Posted by Michael F.
As an undergraduate at UA, I was lucky enough to go through the German program for four years. During freshman year, our professors introduced us to the Fulbright program and I thought to myself, “That would be a lot of fun, but there’s no way that I could be qualified for that.” After a few years of learning the language and falling in love with German literature/culture, the opportunity presented itself to apply for an ETA position. This time my attitude was much different and I decided to go through the application process. There were a few positions in Europe that would have been a great experience but going to Germany would also help me continue to learn the language. Almost one year after starting the application process, I was fortunate enough to be chosen as an ETA in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany.
As an ETA, I began by sharing about my life in Alabama and the U.S. with students from grades 8-12. Similarly, students shared things about their life in Germany with me. Many of the teachers welcome the assistance of a native English speaker and allow me to help their students prepare for their written and speaking exams. Some of the ways I do this are through small group conversations on a specific topic, “Speed Dating” activities, and mock interviews for students who will soon be applying for jobs. Outside of classes, a few of the English teachers and myself hold an English club. In this club we watch popular American films that highlight history and culture. We play games like paper football to teach about the sport. We even cook food that is common in the U.S.
First and foremost, the faculty within the German program prepared me for this experience by teaching me the language and sharing a few things to add to my interest in German life. While most Germans speak English to some capacity, knowing how to communicate in German helps break down some of the initial barriers that may be placed between an ETA and students, and between an American and Germans in general. Furthermore, my time spent teaching guitar and coaching MMA has helped tremendously in preparing me for being an ETA and navigating everyday life in Germany. As a guitar instructor, I learned how to make teaching/learning fun and found a way to be outgoing as a teacher. Coaching MMA gave me the confidence to be outgoing in daily life while also allowing me to find an amazing community within a gym here in Germany. The overall feeling that I have had since making it here has been gratitude. From coworkers and friends, I have felt overwhelmingly welcomed and am beyond thankful for this opportunity.