Anna-Sophie Berges is a DAAD Language Assistant at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where she teaches German as Foreign Language. She completed her teaching degree for secondary level school at the University of Education in Heidelberg, Germany, in spring 2018. Shortly afterwards, she received a scholarship from DAAD for the Language Assistant Program. Anna-Sophie has devoted herself to the field of teaching German as a Foreign Language and she has gained variegated insights into these academic pursuits.
Our DAAD network is a vast and global net of connections between DAAD award winners, ambassadors, alumni, grant holders, future applicants – all united by their love for study and research abroad and all things German.
We asked Anna-Sophie a few questions about her work and experience:
1. What sparked your interest in education and teaching, especially teaching abroad?
I spent a year abroad as an exchange student at a high school in the US when I was seventeen. I lived on a farm in Anoka County in Minnesota about an hour north of Minneapolis during this year and went to school nearby. There, I experienced a new culture and a different education system. One of the many valuable experiences I gained during my year abroad was becoming aware of differences and similarities within particular education systems. My experience abroad definitely sparked my interest in discovering new cultures, dealing with new cultural contexts, and languages. Languages play an important role within cultures. I think that teaching a language abroad, in my case German as a foreign language, combines teaching in a stimulating international environment with exploring new cultures. This is why I chose to become a language teacher.
2. What courses are you currently teaching?
I am currently working as a Language Assistant for German as a Foreign Language in the Department of Languages and Culture Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC). I teach two German classes for beginners per term, Elementary German I and Elementary German II. Compared to the level of the CEFR, these would be categorized as A1.1 and A1.2. Apart from teaching language classes, I am involved in extracurricular activities such as organizing a weekly German coffee hour or joining German club meetings. I also participate in various events in which the German department takes part, for example planning and preparing learning opportunities for the upcoming 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
3. What was the most challenging experience you have ever had teaching abroad?
So far, I have not had any major challenging experiences while teaching abroad. What I have noticed, however, is that the understanding of a teacher’s role at universities in the US differs from that of universities in Germany. It is common for professors to support and monitor their students’ learning progress at many universities in the US. Professors usually take greater responsibility for their students’ learning progress in the US than professors do in Germany. I view this as a positive thing, especially if students use the opportunities offered.
4. What was the most ‘German’ experience you have had in the United States?
There are a few towns and counties in the Charlotte area which have originally German names such as Mecklenburg county and Hanover county. I even have a personal connection to the German counterparts of these two areas, as I was born in Hanover and grew up in Mecklenburg-Pomerania. It was surprising to find out about the German heritage in some parts of North Carolina.
5. What advice would you give to students who are thinking of choosing your field of study?
An essential requirement for teaching German as a foreign language is that the teacher is ambitious about and interested in the language. Two other important requirements for pursuing this career language are motivation and openness towards people, other languages and cultures. It is helpful to acquire some basic knowledge in different fields of study such as history, ecology or art, to name only a few, in order to build up a broad range of topics that can be used within the framework of your language classes. I would also advise students to gain as many practical experiences as possible in teaching German as a foreign language e.g. via different internships or other work opportunities both near and far. Last but not least, I would say that time is an important aspect to consider. Developing teaching skills requires time and patience, because teaching combines both practical experience and theoretical knowledge.
6. What advice would you give to North American students and researchers who are thinking of pursuing opportunities abroad in Germany? Or to German students and researchers who are thinking of pursuing opportunities here in the United States?
Do it if you can. It is a great experience.
7. Which pictures, plants or unusual objects are there on your desk?
I have a “I ♥ HD” sticker, a ginseng tree, and shells from the Atlantic Ocean sitting on my desk at home. HD in this case stands for the city of Heidelberg.
8. Can you cook a German dish without a recipe? If so, which one?
Yes, I enjoy cooking and I am able to cook a few German dishes without a recipe. One of my favorite dishes is mashed potatoes with boiled eggs in a mustard sauce.
9. Who has inspired you the most in your career and why?
Life itself inspires me.
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