no degree

Teaching English in Bremerhaven, Germany: Q&A with Gabriella Brown

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What is your citizenship?
United States.

What city and state are you from?

How old are you?

What is your education level and background?
High school, no college.

Have you traveled abroad in the past?
Studied abroad in Berlin, Germany.

What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?
I decided to teach English abroad because I was not sure what I wanted to do with my future. I was preparing for university, and I just felt unprepared. Although I am told everyone feels that way at first, I felt like there were other opportunities I wanted to take before studying. I decided to teach English because I love working with kids, and even had considered studying education in University. I took this opportunity to show myself if it was truly something I wanted to do in the future. I decided I needed to find myself before I made any life decisions.

What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?
My main concern was my age. Not having a degree can be a turn-off for employers, and I did not have a lot of useful work experience other than volunteering with kids and teaching a bit as an after-school tutor. Nonetheless I took the opportunity as a risk to see what would happen. I got a lot of support through the process which made my concerns fade pretty quickly. Although my concerns in some cases were true, it did not hold me back from reaching the end goal of teaching abroad.

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What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad?
My parents were also a bit skeptical because they wanted me to get an education before I moved abroad. Despite their apprehension, they were always supportive, as they could see how badly I wanted this experience. Since living abroad, their view has changed immensely after seeing how much I have grown as a person. Beyond my parents, my friends were supportive, and so were a lot of my teachers from my high school. My foreign language teachers even gave me advice on what it might be like to teach, and having their support was comforting for me.

Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?
I decided to get TEFL certified because I wanted to have a purpose when I came abroad, and teaching English has given me just that. I specifically chose International TEFL Academy because of the support team they provided to me. From the start they were encouraging, and gave me all the resources I needed to make the initial decision if I wanted to take the TEFL course. After the course, they answered all the questions I had about finding a job and later getting a visa, which were tasks that I had no idea how to accomplish on my own.

Which TEFL certification course did you take?
Italy - Sardinia

How did you like the course?
The course was one of the best parts about coming abroad. The location was beautiful, and the class was small and intensive. I learned so much within those four weeks. The hands on experience I gained was the most helpful, as it prepared me to use what I had learned in the course in everyday teaching life. The teachers themselves were also amazing. They helped all of my classmates and me get ready to become teachers, and also to help us learn how to live abroad in any country we chose. As an English teacher on my own now, the course did more than enough to prepare me for my job.

How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?
I do not think I would have been able to catch on to teaching methods as quickly as I do without the help of the TEFL training. It introduced me to a world of teaching methodologies. It also prepared me to live abroad independently, which was a huge jump for me from my regular lifestyle. It has also been a great resource in helping me get a job, since TEFL in internationally recognized and shows that you are a capable English teacher. It is something that I will have for the rest of my life, and even beyond having jobs in teaching English it will help me show employers the experiences I have had, making me a more desirable candidate.

Which city and country did you decide to teach English in and why?
I decided to teach English in Germany in the city of Bremerhaven. I decided to teach in Germany because I had studied abroad here before. I wanted to continue learning German, and it feels like my second home here. At my age, I also prioritized having people around me that I knew and could come to for help, which is why I chose Bremerhaven. I have a lot of connections to this city, which has also helped me to find a job and to feel safer while being abroad on my own.

How long have you been in this country and how long do you plan to stay?
I have been living here since I completed my TEFL course, which I completed in September. I have been teaching here for almost four months now. I plan to return home in June so I can begin preparing for my university studies.

Teach English in Germany

What school, company, or program are you working for?
Schulzentrum Carl von Ossietzky.

During which months does your school typically hire?
Beginning of the school year, in August or September.

Did you secure this position in advance of arriving?

How did you interview for this position?
Skype/phone interview.

What kind of Visa did you enter on?
Tourist Visa.

Please explain the visa process that you went through.
I arrived here on a tourist visa which lasts for three months. When I arrived, I began applying for a work visa. Getting a visa while living in the country is not always possible, but as an American citizen, it was possible for me to do this in Germany. It was a very lengthy and at times stressful process, and I believe it would have been easier to get a visa while in the USA. Since I already had a job offer, and am an American citizen, it was not too hard for me to get permission to stay. The only bad part was it took about three months for everything to be completed.

What are the qualifications that your school requires for teachers? Please check all that apply
- TEFL Certification
- Native English speaker
- I work in a public school, so the requirements are a bit different. I work as an assistant, so being a native speaker with a TEFL certification was helpful but not a requirement.

What is the best way to apply?

Tell us about your English teaching job!
I work about 8 hours a week in the school. It also varies. When teachers are absent, I will substitute for them, which gives me more hours. I get paid on a monthly salary, and it is enough to pay for rent, necessities, and a bit of a travel fund. I usually can save about $100 a month which is enough for me to take small trips every few months. I work with kids from age 10-16 which is my favorite age group- they are such a blast! The vacation and work time is well balanced. I have about one week in the fall, two weeks off in the winter, and two weeks in the spring.

How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like? Do you have roommates?
Finding an apartment was not difficult, but it was not the easiest part of coming abroad. The first few weeks I lived with a friend while I searched for an apartment. I found a good sized apartment that was relatively inexpensive. I lived with my boyfriend, but if I did not, I would have opted to have a roommate. Living abroad can be lonely at times and finding friends may be difficult outside of work. Having a roommate makes the transition and first few weeks much easier.

Please explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, travel opportunities, etc...    
The best part about living in Germany, or about living in Europe in general is the public transportation. It is fast, easy, and inexpensive. The food here is also refreshing. A lot of it is farm fresh and you can see where the food you are buying came from, which is a luxury we do not always have in the USA. Travel opportunities are also always emerging for me. Flights around Europe are unbelievably cheap, sometimes as low as 20 euros. I have had no trouble immersing myself in the local community as well by joining sports clubs, and even playing saxophone in a few bands. The community in Bremerhaven has been welcoming to me, and made me feel at home.

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What are your monthly expenses?

Rent/utilities: Per month, in total about 550 euros goes to rent and utilities, which is quite inexpensive for me considering the 550 euros is split between my boyfriend and I, so I only pay about 275 euros- another perk to having a roommate.

Food is a bit more expensive in Germany, but if you find deals and plan meals, it is tolerable. I spend maybe 150 euros per month on food.

Phone: Phone plans are also cheap if you find a good provider. I use aldi-talk which is not fantastic, but it is only 9 euros per month.

Transportation is again inexpensive and reliable, but normally I drive to school. After all costs of living, I have enough money to travel a bit considering how cheap flights are and how close several other beautiful European countries are to Germany. Not to mention, there are plenty of amazing things to see in Germany, which are easy enough to travel to with bus or train.

How would you describe your standard of living?
The standard of living in Germany is reasonable. The price of necessities including housing and food are affordable as an English teacher.

In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably?
850 euros per month is a good expectation for the cost of living here. Without the intention to save a bit of money every month, 750 euros would also be sufficient, but not necessarily to live comfortably.

What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching in your country?
I would recommend teaching in Germany. The people here are very welcoming and the country is a great location for people who want to travel through Europe as it is pretty central. Most jobs pay well, and English is a highly desired skill in the country, so jobs for native English speakers are always in abundance.

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