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Article: Alumni talk about the 5th anniversary of UK-German Connection

By Ian Collen

Germany - something for everyone

Ian has written about his first experiences of Germany in 2005 as a voyage reporter. He now works in Belfast as a teacher of German at Ballyclare High School, Northern Ireland.

What was your first experience of Germany like?

I first went to Germany in February 2001 to complete two weeks of work experience as part of my A-level German course. I lived with a delightful German family in the town of Schweinfurt in Bavaria, where I developed my love of Currywurst (curry sausage), Apfelschorle (apple juice with sparkling water) and Milka-Schokolade (chocolate). I received such a warm welcome from my German hosts that I decided to return and live in Schweinfurt for my year abroad (2004-2005) as part of my degree. During this year UK-German Connection was launched and I wrote an article for the website to share my experiences of Germany through the eyes of an English Language Assistant.

What piece of advice would you give to anyone who is thinking about a visit?

English is a western Germanic language and it is much easier to learn German than you think. The two languages share a lot of vocabulary and even on a short visit you will pick up the language with ease! I have always found the Germans to be patient and willing to help foreigners with the language, so use your travels as an opportunity to practise your skills. Germany offers something for everyone; from the vibrant cities to the beautiful countryside. No visit would be complete without a trip on the high speed ICE-trains which are second to none.

What was the highlight of your experiences in Germany?

Without doubt, the people who I met in Germany have had an impact on the person I am today. Travelling really does broaden the mind and my German friends have helped me to see daily life from a different angle. My favourite time in Germany is the run-up to Christmas. The markets, held in every town, truly are magical and showcase Germany at its best. I used to go to the Weihnachtsmarkt (christmas market) every day after work and chat with the locals over a Glühwein (mulled wine).

Did your experience influence your career decisions?

My positive experiences of Germany back in 2001 helped me to choose to complete a degree in French and German at St Andrews. My unforgettable year abroad as an English Language Assistant reaffirmed my life-long desire to be a teacher. I'm now a teacher at Ballyclare High School in Northern Ireland, where I teach both French and German to A-level. I absolutely love teaching German and I firmly believe that it can help you to see the world in ways which other European languages cannot. My pupils really like learning German; in fact German is the most popular language at my school!

Are you planning to return to Germany?

I am actually going to Germany next month with thirty-five pupils from my school. We are going to spend a week at our partner school in Dorsten. We are all getting really excited and can't wait to get there! I am pleased to say that our trip has been part-funded by UK-German Connection, as this is the twentieth anniversary of our partnership. I am confident that the link between Ballyclare and Dorsten will exist for the next twenty years and beyond!

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