On April 1, I received the dreaded email:
We would like to inform you that you have been placed on the waiting list for the 2014-2015 Teaching Assistant Program in France. The applicant pool for this year’s program was more competitive than ever and we are therefore unable to offer you a spot immediately, but we would still like to keep your name on our waiting list for positions that may become available over the next couple of months. There is a good chance that you will eventually be offered a position (there are about 300 candidates on this year’s waiting list – last year, we had approximately 300 positions open up over the summer), however we simply cannot guarantee your selection as there are not enough spaces available at the present time. We will notify you either way by the end of June.”
Yup, I was waitlisted for my dream of moving to France to become a teaching assistant.
The term “crushed” doesn’t begin to cover the avalanche of emotions I felt seeing that email in my inbox. As I said when I discussed the whole application process, this was the outcome I had most feared, and perversely expected. But even in that first paragraph, they gave the reassurance that the odds were still in my favor.
“There is a good chance that you will eventually be offered a position (there are about 300 candidates on this year’s waiting list – last year, we had approximately 300 positions open up over the summer).
Playing the waiting game
The next day in one of my French classes, my professor asked which students had heard back. One had been placed. I reluctantly admitted that I was waitlisted.
“What region did you request?” she asked. When I told her, her response was an immediate, “You have nothing to worry about. You’ll get in.” All in French of course, but wildly reassuring.
Especially when she shared her conspiracy theory, saying that she thought it there had to be a hidden quota that the program drew from, accepting outright only a few students from each school. She seemed to think that there was no rhyme or reason to which students were selected and that the numbers of applicants might be too big for everyone to be carefully considered.
Of course, looking back on my application essay, I am fairly confident that I know why I wasn’t a top choice (cough cough, it’s embarrassing, cough). And while I can’t speak to the accuracy of her beliefs (or if they weren’t just designed to reassure me when I clearly looked downtrodden and depressed), at least they got me through the next few weeks and gave me an easy out with “it’s all a conspiracy, anyway” if I was ultimately rejected.
Finally hearing back (early!)
On April 29, a month before the end of the waiting period they had given me, I got the good email.
“Dear Julia, Congratulations! We are very pleased to inform you of your acceptance to the Teaching Assistant Program in France for the 2014-2015 academic year, sponsored by the French Ministry of Education. You have been placed in the Académie de Rennes at the secondary level (middle school and/or high school). You will be assigned to one or more schools in the region, however, please note that your school(s) will not necessarily be located in the city of “Rennes.” French school districts cover large regions and have many postings in smaller cities and towns. Do NOT assume that you will be placed in the biggest city in the region. The Académie will make specific city and school assignments this summer and will send you more details regarding your placement at that time. For now, please be patient and keep an open mind!”
It was a good thing they told me to be patient, because that was already a struggle. As my final year at university was winding down, all I wanted to do was get to France.
Unfortunately for me, getting accepted was the beginning of the waiting game. But more on that tomorrow.
Hey! Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this article, check out more posts on the teaching assistant program in France here. By the way, I’m writing a book about my experience as a teaching assistant in France. Click here to get a free copy when it comes out!