Tag Archives: student travel

Working @ Montpellier this Summer ?!?!?


Since I am not renewing my teaching contract this year, and since we are moving to the South of France in June, I’ve been spending the last six months or so really focusing on what to do about my professional life.  I see this as a real opportunity to do something different and exciting, keeping in mind my specific talents, interests, and experience.

The online classes I’m teaching are going very well.  The company that hired me, based in Montpellier, just informed me today that I will have three new students.  Two will be learning English, and one is a beginner in French.  They’ve assured me that once we live in France I will have a full schedule if I want it.

I ran across another opportunity several months ago.  It’s a position for “Program Dean” of a pretty prestigious residential French language/cultural program in Montpellier.  It’s a month long residential program for mostly American high school students.  They’re looking for someone who is bilingual in French and English, who has lived in the region, and who has an extensive background both teaching and traveling with North American students of this age group.  I seem to fit the bill rather perfectly, so I sent in my CV and letter about three months ago.

I can hardly believe it, but the executive director contacted me, and just this morning we set up a Skype interview for this afternoon.  I am so very nervous.  I suppose the interview will be in French, or at least I feel that it should be.  The interview is an hour and a half away, and my heart is already beating fast.

If I get the job (don’t worry, I just found some wood to touch / knock on), they will pay for my flight from New York to Montpellier.  That would be great for the budget!  It will mean living at the residence with the students for a month, and overseeing the disciplinary life of the program and assisting with the administration.  It would also mean working with a team of assistants, mostly local undergrads, meeting guest speakers, coordinating field trips around the region, providing pastoral care of students and supervision.  It sounds like what I do every summer with my students anyway, and since I haven’t planned a student trip this year it would be feasible.

Of course, it would mean living in Montpellier for a month while my husband and kids are in Béziers at my sister-in-law’s house, but it’s really close!  We would still be able to see each other quite often, and my nieces live in Montpellier.  I’m just imagining what kinds of doors this could open for me professionally, and all of the neat connections I could make.

So if you have read this far, please say a prayer for me today!  I’m going to try to keep the attitude that it’s not an interview with a leading professor at Oxford University.  It’s just a conversation with another human being.  If it’s meant to be, it will happen.  Thanks for reading my nervous bantering 🙂

MAY 2013 UPDATE:  I GOT THE JOB!!!!!

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Looks like we’re moving to France!!


Moving to France in 24 days

&

Visa long séjour

 

The best news is that over the weekend, we received an offer on our house and signed a contract.  Now we’re just waiting for the building inspector to come through, and if there aren’t any major problems with our house (God, I hope not!), we’re going to close on June 1.  Our buyer said he would only walk away if the inspector found something really bad.  I don’t think that will happen.

But wait…. It’s already May 14!  June 1 is only 18 days away! I’m not complaining.  Just trying to figure out the logistics of the thing.  Departure date for us will be June 7.

1.         Reserve a 20′ container to be at our house by May 27.

2.         Pack up everything in the house, get ready to ship.

3.         Purchase one-way flights.

4.         Sell my car.

5.         Get banking in order.

6.         Figure out how to get a long-stay visa (it takes 21 days apparently, and you                                 have to do it in person at the French consulate in Chicago….. and I don’t have all of the necessary documents…)

7.         Quit my job…..

 

I’m not sure how it’s all going to happen, but the important thing is that it IS HAPPENING!

Paris, Je t’aime (Part 6: Le Louvre, La Fête de la Musique)


Fast forward 14 days……

 …and we’re back in Paris after taking a trip around France!

When we first got back to Paris, we were arriving by coach from Normandy.  We arrived at our hotel in mid-afternoon, ready to hit the town.  Everyone was especially excited because the date was June 21.  You know what that means, right?  Not only is it the longest day of the year, the Summer Solstice, but all over France, even in the smallest village, it’s La Fête de la Musique http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fête_de_la_Musique, The Music Festival!  This is the one day of the year that people wanting to play music of any kind, professional or amateur, can get out on the streets and show their stuff.  It’s a great big party, and the ambiance is quite festive, and of course, it doesn’t get dark in Paris until after 11:00.

