I graduated from the University of Maryland in May 2013 with a degree in English Language and Literature and a minor in International Development and Conflict Management. With the intent to get real-world international experience, I accepted an offer from the French Ministry of Education for a position as an English teaching assistant in French Guiana, or La Guyane, in South America.
The program is run by the Teaching Assistant Program in France, which sends roughly 1,000 language assistants each year to regions in France as well as four of its Départements d’Outre Mer (DOMs, or Overseas Departments to non-French speakers): La Réunion (Africa), La Martinique (Caribbean), La Guadeloupe (Caribbean), and La Guyane (South America). The DOMs are considered “regions” of France–they fully integrated into the French economy and are not independently governed, making them like modern-day colonies.
French Guiana is nestled between Suriname and Brazil, bordered by the Maroni and Oyapok Rivers, on the northeast coast of South America. Just a few hundred miles above the equator, it has a tropical climate, with temperatures averaging in the 80s (F) year-round. Most of the landscape consists of pristine jungle, with a few major cities (Cayenne, Kourou, and St. Laurent du Maroni) dotting the coastline. The population numbers around 250,000. Kourou is home to France’s space center, making the city a prime destination for French expats. Despite the availability of many modern conveniences (indoor plumbing, electricity, internet, etc.), French Guiana also suffers from poverty–particularly among its indigenous and immigrant populations–and tropical diseases, such as malaria and dengue (though it is not affected as severely as other areas in South America).
Follow my journey as I teach English to French-speaking children in an elementary and middle school (école and collège, respectively) and, in turn, learn a new culture and way of life. For more ways to stay in touch, subscribe to e-mail updates from my blog below, and:
Enjoy, and à bientôt!
Actually, the best gift you could have given her was a lifetime of adventures.
–Lewis Caroll, Alice in Wonderland