Thursday, March 24, 2011

To study ou pas?

To study or not to study?  This is a question I have been asking myself and debating about for a year now, and I'm no closer to making the decision now than I was when I first asked myself the question.  As is quite obvious from my birthday freak out, I desperately want and need to change careers before I go insane.  But the question is, should I go back to school (and put myself through the miserable torture that is the French educational system) or should I just keep looking and trying and hoping that something comes around?

The background:  I have a Bachelors and a Masters that I earned in the US, both in French language and literature.  Basically as soon as I finished my Masters I headed off to France to be an English assistant so that Lionel and I would have the opportunity to live together and see if our long distance relationship could work.  Since then, we got married and I found myself in France with little to help me find a job here (who in France really needs someone who studied French language and literature???).  With little work experience (we're talking mostly stores and restaurants in high school and throughout college, and a lot of interesting volunteer work that apparently counts for absolutely nothing here) and basically worthless degrees granted by *gasp* American universities, I struggled for 9 months to find a job, and finally settled for English teaching out of financial desperation and because of lack of any other options or offers.  Since I gave in to the evils of being an English teacher in Paris, I have continued to look for other jobs, to no avail.  All I managed to find was another English teaching job (which fell into my lap) with better pay and better conditions that has basically permitted me to put up with teaching a little longer.  But now I'm at my wits end and I've gotta change before I go crazy or become seriously depressed.

So, for a year now I've been researching and debating the idea of going back to school.  The reasons I don't necessarily want to do it are: I hate the French school system; it makes me very angry that I would be able to get a good job in the US with my degrees and experiences, but that this country makes it extremely difficult and I really thought I was done with school when I finished my Masters, unless one day I decided to go back and get a PhD (in the US, of course); I can't decide what exactly to study; I feel like I'll be putting my future, happier career on hold for another 2 years, which frustrates me; and Lionel and I can't afford to have me not working, so I'll definitely have to continue with some sort of English teaching while I study in order for us to survive financially without emptying our hard earned savings accounts.  But I also know that going back to some sort of school in France is probably the only way I'm going to be sure to get out of English teaching, and since it doesn't seem like Lionel and I will be packing up to head back to the US (unfortunately) any time soon, I have to get myself a better life going in France or I will never be happy.

I've been considering a number of different options.  I've looked at the idea of a BTS Tourisme, but I'll have to get over the little bit of pride I have left since having moved to this country in order to go all the way back down to a BTS.  I also considered a BTS Secrétariat, but I just cannot possibly justify going to secretary school (what do they even learn???) and I don't really dream about becoming a secretary.  It's just a job I thought I would be able to find easily here in Paris since I speak English and French.  Unfortunately that didn't really work out.  I've also been looking into a number of different Masters programs at the different universities here in Paris.  They all follow the same general theme of histoire, culture, patrimoine, gestion du patrimoine and I've looked at at least 5 such similar programs which all eventually lead to the hope of a job in tourisme culturel, métiers de tourisme, métiers de patrimoine, etc.  These are all things that I would be very interested in and would love to do, but is it realistic?  Can an American get a job in the secteur du patrimoine français?  Tourism, I'm sure, is more realistic at least.  And do I really want to put myself through all that schooling?  Again?  Another Masters (because I'm realistic enough to know that I will never get into a PhD program in France with an American Masters)?  And then what if things change and we decide to go back to the US after all that?  It would basically be for nothing.

So, this is where I have been stuck for nearly a year.  Not at all sure what I should do, but knowing that I need to do something.  And I don't really have anyone to talk to about it because Lionel just thinks I'm ridiculous to be considering a return to school.  But sometimes I don't think he's very realistic.  Any suggestions???


  1. Just to make you feel a little better:

    I actually have a Master's degree and over 15 years experience in teaching English as a Second and Foreign Language. Once upon a time, I actually liked that as a career. I've been in and out of it because of burnout since 1990, but honestly, would be grateful for a teaching job now. (Still no papers tho' so no dice on that one -- my problem. Hopefully amending soon.)

    So now I am keeping an eye on a 3-year-old and cleaning his parent's toilets for small potatoes because at least it helps pay for groceries.

    It's humbling.

    And I totally, totally, totally empathize with what you write here: "It's just a job I thought I would be able to find easily here in Paris since I speak English and French. Unfortunately that didn't really work out."

    It sounds really negative & definitely is my mindset right now, too, so what I am about to write may be a little like the blind leading the blind, but I am wondering for myself if I really dare hope for more out of life. Like I wrote on the ranty comment: I am where you are scared to be 20 years later, and yeah, it can totally happen.

    So there are a couple of choices: suck it up and do nothing and sort-of desensitize to misery, or take steps to move into something that will buy groceries and make life a little smoother.

    I started my blog to help me from going insane with unemployment. Then I sought out the small potatoes situation to help with the groceries. Probably once I have paperwork, I will be boxed into English teaching because of my credentials, unless I finally write that novel & make a decent amount with it (heheheheheh. Not so likely...)

