Work Experience: German Style

By Georgia Rowley 11DO

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â??Would you like to have the opportunity to carry out your work experience placement abroad?â?

This proposition during a G&T assembly ignited the spark of our international work experience. Immediately, we were engulfed by a plethora of thoughts and emotions; how invaluable would it be to gain experience of working in a foreign country? This was certainly an opportunity not to be missed. Hence, the process of application began and having successfully gained a place on the programme, myself and five other Year 10 students found ourselves at the departure gates of Manchester Airport on Saturday 12th July, eagerly anticipating the week ahead. Our destination: Oldenburg, North-West Germany. Our mission: to teach English as a foreign language to a range of target audiences in various establishments situated across the city.

Upon our arrival in Oldenburg, a city at the heart of economic and cultural development in Germany, the first element of our living experience abroad began. For the duration of our visit to Deutschland, each of us were to be living with a separate host-stay family who had graciously allowed us to share their homes with them and to act as an added family member for the week. As the eight strong High Arcal party emerged from the train at Oldenburg Station, we were delighted to be greeted by a flurry of â??Guten Tag! Willkommen!â? It was such a reassuring sight!

Monday morning arose and our placements were beckoning. Each of us were to be working at a different education establishment â?? schools, adult education centres and the Academy of English (High Arcalâ??s partner school and by which the work experience programme was initiated). Throughout the week, we had the opportunity to individually teach the course content and to lead group activities as well as assisting with grammatical issues; new vocabulary, tenses and sentence structures were taught. The level of English already successfully learnt differed depending on the individual but most students had a firm grasp of the basic English language. Overcoming the language barrier to be able to teach in this unconventional environment was surprisingly, easier than first anticipated and a distinctive progression in language ability was witnessed throughout the week.

Another requirement of our placement was to deliver a presentation regarding life in British schools to an audience of around fifty to sixty guests at the Academy of Englishâ??s monthly meet-up group event. The Academy of English, directed by Dr John Goodyear, is an institution that is dedicated to teaching English as a foreign language to all age groups in and around Oldenburg. Each month, the Academy hosts a meet-up group event which is dedicated to a particular country or culture and we had been invited to share our patriotism and to showcase our British culture. Inevitably, the guests were fascinated by our school uniform as German schools do not require one to be worn, with many comments being made that likened us to the students of Hogwarts (minus the broomsticks)! Additionally, the local news reporters were in attendance and High Arcal School made its debut on Oldenburgâ??s local TV news channel. Not only did the German guests learn about the British education system, the event was an ideal platform for us to compare and discuss our own schooling experiences and to learn of the differences that occur.

To complement our working week, our host families introduced us to a variety of Oldenburgâ??s spectacular sights including the majestic castle which was once the residence of the grand dukes of Oldenburg. We were struck by the stunning scenic views of the city and the overwhelming hospitality shown to us. We also had the opportunity to experience Oldenburgâ??s preferred method of transport â?? cycling! It was certainly a new experience for us to have to attempt to navigate our way around the city and to quickly grasp the conduct of cyclists on Oldenburgâ??s roads. German cuisine was also sampled and an overall insight into German culture was provided.

The success of the visit far surpassed what we could have imagined it to be and as citizens of our rapidly advancing world, I believe that it is of the upmost importance to acquire the skills of acclimatising to new environments and to successfully adapt to these conditions. International connections are truly indispensable and I would very much encourage anyone who is considering carrying out an international work experience to seize the opportunity!

It is said that life begins at the edge of your proverbial â??comfort zoneâ? and upon reflection, I suppose that in many aspects, this is absolutely true. Who knows where your curiosity could lead you?

Sincere thanks to Miss Goodyear, Miss Billing, Dr John Goodyear and his Academy and all involved in Germany for making this visit such a successful experience.
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