Praktikumsbericht Language Assistant at the University of Bristol

von Gizem D.

Between January and May 2022, I spent four months at the University of Bristol as a language assistant. Thanks to Prof. Nils Langer’s help, I was able to connect to the Department of German at the University of Bristol and was initially going to start my internship in 2021. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic and the travelling regulations, I could not start it back then, but the department allowed me to begin my internship later.

One of the most challenging things connected to my internship in England was the preparations before being able to go. Due to Brexit, I had to apply for a temporary workers visa to go and attend my internship in the UK. This meant quite a bit of paperwork before being able to travel. In particular, due to restrictions during the pandemic, it was essential for me to check the UK government website quite frequently, as restrictions to travel were changing every 2-3 weeks in the last year. But before I could apply for a visa, I first had to apply for a sponsorship, and in this case, the British Government was my sponsor. With the help of the International Center, I applied for both the sponsorship and the visa. Unfortunately, I got my visa a month before leaving for my internship, so it was an uncertain and stressful time. In addition, I was finding accommodation for a limited time only and in my price range quite challenging.

Once I was in Bristol and started my internship, things were more accessible and calmer. I started my internship without any problems, and my supervisor at the Department of German was very kind and helpful during my time there. She was keen on introducing me to everyone in the department on my first day. It was lovely meeting everyone I would be working with, and quite quickly, I found out that I would be sharing an office with one of my colleagues.

I had a couple of set tasks in the German Department that I had to get done every week. One of my tasks was to change the newspaper articles and general content of the pinboard each week so that students coming into the department had something new to view and read each week. One part of the pinboard was dedicated to historical newspaper articles from German-speaking countries. One of the lecturers in the department who was teaching courses on German, Austrian and Swiss history, was able to help me find websites and archives that I could use. So each week, I started researching historical newspaper articles with interesting content, such as historical events that happened 50, 100, and 125 years ago. I found articles highlighting the fashion choices back then or pieces I thought would be interesting, mirroring similar political situations today. The other half of the pinboard was dedicated to German idioms. I was in contact with the language teachers at the department, who told me that students enjoy learning German idioms during their courses. So I started preparing idioms each week, translated them into English, and gave them examples.

One of the more flexible tasks I had in the department was helping the teachers and lecturers with their teaching preparation and presentations. This meant that the lecturers would contact me whenever they wanted my help, for instance, formatting a presentation, making presentations more accessible or translating a text from German into English. This was a great way of seeing what the work in a department at a university contains. It was also an excellent experience to know how the lecturers and teachers prepared their lessons and what kind of work they did outside of teaching. I was also allowed to visit and shadow the lecturers during their courses. Furthermore, I was allowed to ask questions after the sessions, and I sometimes helped during the sessions (for instance whenever the students needed to do some group work, I would walk around and offer my help). I was generally allowed to look over the lecturer’s shoulder. I was fortunate, as all lecturers in the department were keen on talking to me, giving me tips and were very nice about all my questions. Without my colleagues at the department, I do not think that I would have enjoyed my time in Bristol as much as I did, and I am very thankful for their kindness and eagerness to show me around and help me out as much as they did.

My favourite task, however, was preparing and carrying out the conversation hours each week. I had four slots during the week, offering conversation hours for first- and second-year students. Even though these conversation hours were voluntary, I was delighted that students always showed up for each slot. I prepared teaching material in advance depending on their German level and depending on the material they were dealing with in their language classes. This is why I was also in contact with the German language team in the department, as I needed to know what topics they were dealing with during their classes. I also incorporated the students‘ interests, as for my conversation hours, it was important that the students felt comfortable practising their German. This especially got important once the second-year students got closer to their oral exams, so we decided to use the conversation hours as exam prep sessions. I was thrilled with the teaching experience I got from my conversation hours. I was even more thrilled that I got the chance to meet these motivated, kind and inspiring students who made my time in England unforgettable.

All in all, my internship at the German Department was very fruitful and insightful. I learned a lot about the ins and outs of the work at a university, I learned quite a lot about teaching and how much preparation goes into teaching materials, and I learned how much I enjoyed teaching. My colleagues in the department were very kind and helpful. They inspired me to pursue an academic career, and I am very thankful for all the insights I got from my colleagues and the students I got to know through my internship. I can highly recommend to anybody considering pursuing an academic career or a teaching position to do such an internship and get an insight into what such a job and career entails.