    I guess, à mon avis, find the thing that seems to resonate with you the most. I know, sounds hippie. But stick with me a sec: when you get really calm and peaceful with yourself, and in a "good mental space," what does your gut say to you? Does it say, "Quit your unhappy job STAT and work on pursuing another work option?" (Note I did not write "career." Maybe right now all you need is to be happier while paying the bills.)

    Anyway, my point is, what do YOU truly feel with that little voice inside of you?

    Also, about this: "It would basically be for nothing."

    Even with as sour and cynical as I am becoming about much of life, I have seen over and over again that nothing is ever for naught. Never. Even with some of the crazy ass decisions I have made regarding work and career, it has all chalked up to experience. And isn't that one of the things we are really here for? Experience?

    Anyway. Sorry to barge in with a huge blomment after I have not been here for a while. Presumptuous of me. But you hit a nerve for me, too, because I often, very often, feel just as discouraged as you. I'm writing this stuff as much for me as anyone.

    Bon courage, Michelle.

  2. Noooo!!! I lost my comment

    Okay, so, here's what I said more or less
    1. Be careful about trying for a career where you need to have European citizenship. Working at the office de tourisme, agence de gestion de patrimoine, or other could require this as you would be a city employee or civil servant. As a non-European you also can't take any concours, so be careful your final desired job doesn't require it.

    2. To quit your job but receive unemployement, think about a 'rupture de contrat conventionné'. You resign, get a severance package, and get unemployment. You might be able to get any new training paid for by Pole Emploi, thought that depends.

    3. Network, network, network. If most of the people you know do the same thing as you, you'll never change fields. Go to networking events, French-American events, social hours, anything to meet people from different fields. After a few months of meeting people, you'll probably get a job lead or two.

    4. Why not try human resources? You can do some different programs with the CNED, so studying at home which would let you work a few hours.

  3. Ahhh I lost mine too! Urgh.

    Basically, I am doing a "métiers du patrimoine" type masters and do not feel at all that it's a disadvantage in the French cultural field to be a foreigner. People I've interned with comment on how they appreciate my American attitude, and the new viewpoint on things. I have a 6 month paid internship coming up where I'll get to meet lots of people, so I am optimistic that something will come up. Past internship people have said they could offer me part-time stuff, so if I do have to teach again in the fall, I'll probably be able to do something else in the field at the same time too.

    Look at sites like to see what's available in Paris in the tourism/patrimoine sector, maybe to show Lionel that it wouldn't be too much of a gamble to get a degree in it. Any masters pro will have an internship, so that's at least a bit of income while studying! I've worked part-time all through these two years, though it wasn't super fun financially, it's possible. And profilculture has freelance offers as well, so if you're really determined to change as soon as possible, apply to some and see what happens!

    Some L3 programs have internships too, so don't think you have to go down to a BTS level. Also look at what programs have good alumni contacts, most people in my masters (including me) got internships with former students. See if you can ask former or current students about the teachers, not all the levels of French education are quite as frustrating as primary and high school. Many of my profs have taught in the states and are very open to different, non-French approaches to things.

    After my masters I'll be applying for citizenship, how many years till you can apply via marriage? Public could still be possible for you down the line, if you wanted to go that way.

    It's very scary to go back to school, to try and do something that's not teaching English, but I knew I wouldn't be happy doing it forever, so I just went for it. I also knew I'd have to get a degree here to do anything interesting, so no point in waiting, I did it as soon as possible, though financially I should've probably waited. I took the gamble, and though time will tell what will really come of it, I've gained knowledge and skills and friends that would make teaching English again a bit more bearable.

    You've already made the scary, life-changing move to France, so being a student again will be easy :-p

  4. Karin - Thanks for trying to make me feel better! I appreciate the attempt but now I'm a little depressed to hear that you feel very much the way I do, since I don't feel so great at the moment. I think my biggest problem is indecision...if I leave this job what will I do? I really want to eventually start a career so I don't want to get myself into the trap of any job (though especially not English teaching). My gut says to get the hell out ASAP, but I know I can't just quit without having something lined up, so I really need to find something that I would be happier with or continue teaching part time while I go back to school...I just need to decide! Thanks again for the comment and bon courage to you too! I definitely understand how you are feeling.

    L - I have thought about the non-European issue (which makes me really angry, btw) but by the time I would start and finish any 2 year program, I would have already applied for citizenship through marriage and be waiting for the answer, so in theory it wouldn't be much of a problem, perhaps a wait of 6 months or so. I will definitely have to look into the rupture de contrat conventionne and see if I could take advantage of something like that. I've also been looking into programs with CNED some and it's definitely an option and I've also been working on the networking thing...unfortunately I managed to network my way into a potential job last week, and then right out of it due to a miscommunication, but there is the possibility of something else from the same contact in a month...

    Andromeda - I noticed from your blog that it seemed like you were doing something similar to some of the programs I was looking at and I wanted to ask you about it, so thanks for the comment and the info! I'm definitely going to check out this profilculture site. I can apply for citizenship through marriage in Nov. 2012 so I know that public could still be an option as I wouldn't have even finished any 2 year program by the time I apply. Thanks for the advice and encouragement!

  5. No matter if some one searches for his essential thing, therefore he/she wants to be available that in detail, thus that thing
    is maintained over here.

    My site ... Bonuses