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Undergraduates

Department of German and Dutch

 

Year Abroad Activities in German-Speaking Countries

Over the years our students have spent their year abroad in German-speaking countries engaging in a wide variety of interesting activities, sometimes splitting their time between two or more occupations. Below you will find reports from some recent students.

Students who took up employment or internships

in Berlin:

Heidi (Film festival)
Jessica A (German Parliament)
Kate, Laura and Lauren (Cornelson Publishing House)
Liz (also in Bonn, Hamburg and Munich)
Sarah (Reuters News Agency and social work firm)

and in other locations:

Adele (Recruitment consultancy and fashion agency in Frankfurt)
Caroline A (Automotive Group in Regensburg)
Graeme (PR agency in Düsseldorf)
Heidi (Google in Hamburg)
James A (Finance house in Frankfurt)
Kamila (Children’s theatre in Vienna)
Katherine (Motor manufacturer and accountancy firm in Stuttgart)
Rosie (Bank in Frankfurt)

Students who taught in state or private schools

Adele in Frankfurt
Caroline B in Jena
Caroline C in Gera
Gareth in Münster
Graeme and Martin in Hamburg
Hannah in Berlin
James B in Heilbronn
Jessica B, Kate and Tim at the Wust Summer School
Martin A in Hamburg
Naomi in Kaiserslautern
Ruth in Leipzig
Sheena in Namibia

Students who studied at universities

Bryn, Eva, Heidi, Jessica A, Kaleen and Katya in Berlin
Caroline A in Regensburg
Charlotte in Göttingen
Jessica B in Munich
Kamila in Vienna
Martin B and Tim in Munich
Pippa in Leipzig
Sophie in Konstanz

 

REPORTS

ADELE:
I spent my entire year in Frankfurt, leaving Cambridge straight after May Week and not returning until just before the Part II oral exam. I spent the year working in a variety of different places. I began by teaching English in a Kindergarten and in a Vorschule. Later on in the year I went on to do an internship in a fashion agency, where I was involved in the preparation of the collections, organisation of trips to fashion fairs and sales to big department stores such as Peek und Cloppenburg. At the end of my year I did a short internship as Office Manager in a multi-national recruitment consultancy firm, in the centre of Frankfurt. Although the work side of the year was highly challenging and taught me a lot, what made my year as amazing as it was was my involvement in extra-curricular activities. I played and captained the Frankfurt lacrosse team and was also involved in coaching the women's and children's programmes. Through playing for Frankfurt I was selected to represent the German National Team in a variety of International Lacrosse Events, such as the Prague Cup and the Home Internationals. Through the lacrosse I was able to travel all over Germany (Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Cologne) and have the most incredible experiences.

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BRYN:
I spent the full twelve months of my Year abroad in Berlin, capital of the universe, which I split between three main activities. The first was being a student at the Humboldt Universität. The fact that you don't need to pass any exams on your year abroad presents a great opportunity to do something completely wacky. I took classes in Hungarian and Finnish, but you could try Gender Studies or Neuroscience. The Humboldt is enormous, and offers a huge range of courses. You don't get all that much interaction with the academics and you may not make many friends (uni isn't normally the heart of a student's social life, and there's no real freshers' week), but it's a fascinating look at a totally different model of higher education, one which places much more emphasis on independence. I often found it a bit vague and stressful, but I liked it enough to go on a march defending it during the annual Bildungsstreik.

Since you are free to choose your workload at university, you will have plenty of time for other projects, which can provide the social life missing in lectures. Some people get jobs or internships, but the second aspect of my year was a bursary programme called the 'Studienkolleg zu Berlin'. It's a truly excellent programme which brings together a small group of students from across Europe for seminars, social events and a project focused on a research trip. I went to the Dreiländereck Hungary-Romania-Serbia to investigate life at a border, but some groups went as far as Israel or the Crimea. Berlin is full of exciting opportunities, and being a student gives you the free time to pursue them. Whatever you want to do, you're sure to find it.

Which brings me to the third main activity of my year abroad: simply having a marvellous life. Berlin is without a doubt the most exciting city I've ever been to, but it also boasts a quality of life that far exceeds what you find in London or Paris. The low prices and truly excellent transport make this a very manageable metropolis. Berlin does everything except be economically productive, which gives it a laid-back vibe all its own: the world's best clubs, great restaurants, cheap opera, experimental art and theatre, sex parties, Döner and Currywurst, more history than you can shake a stick at, shabby-chic cafés, cheap beer on the U-Bahn at 6am, world-class museums, stunning parks, anarchist riots, modern architecture, squats and palaces. I didn't do them all, but that's the point of Berlin. Just go there and do what you want. The only downside is how much you'll miss it afterwards.

