Assistant Helpful Information

Skiing in the Cote d’Azur: Valberg and Isola 2000!

I went skiing twice this year, once in mid-March and once at the beginning of April.  That’s right, skiing in April in the south of France!  And thus is the magic of mountains.  The first time, I went to a ski resort called Valberg, and the second, to one called Isola 2000.  Here’s a handy-dandy map I created to show you people where I was:


The one near Peone is Valberg, and the one that’s 34 miles away is Isola.

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Categories: Assistant Helpful Information, Life in France, Physical activity | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Giving private tutoring lessons in France

I knew I wanted to give private English lessons in France on the side to help make some extra moolah, since I don’t make tons of money working only 12 hours a week.  Shocking, I know.  Here’s what I’ve learned about it so far!

Finding students

All of us assistants, myself included, had high hopes for finding students online using sites like and  Unfortunately, we were nearly all disappointed.  I don’t think any of my friends have found any jobs through those sites; there are just so many English-speakers in Nice that there’s no shortage of English teachers.  I did find one student through Cherche-Cours, but after I went on vacation he dropped off the face of the earth… not sure what happened there!  I also got an email from one other person seeking a teacher, but in the email the site notified me that she had emailed five people at one time, so it’s not like she had handpicked me or anything.  I opted not to message her back because by then I already had three students and she didn’t speak ANY English, so it would be starting from the beginning, which is a hugely daunting task.  My disappearing student was starting from the beginning as well, which made for a lot of work on my end, so I’m kinda glad he just stopped emailing me back and showing up for lessons.  Hope he’s okay…

Update: Since leaving France, I’ve gotten several emails from Kelprof/Cherche-Cours (Can’t remember which.  Maybe both.) with requests from students for lessons.  So maybe just be patient and the students will come!

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Categories: Assistant Helpful Information, Teaching | Tags: , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Packing to live abroad: What NOT to do

This is a reader-requested post!  Someone said in a comment that they are applying for TAPIF for next year and were wondering how I packed to live here for eight months and what tips I had.  Unfortunately, most of the advice I have are things I did wrong and learned the hard way.  I guess I did do some things right:

  • I only checked one bag, which was my free allowance, and I made sure it was within the weight limit so I didn’t have to pay.  Tip #1
  • I asked a teacher from my school before I left what I was expected to wear to school.  Tip #2
  • Umm yeah that’s it.

Honestly, I did a ton more things wrong than I did right.  Don’t be like me.  First of all, I moved from the Chicago suburbs back in with my parents (three hours away) on Friday, September 21, then flew out of Chicago on Wednesday, September 26.  That meant I had to pack, move home, unpack in a room filled with my childhood crap and a whole apartment full of stuff, pack again, and drive back to Chicago in five days.  Not ideal.

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Categories: Assistant Helpful Information | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Finding an apartment and roommate in France

I should start by saying that I didn’t get an apartment the traditional way: no real estate agent here!  Instead, I got really lucky by finding an apartment for rent by one of the teachers I work with.  You can read all about that still-long-and-kinda-frustrating journey here and here.  A few things I’ve learned since being here:

  • Apartments in Nice are expensive.  I don’t think I’ve heard of anyone paying under 400€ a month, and the most I’ve heard someone paying is 550€/month.  This includes having multiple roommates or having a studio.
  • It’s pretty easy to find furnished apartments.  I was under the impression from something I read that furnished apartments are nearly nonexistent, but there seems to be an abundance of them, at least in Nice, and they come with not only furniture but kitchen stuff too.
  • Leases seem to be pretty easy here.  Like, you have to sign one, but it can be for however many months you want, and breaking your contract is no big deal.  I know of a couple people here that have done it with no issues.
  • A security deposit is usually one month’s rent.  I’ve heard of a couple people paying two month’s rent, but that’s rare.  One month is much more common.
  • Some apartments here don’t have living rooms.  The heck?

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Categories: Assistant Helpful Information, Life in France | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments

Getting a cell phone in France: SIM cards, unlocking, carriers/plans, texting internationally, and more!

I think this post gets the award for longest title!!

Shortly after I got accepted to the program, I started thinking about what I was going to do for a cell phone once I got to France.  I knew I wanted to be able to stay in contact easily with my friends and family, and not be dependent on video chatting on my computer while I was at home.  My then-future roommate and I talked a lot and looked into a lot of options and decided on Free Mobile.

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Categories: Assistant Helpful Information | Tags: , , , , | 23 Comments

Power Adapters and Converters

Before I left, I had never been to Europe before and therefore had NO idea what I needed as far as adapters or converters (or even what the difference was) or how electricity in Europe differed from electricity in the US.  I read a bunch of articles and annoyed the heck out of my friend Jennie with questions, and I still didn’t really understand until I got here.

Basically, besides using different plugs, the electricity in Europe is stronger than the electricity in the US.  Europe uses 220 volts, while the US uses 110 volts.  Therefore, you not only need to change the plug of your electrical devices, but also change the amount of electricity going to your device.  There are two ways to do this: an adapter and a converter.

An adapter simply changes the shape of your plug so you can use it in Europe.  Most of Europe uses a round two-prong system, except the UK, which likes to be difficult with its different plugs and its pounds.  Humph.  It does NOT do anything with the level of electricity.  I have two kinds of adapters, one I bought in the US and one (well actually two) that I bought here.

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Categories: Assistant Helpful Information | Tags: , , | 8 Comments

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