Teaching English in Wernigerode, Germany: Q&A with Erica Kenworthy

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What is your citizenship?
United States

What city and state are you from?
Mountain View, CA

How old are you?

What is your education level and background?
Bachelor's degree

Have you traveled abroad in the past?
Studied abroad

If you have studied abroad in the past, where did you study?
Perugia, Italy.

What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?
As an upperclassmen in college, I was a T.A. (well, the equivalent at my University which was called a "Peer Educator") for Elementary Italian Language courses. In addition to occasionally having to teach the classes and holding study sessions before exams, I had one particular student who had extreme difficulty with languages due to having both ADD and Dyslexia. I made special pronunciation sheets for him and helped him pass the class. It was a fantastic feeling getting through to someone and giving them confidence. Since then, teaching became a real career possibility. I had no idea at that point that it would lead me abroad.

What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?
Not knowing the language and the prospect of feeling isolated. I have a B.A. in Italian Studies, yet I chose to teach English abroad in Germany for relationship reasons.

I had absolutely zero interest or exposure to the German language previously or to anything other than the stereotypes in films.

Being that I am naturally introverted and need a great deal more alone time than the average world traveler, the risk of isolation and subsequent depression were much higher. Fear of speaking a new language would prevent me from striking up a conversation with new people and therefore serve only to further isolate myself.

What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad?
All were very supportive!

Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?
While it certainly IS possible to go to any country and fight your way into teaching English for a company, having a certificate makes the process much easier and you are also actually prepared to teach. A lot of people think that because they are native speakers that this automatically makes them qualified to teach English. But ask any un-certified native English speaker to explain how "Do/Does" or "Did" are used and they end up confusing themselves.

The International TEFL Academy was flexible and affordable for me (online course). I was working two jobs at the time so being able to study the material on my own time was essential.

Teach English in Germany TEFL

Which TEFL certification course did you take?
Online TEFL Course.

How did you like the course?
The course was very detailed, and I particularly like the grammar review module at the beginning. Tasks were very relevant and the lesson planning that we did in the course still helps me in my lessons over a year later. The instructors gave good feedback and returned homework in a timely manner. Practicum was a bit stressful to organize since I had to find a non-International TEFL affiliated location in my area but also very valuable to being prepared to teach.

How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?
Lesson planning - I keep in mind how the lessons fit together and make sure that I also go back and review previous topics instead of just moving on and never looking back. Checking for understanding is more important that just getting through the material.

Which city and country did you decide to teach English in and why?
I decided to teach English in Germany in the city of Wernigerode. My girlfriend lived and studied here. There was also a private English language school and a Hochschule (University of Applied Sciences) with a language department.

How long have you been in this country and how long do you plan to stay?
I have been here almost 1.5 years, and I plan to stay for at least another year.

What school, company, or program are you working for?
E.L.T. The English Language Trainers GmbH, and Hochschule Harz University of Applied Sciences

During which months does your school typically hire?
E.L.T. all year; Hochschule all year but semesters begin in March/Sept.

Did you secure this position in advance of arriving?

How did you interview for this position?
In-person interview

What kind of Visa did you enter on?
Work visa

Please explain the visa process that you went through.

OBTAINING A FREELANCE VISA IN GERMANY: This was my experience with Ausländerbehörde (Foreigner's Office) in Halberstadt (Sachsen-Anhalt) and how I worked on getting my Freelance Visa. The requirements vary by region but I hope this is helpful for some of you prospective teachers that are still stateside! 