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CAROLINE A:
I spent my entire year, from October to September, in Regensburg (Bavaria). For the first six-months I worked as an intern in the marketing department at Continental. I was fortunate enough to be in a young and friendly team making the experience very enjoyable. Working a 35-hour week meant I had my evenings and weekends free for sport and music, plus a little bit of money to spend. I lived in university accommodation, joined the choir and took part in climbing and boxercise meaning it was easy to make friends within the student population. From April to July I enrolled as a 'Gaststudentin' at the university taking classes in Latin American Culture, Spanish Film, Translation and German Thought. One of the great things about the university is that you can pick and choose the lectures and seminars that interest you and build your own timetable freely. This meant that combing work and study was no hassle and I kept my job at Continental working part-time as a 'Werkstudentin' for 15 hours a week.

Regensburg is a lively and historic student town with the highest density of bars and pubs per square metre in Germany! With a population of 150,000 the town has enough going on to keep you occupied but soon adopts a comfortable and homely feel. Moreover its idyllic position on the Danube at the edge of the Bavarian forest makes it an excellent gateway into the Bavarian countryside. The town is also well connected by rail link: the 'Bayern Ticket' costs 27 Euros for up to 5 people making day trips to Munich and other towns affordable. Located in the heart of Europe, cities such as Prague and Vienna as well as the ski slopes are only a couple of hours away.

Having been made a UNESCO world heritage site in 2007 a variety of cultural events take place throughout the year from the traditional and picturesque 'Weihnachtsmärkte' in December to a variety of Jazz and music festivals in the summer and of course not forgetting the famous Bavarian beer festivals in May and September!

Combing work and study was a positive experience and gave me a great insight into both sides of life in Germany. Regensburg is also a very welcoming place and I'm planning to keep in touch with and visit all the friends that I made there!

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CAROLINE B spent her year abroad as a British Council Language Assistant in Jena (Thüringen). She worked with 11- to 18-year-olds at a Gymnasium where the atmosphere was very friendly and welcoming. She thoroughly enjoyed taking conversation classes, introducing students to unusual elements of British culture and playing games in lessons. She also prepared classes for the visit of an English theatre company in February. She told us that the teaching and lesson preparation was a lot of fun and she had plenty of freedom to use her own ideas in lessons. She was invited on several school trips by both the English and Sozialkunde departments, where she was able to take part and get to know some of the students better. She also set up a penpal link between the Gymnasium and her former school in England.

Caroline thought that one of the best aspects of the Language Assistant programme is that it leaves time for other activities since it is only 12 hours a week. Caroline was therefore able to go to some classes at the university in Jena, where she made a lot of German friends through singing in the choir and learning Taekwondo. She went on tour with the choir to Denmark and was often able to travel around at the weekends to see other parts of Germany. As the Language Assistantship finished at the end of May, Caroline returned to Germany over the summer and worked as an au pair for 5 weeks to keep up her German in preparation for the oral exam.
Caroline had a very positive experience as a Language Assistant and said she would recommend it to anyone.

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CAROLINE C spent her year as an assistant at a Gymnasium in Gera, Thuringia. The school was a large one, an amalgamation of 3 schools on 2 sites, and so, she reports, there was plenty for her to do, both in the classroom and in the extra curricular side of things, particularly in the three English-language theatre groups. She then spent two months of the summer working for CLAAS, "Europe's leading manufacturer of agricultural harvesters", in the PR/Investor Relations department in Harsewinkel, near Bielefeld, NRW. This gave her a taste of the world of work, and also allowed her to explore a new part of Germany. She says it was especially interesting to experience life and work in both Eastern and Western Germany, and she would highly recommend the new Bundesländer to anyone thinking of a year abroad there.

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CHARLOTTE:
I spent the whole of my year abroad, from October to July, in Göttingen studying Komparatistik, with Slavisitik and Germanistik. The courses were excellent. As a comparatist, you are entitled to attend both the special intercultural and interdisciplinary lectures and seminars offered by the department (eg. "The films of Roman Polanski", or "metaphor and metonymy"), but you have in theory the right to attend any of the courses offered by the Philosophische Fakultät – that is, all the languages and their literatures, from German to Finnish to Serbo-Croat, from Ancient Greek to modern Chinese, plus history, philosophy, cultural anthropolgy, music, political science... Because Komparatistik per se is quite small-scale, it is advisable to be affiliated to a larger department through your "Nebenfach", and both the German and the Slavonic departments to which I was attached are very strong. Something which gave me a great deal of pleasure was the course in beginners' Czech which I attended throughout the year. Courses in the Slavonic Dept tend (with the exception of Russian) to be undersubscribed, so the teachers, who are wonderful, can devote lots of attention to each student.

