Most Americans in France know how hard it is to get a visa and a job. If you don’t have EU nationality, a French spouse, or a rare and in-demand professional specialty, job opportunities are slimmer than the supermodels France recently banned, especially if you weren’t educated in France.
There are a couple solutions. You can work part time on a student visa while going to school (check), you can be a language assistant in a French elementary, middle, or high school (check), and, if you have the required education, you can be a lecteur or lectrice in a French university (check!)
(Other ways to live and work in France include being an au pair and getting your visa sponsored through the Franco-American chamber of commerce. If you’re Canadian or Australian, you may qualify for a working holiday visa.)
I’m about to embark on my fourth year in France and my second as a university lectrice. Here are some insights into my experience as a lectrice so far.
Wait, what’s a lecteur/lectrice?
So, what do you do?
The job description of a lecteur/lectrice can vary greatly depending on the school, and sometimes even within the same school. Loosely, you teach about 10-12 hours per week, and are usually responsible for lesson planning and grading as well.
I teach classes of 20-30 students on average, and sometimes I follow an established curriculum, and sometimes I create my own course material based on the topic of the class. I know others who teach much smaller groups, who plan all their lessons from scratch, who work with small groups and individuals with special needs – really, it varies.
What are your classes like?
I teach a wide range of subjects to first, second, and third year students. I teach classes in translation, business English, oral comprehension, phonetics, and cultural themes.
What’s the best part about being a lectrice?
Am I allowed to say the vacation? (Just kidding.) For me, it’s a few things.
I love language, and I love pondering words, so I enjoy explaining interesting things about English – English versus French, differences between English dialects, written versus spoken English – all the quirks. I also love to rant about punctuation.
I am constantly learning new things in English and French, and even about other cultures from my students.
Finally, I can’t lie – the life balance and time off is great. There are very busy times, but they are followed by time to rest, recover, travel. Even when I have a pile of papers to grade, I can always take my red pen to a sunny terrace, or a cozy cafe in the winter, so I can’t complain.
And what’s the worst part?
For me, it’s discipline. I love teaching students who want to learn, but they’re not always the majority. In France, it costs practically nothing to attend a public university (la fac) and some students actually get money from the government for being a full time student. On the one hand, that’s awesome, but on the other hand, it means the level of motivation among the students varies greatly, and being a strong classroom disciplinarian is more important than you would expect at the university level.
How did you get your lectrice job?
I kept a watch on job postings on the IE Languages blog (which is chock full of resources for language teaching and learning) and I called all the universities in my area to find out if they were hiring. Some only take lecteurs/lectrices on exchange from partner universities, and some hire on exchange first, then fill remaining spots with local applicants. I was referred as an applicant by a teacher at the lycée where I worked.
Usually, the best thing is to look for online job postings, and if you don’t see one, to contact the head of the English department. After I sent my cover letter and CV, I was invited to interview in May, and I received my acceptance via email in June.
How long can you be a lecteur/lectrice?
A lecteur/lectrice contract lasts one year (CDD fixed contract), and you can hold the position for two years maximum. Some universities do not guarantee that you’ll be rehired for a second year.
What kind of visa do you have?
I have a long-stay working visa titre de séjour with the status traveilleur temporaire. (Some lecteurs/lectrices have the status salarié. I’m not sure why, but it seems to end up costing more in government stamps.) I got my carte de séjour in France since I was already living here and didn’t change status, but you can obtain or renew your visa at your home consulate as well.
I have ranted extensively about my “adventures” at the préfecture, and since I’ll be doing the whole thing again this summer, you can expect more where that came from. (Unless everything goes smoothly. But let’s not kid ourselves.)
All ranting aside, I’m extremely grateful to have my job as a lectrice, and I’m excited to be staying in France for another year.
Have you been a lecteur or lectrice? Do you have questions? I’m all ears.
P.S. Rosie shares the good, the bad, and the in-between from her experience as a lectrice in Lyon.