Course Assistant in the German course “Fortsetzungskurs 4 Land und Leute”

Theresa Emily Niklas

One of my interests as a student of political science is making education the best it can be. This may sound like an unachievable goal, but I am really curious to learn about different education systems, to compare them and to see what works well and what doesn’t work so well. I am from Germany and I already spent a year in Finland before high school, so I had already had an insight into what it is like being a student in Finland. As I entered higher education, I got more and more aware of the importance of education and of making learning easy for students, in whatever way that may be.

Another passion of mine are languages. I am a native German speaker, I speak English fluently, French, a little bit of Spanish and bits and pieces of

Russian and Chinese and while I was on exchange in Finland for the first time, I also learned Finnish. Helping others to learn my native language or another one I am familiar with, is something I am interested in and that is fun to me.

So, coming to the University of Helsinki as an undergraduate exchange student, I was really curious to learn more about the Course Assistant Programme. I had previously been tutoring people who had just started learning a language and therefore I decided to join a course for more advanced students this time. I loved the idea of having a course that really covers cultural, political, and historical issues. The discussions I have had with the students were at times really intense, the classes were fun and varied, with a lot of different elements. In a nutshell, my task was to just participate in class, to join the students when they were doing group work, to read texts out loud, to explain some grammar and to give a presentation about a political topic: the German unification. I actually learned a lot while making this presentation. I was not just talking about the historical events that led to the unification, but also how this still influences German society.

I am really happy and glad that I took the time to join this course. On the one hand, I was able to share some of my views and some of the things I know from back home. At the same time, it was really interesting to see what these students’ views were and how they interpreted these things, coming from a Finnish background. So, on the other hand, I was able to learn how these students were learning, what some good learning methods are, and once again how important it is to understand also cultural and political aspects in order to be really able to speak a language.

I can totally recommend any exchange student or foreign student coming to Helsinki to participate in the CA programme, also because it gives you the chance to get to know some locals (in the future that will hopefully work better than in this year of the pandemic). And in the end, you might even be able to learn something about your own language or country.

Text and picture: Theresa Emily Niklas, exchange student and course assistant at the University of Helsinki in autumn 2020

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