Göttingen is also a lively place to be. Like Cambridge, it is a small town with a large student population, so it is impossible to feel foreign and anonymous for long. Sports facilities are excellent, and there are a number of societies and organisations: the university choir was one of my main activities, and the place where I met a lot of my close friends. There is a wonderful, small theatre, whose productions are always outstanding, and tickets are very cheap; and there are various cultural festivals throughout the year - the Literaturherbst in October, or the Händelfest in May. Göttingen is possibly not the place for avid clubbers, but there are plenty of beautiful bars if that is enough. The town is also, of course, right in the centre of Germany, and is extremely well-connected: you can be in Berlin in just over 2 hours, Munich in just over 3, and Prague in about 5; so you have both a comfortable, close-knit community base, and the possibility to take off for the weekend if you feel like exploring further afield.

I cannot recommend the university, the town and the people highly enough.

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EVA studied literature, and German and Italian language at the Humboldt University in Berlin. She also spent six months on a Praktikum with an organisation offering advice to school drop-outs and the long-term unemployed. Eva had such a good time in Berlin (she even took part in the Berlin Marathon) that she planned to return for further year of study after graduation.

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GARETH spent his year abroad teaching at a Gymnasium in Münster. He told us that teaching all age groups from 11-19 made for lots of variety during the school day, and he was also able to sing with the school choir, co-direct a school play and coach the senior debating team.

In his spare time he became involved with the Christian Union at Münster University, which he co-led for six months. He also made use of the chance to travel extensively in Germany and neighbouring countries, and enjoyed the "amazing experience" of two weeks sailing a nineteenth-century ship along the Dutch coast!

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GRAEME:
I spent the first eight months of my year abroad teaching English in a Berufsfachschule (vocational school) in central Hamburg. This involved teaching classes of roughly twenty pupils aged between 15 and 19. This was a different challenge to the Gymnasium atmosphere I had expected in German schools, but a great challenge nonetheless. My pupils spoke low-level English and sometimes only rudimentary German, but were enthusiastic and charming. Some staff shortages during the second half of my time there meant that I was even entrusted with preparing a class for their final leaving exams. The responsibility that came with this situation really made me feel like I was helping to make a difference to people's lives whilst I was away.
The staff at my school were extremely welcoming and always ready with some helpful advice, whether about teaching methods or what to see in the city.

Hamburg itself is one of Europe's great metropolises. Extraordinarily wealthy, clean and boasting a nightlife reputation greater than even Amsterdam's, it is an amazing place to spend a year. It also serves as a central rail hub in northern Germany with fast ICE connections to all the major cities in Germany. The relatively small amount of teaching time required by the British Council, when combined with the healthy salary made this an ideal opportunity to get to know the rest of the country which I really tried to take advantage of. Almost every weekend involved the exploration of a new corner of the forests of Swabia, the northern Hanseatic cities or the bars in Berlin.

I spent my final four and a half months in Düsseldorf with komm.passion, a leading German PR agency. I worked there as a member of the consulting team, writing presentations, contacting journalists and doing lots and lots of translation! This experience really improved my German and was a great way to round off the year.

If you are thinking about making these cities or activities a part of your year abroad, I can highly recommend them.

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HANNAH split her year abroad between East Berlin and West Berlin, as well as between working and teaching. In East Berlin (Mitte) she worked as a Praktikantin in a government-supported social work firm. This involved teaching German from scratch to immigrants (aged 16-60 and from diversely deprived backgrounds); translating all of the firm's materials (from pamphlets to government and legal documents) into and out of German, French and English; and organising/booking international staff conferences and youth exchanges. 
She went to West Berlin (Dahlem) as an English assistant at a Gymnasium, but found herself taking full charge of some classes as time went on. Her pupils there were aged 11-19.
In her free time she took part in language, dancing and sport classes; took part in tandem conversational schemes; met a spectacular amount of German people through socialising; and, with friends, explored other German/European towns by train.

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HEIDI studied German and History at the Freie Universität in Berlin during her year abroad. She says that the experience of attending a different type of university with another system of study enriched the knowledge and capabilities she had already gained during her first two years at Cambridge.

Heidi also gained experience of the working world doing short internships in each of Germany's two largest cities. She spent six weeks at Google in Hamburg, and as a public relations assistant and interpreter at a Berlin film festival called "Achtung Berlin - New Berlin Film Awards" she had the opportunity to meet a variety of figures from all different walks of the film world.

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JAMES A:
I managed to pack lots into my year abroad. I gained a great deal of exciting work experience in banking at Goldman Sachs in Frankfurt where I was given responsibilities in several international projects. I then spent a month writing my dissertation in Hamburg, "feeling like a character from Der Zauberberg", I travelled from Hamburg to Beijing by ship and train with a concert tour of German musicians, and I also assisted in the making of a documentary film sponsored by the German foreign office.

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JAMES B was very enthusiastic about his time in Heilbronn spent teaching English, football and cricket! His pupils became very enthusiastic about Cambridge too and some came to be shown around his College when he returned to England.

