Teaching English abroad isn’t as easy as you might think. Our guest writer Jade from the GKBC Writers Academy shares her experience of when she went to teach English in Germany with us.
What springs to mind when you think of Germany? A country whose inhabitants while away the hours dressed in Lederhosen, drinking beer and eating wurst? A land of strict organisation and “Vorsprung durch Technik” whose population are still struggling to cope with its troubled history?
Certainly all of these stereotypes crossed my mind before spending nine months in this fabulous country, teaching its youth all about the infernally complex language that is English.
What I discovered however was a country of friendly, welcoming people with a huge fondness for cake in the afternoon, inch-thick Nutella spread on warm bread rolls, and the work of the devil that is “Sprudelwasser” (carbonated water) and which is everywhere.
But alas, I digress. Just what is life teaching English and living abroad really like?
The English language
Firstly, if you’re a native speaker of English, you cannot appreciate just how complex a language it is. Silent letters, verb formation that makes no sense and about a thousand exceptions to every grammar rule known to man mean that your students will struggle, almost as much as you will, when you are called on to explain a rule that you have used intuitively since before you can remember.
The positive thing I drew from this was that I really did learn more about the basics of my own language, thinking about it in a way I never would have before. Surprisingly, you can also find yourself actually learning things about your own culture and country from the children you teach.
Turning terror into pride
Standing in front of a class of 25 15-year-olds is daunting at first – this I won’t deny. Building a rapport with students and seeing how they are progressing with your help however gives you a sense of fulfilment that is hard to beat. That’s not to say I want to be a teacher (given my lack of patience, it is highly likely I would find myself fired) but it is more than pleasant to feel that you maybe do have a function in the classroom.
The highlight however had to have been working with the younger classes who greeted me with such enthusiasm it was almost illegal. Yes, they knew that when I arrived they got to run riot and play games, but it was still nice to trick myself into believing the pure joy was just a celebration of my presence.
Ploughing through the hard times: learning to party German-style
Living and working in Germany was an experience like no other. Yes, I had trouble adjusting to it being illegal to cross the road when the red man is showing. Yes, I almost cried with frustration at the pure unreliability of the train service (German efficiency is a myth!). And yes, I missed Dairy Milk and Yorkshire tea so much it physically pained me.
These minor problems were nothing however in comparison with the life changing moments I experienced and the (hopefully) life-long friends I made out there. Finding myself in Cologne at the annual Carnival celebrations dressed as Geri Halliwell, surrounded by hundreds of people of all ages in fancy dress, drinking and singing at 10 in the morning… let’s just say it’s an image that will never leave me.
Travelling: get out there and see the world!
It’s true what they say: travel broadens your horizons in ways you never thought possible. You can’t imagine what cultural discoveries, potential friendships and life changing experiences could be in store for you until you get out there and seek them.
Don’t think twice about taking the opportunity should the chance arrive. You won’t regret it – that I can say for certain.
Jade is a 21 year old language student at the University of Leeds who spent 9 months living and teaching in Germany. She enjoys blogging on travelling and other cultures for the GKBC Writers’ Academy.