Work experience abroad
Where do you learn better English than in England itself? England, the mysterious island in Europe, that everyone knows, but not really.
Because I want to study English at university and I did not feel ready directly after school, I thought to myself:” Which preparation is better for this study then living in that particular country?”
At first I thought to myself to do a European Voluntary Service in Great Britain, but the places are much sought-after, because most of the costs are being covered by the European Union. Therefore it was more unlikely, that I would get a place. That is where my neighbour brought attention the twinning between my hometown Leverkusen and the English town Bracknell. Maybe the partnership could offer me a work placement? I contacted the person responsible for the partnership in Leverkusen and my request was passed on. I decided for six months beginning with September, so that I could deal with universities the rest of the year and not worry about it.
A few weeks later I got an answer: There was a possibility to do work experience. I would get accommodation with a host family. That, however, would be in Church Crookham, Fleet – ca. 30 minutes away with a car from Bracknell, where I would work.
I was so glad – in my relief (the weeks before I lived in a perpetual light panic) I have already imagined my life in England.
That is how I got a place as a trainee at the Education Centre of the Bracknell Forest Council in Bracknell. The Education Centre is on the third floor at Easthampstead Park – a old Victorian mansion. It is a centre for meetings and courses for all the things education that is used by the council, teachers and other people and not only by Bracknell Forest.
This could only be good.
But even in my dreams I did not imagine that in three points there would be problems: With the registration with a GP, with opening a bank account and with the public transport and the traffic.
In the first week we tried to register with a GP and to open a bank account. It was easier said than done. At the doctors they needed a proof of address, that could only be done by an official person (in my case my employer). At the bank they needed a letter of introduction, in my case form my GP, to be sure that I am the one I supposed to be. To cut it short: Without a letter of introduction no bank account and without a proof of address from my employer no registration with the doctor.
After I got the letter from my employer that says that I live under a certain address in England, we went to the doctors’ again. This time they could not register me, because I dod not belong to their assigned area, even though my host family had been there for years. But maybe they changed the laws over that time.
In the meantime I made enquiries at another bank: They would only open a bank account for at least twelve months. I wanted one only for six months.
In October I was finally registered with my assigned doctor’s practice. But they could not help me request with a letter of introduction from my GP, because they were not entitled to attest to the information I gave them about my address in England. Fortunately they suggested “Lloyds Bank” which does not need a letter of introduction.
After getting an appointment in the branch in Fleet and arriving there a bit nervous, I had to read that it is closed and had been so when I made the appointment. Full of panic I called them and made a new appointment in Farnborough, after they apologized and asked me whether I received a letter about the closure, which I did not.
After that there were no problems – I only needed my ID to open a bank account – as it should have been – we are all in the EU after all.
Thus I became the proud owner of an English bank account in the second week of November. And I thought it could have been already settled in September. So: Better find out ahead what you need for the doctor or to open a bank account. I definitely learned that.
But the good things overshadowed the bad things long time ago.
I was welcomed wonderfully by my host family and was spoiled with delicious food and interesting stories. I now understand the almost obsession of the English with all kinds of lemon cakes, but it is still strange for me to see other pies being filled with fish or meat. In addition you learn a lot of tips and tricks from the world of cooking from the many cooking programmes and of course from the “Great British Bake Off”.
Despite the two-hour-long way to work with three buses (of course I do not drive with a car here) I am always looking forward to it. The people are incredibly nice and you have the feeling of belonging there immediately. I was brought to the happenings instantly: The guests of the different courses, that were held every day, are provided with coffee, tea and biscuits and the ordered lunches are unpacked by us. Confirmation letters to courses have to be sent and invoices have to be paid.
I am sitting in the resources room, where teachers of Bracknell Forest can lend schoolbooks, CDs, novels and games. To make it easier, we are in the process of cataloguing and digitalizing the resources to make an online catalogue.
But the guests of the different meetings and courses always come first. And another new discovery for me: The Brits cannot live without biscuits. There are so many and different varieties and all of them are incredibly delicious – therefore one understands why they are so important. So: Without biscuits nothing works.
In the end of the day I can begin my journey home with the three buses. For that was the next shock: Firstly, most of the buses only have doors at the front, so that people get off the bus, before other people can go in (and that in a calm and orderly way). The first that got in was most of the time the first that waited at the bus stop and not in terms of the place he was standing but in terms of how long he waited. And secondly, the traffic that kind of appears out of nowhere. That the motorways are full was nothing new to me – in Germany it is common practice – but that normal roads are full, that was something new for me.
There are simply too many cars on too narrow roads and if anything goes wrong, it feels as if the whole system is breaking. But I am dependent on the public transport and do not want to be dependent on my host family.
That is why it is really stressful for me to sit in the bus in traffic, hoping that we arrive before the next to last bus, which brings me home, departs.
So: You should see the bus time tables in the south east region of England rather as a guideline.
And yet the bus drivers are not at fault, because they try to arrive on time and be helpful. In Germany I have never seen it really. Here it is appropriate to greet the bus driver and thank him in the end. That has a positive effect: When arriving late you are not that frustrated anymore, because the bus drivers are just human and they could not help it.
So: The traffic can be slow (especially at rush hour). You can adjust to it and have a chat with your neighbour and thank the bus driver in the end.
So the first impression: Wow! Actually it is different than I imagined. Even though sometimes there are problems in politics and in the economy, the people here are always kind and polite and on the streets kind of more chatty than in Germany. Maybe Germany could copy this.