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JESSICA A:
I spent my year abroad in Berlin and split my time between studying at the Freie Universität, as part of the Erasmus scheme, and doing a six-month internship in the German Bundestag (parliament).
At university, I mainly chose lectures and seminars within the department for Deutsche Philologie. Many courses were related to my Part II paper choices and the topic I had chosen for my year abroad dissertation. I was also keen, however, to study new subjects such as film and international relations. As a member of the FU, I was also able to enroll in courses in any other Berlin university. I was keen to keep up my other language, Spanish, so enrolled in a Latin American history course at the Humboldt Universität. I enjoyed the diversity that the two campuses offered and found it a good way to meet other students outside of the FU.

For my internship in the Bundestag I worked within the department for international relations, in a subdivision for interparliamentary organisations. This involved working alongside civil servants responsible for the German delegation to international parliaments such as Council of Europe, NATO or the Western European Union. My tasks were very varied, such as condensing reports and translating them into either German or English, drafting a speech for an MP, and accompanying a delegation of Iraqi MPs on a weeklong conference on the workings of the Bundestag. It was a great opportunity to learn about a completely different political system, a way of improving my German to a more 'business' level and meeting other interns. As my studies at the FU were my main priority I worked part-time in the Bundestag and chose my hours around my courses.

The rest of my time was spent thoroughly enjoying Berlin as a city. Berlin has, arguably, Europe's most vibrant cultural scene and nightlife. Prices are cheap and an excellent public transport system mean that everything the city has to offer can easily be enjoyed on a student budget. Being based in Berlin is great also in terms of travel, with regular connections from the city centre to places such as Copenhagen or Poland.

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JESSICA B:
My year abroad was a complete mix of places, people and tasks. I got a taster of the year abroad during a month teaching English in Wust, a small village in Saxony-Anhalt, where I taught language in the morning, culture in the afternoon and spent the evenings playing sport with the pupils or rehearsing for a bi-lingual play: The Visit/Der Besuch der alten Dame (Dürrenmatt)! This was a super experience and gave me a great taster of life in Germany as well as an amazing group of friends.
After a short return to England, I moved to Munich, Bavaria, where I spent the year at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität studying Germanistik (German studies), focusing on the linguistics side. I also spent a lot of time in the local town archives doing research for my year abroad project and got involved in giving Nachhilfe (English tuition) to pupils in the area. I also spent a lot of time on the ICE train up to Magdeburg to visit my boyfriend, and got involved in a theatre group at his university, which was great fun and a good chance to practise my German and teach some English! Munich is also a great base for travelling and I spent time exploring beautiful Bavaria and took trips to Prague and Salzburg.

After my time in Munich had come to an end I did not want to leave Germany, especially not with the oral exam coming up in October. I decided to teach in Wust again, this time teaching older groups of participants. I gave a class in English linguistics and helped produce the school newspaper, the "Wuster Rooster". When my time in Wust was over, I moved to Cologne, where I had rented a room in student accommodation for a girl who was temporarily away. Here I completed a 6-week internship in translation and proof-reading at the company LinguaWorld, working on texts covering all sorts of domains, from certificates, to legal documents, to marketing texts, all the way through to slightly 'interesting' websites! The internship was a fantastic experience, and useful for the translation papers in 4th year.
Doing a mixture of all three year-abroad opportunities was a fantastic experience and meant that I got the best of all three worlds, and the chance really to experience life in three different parts of Germany. I would recommend such an experience to anyone!

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KALEEN:
I spent my year abroad at the Humboldt-Universität in Berlin. The best thing about studying during your year abroad is that you can try out a lot of other things you wouldn't otherwise be able to do – I learned some basic Romanian, and I took a class called 'Inszenierte Jugend' which required that we act out scenes from 18th-century plays! You spend a lot less time at the uni than you do in Cambridge, so there is plenty of time to do other things on the side, like working or joining societies. I spent my extra time working on a group research project for a scholarship programme called the 'Studienkolleg zu Berlin' about the trafficking in women from Moldova, which involved going there to conduct interviews.

Berlin is a fantastic city – it is big and exciting, but never overwhelming because it is made up of a lot of little neighbourhoods ('Bezirke'), each of which is a bit like a mini-city in itself. It is also really cheap in comparison to England or a lot of other big cities, and there are special student prices for pretty much everything (you can go to the theatre for 7 euros). And as a student you get a special 'Semesterticket' for the public transport system, which lets you travel all around Berlin and the area just outside for six months.
I would definitely recommend both studying and going to Berlin.

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KAMILA:
I spent my year abroad in Vienna, studying Deutsche Philologie at the Universität Wien and working for das Wiener Kindertheater (Children's Theatre of Vienna).

