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Year Abroad Boar Diaries: I was the only English speaking student

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Being the only English speaking student at a university in Germany is a little intimidating to say the least. From barely understanding anything that’s going on in lectures, to making the most embarrassing grammatical errors ever to your new German tutors – errors that even GCSE teachers would have frowned upon – there’s something about being the only one that’s both daunting and unique at the same time. The awkward question of ‘oh you’re English?’, with an undertone of ‘what are you doing here?’ as you present your ID during the induction day pretty much summarises how the rest of the semester is to follow.

As if I wasn’t already haunted by the endless references to Brexit in the British media, it seems that the topic has traversed across Europe in equal measure. Not only in the media, however. Brexit also has the tendency to constantly sneak its way inside even the most normal of conversations. Moving to a different country is arguably one of the best, yet also one of the most difficult things that anyone can ever do. And when arriving in a new country, one of the first things that’s imminently crucial is making new friends. Yet, when attempting to make friends, people simply appear more interested in whether you voted stay or remain opposed to any of the other interesting traits your character may have. And whilst silently endeavouring to simultaneously mourn and move on after Brexit, it seems like the thousands of Brexit posters splashed across the university walls think somewhat otherwise. Being the only go-to person to properly discuss Brexit with involves a lot more effort than you’d actually think.

Moving to a different country is arguably one of the best, yet also one of the most difficult things that anyone can ever do.

Whilst the majority of the time is clouded by confusion and impending unavoidable embarrassment, being the only English native speaker can also have its advantages. In a group of newly thrust together Erasmus students, the English language often reveals itself as a common factor. Amongst people from Slovenia, Russia or even Italy, the majority of people can speak English, if only even a fractured snippet of it. And moreover, being an English native gives you an incredible upper hand at parties. Additionally, the hunt for English native speakers for teaching is vicious – to the point where I was even offered a tutoring job at an Erasmus party. If being the only English native at the university wasn’t enough, even the Erasmus parties remind you that you’re the only English one here. The majority of the parties are thematic in relation to country, with a different country being represented each week – yet, an England themed party seems unlikely to happen any time soon.

If being the only English native at the university wasn’t enough, even the Erasmus parties remind you that you’re the only English one here.

Finally, if I were to take anything away from my year abroad it’d be how much we take our language for granted. Every single day we make a million different interactions with so many different people. And what makes these interactions even possible is language. We forget how easy it is to simply talk to other people without worrying whether the subject and the verb of a sentence is in the correct place or not. This year has reminded how valuable language is and how important it can be – in even the simplest of cases.

 

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