Out of the many English teaching opportunities available across the world, some of the hardest positions to obtain, due to their popularity, are in Western Europe. However, there is one program in France that allows those with either teaching or camp experience to apply for. This opportunity is one of the few I have been able to find that allows those hired to teach English, in the summer, in France, in a relaxed and unique setting. This program, American Village, is one I am glad to have worked at.
American Village is a spring and summer camp program located at sites across France, established to help students learn English and learn about America through both lessons and activities. During spring camps, school kids come for five days as opposed to summer camps when kids come for two weeks.
While at camp, the kids are immersed in American culture for the duration of their stay. American camp activities are played, buildings are named after American structures (example, the White House), families are named after American culture (example at Tour de Buis they are named after American foods), English expressions hang on signs everywhere, rooms are named after states, beds are named after cities. Everything at American Village models America from the time the kids come (Immigration) to when the kids leave (Emigration).
The best part of American Village? Being able to see different parts of France while working! American Village typically transfers new counselors at least once during their contract. Each camp venue is in a different location, close to a different city. My first camp venue was La Mazure. La Mazure was about an hour from Rennes, in the middle of nowhere Normandy. But, we had a river and were only 15-20 minutes away from Mont Saint Michel! My next camp site, Tour de Buis, was an hour below Lyon. Here, I was able to spend a few days in Vienne, an amazing French city, and fly out for a weekend in Tunisia! In addition to each site’s unique location, each site varies in what it caters to the kids. La Mazure hosts Adventure Camps in the summer where the kids can canoe, raft, and learn archery. However, Tour de Buis is not suited for that. Rather, during summer camp, campers take a day trip to a swimming pool and a day trip to a lake.
Throughout my two months working at American Village, I became used to my “American camp name,” Armenia, met many new friends, ate countless s’mores, and had the time of my life. I was able to both, teach English in a classroom and plan and organize activities. Both responsibilities brought me immense pleasure. In the classroom, the French children were very respectful and very eager to learn. The most exciting part was when a student used either the daily vocabulary or daily grammar point in conversation. With activities, I was able to work with a team to plan fun games and sports to teach the students through English. It was an informal way to help the students build their vocabulary and listening skills.
One of the most heartening moments at American Village occurred during the ten-day summer sessions. A camper in my family, Ukulele, wrote me a valentine for Valentine’s Day (one of the themed days) that was extremely heartfelt. In the letter, Ukulele wrote “You are the chicken nuggets of my life. You are like ketchup, really important for me. Together we are like cookies and marshmalows.” I was incredibly touched that I had a big enough impact on a camper that she would write me a valentine as such and express how much I meant to her. During the same session, another camper in my family, Wolf, came up to me on the last day and said “Tu me manques.” I asked if he could repeat it in English and he said he only knew how to say it in French. So, when I finally asked a co-counselor what it meant, I was told it was the French way of saying “I will miss you,” but the literal translation was “you are missing from me.”
My time at American Village was full of fun and laughs. I ate way too many s’mores at campfire, goofed off with co-counselors during Congress (essentially skit time), and met so many amazing people, in addition to teaching English to French children. My two months in France was nothing short of spectacular. I would not change a thing. For those looking for spring and summer ESL position, I highly recommend American Village. It truly makes language immersion fun on both sides, teaching and learning. Check it out!