Studying in Vienna was a completely different experience from Cambridge. In some lectures there were around 250 students, so it felt a bit overwhelming at the beginning, but I got used to it quite quickly. There was a variety of courses available within the department to choose from, so I could pick topics which were relevant to my studies here. Apart from going to lectures, we were asked to attend seminars, where we had the opportunity to discuss our areas of interest in German.

Working for das Wiener Kindertheater was a truly great experience. All of my colleagues were native speakers of German, so I could practise my language skills most of the time in the office. I had to make and answer phone calls from parents, which also developed my persuasive skills, as people usually called with complaints or weird inquiries. I also sent and replied to emails (Rundschreiben and the likes), delivered important documents to various offices, dealt with the NGO's bookkeeping, translated from German into English, usually for the Romanian branch of the theatre. Two times a week I also worked at the workshops, helping the instructors out whenever I was needed - so I could also practise my German with children, teaching them poems for example. At the end of the year for almost two months I worked in Theater Brett as a costume and makeup person, which was lots of fun. My boss was very supportive and made sure I adapted well to living in Vienna, for example by helping me integrate with the other employees and introducing me to people from the art world of Vienna she knew.

Vienna itself is a perfect place to live - big enough to be attractive from the cultural and entertainment points of view and small enough to feel safe and homely. It was named the city with the highest living standards in the world three times (last in 2009), it has an amazing public transport and the best tap water in Austria. Contrary to what everyone says it is also affordable, with theatre tickets available for as little as 1 euro and cheap supermarket chains everywhere. Apart from that it has thousands of bars, pubs, traditional coffee houses, museums, galleries, parks and anything you could want from a capital city. It would be perfect for anyone interested in art, music, cinema, literature, history of just in having fun, I recommend it wholeheartedly.

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KATE:
I started my year abroad working at a summer school in Wust in rural Sachsen-Anhalt. Here, I taught English in the mornings, did French and 'Disney' workshops on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons and also 'starred' as the witch in their production of 'Hansel and Gretel'. This was a very fun start to the year!

Following my work at the summer school, I then did a twelve-month internship at one of Germany's largest educational publishers, Cornelsen Verlag in Berlin. Through challenging and varied work as a Volontärin (paid intern) in the modern languages section, I gained an excellent insight into all stages of the editorial process. My main duties involved proof-reading, writing exercises and model answers and I even got the chance to go to the recording studio to 'act' on some of the CDs for their English textbooks! The job was very rewarding and I would thoroughly recommend such placements as a great way for year abroad students to make vast developments in their German skills and to gain valuable professional experience in a very friendly working environment.

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KATHERINE:
I spent my year abroad working in Stuttgart. I began at Daimler Mercedes on an internship for five months working in their Corporate Language Management department, carrying out tasks such as liaising with translation agencies and Daimler employees, proofreading and other project management duties. The internship was challenging but fun as I was given a great deal of responsibility and valued as a team member. My second internship was for six months at Ernst and Young, working in Language and Translation Services. This role included translating HR texts, training documents and some accountancy based spreadsheets and reports. I also assisted my colleagues with larger translations, proofreading and doing final quality checks. I thoroughly enjoyed this internship as I worked with fantastic colleagues in a lively, busy office. I was even given my own large project that included translating a 50-page training document on how to make small talk with clients - probably the funniest thing I've ever translated into English! Working at two international companies also enabled me to see the translation process on a huge scale, whilst being able to get involved in it myself as well! I also felt like a real part of the team at both internships and the interns were looked after very well as 'Stammtisch' and other social evenings were organised for us on a regular basis.

Working for the whole year abroad not only challenged and improved my language skills but it also gave me a great insight into the working world. My hours were generally 9-5, leaving me evenings and weekends to spend time with friends, see the city and travel around the rest of Germany as well. It has helped me to grow in confidence but also provided me with an amazing year where I learnt so much and had fun whilst doing so.

Stuttgart is a really great place to live – it's a large city but not so big that you ever feel lost in it. The shopping, museums, parks and nightlife are all fantastic and its beer festivals in October and April are great fun! Its position in Germany is also perfect if you wish to travel around Germany, France, Switzerland and lots of other countries thanks to the relatively cheap train connections there. For someone who is looking for an internship I would really recommend Stuttgart as it is home to the headquarters of many large international companies, such as Daimler, Bosch and Porsche. The city is full of students interning at these companies making it a great place to meet people and make friends.

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KATYA spent her year abroad in Berlin at the Humboldt University (Neuere deutsche Literatur) and participated in a bursary programme run by the Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes, called das Studienkolleg zu Berlin. The Studienkolleg takes approximately 40 students (half from Germany and half from other European countries) and allows the students to work together on projects with relation to European history, identity and politics; Katya's project group, for example, worked on the topic of 'The public role of intellectuals (in Europe)'. In addition to this there was a programme of evening lectures and occasional weekend seminars.

