breanna


    1. Hi Breanna, thanks for reading 🙂

      I ended up turning it down, but then reapplied for the 2016-17 year and was accepted!! So I will probably be making another tough decision like this in a few months… You know what they say about history always repeating itself!!


      1. Hello Anne!

        How funny! Well I’ve just completed my first TAPIF year (2015-2016) and have been renewed for 2016-2017. I’m still not sure where I’ll be assigned exactly (no surprise there…) but mostly looking forward to it. Then again, as you have experienced, we all have doubts. Given that I don’t have much else lined up at the moment I feel pretty confident about moving forward with TAPIF for a second and final year but I like to make sure I (over?)think everything first. I’m sure you understand!

        Perhaps we will both be here next year, though…qui sait!

        ~ Breanna


      2. That’s great! Congrats! Yeah, I DEFINITELY understand the over-thinking process haha. But the thing I learned from all of my decision-making is that either way you choose will not be the end of the world or the end of your opportunities (though I’m the first to admit that it sometimes can feel like it!).

        If you’re interested in why I turned it down last year, this post gets into it a little:

        Keep me updated on your decison 😀


  9. Hello Anne,

    I just received an acceptance to the académie de Rouen this week, and while I’m excited about it there are some unresolved hiccups (waiting to hear back from one other program and unsure of parental support which I would need). The email asked me to accept or decline their offer by Monday (April 24th)–would it be possible to accept right now and ultimately not go/cancel in the summer, and do you know if that would affect my chances of being accepted in the future?

    Thank you,


    1. Hi Skye,
      Congrats on your acceptance! I accepted and ultimately declined my second tapif contract and still got an offer the following year. They tend to talk a big talk about being a professional commitment etc to keep people from using the program as a Plan B, but ultimately things happen, life circumstances change, and it’s not the end of the world if you decline. That said, the earlier you decline the easier it is for them to find a replacement, so I would suggest not hanging on past August…


    2. Hi Skye,

      I know this was a long time ago but I just got accepted into the Rouen academie for TAPIF and would love to know if you ended up going? I’m feeling very nervous and scared!



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s