2) OFFICIAL REGISTRATION (Anmeldung) from the city I am living. Currently, this is Wernigerode. You can do absolutely nothing until you are registered in the city where you live.
5) ONE BIOMETRISCH PASSBILD (Biometric photo for the Visa)
7) 100-120 € (~$122-146 USD)

*I did not have to show any bank account or financial information the first time I applied. However, when I renewed, I did have to show invoices and the relevant deposits in my bank account

TEFL GermanyRENTAL CONTRACT: Find a place to live and get your official rental contract from your landlord. Also, this contract needs to list the exact size of your room/apartment. More on that later…

*Note: If you are staying with a friend and they offer to have you be added to their contract make sure THEY ARE registered with the local Bürgeramt. I was living with my girlfriend who is a student at the local Hochschule. She is not originally from this city and didn’t want to register here for only two years while she studies. Many of the other students do the same and stay registered in their respective hometowns. However, what she didn’t know was that if you fail to register within two weeks of moving in, you have to pay a fine up to 500 Euro (~$611 USD). She had gone in with me to the Bürgeramt when I first arrived to see what papers we needed in order to register. Since I was going to register, she now decided that she was going to as well. So, she pretended that she had just moved in.

We got some forms that needed to be filled out by the landlord and then we left. However, her contract with her landlord showed a move in date waaay beyond two weeks. And, so, again, she wasn't going to register because of the almost guaranteed 500 Euro (~$611 USD) fine she would incur. Unfortunately, I still had to register. But, now that they knew her face, she could not be the one to go in with me when I actually needed to register. So, another native German speaker helped me register and all was fine.

OFFICIAL REGISTRATION (ANMELDUNG): Getting the official registration form (Anmeldung) involved me going to the local Bürgeramt (Registration Office) again no more than two weeks after getting my housing contract and bringing:

My Passport
My housing contract: *Again, you MUST register with the Bürgeramt within two weeks of either arriving in your city or signing the contract. However, if you're staying with a friend before finding your own accommodations in the same city, and you've been living with them for longer than two weeks, your new contract at your new accommodations will reflect your move in date at THIS new place and therefore no one will know how long you've actually been living in the city with your friend/acquaintance. As far as anyone is concerned, the date on your apartment contract is now the official date you arrived in that city. They look at the date you "moved in" on your contract - not the date stamped on your passport. At least, in my case.
Someone who speaks German very well. Many of the local officials, particularly in smaller towns, cannot speak business English.

HEALTH INSURANCE: I went with Klemmer International and paid 439,50€  (~$537 USD) for the year (this included a 7,50€ (~$8 USD) processing fee for my credit card because I hadn’t yet gotten a bank account). But there are many other companies and options available.

JOB OFFER(S)/CONTRACT: I had two job offers. After interviewing, if they want to offer you the position, they will ask if you have a Work Visa. Sometimes they even ask this first. This is where I asked if they would be able or willing to write an official job offer letter on one of their letterheads or if they could produce a contract for me. Without a job offer, you cannot obtain a Work/Freelance Visa. And without a Work Visa, you can't work!

I was lucky that both employers did this for me: One, with a signed contract for a position that needed me to start immediately and the other with an official letter for a job beginning in September. I have heard people saying that you need two job offers in order to get your Freelance Visa. However, I found that not to be the case with this particular Ausländerbehörde. I only needed one even though I had two.

What I also discovered in the interview with my current employer is that three different offices needed to communicate with each other in order for me to get my Visa. They are: the Bürgeramt, Arbeitsagentur (local employment agency), and the Aüslanderbehörde. He said that his company was having issues with the Arbeitsagentur because they were telling him that there were plenty of qualified locals (native Germans) who could fill the positions just as well as any foreigner. He had to explain that his company is a private ENGLISH language institute and they needed native speakers. He also called the Aüslanderbehörde and the local Arbeitsagentur on my behalf after our interview to inform them that I would be coming in soon and to ask if they could “pretty please” speed up the process because he needed someone to start immediately. When I arrived at the Aüslanderbehörde, they were expecting me and were very helpful.

PHOTO: The picture must be “biometrisch” because it will be scanned, along with your fingerprints and signature into their system and subsequently onto the chip in your Visa card. Yes, it’s a plastic card now. Gone are the days of an adhesive sticker in your passport. For 5 photos, it cost me 12,95€ (~$15 USD) and it took 10 minutes.

