Going Back to School… French Style

by Kelly · 15 comments

in A Frugal Family

I have exciting news to announce: as of September 8th, I will be a full-time student again. I’m going to be in an international Masters in Marketing program. Going back to school has long been in the works and I’m very excited about it.

I have a fairly non-traditional educational background. I dropped out of high school at age fifteen and took a few classes at a junior college. I wasn’t really motivated, however, so I stopped after a semester or two and worked at a collection of interesting yet eclectic jobs. When I was 23 I decided I was ready to go back to school and so I applied to, and was accepted at, my alma mater. That led me to France, through their study abroad program, so it was a great choice in more ways than one. I graduated summa cum laude with a BA in French three years later and with a staggering amount of student loan debt. I then got my certificate in teaching ESL (and about halfway through a Masters in TESL) as I knew I was coming to France.

The funny thing about American BAs in French? They’re not worth very much here. And the French are very big on having the right degree from the right school in order to get a job. They’re also not fond of people resetting their course in mid route, so about the only thing I’m qualified to do here is teach English as a Second Language.

Luckily I enjoy teaching, I’m good at it and there are a plethora of jobs. But after seven years, I’m feeling a bit done. So I found a good school and a good program that was interesting to me and started trying to figure out a way to finance it.

There is a program in France called the FONGECIF. That stands for the Fond de Gestion de Congé Individuel de Formation or, in plain English, the Individual Training Leave Fund. As an employee in the private sector I have payroll deductions to this fund, as does my employer. This fund then subsidizes people who wish to take a leave from their jobs and go back to school, either to further or to change their career. You have to apply for it, of course, and your request is not automatically accepted.

I just found out that mine was. The FONGECIF will pay 41% of my salary during the next school year (until June 2009) and 50% of the tuition. They will only pay 41% of my salary because it they only reimburse the employer for the time I am actually in school, which they have calculated at 41% of a 35 work week. Theoretically I could work the other 59% of the time, but you and I know that graduate school takes up a lot more time than 41%. Basically I will be taking a 59% pay cut. This will be offset partly by the fact that I can now put my student loans into deferment and so will effectively gain €400 a month. As for the other 50% of the tuition, we are taking out a low interest student loan (2.3%) that will kick in in September 2009. It’s not the ideal situation- we were hoping that the FONGECIF would pay 90% of the tuition- but it works.

So there you have it, the exciting news of the week. I will be writing more about the challenges, fiscal and familial, of going back to school. I’ll also be reducing my posting schedule to three times a week, plus a link love edition on Saturdays and a Six Month Recap edition on Sundays, but that won’t take effect until September.

Until then, what about you? Have you gone back to school after a break? What’s it like? What were the biggest challenges? Was there anything that was easier than expected? And finally, how did you finance it?


1 Denise July 25, 2008

I realy desire to go back to school for my masters….someday. My employer will pay 100% of the cost. Time is holding me back though. With three kids and already working full time, I’m really not sure where school would fit into my busy schedule. I do applaud you for “going for it”!

2 Judy July 25, 2008

I went back for my master’s degree after 8 years away from school. It was the best decision I ever made. I’m a lifelong learner – I could go to school every week for the rest of my life and it wouldn’t be enough, so the decision to get my master’s was a no-brainer. I was a much better student this time around – had better priorities and was better prepared. I think waiting and going back is an excellent decision, and I hope you have an AWESOME experience!

3 Rebecca July 25, 2008

How exciting! What a great program to help finance your education. I know I want to go back to get my Masters, but I just don’t know what I want to study. I’ve been out of school for 3 years and my interests keep changing, so I don’t want to start spending money on something I may lose interest in after a year! One day I will know what to do. =)

4 Kelly July 25, 2008

@ Denise, your employer will pay for your Masters? That's great! You should definitely go for it.

@ Judy, Once I figured out how to really 'do' school, I loved it. The break that I had between high school and college really helped. I'm looking forward to stretching my brain this time round too!

