With languages, you are at home anywhere. – Edmund de Waal
It has been just about three weeks, since our new German volunteers Stephanie and Ann-Sophie left their homes in Germany to work at the East Melbourne & German Language Centre for one year. Nevertheless, it seems as if they have already settled in!
During the past few years, we have had German volunteers staying with some of our students at working with us at the Language Centre. They have been part of the Volunteers’ Abroad Program of the IB (Internationaler Bund), a German non-profit organisation, which sends young German volunteers aged between 18 and 28 to partner organisations to different countries worldwide.
In the following, you will get the chance to get to know our two current volunteers a little bit better!
What´s your name and where are you from?
My name is Stephanie and I´m from Rostock. It´s a lovely city in the north of Germany which is located at the Baltic Sea.
Where do you live now?
I´m staying with a small host family here in Melbourne. John and Christine are accommodating me for the next months in their nice house. I´m really happy about staying with them because they help me get used to the city and give me lots of advice on what I should get to know in the surrounding. They make me feel at home, and part of their family.
What did you do before you came to Melbourne?
I´m a student at the University of Rostock and I´m doing a teacher-training course for English and physical education there. I´ve already studied two years and I´m now taking a break for two semesters to practice and improve my English skills. When I´m back in Germany, I will continue studying for the next 3 years before I can teach at high schools. These are state schools which educate pupils from the year 7 to year 12.
Why have you chosen the German Language Centre to work in?
I´ve chosen the German Language Centre because this was the workplace which suited me best. In my home town, I played volleyball together with some refugees once a week and talked a lot with them in order to help them learn German. That was great fun and I was especially interested in discovering differences between our cultures.
I´m sure that I can learn a lot at the East Melbourne and German Language Centre that I can use for my own future as a foreign language teacher as well as experience a totally new culture and mentality here in Melbourne.
Have you had any culture shock when you arrived?
The strangest thing for me was driving on the left side of the road because I had never been to a country where that was the case. It was quite hard for me to think of it while riding my bike to the Language Centre. Especially on the first day, when I got on the bike and intuitively used the wrong lane of the road.
I was completely shocked by the coldness especially inside the houses. Europeans usually think of Australia as an all-the-year-round warm country. That´s why I wasn´t prepared for the low temperatures and had to buy some jumpers on my first days in Melbourne!
Is there anything that you miss and anything that you will not miss at all while you´re away from Germany?
What I really miss is our German bread because I usually eat that almost every day at home. However, I will not miss the stressful daily university life and I will enjoy it to clear my head while I´m here.
What was the highlight so far?
My highlight was definitely to see a couple of kangaroos and parrots and wildlife on my second day. I was so impressed and took lots of photos which I sent to my family and friends at home.
What do you want to do while you are in Australia?
I want to travel as much as I can. Uluru, the Sydney Opera House and the Great Barrier Reef are the sights to see. This is what every German child learns in English lessons at school. These are only a few things I would like to see while I´m here. I would also like to drive through the outback, go hiking in the mountains and try to surf at one of the beautiful beaches.
Besides, I want to meet new people and make friends in Melbourne, so that I will get to know more about the Australian way of life. I have started playing Volleyball in a club and at the beach.
Hello, my name is Ann-Sophie and I am one of the two new volunteers at the East Melbourne & German Language Centre. Before coming to Melbourne, I have been living in a small town near Stuttgart. Stuttgart is located in the south-west of Germany and not only home to me and my family, but also to companies like Porsche, Mercedes or Ritter Sport.
I graduated from high school in Germany in July and six weeks later, I found myself sitting in an airplane heading to Melbourne.
It might sound cheesy, but coming to Australia has always been one of my dreams. My family has got German friends in Melbourne, so I have wanted to visit them one day since I was a child. Australia seemed to be out of reach for me and, therefore, was so fascinating with its diverse landscape, animals and modern cities.
I love travelling, exploring new places and getting to know people from different countries. Especially after studying in an international class with students from all over the world for one year and living with an Argentinian host sister, I knew that I wanted to take a gap year after finishing school and spend some time abroad. But I did not just want to travel somewhere and do e.g. work and travel. Not only because I did not have enough money for travelling the whole world, but also because I wanted to experience another culture more deeply. And is there any better way than spending time with local people and giving them something in return?
This is why I decided on doing a voluntary service after my graduation. By that time, I was not sure on where to go and what to do. Vietnam, South Africa or Costa Rica? Working with homeless people, in a kindergarten or in an orphanage?
At a fair about university courses and possibilities after school I found out about the IB (Internationaler Bund). The IB is a German non-profit organization that offers different programs through which young people can do voluntary services all over the world. As soon as I saw that you could work at the East Melbourne & German Language Centre for one year, I instantly knew that this was what I wanted to do.
I have always been passionate about languages and learnt English, Latin and French in school and particularly English was one of my favourite subjects since I had studied with the international class. I love speaking English and meeting people from other countries so the German Language Centre with its teachers from nationalities like France, Indonesia or Russia was the place to be! In addition, I have been giving tutoring lessons for many years in subjects like German or Latin which has been lots of fun for me. This is why the thought of becoming a teacher has been stuck in my head for a few years and I regard working at the German Language Centre as a chance to find out if this is a job I could see myself doing in the future.
When I was accepted to work at the German Language Centre, I was beyond thrilled. Not only would I be able to work with teachers from all over the world and pass on my knowledge about the German culture and language, but I would live with a host family as well and thus, get to know the Australian way of life first-hand.
Now, after four weeks of living here, I am still excited about everything in Melbourne. Although life here in Australia is not too different from living in Germany, I have not got used to driving on the left side of the road or switching on the power point, yet. On the other hand, some things are surprisingly similar. For example, I did not expect to be able to eat lots of good bread here but the bread I have had so far was delicious!
Apart from my friends and family in Germany, I will probably be missing German pretzels throughout the year. Sorry Australia, yours just do not come close to freshly made pretzels in Germany! And of course, I am already missing the warm temperatures of summer but I am already looking forward to spring here in Melbourne!
Living with my host family has also been great so far. My host parents Debbie and Michael and their two daughters have been very welcoming and we get along very well. My host sisters are fluent in German and Michael is studying German at the East Melbourne & German Language Centre. Therefore, I usually speak German with him and the girls but I am also able to practice my English skills when talking to Debbie or to the whole family. I am already becoming more comfortable and fluent when talking in English.
One of my highlights so far was taking an adult ballet class with the Australian ballet. I had been planning on taking classes there since I got accepted at the German Language Centre and I loved dancing with the beautiful women of all ages so much! We even had a pianist playing for us, the ballet teacher was very nice and patient and I enjoyed the atmosphere of the studios where the company members of the Australian ballet would usually dance in.
I am looking forward to getting to know Melbourne and its surrounding area, travelling to many wonderful places all over Australia, for example the Great Barrier Reef, eating lots of Australian candy, especially TimTams, and meeting you at the East Melbourne & German Language Centre!