'MY YEAR ABROAD EXPERIENCE IN TOULON SO FAR' BY FLORA ARMSTRONG-BEATTIE
Updated: Jan 8
For our latest SLB blog we interviewed Flora Armstrong Beattie, a French and International Relations student who is currently on her year abroad in Toulon, France. We discussed her advice for finding a year abroad placement, tips for moving abroad, the process of applying for a French Visa and advice for settling into a new town/city !
What Are You Doing For Your Year Abroad ?
I am working as an English Teaching Assistant in a town just outside of Toulon in the South of France. I am teaching students aged between 3-7 years old. I mainly teach English but within that I also teach: PE, science and art in English immersion so that the students can immerse themselves in as much English as possible.
What was the application process for your year abroad work placement ?
I applied through the Student Language Bureau Website. The SLB forwarded my CV on to a recruitment agency in France who then put me with contact with schools that matched my profile and what I was looking for. I had an interview with a teacher from the school who asked me numerous questions about myself, my CV and teaching related questions.
What advice would you give to someone who is starting to apply for year abroad work placements ?
- Don’t limit your options - you may have tunnel vision with one thing that you want to do. However, there are so many options out there so definitely keep your options open, there is so much that you can do.
- Don’t be afraid of being rejected - receiving a rejection from a role that you really wanted can be very disheartening- but it is ok and the feeling of disappointment is normal. It’s all part of the process of job hunting and job applications. Most companies are helpful and will give you feedback if you ask. You may also find that it will build you up for applying to graduate roles after University.
- Apply earlier than you think you should- for me, it got to April and I hadn’t found a work placement and I started to get stressed. Time goes by very quickly so definitely give yourself enough time to find a work placement.
How was the process of moving abroad ?
The process of moving abroad went much smoother than I thought it would. I decided secure my accommodation before I left, once I found a place to stay I felt more at ease. My Dad also helped me move which made it a little easier.
The Visa Application Process
I applied for my Visa in mid July and received it in mid September- it is a very lengthy process which requires a lot of paperwork. Some of the documents that you need will be provided by your University, others will be provided by your employer and the rest from the French government. Definitely start the application for your Visa as soon as you secure a work placement !
What documents did you need to provide for your visa application?
- A job description of my work placement (signed by myself, my University & my future employer)
- Proof of funds (you need to prove that you will have at least 1450 euros a month to support yourself. You need to show your bank statement as well as any funds that you have. Or if someone else will be supporting you, you have to provide proof that they will be able to do this)
- Proof of accommodation
- Proof of health insurance
- ID photo
- Avis favorable- (this is a document signed by the French government)
Steps of the application process
1. First I had to apply on the French government website.
2. Then they put me through to the visa centre in the UK.
3. I was given an appointment at the consulate in the UK. (Make sure that you have all of your documents in place before you go to the appointment !)
4. Next, I had to give the documents to the consulate, they signed it and gave them back to me.
5. Once it was approved, they sent me a sticker to put in my passport which is the approval stamp that I needed to show when I was at the boarder.
What did you do in the months leading up to moving abroad ?
- First I sorted out somewhere to live - I found my accommodation using Le Bon Coin. I was searching for an apartment everyday for around a month. Looking for accommodation abroad can be a lengthy and difficult process but it is important to be patient and trust the process. Also, especially if you are looking online it is important to do thorough research into the property and website that you are using to find the property. There are many scams out there so it is important to be vigilant.
- Then I looked into opening a French bank account and getting a French sim card- I am in a group chat with other interns who are also doing their year abroad in France. We exchanged information on the best bank accounts/ phone sim plans. I made sure that this was all set up before I left the UK
- I also organised the bills for my apartment- my landlady helped me, she told me what the previous tenant used.
Top 3 Tips For Moving Abroad
1. Be prepared for anything- if you are unsure about a document you may need- just take it ! It is better to be over prepared than under prepared. Also make sure that you know what you are doing step by step from the airport in terms of transport and getting to your destination.
2. Try to make friends before you go- it can be tricky sometimes, however it is important to put yourself in as many Facebook groups as possible. I’m sure that you will find someone if not many people who are in the same boat as you. Once you get there make the most out of every opportunity to meet people and speak to them in your target language.
3. Enjoy yourself- don’t stress about things too much. Even though you may be out of your comfort zone, if you just take a step back and enjoy it you will have a much better time ! Meeting new people can be scary but it is important to go for it. Talking to locals can really help improve your language skills because it throws you straight in the deep end.
How would you describe your year abroad so far ?
So far it has been challenging in terms of the work, I have been thrown in the deep end in regards to the the tasks that I have to do. However, I am really enjoying it, it is a completely new experience and I am looking forward to seeing where the rest of the year takes me !
How is your year abroad helping with your language skills so far ?
I am living in a small town where people do not really speak much English, so it has been really beneficial for my language skills because it has forced me to speak French. Also, being in an environment where you have no other choice but to speak French makes you think of synonyms and alternative ways to say phrases if you can’t think of a specific word on the spot. Within the first two weeks I had already noticed that my French had improved !
What is your go to choice at the Boulangerie ?
A croissant ! Top choice every time !
Final piece of advice...