Being a language student, I always knew that I would have the opportunity to go abroad for a year. It was, without a doubt, an experience that I had been looking forward to since school days. After practising verb tenses, building up endless banks of vocab and learning to appreciate films and books in Italian, I was desperate to understand what it was all leading up to; what the country that I had based my learning on for the last six years was really like.
Having finally experienced life as a British Council Language Assistant last year in Rome, I’m here to tell you all about why it’s an opportunity that’s definitely not to be missed!
Each Language Assistant undoubtedly has a unique experience, with everyone returning with his or her own individual anecdotes, funny stories, mishaps and adventures! Of course, we all had a mix of nerves and excitement departing and it took a few weeks to find our feet, but what was certain was that, once meeting the pupils and forming a group of friends, we couldn’t have been made to feel more at home.
Teaching in our schools was an extremely rewarding and formative experience, as Laura Keen, a Language Assistant who spent her time in Tuscany last year highlights, “In spite of the fact that the initial few weeks were a little daunting, given the fact that it was my first proper experience of teaching and most of my pupils seemed to look a lot older than I did, I couldn’t have been asked to feel more welcome. There are a few moments in particular that will always stick in my mind. One of my favourite classes was organising a mock, ‘Dragon’s Den’ where the pupils were split into groups and shown six pictures of random, crazy inventions – seeing their reactions to products such as knives that cut whilst toasting bread at the same time, to hands free umbrellas was definitely a highlight! The pupils were then asked to design their own present it to the class (in English of course!) before the products then went to the vote. I learnt that whilst preparing classes I should always ask myself, would I enjoy participating in this lesson if I were a pupil?”
What I believe we would all agree on is that you get what you give when it comes to living and working in another country. As Miriam Donald, a Language Assistant in Hildesheim last year explains, “You should get involved with as much as possible in your school/town, be enthusiastic about your heritage and not be afraid of pushing yourself linguistically”.
Personally, some of my favourite moments included: inventing a game for 20 first year pupils and then being greeted each week by them shouting for us all to play it over and over again, being able to tour the city on an Italian motorbike, making homemade pizza with the family I stayed with, getting lost in the endless tiny winding streets of Venice and seeing how many trains I could hop on and off in an attempt to cover the Cinque Terre in a day. These are my memories, now it’s your chance to make your own!
If you haven’t already got your pen at the ready to sign up for the programme, read on to discover what you could gain whilst abroad!
- You have the opportunity to visit amazing places around the world, something that broadens your horizons and enhances your understanding of different cultures and ways of life. From getting lost in the endless winding streets of Venice to climbing down 2,100 steps from the top of a hill in Capri to reach the nearest town, I definitely have great memories I’ll treasure for life.
- Go from being an average or competent foreign language speaker to being fluent in just 9 months. You are able to really put your language skills into practice. Rather than having to rehearse a response to questions, you can have natural, everyday conversations with locals.
- Gain real teaching experience. Through hands-on classroom work, everyday interaction with pupils and lesson planning, you will develop great communication and organisational skills. Having to prepare and deliver my first class to an enthusiastic group of first year students was an incredible experience.
- Personal development is guaranteed. You will acquire both confidence and a strong sense of independence through the high level of responsibility you are given from week one. You even have the freedom to spend weekends hopping on and off trains to visit the next exciting destinations on your travel list. At the end of my time working as a language assistant, I had the confidence and skills to get a summer job working for a large clothing chain in the centre of Rome alongside native speakers.
- You will undoubtedly make friends for life. There will be other British Council Language Assistants in your area so you always have people to share the experience with. You’ll also meet lots of teachers through the school you will be working in as well as the local students or families that you live with. All of these groups of people will stay in your heart for many years to come! I lived with an Italian family and made great friends both with my co-workers in the school as well as during my summer job, we regularly keep in touch now via WhatsApp and I never have any trouble finding a place to stay when I go back to visit!
The application process is now open to become a language assistant in 2017-2018!
To be eligible you must:
- Be a native-level English speaker.
- You must hold a UK, Irish or other European Union (EU) passport.
- Have completed the majority of your secondary education in the UK. You can also apply having an Irish passport and having completed secondary education in the Republic of Ireland if you are currently studying at a UK university. Furthermore, if you have a UK or Irish passport and completed your education overseas then you are also eligible to apply (but may be contacted to assess knowledge of UK culture if not evident from application).
- Have completed two years of University Education (this does not necessarily have to involve studying a language, applicants can have language skills equivalent to a B1 on The European Framework (or A2 for Spain)– this is the equivalent to the first year of A level/Higher. These skills can be acquired through regular travel, private study or through a formal or informal university course. If you are considering applying for China, you do not need any previous language skills at all.
The closing date for applications is 28 February 2017.
Please visit the British Council website to find out more and apply! Don’t miss out on a great, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!