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LAURA spent "superb" year abroad in Berlin, doing a twelve-month internship at one of Germany's largest educational publishers. Through challenging and varied work as a Volontärin (paid intern) in modern languages section, she gained an excellent insight into all stages of the editorial process.

Laura would thoroughly recommend such placements as a great way for year abroad students to improve their German skills vastly and to gain valuable professional experience in a competitive field.
In her free time Laura enjoyed exploring Berlin's exciting music and theatre scene and travelling in Germany.

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LAUREN:
I spent my year abroad working for Cornelsen Verlag, an educational publishing house in Berlin. The work I did there was incredibly varied and always interesting. The majority of my tasks were editorial, such as proofreading, translation and liaising with authors and senior editors, but I also got to work, among other things, as a voice artist on school CDs. I also did a lot of copyright permissions requests, which meant I got to work with some really high-profile firms and clients - I even had to ring the White House at one point!
Those who are worried about spending their entire year in an office needn't fear though – despite the famous German work ethic, I still managed to get plenty of time off to relax, explore Berlin, and travel outside the city. Over the year, I not only spent time in Vienna and Prague, but also got to visit several amazing German cities, went shopping in Poland, learned traditional drinking songs at a Bavarian wine festival and celebrated Easter with friends in the former East.
Berlin is also a fantastic place to live - every neighbourhood has its own unique vibe and round every corner there's something different and exciting. I had so many once-in-a-lifetime experiences whilst I was there, from watching Angela Merkel deliver a major campaign address to seeing Usain Bolt run the 4x100 metres at the World Athletics Championships.

Working on my year abroad was definitely one of the most positive and beneficial experiences of my life - I gained a great deal of valuable work experience and confidence, made a lot of friends and useful contacts, and had an absolutely wonderful time into the bargain in one of the most fascinating and exciting cities in the world. I would definitely recommend it to anyone as a great way of giving yourself a head start in the world of work whilst improving your German - there really is no better way to spend your year abroad.

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LIZ:
If you want a year abroad with flexibility, independence and fresh challenges, I would really recommend working. I decided that I wanted gain practical experience during my year abroad, and having no idea what I wanted to do after the fourth year, I thought that this would be a great opportunity to try out different things and at the same time enhance my CV! In total, I completed four internships in Hamburg, Bonn, Berlin and Munich in areas from radio journalism to public relations.
An internship isn't like work experience: you are treated like a member of staff and play an active part in the company. During my year abroad, I had an article published in a political journal, I had items broadcast on the radio and help set up a company's website – all without prior experience in the relevant safields!

I am really glad that I decided to take placements in different cities. It sounds chaotic, but it is easier than you might think and I was able to experience different areas, hear different dialects and meet lots of new people. I attended a conference run by the Dalai Lama in Hamburg, the Beethoven festival in Bonn, the Berlinale international film festival in Berlin and Oktoberfest in Munich.

By choosing the employment option, you set the pace of your year abroad. You can what to do and where to do it. The Faculty requires you to spend eight months abroad: I spent fifteen. That's how much I enjoyed my year abroad!

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MARTIN A was a Language Assistant at a school in Hamburg and enjoyed this so much that in his final year at Cambridge he acted informally as a student representative in Cambridge for the British Council, the organisation which arranges assistantships abroad.

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MARTIN B spent his year abroad as a student at university in Munich. He continued with some of the topics he'd studied in his second year as well as trying out some new subjects, such as manuscript analysis and Japanese. He also helped other students with their English, and managed to fit in quite a lot of travelling!

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NAOMI:
I spent my year abroad in Kaiserslautern (Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany) – probably somewhere only very keen football fans will have heard of. However, you don't have to be in a buzzing metropolis or a historic university town to have a great time on your year abroad!
In Kaiserslautern I worked as a British Council English Language Assistant in a Gymnasium. I really enjoyed planning lessons on topics ranging from the representation of social class in the film 'Billy Elliot' to the English university system for sixth-form classes and from 'would you like to wear school uniform?' to a creative writing task based on Raymond Briggs' 'The Snowman' for lower level classes. My mentor teacher was really supportive and very happy for me to define my own role, so I really did get the most out of my time there. Because most of the English teachers had spent time abroad themselves, they knew how important it was for me to speak German as much as possible outside the classroom. Most of the teaching I did was to whole classes (I enjoy a challenge) but I also did team-teaching, small-group work and even one-to-one sessions (with teachers as well as pupils!). I was certainly never bored, and even in my free lessons there was always someone to chat to – the ladies in the cafeteria quickly learned that I would always ask for a cup of tea!

