Like most applicants to the Teaching Assistant Program in France, I spent the time that I wasn’t spending daydreaming about living overseas doing research about the way the program works. One resource I found was Cora’s excellent TAPIF Timeline and I thought I would do my own to give people an idea of which things have changed and which have stayed the same.
15th April 2014
I received notification that my application had been successful in mid-April, which was much earlier than I expected, and over a month sooner than past Australian assistants.
This e-mail told me which académie and school level I had been allocated to and asked me to respond to confirm that I would be participating. I did not have to send any further documentation at this time, it appears they’ve scrapped this requirement.
6th July 2014
Arrêté de nomination
Until this date, I didn’t hear a single peep from the embassy – they didn’t answer my e-mail asking if I needed to do anything else, either. I would later learn that answers from French consular authorities are apparently meted out with great reluctance, and only under the gravest circumstances.
My physical arrêté de nomination arrived in my postbox without any e-mail preceding it, but came sooner than others had gotten theirs. The most important information it contains is which schools you’ve been allocated, as well as their contact details.
A word of warning – the contact details on one of my schools were out of date – and apparently other asssistants found this as well, or that there were spelling errors. Google your school and double check, or you might get no answer!
Lots of e-mails
Then again, you might get no answer regardless, am I right?
Fortunately for me, my responsable at my main school was absolutely lovely and responded to me straight away – in English, might I add – welcoming me to the town and even suggesting a place for me to rent. Other assistants had much worse luck – some of them got no response at all. It varies a lot.
I had four schools on my ticket (despite the contract saying a maximum of three will be allocated) and my responsable also proved instrumental in making sure this arrangement would work out.
I also e-mailed my future landlord in this time and got my room organised. Not everyone has this option, but for me it meant arriving in France already having a place to live.
26th August 2014
My Visa Appointment
The average processing time quoted on the embassy website is fairly inconsistent, but ranges from 10 open days to two weeks (minimum). That said, most of the other assistants I spoke to reported getting their Visas in under a week.
This was good news for me, because I was forced to schedule the appointment later than I wanted – my acceptance e-mail told me my arrêté might not arrive until September and by the time it did arrive (in July) I had already booked flights to Sydney to go to the consulate.
The appointment itself was not the smooth sailing the other people had described: the Visa officer was off sick – in the hospital, not his fault – and his usual replacement was on holidays. Initially, they tried to convince me to come back another day, but when I explained I was from interstate, the front desk conscripted two other officials to process my application… by reading the requirements off a screen.
I’m glad they helped me, but it didn’t really inspire confidence. I also couldn’t ask any questions. They took my passport and I hoped for the best. I e-mailed the Visa section once I returned to Adelaide to ask if they’d received my documents, and got no answer.
9th-12th September 2014
Revenge of The Waiting Game
Fifteen days later, my Visa hadn’t arrived yet – other people had theirs, however, so I was starting to worry. What if the officer had never been forwarded my documents? Did the consulate burn down? Had the Sydney Harbour Bridge come to life and attacked the city?
I e-mailed the Visa section again, and politely asked them if they could confirm whether my application was being addressed. No answer. A few days later I e-mailed again, letting them know that I was meant to be leaving in a week, and asking could they please at least let me know if something was happening. Finally, I received a long, detailed response saying-
Just kidding – no answer.
At this point my departure was one week away. This wouldn’t have been a problem if I’d known something about the status of my application – they do say 2-3 weeks after all – but being in the dark put me in the unenviable position of contemplating changing my flights to make sure I could get my passport back in time.
Naturally, I passed these days with the sort of stoic calm I always exhibit in uncomfortable situations. My Australian she’ll be right attitude keeping my spirits high and my unshakeable optimism providing me comfort.
No, I panicked more than a little. The total lack of contact regarding my application was really getting to me – they have no phone number, and don’t answer e-mails. Finally, I e-mailed the contact person in Canberra, explaining my situation. Within a day, she had forwarded my e-mail to the consulate (they had already seen it from me, but had ignored it, clearly) and received a response – my Visa was coming. Relax. It’ll be there on Friday. I owe that lady a drink.
On the 12th of September 2014, my Visa did finally arrive as promised. When I examined it, I found out why it took so long, as well: there was a misprint the first time they printed it, and so it was printed a second time and the first one was stamped “cancelled”. Do yourself a favour – make an appointment earlier than I did.
17th September 2014
Departure for France
With my Visa settled and my passport back in my possession, the last thing to do is to pack up, bid a tearful goodbye to my girlfriend (she’s coming to visit, stay tuned) and board my flight to Paris.