5 Carol July 25, 2008

Congratulations on getting accepted! It sounds like absolutely the right thing to do. I hope it all works out well for you.

6 Ashley July 25, 2008

I went back to school last August to get my Masters in Nursing Nurse Practitioner degree. I had been away for two years but this had always been a part of my career goals. Unfortunately, I’m taking out loans to pay, but when I’m finished it will take only a year and a half to pay it back so I feel it’s more than worth it. I want to wait to have kids until I’m finished with school. With being married for six years this month my husband did not want to wait much longer so saving up for it before hand was not an option. It would have taken 12 years on RN salary! I love being in school, but am looking forward to being finished next October.

7 Queen of the Click July 26, 2008

Congrats on going back to school for a Masters.

I did go back to school and it wasn’t as hard as I made it out to be in my head. I went back for a Masters as well and I thought I would be out of practice in doing research, papers and presentations. Yet, things fell right into place and I did a second masters because I enjoyed it to much.

There’s always something to learn and I think people are at their best when they are taking classes (in anything really). I learned to sew on a sewing machine this spring and it was so invigorating.

Queen of the Click’s last blog post..RIP Randy Pausch

8 My Daily Dollars July 26, 2008

Congratulations! It sounds like you’ve found something that will really interest you. I can relate to teaching getting a bit stale! Best of luck!

My Daily Dollars’s last blog post..A Fabulous Wedding for $4,534!

9 Meegan July 27, 2008

Kelly, that’s so exciting! I hope it’s a relatively smooth transition back into study mode for you and your family.
My question to you – what, other than being a little tired of your current job, made you take the leap back to school?

10 Kelly July 28, 2008

@ Meegan,

Well, I've always wanted to get a graduate degree, so that's been a big part of the motivation. It's on the 'things to do before I die' list in fact! The other big factor is that there are very few opportunities for advancement in teaching in France. Either you are part of the National education system, or you open up your own language school, or you work for someone else. Working for someone else involves working in a small company, and you can't really evolve in your job. So seeing as how I was feeling a little stifled, the lack of advancement opportunities were a big motivator in wanting to go back to school.

11 Eponine July 28, 2008

Congratulations on this big step! I'm sure you'll do great. When I was in grad school, the people who had the most responsibilities (marriage, kids, another job, whatever) were always the most on the ball because they were more organized than the rest of us.

A B.A. in French isn't worth much in the U.S. either, at least not in some people's eyes. It's one of those degrees where people ask "But what are you going to DO with it?" 😉

12 Lin July 29, 2008

Congrats! Take the big step!

I am still working on my AA. I’ll graduate in December and then go on for a BA to teach ESL, I’m only 53 🙂 . But I did change course in the middle, and yes, they really frowned on it. In fact, if it weren’t for scholarships, I would be paying 100%, since they cut my funding for having too many hours toward an AA, since my AAS hours don’t count toward my AA, but they do count toward financial aid. I am so glad I put my priorities on good grades and high volunteer and community service participation. It paid off in the scholarships, which cover all my books and tuition for the semester.

13 Kelly July 29, 2008

@Frugal Trenches
Ummm, not quite sure! Actually we have a childcare provider who is fabulous, and she will be doing the majority, ie picking the older two up at lunch time and after school and taking care of the baby. But she doesn’t work Wednesday afternoons, so that leaves us in a minor pickle. (There is no school in France on Wednesdays). I’m still trying to figure that one out!

14 Frugal Trenches July 29, 2008

Well done you! How will you cope with childcare? So exciting!

Frugal Trenches's last blog post..Daily Tracking – July 28th and 29th!

15 susaninfrance August 24, 2008

stumbled upon your blog i don’t even know how! sounds exciting…i’ve just moved back to the US after a decade mostly in france (3 kiddos and french husband as well)! I was always perplexed about how to work over there and so, we came back here for a little while. but I am also on the lookout for what to do professionally in france and it is nice to hear about your path and what you are doing and I will be following your blog to see how it goes. You obviously have marketing talent with the professional look of the blog. Now I am going to go back and read some of your other posts.

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