Because an Assistant usually only has 12-16 hours of timetabled teaching per week, it's often possible to arrange to have a day off, and this option certainly gives you lots of free time to explore your local area and culture. I enjoyed having a 3-day weekend to visit local towns as well as places further afield like Berlin, Leipzig, Salzburg, Stuttgart and Koblenz. I also did a part-time unpaid placement in the 'Pfalzbibliothek' (a library devoted to regional culture and history). As well as gaining valuable work experience in a different professional environment, I made lots of friends at the library and was pleased to find some really interesting sources for my year abroad dissertation there! I joined a chamber choir in the town, enjoyed being introduced to and performing a range of German Volks- and Weihnachtslieder, and am looking forward to going back to Kaiserslautern to sing at the Christmas Market with them.

If you're looking for an unforgettable year abroad experience that will give you lots of contact with native German speakers, a chance to be creative, a generous income, transferable skills and the flexibility to make the most of your time, then I wholeheartedly recommend doing a British Council Assistantship.

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PIPPA
I spent my Year Abroad studying German literature at the University of Leipzig through Erasmus. This was a truly fantastic experience. I began with a three- week pre-semester language course offered to new international students. This was a useful kick-start to my German development, and provided me with a close-knit group of friends from all corners of Europe, who remained with me throughout my time in Leipzig and immeasurably enriched my time there. The university studies themselves were very varied. I was initially taken aback at the comparative crowding of some of the seminars, but I also came to really appreciate the more laid-back learning approach where you got out what you put in, enjoyed the exposure to a very different model of higher education and had some inspiring lecturers and professors along the way.

I feel I got a lot out of studying abroad, but just as much from the extra-curricular activities I got involved in. I found I had a lot more free time than in Cambridge, and made the most of it by joining a local theatre group and performing in two plays (including Dürrenmatt's Die Physiker), volunteering in a local school, improving my German through Tandem-partners, and organising a delegation of Eramsus students to attend the European Youth Event in Strasbourg. Overall I can strongly recommend both Erasmus and Leipzig, a buzzing city which so captured my heart that I plan to return upon graduation.

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ROSIE

I spent my year abroad in Frankfurt working as an intern in a bank. It was a considerable change from the more flexible hours (and workload…) of student life, but meant that I could develop professional skills and gain valuable work experience while improving my German. Having a taste of the 'real world' during my degree has been highly beneficial, and I feel it will stand me in excellent stead once I graduate. I have also been offered a full-time job by the company once I graduate, another very satisfying consequence of the year abroad which I certainly had not anticipated before I left!

Rosie Sargeant on her Year Abroad

Rosie Sargeant on her Year Abroad

Although my job restricted my free time to weekends, I made the most of these by travelling to other German cities and visiting friends on their years abroad. My colleagues used to say, "Du kennst Deutschland besser als wir!" In this blog post I reflect on some of my experiences, although the benefits of the year cannot be summed up in a brief article: The Wurst Year of my Life

I had an absolutely amazing year and am very happy to offer other students any advice or support based on my own experiences.

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RUTH
I spent my year abroad working as a British Council assistant in two primary schools in Leipzig. The children I taught were generally aged six to ten, and my role varied from leading segments of lessons and supporting general class work in one school, to taking whole lessons in the other.

Teaching in a primary school was challenging but very enjoyable. I learnt new skills, such as planning and preparing lessons, and my ability to direct and speak to the class improved greatly, in both English and German. English lessons typically involved playing games, singing songs, and reading stories, and there were plenty of opportunities to be creative - we made cracker hats and sang carols at Christmas, and had cardboard pancake flipping competitions for Pancake Day. The children were genuinely interested in learning about a different language and culture, and many of them were simply amazed that I was really from England! From working in a school, I learnt a lot about education, and I really grew in confidence. The experience also gave me a good insight into German culture, and meant that in my day to day life I was communicating with German people of all ages and backgrounds, from age six to sixty.

Another major advantage of being a language assistant is that you have a good amount of free time, and along with the monthly grant you receive, this means that you have the opportunity to really explore and enjoy living in Germany. Outside of school, I tried to go to as many local events as possible, often with the other British Council assistants in Leipzig, who I got to know very well. I also visited other cities such as Dresden, Berlin, Frankfurt, Augsburg and Stockholm during the school holidays.

I would really recommend the British Council scheme for the diverse opportunities it offers, especially to anyone interested in teaching.

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SARAH split her year abroad between Germany and Italy, "losing myself in a whirlwind of exciting experiences and encounters."
For the first six months, Sarah carried out an internship in Berlin with the international news agency Reuters. On day one, she attended a press conference with Angela Merkel and Edmund Stoiber with one of Reuters' senior correspondents – her parents telephoned her that evening to say they had seen her on the television! She became responsible for the news agency's "odd" stories, and wrote a variety of "odds" on subjects ranging from an erotic Bible calendar to Robbie Williams's German stalker. She also helped produce the daily press digest and gathered quotes for stories, including those on the German elections.