I don’t think my students had ever seen anything like this.  No matter where they went (we were mainly in the Quartier Latin), there was music on ever corner, every space was filled either with musicians, singers, or  spectateurs like us.  We sent the students out for a little free time, groups of 4+, and I’ve been told they had the time of their lives.  You  must know that all of my students were, at the time, 17-18 years old, and they’re all boys.  We only gave them a bit of free time before meeting up again. We saw how much fun they were having, and they seemed well-behaved (nobody was drinking, or not that we could tell), so we let them have a bit more free time.  On the Métro ride back to the hotel, they had lots of stories to tell.  Most of them had the obvious “best” story to tell (they are teenage boys).  They’d seen a group of about ten young French people all stark naked traipsing around in the Fontaine Saint Michel.  That’s something they’re not likely to forget.

We stayed up later than usual that night, but with the promise that nobody would make trouble when the 8:30 wake-up call would come the next morning.  They came through for me, and nobody had on dark sunglasses.  I considered that a success!  We woke up to a rather gloomy day, as far as the weather goes.  There was a light mist, enough for an umbrella, and it was pretty chilly.  Sweater weather.  Good thing we saved Le Louvre http://www.louvre.fr/en for the last day!

We got to the museum at about ten, and fortunately I’ve been doing this long enough to know which entrance to use in order to avoid the long lines.  In case you’re not aware, I’ll tell you that you must not use the pyramid entrance.  Rather, you should enter the museum through the Rue Rivoli (Palais Royal)entrance.  However, you may not use this entrance for groups.  If you are like me, traveling with a large group (especially students), send them in groups of no more than three, and not one right after the other.  They catch onto that pretty quickly.

I’ve been to Le Louvre a million times (not really), and on that day I didn’t particularly feel like it.  Instead, I sent them in groups and gave them a meeting point after lunch.  I considered going to see the new Woody Allen film Midnight in Paris  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1605783/ that had just opened (what an awesome movie), but instead I thought I’d better go and check on my colleague who was stuck back at the hotel with a hurt knee.  He was glad for the company, and we had lunch together.  I felt bad that his last day in France was compromised by his injury (I think he’d been doing too much climbing, he’s quite the adventurer).

After I met back with my students, we went to the Champs-Élysées  http://www.champselysees.org/, viewed the Arc de Triomphe  http://www.arcdetriompheparis.com/, ate a few macarons from La Durée  http://www.laduree.fr/, and before we knew it, it was time for an early dinner.  After dinner, it was back to the hotel to pack and get ready for an early flight out the next morning.

The check-in at Charles de Gaulle http://www.aeroportsdeparis.fr/ADP/en-gb/passagers/home/was “almost” uneventful.  Just a reminder:  No, it is not possible to check in with a bullet keychain.  It’s not possible with a seven-inch dagger either.  Boys . . . what can I say?  But I’m not the one who had to deal with all of that.  My unfortunate, liming colleague had the pleasure, while I prepared to greet my husband and children who were to arrive in Paris the next day, and then we began our two month family vacation in France.  That’s the way I do it every year, I send the students home with the other chaperone, then stay for holidays.  Maybe this year I’ll be able to stay there for good!  If you’re interested, see my other posts about moving to France.

So that’s it for the 2011 tour to Paris with my wonderful group of students.  There was a lot more to see between the time we left the City of Lights and the time we made it back for the Fête de la Musique, but that’s a story or two for another series of posts.  I hope you’ve enjoyed, and if anyone has some suggestions for future student trips, I’m all ears!  Merci, et à bientôt!

Paris, Je t’aime (Part 5: Montmartre)


After dinner we headed up to Montmartre http://www.aparisguide.com/montmartre/index.html, which is quite close by foot.  We had watched Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulin http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0211915/ in class before our departure, so they thought it was fun to see Le Café des Deux Moulins, the café where Amélie works in the movie.  Just after having a look (from the outside) at the café, we started our uphill trek to the stairs of Le Sacré Coeur http://www.sacre-coeur-montmartre.com/.  Many people get to the top of the stairs and are so overcome by the panoramic view of Paris that they forget about the jewel of a Basilica that’s sitting right behind them.  It’s absolutely worth going inside to have a look, even if you’ve been on a tour of Europe and you’ve seen so many churches that they’re all starting to look alike.  Inside, you will find the enormous Byzantine mosaic of Christ.  It’s one of the world’s largest.  Many of my students were more impressed / inspired by Sacré Coeur than by Notre Dame de Paris  http://www.notredamedeparis.fr/.

