Please introduce yourself:
My name is Sophie Göckel and I am a 25-year-old student teacher at Philipps-Universität Marburg with the extension subject Geography. Previously, I passed my First State Examination in Biology and Ethics in spring 2021. Right now I am doing an internship at the German School Nairobi (DSN) with my extension subject geography and I am a scholarship holder in the program Lehramt.International of the German Academic Exchange Service.
My name is Amina Ahmed, I am 24 years old and I recently finished my bachelor’s degree in history and Jewish studies at the Freie Universität in Berlin. I wanted to do something practical between my bachelor and master studies and applied for a volunteer service at kulturweit.
To Sophie Göckel: Why Kenya? Why did you decide to do your internship in Kenya?
Already during my school years I spent a school year in Cape Town, South Africa and thus had the opportunity to get to know foreign cultures and languages very early. The experiences I had then – and more recently during my Erasmus semester in Perpignan, France – had a significant influence on my attitudes and broadened my horizons a lot. In my opinion, the teaching profession also involves intercultural competencies. Through my time in South Africa and visits afterwards, my interest in getting to know the African continent better grew. In addition, I dealt with the DSN and its language concept for the subject lessons in my exam paper, so I was already able to get to know the school a little.
To Amina Ahmed: Why Rwanda? Why did you decide to do your internship in Rwanda?
Rwanda is one of the safest countries and beautiful too. When I received the offer for Rwanda, I quickly accepted because it felt right. In addition, I wanted to try something new during my volunteer service, which is why I applied to work at a school.
What were the first days like and how did you experience the cultural difference?
The first days were exciting and full of new experiences: Arriving and settling into the school, school life and the school community. Finding my way around and exploring my new place of residence and Nairobi. I had the opportunity to explore the country a bit and to go to the coast north of Mombasa as well as to accompany the class trip to Mt. Kenya. So I was able to collect many very different impressions of the country. I perceive Kenya as such a culturally diverse country that it is difficult for me to differentiate cultural differences per se. In contrast to Germany, I notice how everything here is also more relaxed and runs according to African time. So you learn to be more flexible and to see things more calmly yourself.
I was very surprised how green Kigali is and especially how clean everything is. I have never lived in a country on the African continent, so everything was quite new to me. I especially experienced the cultural difference because of my privileged position. Most people here have very little, I am becoming more aware of my privileges through contact with them.
What does the internship mean to you? What added value do you see and take away?
An internship abroad promotes a change of perspective and multi-perspectivity. Cultural influences change the way we look at the world and thus the way we view the subjects we learn as well as our encounters with other people. These competencies help me to reduce prejudices and to include other aspects – for example the challenge of multilingualism. The question always arises: How do I open up access for learners in order to open up knowledge and make it tangible?
After the theoretical examination of language-sensitive subject teaching, I am now pleased to be able to gather further practical insights in this regard. The linguistic challenges for the students in the subject lessons play an important role not only in the German school system abroad but in the German education system in general and are hardly taken up in the studies.
Learning from other teachers helps me to strengthen my teaching personality. Here, I can exchange ideas, try things out, reflect together with my mentors, and take advantage of the diversity and opportunities offered by the DSN in a way that is only possible in an internship.
In the long term, I can imagine going into the German school abroad service and becoming part of an international network to advance the mission statement of a German school abroad of intercultural dialogue.
The internship offers me great variety, especially because of the activity, which is very different from my previous activities in my studies and student jobs. While I used to mainly do research or write texts for social media or the website, I now work much more closely with people (in this case, students). My work focus has shifted from the computer to the people, which I love.
Also, working with young people gives me a completely different insight into Rwandan culture and society, with many hopes for the future and trying to work through the traumas of parents and grandparents during the genocide.
To Sophie Göckel: What does your everyday school life in Kenya look like? What is different than in Germany?
In the beginning, I did a lot of observation in my subjects and set my own observation priorities. Between lessons, I spend time in the teachers’ lounge and exchange ideas with colleagues – about lessons and about everyday school life. As an intern, we take over lunch supervision and in return we can eat lunch in the cafeteria. For some time now, I have been taking over lessons myself and can try my hand at teaching, so I spend more and more time preparing lessons. Two things are significantly different than in Germany: First, the language differences in a class are very different here. This must always be taken into account when planning lessons – even in the subject lessons. And secondly, the classes here are much smaller.
To Amina Ahmed: What does your everyday school life in Rwanda look like? What is different than in Germany?
School starts here already at 7:00 a.m. and the students usually have lessons with their class teacher, where they clarify problems, conduct reflection sessions and have time to get started in the day. During this hour, the anthem is also played and everyone stands with their heads bowed until it has faded away. After that, the real lessons begin. I am mainly assigned to the upper school and support the German teacher. My typical tasks include preparing country studies units, creating worksheets and especially practicing speaking German with the students.
The biggest difference to Germany is that most of the teaching is done digitally only. The student body completes all assignments on their Chromebooks and submits them to their Google Classrooms. Hardly anything is done by hand anymore and they hardly own any books. That was scary for me at first, and it also makes German lessons more difficult in some cases because you can have Google translate everything. That’s why we have to pay much more attention to the fact that the students try to penetrate the language on their own.
To Sophie Göckel: You successfully applied to the DAAD in the program “Lehramt. International”, can you say something about the application process and the DAAD funding? Is there anything else you would like to share? About the country and the people?
For the Lehramt.International scholarship, various application documents are required as well as a letter of motivation, for which you should take your time. Questions are given that you can use as a guide. I had informed myself a lot about the internship school in advance, thought about exactly what I would like to learn in my internship and what relevance it could have in my professional future. In general, I encourage all student teachers who are considering going abroad to do so. You gain wonderful experience, get to know another country and other cultures at the same time, and master new challenges.
To Amina Ahmed: You successfully applied for Kulturweit, can you say something about the application process? Is there anything else you would like to share? About the country and the people?
For the application at kulturweit you have to bring a lot of flexibility, because you indicate preferences for larger regions and you can’t give country-specific information. The application runs through an application mask, where you give all the information and upload the documents. In the application you also answer several questions that should explain your motivation. It is advisable to plan enough time for it, because it is several hours of work. Furthermore, one has to apply already one year before leaving the country.
After that, kulturweit looks through the documents and first checks if they are complete and correct. Then the application is forwarded to one of the partner organizations (DAAD, PASCH schools, Goethe-Institut, Deutsche Welle, UNESCO commissions) in one of the specified regions and they decide from the pool of applicants who they will invite for an interview.
Then one receives an offer for an interview with the assignment location and country. You have the option to accept or decline the offer.
What will you do after the internship, what are your future plans?
Sophie Göckel: After the internship, I will complete my studies in geography and then probably start my traineeship in Hesse in the fall of 2022. I’m really looking forward to this time and to the full start of my professional career, and I’ll see whether I’ll be able to work as a fully qualified teacher at a German school abroad again afterwards.
I will start my Master’s degree in “International Governance and Diplomacy” at the Science Po in Paris in August. It is nice that I happened to land in a francophone country through my volunteer service and that I can already prepare myself for the language here.
With the master’s, I hope to get started in international work and use my experiences, including those from Rwanda, for more intercultural understanding.
We thank you for the interview and the insights and wish you all the best for the future!