For a gapper, Paris means an opportunity to learn more about art history, become fluent in French, study culinary arts, or perhaps dive into an internship in fashion, business, or international politics. Whatever interest or area of professional development you want to explore, Paris is sure to allow you the gap year of your dreams.
France as a whole is one of the top cultural centers, but also home to an array of attractions for you to see during your gap year. Furthermore, Paris is France’s most modern city and a leader in politics, arts, and fashion.
So get ready to spend your gap year in the place known as the “City of Lights”, and be awestruck by Paris’s beauty and history. There is something for everyone and finding something to do in your off-time should be no problem. Let Paris take you on the adventure of a lifetime!
Whether you want to be an au pair, teach English, learn French, volunteer, or intern, Paris has what you’re looking for.
To become an au pair in Paris, you should already have some experience with children and childcare, and in some cases you might have to have some basic French speaking skills as well. If you qualify though, it’s a great way to legally work in France (they even have a visa for it). Furthermore, some au pair gigs come with French classes -- double perk!
The tasks and responsibilities of an au pair might vary depending on the age of the children but in general these include: bringing/picking them up from school, feeding, bathing, playing and helping them with homework; household tasks related to the children and helping with family tasks such as setting the table, doing dishes, etc.
Some families want an au pair to help their children learn English, so be sure to ask if this is a responsibility of yours as well. In exchange, you’ll get to discover Paris while immersing yourself in a true Parisian family life.
Do note, however, that as an au pair, your time is far less flexible than you may be used to. If you want to also spend time exploring France and the rest of Europe, plan to tack on a few weeks or months before or after your time as an au pair for travel.
There are several ways that you could teach English in Paris. France’s government program, TAPIF, private language academies, business teaching, and private lessons are the most popular ways (however, teachers who enroll in TAPIF rarely get placed in Paris).
A general level of professionalism, a basic understanding of French, TEFL certificate, and relevant teaching experience aren’t required but are highly encouraged. As the English language is growing in demand which means that the demand for suitable teachers has risen along with it.
Internships are one of the best ways to improve your French and gain some professional experience, not to mention spending a gap year in a foreign country looks great on your resume. Internships are often reserved for college and graduate students and are seldom paid since they are typically done for school credit. A few industries that are popular in Paris are: art & architecture, fashion, media, politics and marketing.
There are certain organizations that will help you through the application process and will help you find a placement in your field. If this is a consideration for you, having an intermediate to advanced level of French will help significantly.
French Language Courses:
France is a key economic partner and is the 3rd chosen country for foreign investors. French is a major language of high tech and business - tourism and hospitality industry and research institutes. Learning French can improve the interpersonal skills you will bring to your international internship or professional job. By learning French in France, students will be able to learn from native French speakers, the proper French accent, and practice with the locals. There are a variety of ways that you can learn French in France, those being: university courses, private tutoring, homestay programs and cultural immersion. With ways to make it cost affordable, there is no reason to not take advantage of learning the local language!
Planning Your Trip
To help you plan your trip, below are some more details on health, safety, visa information, and culture.
Health & Safety
Paris, France is a relatively safe place to be, but the typical rules when traveling to a foreign country still apply: use good judgement and err on the side of caution.
Two of the most common crimes directed against foreign visitors are pick-pocketing and residential break-ins. With that in mind, be extra cautious in heavily tourist sites such as museums, train stations and national monuments. Don’t leave your belongings unattended and women should be careful while walking alone at night, try to walk with friends if possible.
For more detailed information about health and safety in France, you can visit the U.S. Department of State’s website.
France is a member of the Schengen Agreement. This is 26 European countries that have removed passport and immigration control from their joint borders. In order to move freely from country to country during your stay in Paris, you will need to acquire a Schengen visa before you travel. For more information on this type of Visa, please consult the Schengen Visa website.
Culture & Etiquette
It takes a while for the French to warm up to strangers, but once you have been invited into their homes you have made a friend for life.
French people typically greet one another by doing la bise: greeting each other with a kiss on each cheek. This greeting applies to two girls greeting one another, a guy and a girl, and occasionally two guys will greet each other this way if they are really good friends/family. Be prepared to do this to each individual if you are meeting a large group.
In France, be stylishly late as they consider it rude to show up on time. Use the standard greetings “Bonjour” and “Au revoir” for entering and leaving when you go into establishments.
The Parisians are known for their style -- and that means you will never see them in their pajamas going for a coffee run. Make sure that you uphold that standard while you are spending time in Paris.
Another rule of thumb is not to ask “Do you speak English?” in English. Knowing a few basic phrases of French (and hopefully more and more as your time in Paris passes) will take you a long way.
Costs & Funding
Living in Paris can be very expensive. Housing prices there are similar to what you might see in New York City. A one bedroom apartment, for rent near the city center, can run anywhere between 800-1100 euros.
Basic utilities have an average rate of 202 euros a month for a 900 square foot apartment. A monthly pass for transportation is anywhere between 50-70 euros and an inexpensive meal is around 12 euros.
It’s typically cheaper to live outside of Paris and travel into the city if you need to -- though if you’re thrifty and creative, you may be able to make it work (especially as an au pair…)
Clothes and electronics tend to be much more expensive in Paris, but you can linger and enjoy a nice cappuccino in a Parisian cafe for around 3 euros!
Contributed by Kalee Fambrough
Gap Year Programs in Paris
View the latest job postings on our job board. A great way to earn work experience during your gap year!