You can’t take a trip up to Montmartre without exploring the Place du Tertre http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Place_du_TertreIt’s normally filled with artists just waiting for a chance to draw your portrait.  All of these artists are quite talented, or they wouldn’t have a spot in this world famous square.  Portraits can be pricey, but it’s a nice gift for students to bring home to their parents or grandparents.  For something a bit less dear, you can also have a caricature drawn, and that’s a lot of fun, too.  And while you’re at it, don’t neglect the urge to grab a crêpe, but not just anywhere.

Get off of the Place du Tertre and walk down the Rue Mont Cenis and have one at the window of Au Petit Creux http://www.montmartre-guide.com/adherents/page3/i65/le-petit-creux.html.  They’re not the absolute best crêpes in Paris, for that you’ll have to head over to Montparnasse http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2006/03/the-best-crpes/, but they’re still really good, especially with a big glob of Nutella inside.

After filling up on crêpes we hopped back on the Métro at the Abbesses station, and headed back to our hotel.  After such a full day, I didn’t have to worry too much about room checks.  I think everyone fell asleep within 20 minutes.  This is the last night we’ll be spending in Paris, for now.  We’ll be back for a few more days at the end of the tour.  Tomorrow morning, bright and early, we will make our way to the Gare de Lyon http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paris-Gare_de_Lyon where we’ll board the TGV for a five to six hour ride to Nice.

The final post for our trip to Paris will be Paris, Je t’aime (Part 6:  Le Louvre, La Fête de la Musique).  I hope you’re enjoying the blog, and merci.

Paris, Je t’aime (Part 4: Viva la Vida- Paris and all her Friends)


The next morning, day 3, we allowed ourselves to sleep in a bit.  We didn’t really get our day started until about 10:00.  Everybody was happily rested, and that’s always a good way to start the day.  At this point, all of the guys were simply delighted at the idea of eating croissants, pain au chocolat, and baguettes  every morning for breakfast.  By the end of the trip, and I will never understand how this could be, they were really tired of the “continental” breakfast.

We had a big day in store.  We had many things to see in Paris before moving on to the South of France.  On this day, we went out to Versailles.  Many times, I try to get away with not going out there because it’s just way too crowded., but this time the guys really wanted to go.  Our coach driver was nice enough to bring us out there, even though it wasn’t an official part of our tour.  Rather than being dropped off right at the entrance of the Palais de Versailles http://www.chateauversailles.fr/homepage like most of the other tourists, we came upon it from the edge of the gardens.  This allowed us to approach the palace by meandering through the oak lined paths.  We saw Marie-Antoinette’s Petit Trianon http://en.chateauversailles.fr/marie-antoinettes-estate and Le Petit Hameau http://www.pbs.org/marieantoinette/life/hameau.html before seeing the Palais.

Students can enter the palace for free as long as they’re under age 18, and so most everybody did go in.  After visiting, they couldn’t stop talking about the sheer opulence of the place.  I guess the crowds don’t bother them as much as they bother me.  It also helps that they’d just studied about the French Revolution http://chnm.gmu.edu/revolution/ in history class.

After our trip to the palace, we went into town to the Place du Marché http://millie.furman.edu/versailles/towninfo.htm where there are many small, not terribly expensive restaurants.  Once again, we split up for lunch.  I will recommend going to this part of town for dining.  It’s not really the place where you’ll see hundreds of tourists.  This isn’t because it’s located very far from the palace, but it’s rather  because you have to walk past a lot of other restaurants before arriving there.  Most tourists, I imagine, are tempted by the first places they see.  Some of my students did disappoint me by eating at a Tex-Mex restaurant, but I didn’t tease them for too long.  Apparently they paid a lot of money for a very average, even bad lunch.  Lesson learned!

When we got back to Paris, it was already late afternoon.  It seemed like everyone wanted to get back to the Quartier Latin, imagine that.  We went there for a few hours of free time before heading up to Pigalle  for dinner.  Why would I bring 20 American teenage boys to Pigalle http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quartier_Pigalle for dinner?  For one thing, it’s cheaper than other areas.  For another thing, they get to see a seedier part of Paris, and between you and me, they like that!  It was all innocent enough, and the food was good.

Next in the “Paris, Je t’aime” series (Part 5), join us on a trip to the highest point in Paris:  Montmartre.

