Callum’s Year in Munich
Finding a placement abroad while juggling second year at uni was more of a slog than I expected, but it ended up being an interesting experience overall. I was employed as an intern at a tiny agency (5 full/part time staff) for au pairs in a small town called Freising, not far from Munich airport.
I had a Skype interview with the manager who explained what the job would involve and we agreed on a contract. The pay was less than exciting but I was glad to have landed something near a big city (I had actually already visited Munich before and really enjoyed the vibe). She also gave me contact details for a local landlady, so I was able to arrange a place to stay before booking flights and heading out ready to make a new start.
Landing in Germany wasn’t a completely new experience but the idea of it being my new home for the next year definitely sparked a bit of trepidation alongside the excitement. But I was committed to giving it a good go and getting what I could from it.
The landlady kindly agreed to collect me from the airport but due to delays and some initial confusion (she had an extremely thick Bavarian accent, complete with colloquial words I had never even heard of), I ended up getting a cab to my new place. On arrival, I realised my room was not actually a room, but an old garage converted into a living space, complete with a bed, sofa, hot plate and even a toilet. The kitchen and bathroom upstairs were used communally. It was quite a different setup to what I had envisioned but the rent was cheap and I was given some cake, so I soon came around.
I arrived a few days before I was due to start work so I made contact with family to let them know I was in one piece (using the Ethernet cable that dangled down from the ceiling connected to the router upstairs in the actual house) and then explored the town a bit.
There was a high street full of bars and restaurants with a big open square which helped put me at ease.
Then of course the work had to start. The business I worked for deals with placing young German adults with host families all over the world and finding suitable hosts for au pairs coming from abroad. It was my job as an English native speaker to check through applications for approval - mainly introductory letters to potential families, official documents and references. This involved contacting individuals by email or phone to verify their information about a candidate’s childcare experience. Highlights from conversations range from not being understood whatsoever to the contact only responding in broken English and declining to speak German, although I did point out I could manage.
It was tough and a bit awkward for the first week, but I powered through and became more and more confident talking to people. Besides this, I would keep myself busy with whatever needed doing around the office and head off at lunch to different places for a walk and something interesting to eat (proper German Döner is brilliant).
Outside of work, Munich city centre was a 30 minute train ride and from there you have a host of possibilities in all directions – bars, food halls, churches, department stores and markets, to name a few. I spent countless Saturdays there and could continue to. The beer and food is simple, but in my opinion it is done so well that some of the varieties on offer are the best I’ve ever sampled. Plus there was almost always a lively atmosphere day or night. The English Garden is a must if you’re anywhere nearby (surfing in the middle of a city) and Tegernsee is around an hour by train for some of the best lake/mountain scenes I’ve visited. Also within a day’s travel is Dachau, another worthwhile experience.
My personal highlight was visiting Oktoberfest – it really is as much fun as it looks, and despite all of the beer, not a rowdy or unsafe experience. Just good beverages, fun people and leather trousers.
Placement year felt like a huge amount of new places, people, and experiences in a very short amount of time. No doubt you will at some points feel overwhelmed but there is so much you can get from throwing yourself into all of the situations that present themselves. I would fully recommend it.
If you enjoyed reading Callum's story, let us know in the comment section below. Thanks for sharing your story Callum.