In Berlin, Sarah also worked part-time as a Praktikantin in a government supported social work firm (Zukunftsbau). This involved translating the firm's materials (from pamphlets to legal documents) into and out of German, French, English and Italian; organising/booking international staff conferences and youth exchanges; teaching Italian from scratch to German builders who were embarking on a Praktikum in Italy!

To meet ever more Berliners, Sarah attended Afro-Brasilian dance classes and painting lessons at the local Volkshochschule in Berlin Mitte, as well as several photography and history courses.

Sarah spent the second half of her year abroad in Italy. She enjoyed a two-month internship with the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, delivering regular presentations to the public on specific artworks and guided visits in both English and French. She also translated the museum catalogue and worked in the ticket office, communicating in English, French, German and Italian. Nostalgic for Berlin however, she delivered a seminar for the other interns and Guggenheim staff on the Deutsche Guggenheim and the Deutsche Bank's corporate art collection.

Sarah concluded her year abroad with an internship with Associated Press in Rome, arriving just on time to notice the huge difference between the organized German elections (despite the curious coalition issues) and the chaotic Italian elections. There she did some general office work, some fact-checking, and wrote the occasional story. She told us, "The rest of the time I spent meandering through the cobbled streets of Rome, sampling the famous Roman gelati and visiting museums galore!"

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SHEENA spent her year abroad in Namibia (a former German colony). She spent three months working in the Language Department of the Goethe Zentrum in Windhoek. She said this gave her a taste of the world of work and was a very insightful and eye-opening experience! Amongst other things, she taught German to adults in the evenings and was involved in organising a national competition open to all students taking German as a Foreign Language in Namibia. She then went on to teach French, Maths and German as a Foreign Language (DaF) for ten months at the Deutsche Hoehere Privat Schule in Windhoek. Initially a school for Germans only, this school has now opened its doors to the non-German population. She said "I found it very interesting to work in a multicultural school in a country which even today still has shadows of the Apartheid."

During her time in Namibia, Sheena did a lot of travelling and went as far north as the Victoria Falls (Zambia) and as far south as Cape Town (South Africa). She regularly helped out in an orphanage and kindergarten in one of the townships in Windhoek. She was also involved in many school activities and wrote for the school newspaper. In her spare time, she helped children with their English.

Sheena's overall verdict: "My year abroad was a thoroughly exciting and positive experience and I would recommend Namibia to those who are willing to try something new and adventurous - it's a real German experience in a beautiful and sunny African setting!

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SOPHIE:
I spent my year abroad studying at the University of Konstanz. My first focus was German literature. I chose subjects that related to my papers at Cambridge as well as other experimental options including a seminar that focused on the voice of literature from public recitals to audio-books and an interactive speech-making course. My second focus was within the Management faculty of the University. I was employed by the nation-wide human rights organisation Terre des Femmes to develop and trail a pilot domestic violence education program. This involved weekly meetings with my team as well as independent research and regular interaction with industry specialists and governmental departments. This programme offered me a valuable insight into professional dealings in Germany across a broad range of areas.
The diverse, multicultural character of the University of Konstanz facilitates inter-cultural exchange between its students. An extracurricular activity that I particularly enjoyed was my participation in a weekly international discussion forum. The topics for debate ranged from Confucian philosophy to German politics. For this seminar, I researched and led a dialogue concerning contemporary indigenous Australian art.

The University of Konstanz is a campus uni with a young and vibrant flavour. Interaction between students from diverse faculties and the seamless integration of international students with the German students marks this university as a unique and broad-minded institution. Konstanz with its café culture, laid-back character, neighbouring islands of Mainau and Reichenau and of course the stunning Bodensee is a paradise! It was a wonderful base for exploring some of the natural and cultural treasures of this part of the German-speaking world. I hope all students enjoy their year abroad as much as I did!

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TIM spent most of his year abroad studying at university in Munich. He also taught English for two months in rural Sachsen-Anhalt and said he found the two places so different that they were almost like two different countries. He also travelled fairly widely, which also made him realise how varied Germany is – he noticed particularly not just the differences between East and West, but also between post-industrial Saarbrücken and affluent South German cities. He did his teaching before his year abroad proper started and found this very helpful in bringing his language up to speed in preparation for his time at uni.

In Munich, Tim mostly chose different subjects from those he'd been studying at Cambridge: Romanisticism, History and Volkskunde/European Ethnology. Seminars included Die Ritter, Tattooing, Piercing und Branding im Europäischen Kontext, Tracht und Mode, Neuokzitanisch and Deutsche und Britische Gesellschaft vor dem ersten Weltkrieg. He said that writing Klausuren, giving presentations and having student-friends really challenged him linguistically, as the register was very different from that of everyday life. He found the academic standard universally high, class sizes small, and the teaching methods varied.

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