PASSPORT: Self-explanatory

AT THE AÜSLANDERBEHÖRDE: Again, take a native German speaker unless you are confident in your German skills. You will need to produce all your papers. Remember your rental contract and needing the size or your room/apartment listed? Well, they are going to check it. The Ausländerbehörde requires a MINIMUM of 12qm PER PERSON.

Once they have seen you have all your papers in order, you will fill out another form with all your “biometrisch” information (eye color, height, marital status etc.), they will take your fingerprints and then that’s that!

What they did is they sent a notification to my employer in the next week informing him that I was cleared to begin working. This was because my 90-day tourist visa would have expired at the end of the month – before I received my physical Visa. About 3-8 weeks later, I would receive a letter in the mail letting me know that I could pick up and pay the 100€ (~$122 USD) for my Visa at their office.

*When renewing my visa for another year, I paid 80€ (~$97 USD) but the process above remained the same. They will give you a piece a paper that serves as a temporary work visa until the real one arrives

What are the qualifications that your school requires for teachers? Please check all that apply- TEFL Certification
- Native English speaker
- I'm not sure if a Bachelor's Degree is necessary but it certainly is preferred

What is the best way to apply?
Apply online

Get TEFL Certified and teach English in GermanyTell us about your English teaching job!
At the private language school, I teach 10.5 hours/week (not including prep time) for 13€ (~$16 USD)/45min. I work with companies, business professionals, and adults from absolute beginners to B2/C1 level. At the University, I teach 12-14 hours/week (not including prep time) for 21€ (~$25 USD)/45 min. Students are usually between 18-25 and are at the low intermediate to advanced level. All classes at both companies are 90 minutes. I'm able to save but not for retirement! My rent costs 380€ (~$460 USD)/mo and then I have electricity, water, heat, internet and groceries. Vacation time is during the semester breaks at the University.

How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like? Do you have roommates?
I lived with my girlfriend for the first six months while I registered, found jobs, and looked for a place. It was... extremely stressful, though I am grateful for it.

Please explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, travel opportunities, etc...    

Cultural Aspects - adjusting to the concept of "frischer Luft" (fresh air) is difficult because it involves them opening windows and doors in the middle of @#$%ing winter. Many health issues are blamed on lack of "frischer Luft". Keeping your door closed when you're in your room is not considered unfriendly like it is in the U.S. Remember how your college suggested that leaving your dorm room door open was a great idea and you'd meet your future BFF that way? This concept confuses most Germans who find it actually quite annoying.

Public Transportation - is great! You can get a train, tram, or bus almost anywhere if you do the right research. The train is a bit on the expensive side and I would not recommend getting a BahnCard. It's not worth it unless you're frequently traveling longer distances.

Nightlife - In my city, there isn't really a nightlife. Berlin, Munich, Stuttgart etc. are the places to be for that.

Social Activities - People mostly go hiking or out for a drink.

Food- A bit on the expensive side, but Germans are quite good cooks! (Unless they are trying to make Mexican food).

Expat community - There is a handful of us in the little town I'm in, and there also is an English table once a month that is organized by Germans that want to speak English.

Dating Scene - I couldn't tell, you but I'm sure there's an app for that.

Travel Opportunities - Take the train about 1.5 hours to Hannover airport or two hours to Berlin Schönefeld and the world is your oyster.

What are your monthly expenses?

- Rent/Utilities: 480-500€ (~$587-611 USD)
- Food: 100€ (~$122 USD)
- Social Activities: 50€ (~$61 USD)
- Transportation: 25-50€ (~$30-61 USD)... I do not own a car and ride my bike everywhere
- Phone: 8€ (~$10 USD)/month (Medion/E-plus)

How would you describe your standard of living?
Very high - I live in a one room apartment in an old three story house which is a two min walk from the downtown.

In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably?
Comfortably? 900-1,200+€/month (~$1,100 - $1,468 USD).

What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching in your country?
Consider it seriously; make sure you're doing it for the right reasons. Yes, teaching English abroad is cool adventure for you, but the students matter! So enjoy yourself, but take your job seriously for their sake. Germany is great place to teach!


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