A day in the life of a Language Assistant in Münster
Katie Harwood is studying German and Politics at Lancaster University, and is currently working as a British Council Language Assistant in Münster (Muenster) in Germany. Here is an insight into a day in her life as a Language Assistant, plus her top tips for living in Münster.
This time last year, after submitting my application to be a language assistant in Germany to the British Council, I remember trawling through thirdyearabroad.com and the British Council website for information and reassurance (and more than a little inspiration) for my year abroad. Now, after spending four months teaching as an assistant in a Berufskolleg near Münster, Germany, I thought it might be nice to return the favour for all those eagerly awaiting information!
As I said I’m teaching in a Berufskolleg, which involves an incredibly bizarre and complicated mix of courses. I still subtly ask each class what course they study on arrival to lessons, on the off chance that today is the day I will actually understand the system! Unfortunately this day has yet to arrive. What I do know is that most of my classes are aged around 17-22, and are studying some form of Abitur – whether the straight A-level kind we would recognise or Abiturs with some kind of schwerpunkt on a certain subject or apprenticeships. I have classes training to be social workers, medical secretaries and have even helped out in a class of metal workers a few times!
1. First Monday back after the Christmas holidays
Get up at 6.30am to get the train for 7.10am
As my school is actually located an hour outside Münster where I am living, I do have to be up ridiculously early to do battle with Deutsche Bahn to be on time for work (they normally win).
8am - 9.30am - first lesson
This is a double lesson of translation in Business English, I normally sit with the teacher at the front, we go through the homework as a class, and then I walk around the class helping and correcting as they work through translation exercises. If the exercise is German-English, it is my job to approve the English solutions, as to whether they sound ‘properly English’ or not.
9.45am - 11.15am - the 13th Grade English class (standard Abitur)
As this class are preparing to take their Abitur fairly soon, there is again limited scope for me to teach culture and prepare lessons, but I take a small group out for a 15 minute “conversation class” each week. (This usually turns into just a nice chat in English).
11.30am - 1pm - final lesson of the day
The 11th Grade English class (Abiturs again but their main subject is IT). In this lesson I can normally expect to take a short segment of the class every now and again (usually using materials the teacher wants to me cover, though I did prepare and give a lesson on Christmas in Britain in the last week). Apart from this, I am expected to go around and help the students as they are working. Sometimes I can’t do very much, other times I am very busy!
1pm - Get on the train back to Münster
3pm - meet my Tandem Partner for a coffee
After chatting to my flatmate in the first few weeks, she mentioned a friend of hers who would really like to practice English every once in a while. I decided to give it a go and contact her and we now have a nice arrangement where we meet for coffee around once a week, speak English for half an hour or so then switch to German – everyone wins and I made a new friend out of it ☺
5pm - gym with my flatmate
We decided to take the plunge and join up together, if nothing else it makes fitness classes less daunting and far more entertaining!
8pm: Meet up with the other English Language Assistants in Münster for a film and chat
I’ve been really lucky to have made some lovely friends in my town, it’s always worth knowing who’s in your area for that bit extra support when you’ve bene speaking German all day!
So there you go, a day in the life of a language assistant. Due to the travelling, my school consolidated my contracted 12 hours into three days, so I currently have Tuesdays and Fridays off. And I'm flying to Barcelona on Friday for the weekend with two other assistants!
2. Top Tips for living in Münster
Photo of Münster by Gerhard Rieß
1. Get a Bike, asap
Münster claims to be the bike capital of Germany, and whether or not this is the case, cycling is a huge part of everyday life here, with bikes actually outnumbering people by more than two to one. Cycling is easy due to the extremely flat landscape and no street is without a cycle path. My advice would be to join the facebook Erasmus pages when you first arrive, as departing international students often sell their bikes on cheap. Otherwise, try the kleinanzeigen (classified ads) in Nadann (see below) and on Ebay, and keep an eye out for the regular bike sales advertised - though this will likely be the most expensive option.
P.S Your bike will very quickly become your most treasured/used possession – buy a decent lock.
2. Get looking for accommodation early
Due to the large student population of Münster rooms in student flats (WGs) are actually quite difficult to come by, especially as the language assistant year doesn't precisely coincide with the university semesters. But dont panic, get looking early - you may have to go through quite a few viewings and contact a lot of people but something will come up.
3. Enrol at the university and pick up a semester ticket
Enrolling at the university costs a fee of around €280 per semester, which may sound a lot, but it means you can attend lectures, join societies and use the libraries, and the main advantage is the semester ticket. This gives you free travel on all regional transport within Nordrhein-Westfalen – not only can you use Münster’s transport network free, you have instant free access to Cologne, Dortmund, Düsseldorf, Aachen, Essen, Bonn and many other great places.
4. Grab a copy of NaDann
NaDann – “Wochenschau für Münster” gives day by day information about nights out, events in the city, the cinema schedule, the menu at the student cafeteria and also provides a space for students to advertise, buy and sell things they no longer want. It’s available for free on stands around the city and online at nadann.de ☺
5. Find some favourite hangouts!
As a student city there’s definitely plenty of places to choose from! It’s always nice to have a few regular and reliable haunts. Personally, for casual drinks, Blaue Haus and Rote Liebe on Kreuzstraβe are great, for a nice coffee check out Pension Schmidt or Fyal, and the four Café Extra Blatt’s dotted around the town centre are always a reliable option for cheap food and drinks.
6. Hit the lake
On a sunny day, head to the town’s artificial lake, the Aasee where hundreds of students are be found sunbathing. Rent out a pedalo or kayak and go out on the water, or just bring along a barbecue and plenty of beer and join the crowds!