I wrote this article a year and a half ago but hesitated to post it out of fear. After re-reading it today though, I decided that it was important that I share. This as much as all of the articles I have written are things that I experienced and I feel should be shared with you all. Please keep in mind that this does not have to do with every school in france or every company in France, by any means. This is just based off of personal experience. Anyways, here it goes…
Unfortunately, after coming to France I have become manipulated and fooled by empty promises presented in the marketing strategies of certain companies and firms. Sure when it comes to advertising there is possibly some stretching of the truth, generally regarding the quality of a product or service. But at least you can assume that if you’re buying a T-shirt you won’t get a potato (unless it’s a mistake, a very big mistake). Well, I find that some firms in France have given me a potato. Let me explain.
When I chose to go to school in La Rochelle I was really excited. Not only did someone tell me that I was able to choose whether my classes were in the morning or in the afternoon but also that all of my classes were going to be taught in english by teachers fluent in english. All of that was bullshit. My first day of school I got there and they flat out said that our schedule was not only completely random and throughout the whole day, but it also was going to change every week making it practically impossible to get a job that wasn’t in a night club. So it was pretty much them saying, “Hey I know we promised you guys would have time to get a job but NOPE you’ll just have to find 10,000 euros a year some other way.” And I know 10,000 euros compared to what my fellow American friends are paying is “easy money” but c’mon it’s still 10,000 euros a year. So pretty much “je me suis fait baiser” as the French might say. The whole fluent in English promise wasn’t a complete lie but I simply can’t say it was true either. My teachers make so many mistakes in English it’s ridiculous. It generally makes me laugh because a lot of times their pronunciation of the words make it seem like they are saying bad words or sex terms. I’m the only one in the class that laughs but it helps me get through their boring classes. Already the classes that are taught in English are most of the time taught by teachers that don’t speak it that well but there are some classes that are not even taught in English! And while I do speak French, I am paying for a degree taught in English so there should be no, “We couldn’t find a teacher to teach that class in English.” It’s an international school, providing opportunities to obtain international diplomas stating that we learned our subjects in English therefore they should be taught in English, no?
Lastly about my school, there is something about our Weekend of Integration I want to cover. At the beginning of the year, the association of students asked the first year students to pay 150 euros for the WEI (Weekend of Integration) and 150 euros to be included in student discounts that occur at bars all year. Of course I assumed that if I paid the 150 now I would eventually win it back by paying less at bars for drinks and such. WRONG. Turns out throughout the year, there was no difference in price for those that paid the 150 and those that didn’t. The discounts were for all students. Therefore the money that I paid at the beginning of the year was actually helping pay for the drinks of my fellow classmates that didn’t pay. Awesome right?
The other thing that I was lied to about was my internship. As most of you know, I did a “marketing internship” at a surf school in the south of France not too long ago. If you were to try and imagine what I did and I told you just that small piece of information. You would assume what I assumed I’d be doing before getting there. Taking photos, making videos, posting on social media, being taught the marketing strategies used in the company. WRONG. I did nothing that had to do with marketing in my internship. I worked at the tent down by the beach signing people up for classes, renting boards, washing boards and putting wetsuits away. Honestly, the job wasn’t that bad. I didn’t mind it. We could listen to music, read when it was slow, go surfing on our lunch break and such but the one big problem is that it was just a simple summer job. If I had wanted a summer job I would have gotten one. Instead I chose that “marketing internship” because I thought that even though I wouldn’t be getting paid, I’d be learning stuff that would help me in the future. But I wasn’t. I was just simply working at the beach desk all summer for free. I think that the only thing that kept this surf school from breaking a bunch of labour laws is the fact that in my contract it says that I was an intern and in France it’s more common for interns not to be paid.
This was not just a problem with my internship though it had proven to be a problem with many. In France we apply for jobs that look awesome online, just to find that it was just a way to trick us into doing free busy work. My friend back in La Rochelle was doing an internship where she was supposed to be paid but in the end they said, “whoops we can’t pay you” and her job seemed far worse than mine. She was given grocery lists ordered by families and she had to pretty much go to the store, buy all of the food and then deliver it to the address. And she was doing this for FREE.
When I compare my internship with hers I find that at least I was getting to work with other people by the beach and such. But I find that this is a real problem in France. The fact that internships are not paid shouldn’t be a way for French companies to simply hire people to do busy work for free. At least the job title should reflect what we will actually be doing in the internship. My internship should have been titled, “Sales Assistant intern or Customer Service intern”. At least that would have reflected the fact that I would be working signing people up for things and renting boards. I don’t know but it’s definitely closer to what I did then “marketing intern”. Internships are for learning and helping us students with our future in the real world. Though being paid would have been nice, I’m not even really complaining about the money. I understand that internships are generally not paid. If I had been doing an enriching internship that was teaching me something I could use in the future I would have been happy to work unpaid. With this internship I was housed and fed so I was sort of being reimbursed and that definitely helps. But at that point, I had already worked in 2 surf shops and I understood how it works, I didn’t need to do another internship to obtain the skills I need to rent a surfboard.