Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Heigh-ho, heigh-ho...

...it's off to work I go.

Yes, just like the seven dwarfs, I've been busy mining the diamonds from the unforgiving gray rock of the Parisian job market. (Fun fact: in the French version of the "Heigh-ho" song, the dwarfs sing "Eh, ho!", which makes more sense in French, I suppose, but has the unfortunate side effect of sounding like "a-hole!" to any anglophone who happens to hear. If you watch the link, skip forward to about 1:15 to see what I mean.) Anyway, my roughly abillionty job applications have paid off, and I finally landed a position that satisfies my three conditions:

1) it entitles me to extend my visa and stay in France (to do so, I would either have to remain a student and work less than 17 hrs/wk, be a language assistant but not be permitted to take on another job to make up for the shitty pay, or else find a company to sponsor me and prove that no one in the EU is capable of doing what they want to hire me to do)

2) it pays (slightly) more than the teaching assistant position would have, and...

3) it forces me to use more spoken French.

To cut to the chase, I am now an administrative assistant at the Paris branch of IES, a private, study abroad company that operates in many different countries and caters mostly to American undergraduate students from upper middle class families. When my student status at NYU expires, I will be enrolled as an IES student, permitting me to extend my visa (and possibly audit some classes for fun...Arabic or film studies, here I come!). I'm also able to evade the hours of work requirement by the position technically counting as a "stage"--somewhere between a work study and an internship, meaning I'm (under)paid via a stipend instead of a salary or hourly rate, leaving me free to pick up a few extra hours of part-time work on the side (although in and of itself, the pay is definitely livable on a frugal budget).

I've now worked a little more than a week, full time (10-5 weekdays), as well as played tour guide a few weekends ago to a summer studytour group from University of Miami, Ohio just passing through Paris. Our two main student groups for this summer just arrived last week, so we've been busy with orientation and introductory programs. I am finding that I do a bit of everything, from answering phones, to helping students, to general office/secretarial work. It's not overly difficult, although the first week was a little stressful due mostly to insecurities about my French and a lack of familiarity with expectations, etc. However, I love my coworkers and the variety of the job, and I'm also using much more spoken French than ever before. I also absolutely live for the student interaction aspect, although more on that (and some specific experiences) later.

I've also landed a part-time gig on the side: English language 'tutoring' for an adorable French family of four girls. The family apparently spent a year or two in California, and the parents are now hoping to maintain/enhance their daughters' levels of English (especially that of the family baby, who is American by birth). The girls seem sweet, if not slightly over-involved (our lessons will be squeezde between school, piano and dance lessons) in the typical manner of children from upper middle class families (they live in a pretty posh apartment just off of the Grands Boulevards of Charles de Gaulle Etoile and the Arc de Triomphe). The emphasis will be on spoken English, reinforced with songs/games, and I will work separately with the two youngest (3 and 5 years old) and the two oldest (8 and 11) daughters. It's hard to gauge how things will go until we actually get started, but the girls seem absolutely adorable. When I arrived for my interview they greeted me solemnly in near-identical pink dresses and pink glasses (the whole family is near-sighted) and when I left, they rose from the couch and stood in height order to bid me farewell, reminding me ever so slightly of the VonTrapp family.

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