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In Profile - Oliver Hopwood

 

© Hopwood

I studied German and French at the University of Warwick, with a year abroad in Bonn, Berlin and Béziers. I’m Head of German at a school in London. I love languages, cycling, film, travel and I live with my partner and my whippet – Heidi – in north east London.

What does a typical day in your job look like? Is there any link/relation to German/ Germany?

I’m a teacher of German and French, so I’m no stranger to early starts and busy days. On a given day I might teach anything from beginners to A-level, covering language, literature, current affairs of films. Being a German teacher is the best job in the world – and showing my love for German and fascination with Germanness is what I enjoy doing most.

What sparked your interest in education and teaching? Especially in teaching abroad?

My first experience of teaching was actually as an English language assistant at the Ruppin Grundschule in Berlin-Schöneberg. It was such an awesome year – and I loved helping students learn my language whilst also sharing a sense of what Britishness might be. We had so much fun in the classroom: acting out The Owl and the Pussycat, baking mince pies, designing uniforms, imagining the Jabberwock, singing Mika songs, writing tourist brochures for London, reading about the four nations…

Who has inspired you the most in your career and why?

My Betreuungslehrerin in the primary school where I worked was an absolute superstar. She was just so ambitious, creative and optimistic about her craft of teaching. Every lesson was an adventure and she made it all look so easy. Her pupils – and I – were in awe.

What do you like in or about Germany? Can you give an example?

The pleasing width of the train carriages. The trays for Kleingeld on counter-tops. The smell in the bakeries. The unpretentiousness of a Berlin Steh-Café. The nationwide embrace of practical footwear. The grown-up tone (well, more grown-up) tone of political discourse. The way that waiters and waitresses allow you to pay an individual bill. The way German speakers pronounce French words. The bookshops. The smooth tarmac. The sense of space.  The focus on things that matter, and the relaxed attitude to things that don’t. The Saxon accent. The smoking figures at Christmas. No-nonsense food.

Which is your favourite city/ place in Germany and which in the UK/Ireland and why? Are there any similarities or differences?

Manchester, because it’s where I was born and grew up, and because it’s a proud city where you can’t pretend to be something you’re not. Berlin, because it’s a creative city where I became who I am and because you can pretend to be whoever you want.

What was the most ‘German’ experience you have had in the UK/Ireland so far? How did you react? What did it remind you of?

I once went to a restaurant which had one of those German toilets with a poo shelf…

Can you cook a German dish without a recipe? If so, which one and where have you learned it?

Kartoffelsalat, because there seem to be so many variations that you can more or less make it up as you go along. Not what you were expecting from a Kartoffelsalat? Ah that’s because I use the lesser-known recipe from [insert name of small German town here]…

What advice would you give to students who are thinking of choosing your field of study/research?

Teaching is an incredibly rewarding job. It’s hard work, and every day generally does throw something unexpected at you. Being a languages teacher in an anglophone context isn’t always straightforward – some describe it as ‘gardening in a gale’. But that gives us an excuse to be a little bit eccentric and more than a little bit passionate.

What advice would you give to UK/Irish students and researchers who are thinking of pursuing research abroad in Germany? 

German universities have a very different culture and feel. My sense is that the whole system is built around principles of autonomy – for staff and students alike – for better and for worse. Having the experience of studying or researching overseas, though, is so beneficial. Not just that it gives us a new perspective, an opportunity to learn a language and experience a new culture or system; but more so because it makes us look again at what we think we know – with fresh and critically engaged eyes.

 

Are you interested in Studying in Germany with a DAAD scholarship? Please find here the link to the DAAD Scholarship Database.

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