Monday, August 31, 2009

Return to Hoehr

Finally back in Germany! I arrived four days ago and am currently staying in Hoehr-Grenzhausen, the town where I did my exchange five years ago. I stayed in touch with some of the participants here over the years and am staying with a friend from the program. Hoehr-Grenzhausen is right outside of Koblenz, or about 45 minutes northwest of Frankfurt. The town is relatively small, albeit quaint, with a population of 12,000.

Despite my lingering jet-lag, my days have been quite eventful. I visited with my German friends, went to a couple of pubs, saw the world's tallest cold water geyser, enjoyed traditional German food like spaetzle, watched Christof's band play, and spent a day in Koeln (Cologne). Now I am relaxing in the green house attached to Christof's house.

I am excited to be back here and practice my German. Somehow I managed to switch into
German right away, perhaps because I was so eager to speak it again. But my interest in
communicating in a foreign language has waned over the last few days, and I find myself slipping more and more into English. Speaking and comprehending a foreign language all the time is very exhausting, and sometimes I just need an English moment. Because I know that in around two weeks, there will be no one to communicate with me in English. Hopefully once my jet-lag passes, I will have more energy to continue speaking German all the time.

I decided to take this "volunteer" position in Braunau, which begins in two weeks. I will be teaching a specific English course to students 17-19 years old, who are learning certain words
and phrases specific to their intended career. The boarding school, where I will be assisting with this course, has offered to let me stay until I leave for my Fulbright orientation seminar at the end of the month. I am excited, because I now have much more support when I first move to the city with finding my way, understanding
how to use the bus system, etc. However, I am a bit nervous to teach an entire class by myself alone, since I have little prior experience. I will be prepared with materials and methods/theory, and I don't foresee it being too difficult. The first day is: "introduce yourself". I think I can handle that as a native English speaker. And the group will be very small- only eight students. (picture here is of Christof's band "Hangover")

In the meantime, I will enjoy my vacation and relax before I begin my new exciting job as a teaching assistant. Bis dann!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A New Chapter Begins

Today I woke up to a startling realization: I actually slept well last night! Hard to believe, since there are so many things on my mind at the moment. I'm leaving later this afternoon and heading over to Germany. I was lucky enough to receive a Teaching Assistant position through the Fulbright program at two secondary schools in Braunau, Austria. My position begins on October 5th, and I am visiting friends in Germany for one month before I start my orientation seminar at the end of September.

I also awoke this morning to an email in my inbox from a boarding school near my house offering me 20 Euros per hour to teach a 10 week English course and free lunches Monday - Friday. This offer stumbled upon me from what I believe to be a referral from the previous TA, who may have done this as like a second job. However, I would have to begin on September 14th, and I was planning on being in Weimar to visit friends during that time. Now I may need to re-think my plans....

My new town for the next ten months will be Braunau, Austria. It is around 1.5 hours to the east of Munich, Germany, one hour north of Salsbug, Austria, and one hour to the west of Linz, Austria. It is three km away from the German border (great for transportation within both countries!), and has a population of around 17,000. Braunau is known for also being the birthplace of Hitler, so it actually draws in some form of tourism. As for what I will actually be doing in Braunau, I will find out the details at my orientation seminar in Saalbach. I have been assigned to work 13 hours per week between two secondary schools. At one school I will be working with students ages 17 - 19, who are learning skills for business professions. I will facilitate discussions among the group, try to elevate any anxieties about speaking English as a foreign language, and act as an ambassador of good ol' America. I am looking forward to the opportunity to develop teaching skills, since I have considered becoming a German teacher in the future. I am, however, a bit nervous to understand what is being said around me; Austria has many dialects, and I have been told to expect challenges when I first arrive with my comprehension.

With my large amount of free time, I hope to get very involved in the community, join some sort of sports league (soocer perhaps?), maybe learn another language, write a book.... who knows! I'll also be looking after two kitties who will be living with me. I am renting out the house of a teacher who is in Albania teaching for two years. She's leaving the cats for me to look after, which I don't object to at all! So I will have an entire house to myself, a garden shed, and a bike to explore the area. The only downside is that I have to live alone, something of which I have never done.

I have several hours left until I leave for the airport. I better start re-packing, because I am unsatisfied with lugging around two suitcases for one month in Germany. Auf Wiedersehen America!