Opportunity Abroad: British Council Language Assistants


Hiking up a mountain with the other ELAs on our training week (Credit: Laura Hooper)
Attending a ball at the Hofburg palace with the other ELAs (Credit: Laura Hooper)

As a Modern Languages student I was lucky enough to spend a year abroad using my languages as part of my course. One of the options that the university suggests is doing a British Council teaching placement – where you get to work as an English Language Assistant (ELA) in a country of your choice. I chose Austria, and I was placed in Linz, a city in Upper Austria where I had the most amazing year.


The best part of working as an ELA for me was getting to talk about topics I was really interested in. Students in Austria often have a high level of English and therefore were able to talk about and debate topics in English; which really helped them gain confidence. I really enjoyed seeing them progress and become more confident in their ability to speak English, it’s very rewarding.
The worst part of working as an ELA for me were the not-so-well-behaved classes, but naturally you will get these wherever you go, and in the end I think I learned the most from them. Before my year abroad I was not very confident, but I now I can control an entire class and keep them interested in the topic. I also found that a lesson might work great with one class and then completely fail with another, so you have to be flexible and often tailor your ideas to each individual class.
Not only did I gain confidence and valuable teaching skills from my time in Austria, I also learned a lot about the German language and Austrian culture, and had the opportunity to travel around the country and even further afield. I have come away from my year abroad with so much more knowledge about other cultures and friends spread all over the world. It was an invaluable experience for me and I would highly recommend it to you all.
You don’t have to be a language student to apply to the British Council, and you don’t have to still be studying – it could be a great option for after graduation. To be eligible you need to…

• be a native level English-language speaker,
• have completed secondary education in the UK or Republic of Ireland,
• hold an EU passport (including UK and Republic of Ireland),
• have completed two years of university education.

You get paid to work around 12 hours a week, teaching and participating in lessons that you may be asked to plan entirely or just contribute to. At the same time you’ll improving your language skills and enjoy experiencing a new country and learning about a different culture.
If this sounds like something you would be interested in, then do take a look at the website to find out more details and eligibility criteria, and to apply. The University of Southampton also has British Council Ambassadors, which are students who have previously participated in the scheme – so feel free to join their Facebook Group to find out more or ask any questions you may have. Also you can also check out my personal blog from my year abroad to read about my own experiences.

Don’t forget, the deadline for applications for the academic year 2017-18 is 28th February 2017.


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