Tuesday, October 4, 2011

First Week in Rostock and Couchsurfing in Hamburg

I survived the first week! It's been interesting to say the least, I think I'm finally beginning to get the hang of my routine. Though I normally live in Berlin, my boss asked me if I could teach an intensive English course in Rostock. I said yes, so now I teach 9 students who're currently training to work for Deutsche Bahn as the people who collect and sell tickets, check the tickets on the train, etc. As part of their training they're required to take a 6 week intensive English course. After that, they have to take Swedish and Danish. Crazy, huh?

As such, I'm here in Rostock until November 10th. For those not in the know, Rostock is in eastern Germany in the north. I teach 8 teaching units a day (45 min each), 5 days a week from 8am to 3pm. It is a LOT of class a day and I think we're all still a bit in shock! Sometimes it feels like too much as the students tend to be pretty done with learning for the last hour and a half or so. However, now that we've started to do English trivia at the end the spirits have raised a bit! Since the students are required to take the course, there are 1-2 that seem that have absolutely no desire to learn English and sit on their iPhones while everyone is doing group work, which can be frustrating. However, there are also some really motivated and funny students in the class, so I'll take the good with the bad. Every day gets a bit better as we all get used to so much English all the time!

I was told the students were all beginners, but in reality I have the younger class and they've all had English before. Thus, we're going through the textbook a lot quicker than anticipated and I've spent a long time each night planning my own material. It's kind of exhausting at times to plan for 8 teaching units a day when I get home, but I know I'm going to be a much stronger and confident teacher by the end of it. The first week was definitely up and down, but I'm slowly getting the hang of it and know I'll be happy for this "teaching boot camp" experience at the end! Luckily there is another teaching here with me whose taught these courses for many many years and he's given me a ton of great worksheets and ideas, which I am eternally grateful for.

Did I mention I'm teaching English in the German language? At least mostly. Oh yes. My German has improved so much since I've been here. Sometimes I feel really bad if a student asks me a question about grammar in German and I don't understand, so hopefully by the end of the 6 weeks I'll have my German grammar vocabulary down.

All I have to say is thank goodness for TEFL Worldwide and the internet. There are so many great resources online. Since I only have my own accent (duh) and the students need to practice with as many accents as possible since they'll likely be working with tourists, I can download listening dialogues in British English and the like. The book "Learning Teaching", which I had to buy during the TEFL Worldwide course, has also been immensely helpful. I've been reading that for ideas and advice during several of my "oh my gosh how am I going to teach this?!" freakouts. I still feel like I'm at the beginning teaching stage most of the time, so I tend to obsessively plan my lessons and end up spending way too long worry about every detail. The book sometimes describes me exactly and while sometimes it sucks to realize you made a teaching mistake, it's nice to know I made a normal teaching mistake and have suggestions for how to do it better next time.

First week behind me, I headed into Hamburg for the weekend, which is 2 hours away. It was a 3-day weekend for the reunification of Germany and the weather was absolutely beautiful. I used Mitfahrgelegenheit for the first time, which is basically organized hitchhiking/rideshare. You can buy group tickets here, where it's the same price for up to 5 people. Thus in this area people often buy a group ticket and post on the Mitfahrgelegenheit website to gather up people so we all pay less. I got to Hamburg for a mere 6 EUR and had an awesome ride with three German girls and a woman from Khazikstan who now lives in Germany. We all spoke German the way up and shared some good stories. I learned the phrase "Einmal in, alles din" (literally "one time in, everything inside") from the woman from Khazikstan about how she got pregnant at 17, which is my new favorite German phrase (even though it's a bit grammatically incorrect). I also made a friend in Rostock as one of the girls in our ride group normally lives in the city, so yay! I love that things like this exist in Europe and the community aspect of it all. Not only did I get a super cheap ticket, but met a lot of cool people to hang out with on my ride to Hamburg!

Found this in the train bathroom on the way to Hamburg!

Over the weekend I couchsurfed with two vegan girls in Hamburg. I should also give a shout out to how much I love couchsurfing. I met up with one of my hosts for delicious vegan burritos in the Schanzenviertel, explored, chilled in a park with my Kätt's friends and watched people slack-lining, cooked a nice vegan meal for dinner (and introduced everyone to rice crispy treats with some vegan marshmallows I brought from home) and then ended up a a party at a local dorm. Again, it's so cool that websites like this allow me to go to a city where I don't know anyone and end up in someone's flat, meeting their friends and leaving with new friends of my own.

Chrissie and Kätt (my hosts) with our dinner!
Now on to week two! Before I leave I want to couchsurf in another city in the area and hopefully check out Copenhagen!

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