Why did you choose this program?
I wanted to gain experience tutoring, and I wanted to improve my German (which I have studied on and off for 5-6 years). I ended up selecting the Excellence Center in Halle, furthermore, because I wanted to base myself in a city/region of Germany that I had no experience with. The fact that Halle was in the former GDR, which is an area of academic and historical interest to me, made it a particularly appealing choice.
What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
My program was not done via a university provider but by direct payment to the Center. In return, the Excellence Center's staff provided me with a place to stay for the duration of the program, as well as German lessons, and breakfast every Monday through Thursday. The other payments were down by cash I carried on hand or by card.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
I wish I had known to memorize some German phrases related to purchasing food or asking for directions ahead of time. More than once, I found myself not knowing how to phrase pretty basic questions and, in those circumstances where the person I was speaking with didn't know any English, it led to me feeling really lost.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
Because the volunteers set their own schedules vis a vis the lessons they teach, there is a lot of variability in the average week, but there are a couple of constants.
Breakfast began every day at 10:00 AM from Mondays to Thursdays.
For once a week for about 90 minutes, sometime between 8:30 AM and 9:30, the center held a communal soccer game.
Classes, be they the language courses that volunteers did in German or Arabic, or the courses that volunteers taught as tutors, almost always lasted 90 minutes.
On occasions when the Center wanted to bid farewell to a volunteer whose time with the program was coming to an end, we would do a communal breakfast or dinner to send them off.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
My biggest worries pertained to my ability to actually effectively teach English to lower-level speakers, as I lacked a language in common with any of my students that I felt I could comfortably default to without a ton of written prompts for guidance. I was, as such, very worried that nothing I taught would actually be conveyed sufficiently.
In truth, I don't think I ever fully "overcame" this worry, so much as that I accepted the fact that, given that the students kept coming to my lessons of their own volition, they were getting something out of their classes, and this helped me worry less about making sure that every single facet of a given lesson plan went perfectly.
Do you have any additional tips for our GO community?
-Be sure to have plenty of cash on hand when you travel. Many shops in Halle don't accept credit/debit card.
-The town's park is very nice, and regularly hosts small music festivals and the occasional street market.
-The Marktplatz near the big church also has various good lunch options.
-Halle is close to a variety of very good tourist spots (Leipzig, Erfurt, Weimar, Berlin, et.al) that are easily accessible by train. Be sure to invest in a membership pass with Deutsche Bahn if you can.