JOE STURDY, ELA IN GERMANY 2010-2011
"I did a lot of travelling and photography! I like photography and nature and as
Thüringen is ‘Germany’s green heart’, I was in the right place!"Joe Sturdy,
ELA Germany 2010-2011.
•What were your expectations for the year prior to leaving the UK? Did the
experience match your expectations?
To learn a lot of German, enjoy my year in Germany (the first time I’d been properly
in a foreign country for a large amount of time) and give the pupils a better insight
into British culture and traditions. The latter was achieved, as were the first two!
•Was there any particularly useful piece of advice you received before departure?
‘Say yes to all things’. This worked especially for me, as I was living with a family –
a friend of my mentor teacher’s. While I was given my own space, we also went out
together and such.
•Did you attend an in-country induction training event? What did you find useful?
Yes – there’s a compulsory induction course at Altenberg, near Cologne. This is the
first time that you’re gathered together as one cohort, and you’re then put into groups
based on your assigned Land. The information that we received ranged from useful
contacts, insurance information, lesson resources – in short, wide and varied topics!
We also had to give a mock lesson to a ‘class’ (the other Language Assistants in our
group), to which we were then given critical, but friendly and useful feedback. This, I
think, was the most useful thing as it was something practical after the previous two
days of ‘theory’.
•Can you describe briefly the work situation whilst you were an assistant? E.g. role/
type of institution/ number of hours/ class sizes etc?
I was in a Gymnasium, so the pupils’ abilities were very high indeed, especially the
eleventh graders who were coming close to being fluent. I had a relatively large
number of classes – around eight or so, from most of the years in the school. I helped
with the fifth, sixth, seventh, tenth and eleventh grade classes, so it was good to see
how they all progressed throughout the year.
As for the number of hours, it was twelve per week, spread out rather unevenly over
four days. Monday, for example, was 45 minutes, while Wednesday was almost six
hours (with breaks).
The classes ranged from a size of ten, to the more ‘usual’ twenty-five / thirty mark.
•What would you describe as the main challenges, and the main rewards of the job?
I think the main challenge was for me, to actually stand up at the front of a class and
talk to them / teach them about various things. For me, it didn’t come easily as I’m a
naturally shy person.
The main rewards, were the pupils saying ‘Thank you’ after a good lesson, or seeing a
smile here and there, when they comprehended something they’d been struggling to
understand. On a more personal level, I think the whole time abroad in Germany was
good fun – from learning more about a culture in-depth and to improve my language
•What materials would you recommend other assistants take with them to help with
I’d recommend taking a handful of things – leaflets about where you’re from, maybe a
few photos of your house, school uniform, home town and university (or equivalent).
These can be good talking points and may lead onto an interesting lesson later on.
•Did you find it easy to adapt to life in your new country?
Yes. Although it was a little isolating at times at first, there are many other LAs
around – you get given a list with their contact details on at the start of the year in
Altenberg – and you all provide each other with some support when things are a little
hard. The isolation dulls after a few weeks, and the fun factor takes over, though!
•What did you do in your spare time? Did you pursue any hobbies or take up new
I did a lot of travelling and photography! I like photography nature and such, and with
Thüringen being ‘Germany’s green heart’, I was in the right place! I didn’t take up
any new hobbies – though I did enrol in a ‘Deutsch als Fremdsprache’ course at the
local university, which improved my German in a more structured way than scribbling
down bits here and there that I hear in the street, for example, to look up later!
•Did you have much opportunity to travel? Where did you visit?
Yes, I certainly did. Before winter set in and the snow properly came in the middle of
November, I was usually out and about exploring somewhere new every weekend.
These were usually smaller and more local places in Thüringen, as well as the bigger
cities of Hamburg, Berlin, Frankfurt and Dresden.
•What advantages may you have over other graduates when applying for future jobs?
As well as the obvious language advantage, the fact that you’ve lived independently
for almost a whole year abroad, adapted to a new culture, solved problems in a foreign
language and become generally that bit more confident within yourself – is a definite
set of plusses!
•What advice would you give to someone contemplating taking part in the
Simple really – go for it, with no preconceptions! What you manage to do, may
surprise even yourself.