Paris, Je t’aime (Part 3: Chartres, French High School)


We woke up early on day 2 in Paris, and made our way to the Gare Montparnasse http://parisbytrain.com/gare-montparnasse-photo-tour/.  We boarded a train to Chartres, and less than an hour later we were greeted by my French teacher friends, Christine and Odile.  They gave us a little tour of the town, including a history lesson about and a visit of the Cathédrale de Chartres.  Around 10:00 we went to the school where my American students were each partnered up with a French student.  The exchange was simple enough, since many of the Chartres kids had been to our school the previous October.

Students and teachers were so kind to all of us.  During the day, we were invited to their cafeteria where we all were treated to a pretty tasty three-course meal.  We teachers even had bottles of wine on the table to enjoy.  During the day, some of the kids had free time (no scheduled classes).  While they weren’t in class, their English/American Club had a meeting.  What a blast!  They put on American music and for about an hour there were 50 or so American and French kids all line dancing together.  The French kids were much better at it than my students!  That evening, we were invited to stay for a barbeque at the school.  It was certainly one of the highlights of the trip.  We took the train back to Paris, and were back at the hotel by midnight.

Stay tuned to “Paris, Je t’aime (Part 4)” for a trip to Versailles and Pigalle!

Traveling to Europe with Students


My experience leading student tours to Europe

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One month prior to departure with my students (about twenty of them this year), I’m beginning to think about everything that goes into putting together a student trip to Europe.  The 2012 trip will be the fourteenth tour that I’ve organized, and the twelfth I’ve led.  Thinking of the many years spent doing this, I decided to do a little calculating just to see how many teenagers I’ve accompanied on trips that last anywhere from 16-29 days:  about 300.

Where I’ve traveled with students

I’ve accompanied students to many countries in Western Europe:  France, England, Spain, Holland, Luxembourg, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Italy.  After this summer I’ll be able to add Czech Republic.  These trips are sometimes a bit of a whirlwind, but we have such a good time.  I really love my students, and they (usually) don’t give me any trouble.  They’re all 17-18 years old at the time of the trip, so I’m free to give them a little liberty.  They’re also all  boys, which in many ways is easier than a bunch of teenage girls!

How do I organize the tour? 

I always get started organizing the trip about a year and a half in advance.  It may seem extreme, but a lot goes into planning such an excursion, and it does take time.  It’s also nice to give the students enough time to take on a summer job, or to ask for monetary gifts from family members for birthdays and Christmas.  I believe that opening the tour for enrollment so far in advance allows for more students to sign up in the long run.

The first thing I do is brainstorm about the places I’d like to visit.  It’s simple enough to eliminate cities or regions once you pull out a map and have a look at the logistics of it all.  Once I come up with a rough plan of where I want to go and what I want to do there, it’s time to have a look at the price.  At that point in the game, it’s more than likely time to rework a few things to bring down the cost.  Once I reach a price that seems reasonable (though it’s always expensive), I publish the tour and start getting students to sign up.  The more the merrier, and the more students we have, the less expensive it is too.

Though I am a French teacher, and most of the kids who come with me are my own students, usually about a third of them are not.  These other students may be students of Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Latin or Greek.  I like to keep my tour open to any student who wants to come (after his junior year).  However, I have to be careful about accepting student I don’t know, and who don’t know me.  To help me make an informed decision about allowing to the student to participate, I ask him to provide two faculty recommendations.  That usually helps a lot.

Why do I travel to Europe with students?

Parents, other teachers, friends, and even students ask me why I do this.  Why would I take out 2-4 weeks of my precious summer vacation to bring a bunch of kids over to Europe?  It’s not because I want a free vacation, because it’s much more intense than the school year (think 24/7, 7 days a week).

It’s because there’s nothing like experiencing Europe for the very first time.  Unfortunately, you never get to go again for the first time… Unless you relive the experience through the eyes of your students.

 

I do send the students back to the US with the other chaperone (usually another teacher).  Doing so permits me to spend my remaining two months of vacation in France with my family, who meet up with me in Paris once my students have left.

Any questions or comments? 

Please do ask any questions or write any comments that come to mind.  Especially when I first started organizing these trips, I really found it helpful to toss around ideas with others who had had the experience.

You do tend to come across a lot of negative comments about traveling with students when searching on the Internet.   A lot of it probably does have to do with what kind of students you’re going to be dealing with, but I’d say that the majority of the time it has to do with one’s own attitude and organizational skills.

Bon Voyage