Choosing a Course with a Year Abroad

7th May 2020

Katie is from Widnes and studied German and History at the University of Sheffield. She spent the third year of her degree working as an English Language Assistant in a school in Arnsberg, Germany.  Katie now works for HeppSY as a Higher Education Engagement Assistant.

Choosing my course

When choosing a degree course to study, the idea of having a year abroad really appealed to me. At every open day I went to – and I went to over ten – the languages department stood out the most. The academics came from all over the world and all that any of the students could talk about was their year abroad.

Moving away

I had already moved two hours away from home to Sheffield (on a train), so moving two hours away on a plane didn’t seem so daunting. As for being 700 miles away and not being able to locate tea and spaghetti hoops, I tried not to think about that for the first two years of my degree!

I had three options for my year abroad: I could study at a university, apply to be an English Language Assistant or work in a translation company. I chose the English Language Assistantship route. I was assigned a school in the small town of Arnsberg, not far from Dortmund in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Teaching abroad

I really enjoyed working at the school. I helped with conversation lessons, taught students about British traditions like Bonfire night, and helped organise the English drama after school club.

The teachers were friendly and made me feel welcomed; I went sightseeing with one teacher and another invited me to a carnival.  I was assigned a mentor, too: an English and Sociology teacher called Sara who was wonderful! She helped me find accommodation, open a bank account, and invited me to social events.

Socialising in Germany

Although Arnsberg is small, it is well connected to the bigger cities like Dortmund and Düsseldorf. I was put in touch with other Language Assistants in the region and we met up every Wednesday to do a pub quiz! There were students from my University, students from elsewhere in Britain, from Ireland, America and New Zealand. Not only did I meet lots of Germans, I met people from all over the world!

I was paid €800 per month as well as an Erasmus grant and a student loan.  This meant I could afford rent, food and flights. I didn’t have any lessons on Fridays, so I would quite often spend long weekends with friends who were doing years abroad in other parts of Germany or Europe.

Exploring Europe

Doing my year abroad really cemented my love of travel and discovering new cities, countries and cultures. I visited over 16 different cities in Germany and went on trips to France, Spain, Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands! My year abroad also massively developed my confidence and independence. Whether I was flying in a hot air balloon with five minutes notice or winging it in a bilingual history class because the teacher got called away, it was all part of the fun!

If you seek out the support available, reach out to others and say yes to new experiences, a year abroad can be incredibly fun and fulfilling. All the arguing about train tickets also massively improved my German language skills! It has helped me to do the job I do now and I’m sure it will help me in the future. If you get the opportunity to do a year abroad, go for it!

Categories: Graduate Interns.

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