Where are they now? Heather’s story
Heather’s UK-German connection started with an 8 hour bus journey from Scotland to London and concluded with her getting a job ‘with great ease’. She tells us how her experiences shaped her career path and took her to unexpected places…
Town/City: South Queensferry, Scotland
UK-German Connection activity: Youth Ambassador 2013-14, Photo competition: ‘Welcome to my World’
What is your favourite memory from your UK-German Connection experience?
My favourite memory of the UK German Youth Ambassador programme has to be the London event at the start. I had never been to London before, having only lived in Scotland and Lancashire. I enjoyed talking to the German participants about different regions of the UK, as many of them mostly knew about England, particularly the south and London. We also learnt lots about different regions in Germany, and it became clear that my concept of East and West was vastly oversimplified (Aldi Nord vs Aldi Süd was much discussed!).
What is the most important thing you learned during the programme?
I believe that the programme gave me confidence and a broader outlook than I had previously. My family are very working-class, and without the financial support the programme gave, I simply would never have been able to take part or visit the places I saw. I remember getting on the bus to London alone at 4:30am, knowing it would take 8 hours, with a £16 return ticket, which feels like a surreal memory from another era now! I think it made me realise that I could just go places though, which really gave me the confidence to travel, and I’ve never stopped since.
How did your experience influence your decisions with regards to studies, work and travel?
I really cannot overstate how much my life was changed by the programme. I convinced my school to teach German at A Level, and did a presentation about this at the closing conference in Berlin. I had never spoken to so many people before, but everyone was so supporting I was hardly scared. If I had not been able to study German at A Level I doubt I would be able to speak it fluently now. German is also how I got to know my now fiancé, with both of us taking part in a German language play at the University of Edinburgh.
Have you visited Germany again since your UK-German Connection experience?
I have visited, lived and studied in Germany since the programme. In 2017 I received a DAAD scholarship and studied German Law at WWU Münster, and I lived in Bavaria with my boyfriend last year. We immensely enjoyed speaking German to border guards and then handing over foreign passports, since we got such funny reactions every time, particularly when crossing rural land borders such as to the Czech Republic (that we visited regularly, as it has Tesco and Marks and Spencer!)
I’ve now been to every Bundesland in Germany, as well as working in Austria and Switzerland, and visited Luxembourg and Liechtenstein, so I’ve experienced many Germanic dialects and cultures!
Did your experience have any additional influence on your life?
German and the programme has also influenced my attitude to and ability in other languages. I think it made me more open to other cultures and I used this at university. I was part of a team that won an Impact Award for Global Community for work I did in student accommodation, along with a German college, to help international students to integrate and share cultures. The language, and my attitude to it, also helped me learn Danish, which I learnt to C1 level in under a year.
What are you doing now?
I studied Law and German at the University of Edinburgh and am now working in customer support and translation for a US tech company, for whom Germanic Europe is their largest non-English speaking market. Until this year I was living in Bavaria- in Munich, Bayreuth and the tiny town of Marquartstein near the Austrian border.
Do you have any comments or advice for anyone thinking of getting involved in UK-German activities?
I would very highly recommend anyone thinking about it to apply for a UK-German Connection programme.
You might be unsure at first, but it could take you places you never imagined, and at the least it will certainly give you new friends and a broadened outlook on many topics.
I remember a lot of friends and even their parents asking me what I was going to do with German. Language learning was a hilarious joke to them. I would now tell them that as well as all the amazing cultural experiences I have had, what I have done with German is to walk in to a job in the UK with great ease, despite a pandemic and recession, purely due to my language skills. There’s nothing like a foreign language for job security, especially in the UK where so few learn foreign languages.
Do you have a UK-German story that you’d like to share? Get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org