I had already been a Language Assistant in France and China and both experiences were fantastic, so I wanted to go somewhere relating to my degree (French and German) but with a reputable company. That's why I chose this programme. The experience was a lot better than my expectations!
I worked in a gymnase in Payerne (Fribourg/Vaud) that took students from two cantons who were aged from 16 to 19 years old. I worked 12 hours a week and did a mixture of taking half classes for speaking and taking full classes with the teacher in the classroom.
The main challenges for me were coming up with new speaking activities every week in order to keep students engaged, and finding motivating topics, especially when dealing with grammar. The main rewards were definitely seeing students participating enthusiastically in the activities and generally enjoying the lessons.
I used quite a few clips from YouTube so perhaps DVDs of your favourite programmes and films would be useful as they can be exploited for listening and speaking activities.
The most difficult thing about the assistantship was integrating with local people. They were friendly but very reserved, so making friends with them wasn’t easy. I did feel very welcome where I lived though and people did acknowledge me in the streets. Adapting wasn’t a problem and I was very fortunate that the teachers at my school were very welcoming and often met up on a Friday evening for drinks, which was a nice way to socialise with people outside of work.
In my spare time I took language lessons, which was another way to meet people and improve your language. Travelling in Switzerland is very expensive but I did manage to go and see some places such as Zurich, Zermatt, Geneva, Basel, Luzern and Montreux and I also went on a trip with the teachers to Ticino which was lovely.
I hadn’t spoken French or German in over three years when I arrived so I was a little apprehensive about how I’d cope but it was fine once I got speaking to people. The lessons definitely helped me and meeting people outside of school did too.
I honestly think that the programme allows you to discover more about your strengths and weaknesses as you are away from your comfort zone and how you deal with obstacles is a way for you to gain confidence in your abilities. This will definitely be a benefit for you in the future.