Although many countries’ borders are closed at the moment, it’s never too early to begin planning on where you want to teach English next! If you are curious about teaching English in France, one of your options is American Village.
American Village, or “Amvil,” is an English immersion program for French children that includes summer camps and camps during the French school holiday periods.
I worked at American Village for 4 summers. Keep reading to find out the pros and cons of teaching English to French children through this program.
What is American Village in France?
- Amvil camps are similar to American style summer camps – campers participate in activities like tie-dye, capture the flag, talent shows, camp dances, competitions, and sports.
- Campers are also students – some counselors work as English teachers and provide English lessons to the campers most days.
- There are several different sites throughout France – sites range from former castles to centers hidden in the forest to sites near small towns.
- In general, camps are overnight – staff and campers sleep on site.
- Camps range from 5-13 days.
- There are different kinds of camps – Original, British Village, Adventure Camp and My First American Village.
- Day camps take place in Paris.
- You have occasional days off to explore the surrounding French countryside.
What are the requirements for working at American Village?
Firstly, English must be your native language. (There are also positions for French speaking support staff.)
Secondly, you need to have at least a high school diploma from an English speaking country. The minimum age is 20 years old.
If you want to work as an English teacher, a TEFL, TESOL, or CELTA is encouraged but not required. For some people, this is their first time teaching English. Unlike when I worked at the camp, there are now a lot more materials for English teachers to use which makes lesson planning easier for new teachers.
Due to the pandemic, they are currently only hiring staff located in France. However, as restrictions ease, American Village will accept counselors located in other countries looking to come to France.
According to the website, skills that counselors should possess are summer camp experience in the USA or UK and/or ESL teaching experience, knowledge of North American or British culture, childcare experience, and the ability to create and lead activities.
If you aren’t working as an English teacher, you will work as an Activities Counselor. Both roles participate in camp activities. You may switch roles each session depending on the qualifications of other counselors at your site.
What are the pros of working at American Village?
- Teaching English at American Village is relaxed and fun because there are no tests. Lessons are based on theme days like Hollywood or Wild West. You can get very creative with your lessons.
- Support materials and ideas make lesson planning easy for English teachers. Whether you are a first-time teacher or seasoned educator, you’ll find the resources you need.
- American Village has a number of sites all over France located in small villages that are breathtakingly beautiful. Some of the sites are even in old castles. It’s a unique way to experience French culture and lifestyle away from popular tourist destinations.
- French children are adorable and you can work with kids, pre-teens or teenagers.
- If you are an artistic or creative person, this is the perfect job for you. Creating signs, games, activities, sets, costumes, and more is part of the job. You will also dress up as characters and do a lot of acting, which is a lot of fun!
- Days off can be an adventure: we’re talking hitchhiking, tasting local foods, exploring nearby (or far away) cities, or simply enjoying any quiet corner at camp that is KID FREE. You usually have your day off with another counselor or two.
- The #1 best part of AmVil is the other people you’ll meet and all of the crazy, stressful, exciting times you’ll have. Some of the people I met at American Village are now my best friends, despite only working with them for two weeks. Summer camps are great for creating intense, lifelong friendships.
What are the cons of working at American Village?
- You are required to pay for your flight to France. Once you arrive in France, you must also pay for a train to your site. You are only provided with €50 to use towards your train ticket. You must pay for and arrange all other traveling expenses.
- LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG hours. For example, 7 am wake up, spend all day with the kids, attend a meeting at 10 pm, spend another hour or two prepping for the next day, and then spend some time hanging out with your fellow counselors until LATE. Repeat this with only one day off a week.
- You can get moved around sites a lot, so if you plan on working with a friend, plan on not seeing them the entire summer.
- The pay isn’t great when you consider how many hours you are “on duty.” For summer and holiday camps, counselors make €1170 per month for first-year counselors for 26 days worked. Returning counselors get €1300. However, room and board are provided. Day camp workers get €100 per day with no accommodation.
- Since you are spending so much time with others, personalities tend to clash which makes for a stressful working environment.
Advice for prospective counselors
If you are young, adventurous and looking for an excuse to go to France and teach French children, then American Village would be a good fit for you.
If you are looking for a highly paid teaching position that doesn’t require a lot of work or creativity, then do not apply.
Hopefully, the world will open up soon so that more teachers can get back to teaching abroad. Until then, research possible opportunities and prepare yourself for when the borders open. Teaching abroad whether in a traditional school, at a summer camp or online is extremely rewarding and I hope that every teacher gives it a try at least once.