Alex Van Loh
Year of Graduation: 2014
Major(s): Biology Minor(s): German
Current Position: Volunteer, MN Green Corps
Please give a brief description of your previous position:
I was a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant at a high school in central Germany where I worked with students ranging from 10 to 18 years old. I was in the classroom for an average of 12 hours a week and had Fridays off - life was rough!
What was your role in the classroom?
My role actually varied quite a bit from class to class. The older students were preparing for their important exit exams, so I helped them with the writing, conversing, and recitation skills required to pass. Most of my work with students in the middle range was practicing facilitated conversations and giving presentations on American culture. My youngest students worked on vocabulary and I helped direct their class plays; one class performed Rudolph for Christmas and the other did Robin Hood in the spring. Critics all agreed they were adorable.
Describe your classroom experiences.
For the most part, the classroom teacher was in the room with me, so I always felt comfortable and supported. I really enjoyed all my time with the students. As long as you don't have a 6th grade class with a simultaneous face injury from falling off a chair and the discovery of lice on a different student while trying to practice formulating questions (true story), the classroom is a fun and low-stress environment.
What is the salary like in the Fulbright program?
The Fulbright program pays for your flights there and back, provides health insurance, and gives you a reasonable living stipend. I definitely still lived on a student budget, but was able to do plenty of travel throughout Germany and other European countries. In 2014-15 I received 800 euros per month.
What was the most satisfying/rewarding part of your position?
I was able to join the school choir and participate in their Christmas concert. It was a unique chance for me to interact with the students in a different way and get to know them better. Because it was outside the classroom, we spoke completely auf Deutsch, which the students always got a kick out of, and it made them feel more comfortable with me. Plus I learned a ton of new German songs!
What was the most challenging?
It's always hard moving to a new place, let alone in a different country with a different language. Finding a place to live, making friends, setting up a bank account, and even buying groceries all presented their own challenges. But after working through them in German, I developed tons of new problem-solving skills and nothing in English can scare me.
What activities/experiences were helpful at CSB/SJU (and elsewhere) in preparation for this type of position?
Studying abroad to make sure I could handle living away from home in a different culture, working with students both at Outdoor U and as a Biology TA for teaching experience, and time working on improvisation with the Attention-Starved Children, were all extremely beneficial for my time as an ETA.
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