MY YEAR ABROAD EXPERIENCE IN HAMBURG BY VIVIENNE BROWNELL
Updated: Jan 8
We interviewed Vivienne Brownell, a Translation and Interpreting with German, Spanish and Dutch Graduate from the University of Newcastle. We discussed… the process of job hunting, moving abroad, settling in and how the experience of living abroad has helped her German language skills.
What did you do for your year abroad ?
I spent 6 months in Germany working as an English Language Assistant at a secondary school in Hamburg. I taught the German equivalent of years 7-11 and the Sixth Form. I helped teach English Grammar and we also did cultural activities where I taught them about British culture specifically relating to Cambridge (my hometown). We did cultural exchanges where the roles were reversed and they taught me about Germany and German culture. I helped with some Spanish classes so that I could keep up my Spanish language skills while I was there.
What was the application process for your job ?
The application process was very simple- it was all laid out nicely. I had to submit an updated copy of my CV with an emphasis on my previous work experiences and how they were relevant to the role. Then I had to, state whether I wanted to be a in a rural or city location, pick three regions of Germany where I wanted to be and the age ranges that I wanted to teach. I had to give reasons behind these all of these choices.
What pieces of advice would you give to someone who is starting the application process for their Year Abroad ?
Be enthusiastic in your application- show all the qualities that are applicable to the job that you are applying for. It is important to tailor your CV and Cover Letter to the company and role that you are making the application for. Also, highlight your language skills and how and why they are relevant to the job.
Be open to positions that you might not normally apply for- even though you may have a rough idea of what you would like to do for your year abroad- it is important to keep an open mind and think outside of the box. Be open to a wide variety of roles, industries and even regions in your country or countries of choice.
Stay positive- looking for a job can be a very longwinded process and there may be times where you may feel discouraged- but it is very important to not give into these feelings. Keep a positive mindset- you will find the job that is right for you. It is also important to take the occasional break from applications and come back to the process with fresh eyes.
How was the process of moving abroad ?
There were many things that I had to ensure were in place before I moved abroad. Germany is a very bureaucratic country so I would advise that you bring more paperwork than you might actually need (e.g. extra photocopies of your passport, work contract, birth certificate etc). I made sure that I had a copy of my job application to prove that I had a job when I went through the boarders. I also needed a German bank account in order to be paid and I needed proof that I could sustain myself. I made my appointment with a local bank before I left so that my bank account could be set up as soon as possible. Before I could start my role I also needed an ICPC (International Child Protection Certificate), there was a strict deadline for this, so I would advise getting this sorted as soon as you receive your job offer! I also spent the months and weeks leading up to moving to sorting out my registration documents- in Germany you need to register within 14 days of arriving. So another piece of advice that I would give is doing some research into your local council and fill out these documents before you go.
3 Tips for moving abroad
1. Be well prepared- have all of your paperwork prepared before you move and do some research into the admin that you need to when you arrive. Having all of your documents in place will will make your transition abroad a little easier.
2. Arrive a week before your work placement starts- arriving a week or two earlier will give you time to register and explore the area.
3. Do research about your local area in advance- your year abroad is an opportunity to explore new places and meet new people. It is also worth mapping out all of the amenities in your new town/ city so that you know where everything is. You may also want to write a list of places where you would like to travel while you are abroad.
How would you describe your Year Abroad ?
I would say that it was an incredible experience! Teaching abroad made me realise that I would like to go into teaching and do a PGCE after University. My experience abroad helped me improve my German and my confidence sky rocketed- I was put in many situations where I had to be confident. I would highly recommend doing a year abroad if you have the opportunity to do so- you feel like a completely different person when you come back and it is a great opportunity to meet new people.
Tips for settling into your new town/city
Join local and Facebook groups- joining groups whether on Facebook or a local sports club is a great way of meeting new people and feeling more settled. I joined a few groups while I was in Hamburg and it was a great way to socialise. However, if you are meeting people from Facebook or online groups always be careful and meet up in a public place and in groups when possible !
Say yes to everything- Your Year abroad is the best time to go out, explore and step outside your comfort zone and saying 'Yes' to things (especially things you wouldn't normally do) is a great way to do that.
Make the most out of the induction days/week - if you have an induction day/week, it's a great opportunity to make friends. I had an induction week and met so many lovely people there who I am still close friends with today!
Talk to your colleagues ! - This probably seems quite obvious, but it's a great way to build friendships where you're working. For me, it meant chatting to the other teachers in the staff room on our lunch break, which was great for my German and also meant I could go to them with questions later on. This is also a good option if your placement doesn't offer an induction day/week.
How has the experience abroad improved your German language skills ?