Rhianne Clarke exchanged her fast-paced student life in London for a nine-month teaching job in the countryside town of Loningen with a population of 13,000. She tells us how the assistantship experience led to the discovery of her second home.
What was it like moving from London to rural Germany?
I moved from one of the most multicultural cities in the world to a town where most of the residents had never met someone from the UK before. My school appreciated the opportunity to host an Assistant as I was the first native English speaker they’d hosted in20 years. I soon became a local celebrity! It’s not necessarily all about the teaching - it’s also about becoming part of the local community. Assistants should not be seen in the traditional sense to just support language learning in the classroom. The experience is what you make of it. It’s an opportunity to share your culture and learn from others across the whole school. I was warmly welcomed by the staff and treated like any other teacher. There was a real community within the school and I soon adjusted to local life with limited transport connections. Despite being a city girl I really embraced the life in the German countryside. I recently went back to visit the town and got the chance to teach my old students again!
Tell us about your experience of working as an English Language Assistant.
It was life-changing. It made me realise that I want to become a foreign languages teacher. It was exciting to develop my own lesson plans and teach students about life in the UK. One of my first presentations was based on a comparison of UK and German education systems, followed by a quiz. For Halloween I taught younger pupils to do the Monster Mash and about trick or treating. I also took part in creating listening guides for older students.
Did you get involved in extra-curricular activities within the school?
I voluntarily ran an Art club for two hours every week. The staff nurtured my extra-curricular interests. When I left, I actually presented a painting of the school emblem as a gift – it’s now hanging in the school reception. You should definitely make the most of your opportunity abroad and find a way of developing your interests along with honing your language skills.
Would you say there is scope for Assistants to widen their interests outside teaching English during their year abroad?
The Head of English soon identified my interest in art and commissioned me to paint a Christmas scene of the town. The town had never had their own Christmas postcard before and they were sold as part of the school charity fundraiser for Peru. Over 13,000 copies were sold, raising more than 800 euros.
What is the added value of learning languages in this economic climate?
Immersing yourself in a new country and culture builds your confidence. Having to communicate daily in a foreign language helps you to develop your vocabulary and interpersonal skills. It is daunting at first but you soon make new friends that last a lifetime. The whole experience has taught me the value of being able to converse in another language. I was surprised that German is such a desired language to recruiters, especially within business and international relations sectors. Speaking another language gives you an extra edge that employers notice. We need to move away from being so dependent on speaking English all the time. We should try to be more open and reach out to other people.
Intersted in being an English Language Assistant? Visit our website for more information.