My Year Abroad: Teaching English in Austria!
I’m Rosie and I am currently a 4th year modern languages student, studying for a Joint Honours Degree in French and German. I have just taken over from Clio as one of your Global Office Interns for this semester and I thought that as a sort of introductory post, I would focus on my experience abroad in Austria last year!
From October 2020 to May 2021, I worked as an English language assistant at two Austrian business schools through an 8-month placement with The British Council. Despite the complications of COVID-19, my year abroad has been the best year of my life, not only giving me insight into foreign cultures and enabling me to improve my language skills, but also really developing me as a person.
What was your experience teaching at a business school like?
I chose to do a British Council placement not because I wanted to pursue a career in teaching- as most teachers at my schools assumed- but because I wanted to get an insider’s perspective of daily life in the Austrian school system and have enough free time and finances to be able to explore Austria. My work at the business schools was an extremely interesting experience, not only because most of the students I taught were similar ages to myself but also because the students were encouraged to be as open and talkative as possible in the classroom, causing them to often voice their different perspectives and opinions to me which resulted in very lively and engaging debates. This also revealed so clearly some of the many cultural differences between the Austrians and the British as well as the Austrians and the Germans.
What was your experience of travelling in Austria like?
Since language assistants in Austria only work 13 hours a week, I often had 1, sometimes 2 days off which meant I had lots of free time. These hours really gave me so much opportunity to travel all over Austria and really explore places that were unknown to a typical tourist. These trips became especially unique due to the COVID situation at the time and the lack of tourists, which meant my friends and I could visit some of the most famous sites in Austria with no tourist in sight! Visiting The Hallstättersee- the lake and landscape which inspired the setting of Disney’s Frozen- with no one else around was truly a once in a lifetime experience. Me and my friends also had the opportunity to ski for the majority of the Austrian ski season and we even purchased our own skis while abroad!
Why spend the whole year in Austria if you’re doing a dual language degree?
A question I often get asked when speaking about my year abroad, is why I chose to do the 8-month placement in Austria rather than the shorter 3-month placement. As my degree is in French and German, the logical choice would be to split my year equally between a French speaking county and a German speaking country, to be able to improve both languages during my year abroad. I do think my choice to spend my year abroad in solely a German speaking country was an unusual one, but I really am glad I did so. I felt that splitting my year equally would mean having to settle into a country twice in a short space of time and I believed I would get the most out of my year abroad if I spent a longer amount of time in the country and really become accustomed to life there. I now feel that because I spent longer in Austria, I really ‘lived’ there and I had so many experiences once I was more accustomed to daily life and the culture there, which I wouldn’t have been able to have, had I not stayed longer and been more sure of the cultural norms in the country. Of course, I did still keep up my French skills while abroad, I became friends with the French Language Assistant at my school as well as some French Erasmus+ students which allowed me to keep up my French skills while away.
My year abroad really solidified my love for languages and it didn’t just help my degree by improving my language skills but since coming back to University, so many cultural aspects I encountered in my everyday life abroad are very relevant and useful in my German modules at St Andrews!
If you’re interested in applying to the British Council to teach English abroad, take a look at the Information on the official British Council Website here!
Additionally, if you would like to talk to me about my experience in more depth, please reach out to email@example.com. I would be happy to answer any questions you may have!