Last August (sorry about how late this is, but better late than never!) I had a week of work experience, which was certainly ein Erlebnis to say the least! My placement was in Germany (hence the Denglisch!), in a small city called Koblenz, located about half-way between Frankfurt and Cologne.
A couple of fun facts about Koblenz (because why not!): Koblenz is one of the oldest cities in Germany, and is most famous for the deutsches Eck, where two rivers, the Mosel and the Rhine meet. The deutsches Eck for centuries has been recognised as a place for unity, and this is expressed here in many ways. A statue for Kaiser Wilhelm I with all the emblems for Germany’s Bundesländer (a great place to sit and watch the world go by!), is surrounded by all the flags for these regions, assembled along either side and meeting where the current German flag is placed in the middle, at the very point where the two rivers meet. Another important symbol of unity found at this same site are three pieces of the Berlin Wall. For the past month before I broke up from school for Summer I had been learning about the GDR in my German lessons, so it had really made it a reality for me!
Whilst I was in Koblenz, I was fortunate enough to be able to spend quite a lot of time there, as we had free time during the couple of days before my placement started, but also in the evenings. As well as working I did a lot of fun stuff with the people in the group I went with too – we went to a beach on the river banks, went up cable cars to the fortress and even went to the cinema (seeing a French film dubbed into German was pretty amusing – Frühstück Bei Monsieur Henri in case you’re wondering)!
Anyway, now for the bit on my work experience placement, my “Praktikum”…
My work experience was in a travel agent’s office (or Reisebüro, as the Germans call it) in the old town of Koblenz (and yes, it was very pretty!) Right from the start I had to speak German to everyone at work (although one of the employees there tried to speak English as a joke from time to time). One of the first people I met there was a lovely girl called Alana, with whom I have managed to stay in touch ever since. She complimented me on my German (although her English was waaaaaay better, unsurprisingly!) and was fascinated to meet a native speaker of English, especially as I wasn’t American, and because she hadn’t yet been to either the UK or the US. We walked the office’s dog, Cody, along the Mosel riverbanks the first day, which was a really lovely way to get to know each other!
Unfortunately my work experience was in the middle of a heatwave, and all the smart casual clothes I packed and had were way too warm! Admittedly, we all looked rather strange walking around Koblenz when everyone else was in shorts and a t shirt but I built up a resistance to the heat after a while so it was all good!
Although I was set pretty mundane tasks as you would expect, such as photocopying, taking things out to the recycling, checking and doing research, I learnt a lot of German, particularly everyday phrases that natives speak that you couldn’t really otherwise learn just in school.
On my trip I also learned a great deal about what it’s like to live in Germany as a local, rather than just a tourist, as we had to buy all our meals every day (except for breakfast) and we also had to arrange our own transportation and timings for getting to work, as well as how to get there, so it’s a real test of your organisational skills! The trip has also really made me consider perhaps having a year abroad in Germany or even living there when I’m older (that way I’ll still be in the EU after Brexit! Whoop whoop)! 😜
I would fully recommend looking into doing work experience abroad if you’re considering studying a language at university as I’d say it has definitely improved my confidence and ability! There are so many placements available to do too – my friends I met on the trip had work experience at C&A, a hotel, a museum and other places like that. I think my placement was a bit too specialist, and in a way I wish I had chosen something slightly more generic. Don’t get me wrong though: I don’t regret doing this work experience one bit!
If any of you have any questions about my experience, feel free to comment down below or message me – I’d love to answer them!
Germany is such a cool country, and an interesting place to visit, particularly if you have some prior knowledge of the history before coming! My time there doing all the touristy things like going to the deutsches Eck really made it real for me, how successful a country Germany is, even after the long-term suffering it has undergone after such instability and unrest in the past.
Have any of you had work experience abroad? If so, where was it and what did you do? How did you find it?
I hope you are all well and that 2017 went off to a good start for you (as if it’s February already)!
[Other pictures like the ones on here from my trip can be found on my Instagram @SazNoz.]