Dominik Winkel is currently a Language Assistant at the University of Washington. After finishing high school in Bonn, Dominik continued with his studies at the University of Bonn. Throughout this time, he volunteered as language instructor and advisor for teenage refugees in the city. He also had the opportunity to work and study abroad four times, before receiving his Master’s degree. He has worked in Chongqing (China) and Seattle (USA) as language instructor and project manager for the last two years. In June 2019, he will return to Bonn to continue his professional and academic pursuits.
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We asked Dominik a few questions about his work and experience:
1. What sparked your interest in education and teaching, especially teaching abroad?
Shortly after receiving my high school diploma in 2010, I spent several months working in Barcelona. During this time, I discovered how exciting it is to help people from other cultures and countries to learn the German language. Through this activity, supporting others to understand and apply the language better, I found that the work of a language teacher is significant in shedding light on various preconceived notions about a country and a culture. As teachers, we also at times show that stereotypes, ideas and prejudices about a language, culture and people are not always correct. I also appreciate and want to support individuals who are brave enough to take a step outside of their comfort zone by learning a new language, get to know and understand a sometimes seemingly strange culture. This educational courage is important for citizens of the world to overcome discomfort or fear of unknown things in life, to grow together better by understanding one another.
2. What courses are you currently teaching?
At the University of Washington, I am teaching a first-year (103) and a second-year (201) German language course. Besides that, there is a workshop series for citizens of Seattle who are interested in the German market and the German application process. I teach there bi-weekly with a colleague from the university.
3. What was the most challenging experience you have ever had teaching abroad?
At the University of Washington, I have the opportunity to teach students with disabilities for the first time. I am not sure if I want to say it is the most “challenging” part of the job so far, but it certainly is the most rewarding in terms of learning how to understand students’ needs better and growing as a teacher.
4. What was the most ‘German’ experience you have had in the United States?
Working together with other Germans tends to be the most German experience for me . When you are abroad and spend time with people from the same cultural background, ideas, strategies and habits tend to be rather similar, if not the same. This can be helpful, but also exhausting from time to time.
5. What advice would you give to students who are thinking of choosing your field of study?
One tip is to be ready to observe. There are times when it is more advantageous for you to sit back, look at what is happening around you and observe. Immersing oneself into a new culture or language is not about being super interactive or communicative all the time.
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?
North American Students looking for opportunities in Germany: Know what you want to do and how you want to accomplish that.
Germans wanting to go to North America: North America is so, so, so much more than California and Florida.
7. Which pictures, plants or unusual objects are there on your desk?
Every other week there is a Playmobil figure of Martin Luther on my desk. In our faculty, there is an established tradition that you have to hide Martin Luther and his bible somewhere on the desk of another faculty/grad school member. Once you find it, he stays with you for maybe a day or two, until you have come up with a new idea to hide him again from someone else.
8. Can you cook a German dish without a recipe? If so, which one?
Obstsalat (“fruit salad”). Maybe it is not a German “dish”, but due to many times I have played this game in a classroom, it seems German to me. Also, my cooking skills are probably still at the Stone Age level. Nevertheless, cutting some fruit for a meal is always nice!
9. Who has inspired you the most in your career and why?
Most likely, all of my language teachers from when I was in high school in Bonn. All of them were more approachable, more optimistic, and kind than other teachers I had previously had. I think this is due, at least partly, to the fact that they spent a certain amount of time abroad, which made them take things easier in school and in life.
Learn more about our DAAD Language Assistant Program here.
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