Emma Freudenthal case study
My work placement in Koblenz was at Café Werrmann, a beautiful little place that specialised in amazing cakes and ice cream dishes. I first saw the café and introduced myself to my colleagues on the day after my arrival in Germany, and I was really nervous. Not only did I have to find my placement myself – my first taste of the independence that I came to love – but I was also about to have my first proper encounter with a native German speaker in Germany. I had no idea whether or not they would understand me, as I had already realised that speaking German in a classroom in England was nothing at all like speaking German in Germany. I couldn’t rely on English anymore!
Thankfully, after getting a bit lost, I found my placement, and was very happy that I could not only make myself understood without too much difficulty, I could also understand them. Admittedly, not everything, so there was a bit of nodding and saying ‘Ja’ at what seemed like the right moment, but I left feeling happy and looking forward to work the next day.
My working hours were great, 1pm until 7pm Monday to Friday with a break every day at around five when I would be allowed to try any of the thirty to forty beautiful cakes on display. I, unlike most of my group members, got a lie in the morning, as well as time to properly explore Koblenz and its awesome shopping centre only a twenty minute walk from our Hotel, which I really appreciated.
The first day was hard. Not only was I learning how to do a new job, but I was learning it in a foreign language with vocabulary I was unused to, as well as having to interact directly with clients as I served them with ice cream from my window. It was certainly a challenge, but it forced me to think on my feet and learn quickly, and I found my ear for German and my confidence in speaking it improved immediately. As well as serving clients directly, I also made drinks and various ice cream dishes of varying difficulty when the orders came through, invariably making a mess of myself in the process, especially with the chocolate milkshake that refused to stay in the blender. Despite my initial difficulty, every day got easier and I really felt that I was improving every day.
In the evening, we either had a group activity or were free to do as we pleased. It was so great meeting so many lovely people and everyone got on really well, so much so that many of us are trying to organise a return trip to Germany together next summer! I can truly say that I’ve met some great friends through this trip, and from our very first conversations at the airport knew that our group would get on really well. It was especially nice meeting people from all over England, and we all enjoyed attempting to try each other’s accents, with varying degrees of success.
My favourite event of the week was definitely the karaoke night. We heard some great singers and we all sang along until we went hoarse. Other group activities ranged from going out for a drink and a meal together to going to see a football match, as well as a slightly embarrassing, but interesting tour around the city in a bright blue tourist train.
After a week of choosing when I got up, when and where I ate and what I did with my spare time, I felt much more independent and had a taste of what living away from home would be like when I go to university, as well as a better idea of how to budget!
I can honestly say that this work experience trip was a fantastic, worthwhile experience. Not only did I meet lots of lovely people, both in my group and at my placement, but I came home with a real confidence in my German speaking ability and a fantastic sense of independence as our group leader was awesome and really treated us all like adults. I would heartily recommend this trip, as it not only develops you vocabulary, confidence and ear for German, you also make loads of new friends and have a lot of fun!