Ashley Malin (Nantes | 2014-15), is currently an English teaching assistant for TAPIF (Teaching Assistant Program in France) in Valence, France. Thanks to Ashley, there are 18 IES Abroad Nantes alumni currently holding teaching assistantships throughout France. From her study abroad experience in Nantes to living and working in Valence, Ashely shares some helpful tips for how to teach abroad.
IES Abroad: Tell us what you’re up to in Valence?
Ashley Malin (AM): I am currently working as an English teaching assistant with the program TAPIF in three different primary schools outside of Valence.
IES Abroad: When did you decide you wanted to go back?
AM: I admit, I wanted to go back to France the moment I arrived home to the United States after studying abroad. The longer you live or study abroad, the harder it can be to return home, at least for me. However, now that I live in France again, I have an increased appreciation for the things that I love about my country.
IES Abroad: Why did you want to go back?
AM: I want to gain experience teaching foreign languages. Engaging in TAPIF was my top choice after college. I also missed living in a country where I could speak my second language (French) daily. However, after doing a teaching English internship with IES Abroad in Nantes, I knew I wanted the TEFL (Teaching English as a Second Language) training. This training has been very helpful, and has provided me with a boost of confidence. I now feel at ease leading the class.
IES Abroad: Did studying abroad with IES Abroad influence your decision? Did anyone influence you, in particular?
Studying for a full year with IES Abroad in Nantes was an incredible growing experience. I returned to the United States with increased self-confidence, independence, and a fuller awareness of my country’s cultural differences. My level of French improved significantly due to IES Abroad Nantes’ French Language Immersion & Area Studies Program
. Doing a full year study abroad was the best decision I could have made, and I’m glad I was still able to graduate on time!
IES Abroad: What is it like living in Valence, considering you originally studied abroad in Nantes?
AM: Living in Valence is a very new experience. I’m now in southern France, hearing the different accents, and distinguishing between the subtle cultural differences between the north and the south. I felt those differences when I returned to Nantes for a visit. In September, before the start of TAPIF, I completed a month-long TEFL course in Toulouse. When I called my host father in Nantes, I could hear how strikingly different his northern French accent was from the pronounced Toulouse southern French accent.
IES Abroad: How did you make it happen? Tell us about the process.
AM: I applied for the TAPIF program during the fall semester of my senior year. TAPIF recruits American, Canadians, and British youth to be English language assistants in primary, middle school, and high schools. The contract for Americans is from the beginning of October to the end of April.
I had the whole month of September before the program started in October to do my TEFL Toulouse course, which was rewarding. The TEFL course was also very intensive, and the sudden transition afterwards to trying to find housing for TAPIF in Valence was a little rough, but I have no regrets. I am enjoying the experience and being back in France.
IES Abroad: What advice would you give to study abroad students who want to work or study abroad after college?
AM: I encourage getting out and meeting other local students/ colleagues rather than just being with fellow Americans. Sometimes that can be hard, but there are conversation cafés, Conversation Exchange online, and even serendipitous encounters on the train (how I met one of my French friends who is currently planning to study in the United States). Maintain an open mind and be adventurous, but safe.
IES Abroad: Best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?
AM: “Not everyone knows what their passion is, so follow your curiosity.” From Elizabeth Gilbert, On Being podcast.
IES Abroad: Why do you think it’s important to try to live, work, and/or study abroad?
AM: Studying another language abroad and gaining international experience significantly increases one’s opportunities professionally. It is more important than ever now to study abroad, connect internationally, foster intercultural relationships, and not be isolated as a country. I cannot stress the importance of this enough.
For more information on our IES Abroad Alumni, visit our Alumni page.