Intern Abroad

Working as a Foreign Language Assistant in Dublin

April 24th, 2024 | by
  • Master of Education
  • Ireland, Dublin
  • Colaiste Chilliain
  • 10/2023 – 03/2024

1. Application/Finding an internship
I first learned about the “Foreign Language Assistant” program through friends. The application process
was comprehensive but straight-forward and needed to be completed by January. It required submission
of a CV, Letter of Motivation, transcript of records, certificate of study, and a university report
(Hochschulgutachten) from a Professor (some documents needed to be submitted in English + German,
this varied according to your chosen destination country). The program encompassed numerous countries
with varying internship durations but Ireland, offering a placement of 6-8 months, resonated most with my
preferences. Moreover, Ireland was one of the very few destinations that allowed me to indicate preferences
according to the destination COUNTY. I could give three preferences and chose county Dublin as my first,
since I expected this would be the spot with the highest frequency of FLA placements (which turned out
true!). Following the initial application, I progressed to the second stage, receiving an invitation for an
interview with representatives of PAD in March. In May, I was then finally informed that I had been accepted
to the program, so I immediately applied for Erasmus funding and a break semester (Urlaubssemester). By
June 1st, I received my school assignment along with the instruction to contact the principal and introduce
myself immediately, since Ireland would be starting the summer holidays on June 2nd. I did as told and
received an answer on the same day.

2. Accomodation & Living expenses
I started looking for accommodation as soon as I got the notice, but I quickly discovered the harsh realities
of Dublin’s sky-high prices and housing issues. I searched platforms like and HostingPower which I
was told about by a former FLA. There were new offers daily on, but most were either extremely
expensive, seemed rather unpleasant or were labeled as “on a mon-fri basis”. Additionally, HostingPower
operates on a commission base, which means you pay a fee if you find accommodation through their
agency. However, the offers on HostingPower are always reviewed and approved of by their staff, so the
places are usually nicer than on I think it’s important to point out the following: almost all options
were rooms inside a family home – there were almost no student flat-shares (WGs), which I was a little
struck by, since Dublin is a rather large University city that houses a lot of students. So prepare yourself to
live with a “host” family. I came upon the question of whether to prioritize proximity to school or the city
center and initially decided on the latter, but the matter was decided FOR ME by the housing crisis itself,
leaving me little room for choice. I contacted countless ads for weeks but only two even replied in total.
Eventually, I managed to secure a room in a suburb/town through, that meant a good 50-minute bus
ride from the city and 25 minutes from school. Looking back I wouldn’t call this a problem since there were
so many buses that operated between my place and the city center which made going up to Dublin really
easy. However I still find the rent of 800€/month PLUS expenses like gas, electricity, and WiFi adding
another 100€/month very excessive for a room 50 mins from the city center. But this seems to be the reality
you have to face when moving to Dublin, most of the other FLAs had similar rents. My experience with my
landlady however was rather unpleasant. She acted welcoming at first but then later expected me to
basically disappear into thin air every time she was home. She would prefer if I could manage it so that she
“doesn’t really notice I’m there” (???) She gave me a list of time slots in which she’s not home and asked
me to please limit my time in the common rooms (e.g. to cook meals, do laundry, shower etc.) to those time
slots and to otherwise be quiet (she didn’t use those words directly, but that is what she expected). She
was downright delusional. It made the living situation really uncomfortable but in the end I managed to work
around her. This was just MY unlucky experience, other FLAs had great flats – I guess you can never know
if your pick was good until you live there a few weeks. There is no strategy to the housing matter, you just
need a little luck which I hope you will have!!
What you will have to acquaint yourself with is that Dublin in general is a rather expensive city. Still I would
say in hindsight that your salary plus your Erasmus grant will be enough. I didn’t really have to restrict
myself expenses or count every penny though I still tried to spend responsibly. I prioritized trips and
brunches/dinners over pubs and beers, but that is just my personal preference :). Also, a lot of museums
and galleries are free for students or at least discounted. The offers for students are great, so make sure
to look into that. Grocery shopping I mostly did at Lidl and Aldi which are the cheapest options. The Lidl+
App is a game changer when trying to save money, they have amazing offers, you just need the app. Tesco
and Dunnes are great for meal deals and offer a larger assortment. They also have saver options
(Clubcards), but you need an irish phone number to apply for those, I think. Public transport fares like
busses, the Luas (tram), and the Dart (train) are way cheaper if you have a student leap card. It’s an ID
card that you apply for online. You use it to pay public transport and top it up with money via an app. The
whole concept is brilliant if you ask me, there is even a weekly limit to your spendings, which means if you
reach that limit, you travel for free. Cosmetics (shampoo, make-up, moisturizers) and anything drugstore related are really expensive compared to Germany, so if possible, stack up on those at home. You prettymuch will not need cash anywhere, which I found to be really handy. Everything is paid by card, some
places don’t even take cash. My German debit card worked perfectly fine but I switched over to a Revolut
account (including a digital debit card) since I had to pay my rent via Revolut as well.

3. Everyday life/ the internship
I worked at an Irish secondary school on a 12h/week basis. The 12 hours were to be completed from
Monday – Thursday, Friday was a day off. All FLAs usually get either Monday or Friday off in order to be
able to take trips and explore the country. We were all very fond of this rule . So at school I attended 12
German lessons divided between two German teachers. The classes at my school were 60 minutes each,
but other schools also had 45 minute classes.
As a Foreign Language Assistant, my main task at school was to assist the teachers in their lessons. In my
case, this really meant “just assisting” in the beginning. I watched the lesson and helped students where
help was needed. Later on, I planned out little bits about German culture, geography, holidays. I reached
out to the teachers with my ideas, but to my surprise I often heard back “Oh that sounds lovely, but I’m
afraid we have such a tight schedule, maybe next class” or something along those lines. So all in all my
main tasks at school did not really include educating about German culture but rather just assisting and co-teaching stuff from the textbook.

I also did a lot of correcting class tests, vocab tests and homework
assignments, which I enjoyed a lot. Occasionally I did some one-on-one work with students who needed
some additional practice and I helped prepare the leaving cert students (Abiturjahrgang) for their final
exams in German. Looking back on my time, I can say that my role as Language Assistant was not very
well defined. On some occasions, the teachers didn’t seem to know how to make effective use of me and
my qualities. At the end of the day, I still believe that my work affected the students in a positive way and
made them realize that there can be fun in German class, but I would have preferred to be a little more
involved – especially because I expected this program to enable me to improve my own teaching skills /
lesson planning. However, the rather “small” workload (in my case!!!) enabled me to prioritize exploring the
country, which I’m definitely not mad about!
A major issue that I struggled quite a bit with was the language of interaction at school. Technically, Irish
the official language in Ireland but in reality, it is rarely used in day-to-day life. Only some regions on the
Westcoast (they are called Gaeltachts) actually speak Irish daily. The majority of Ireland’s people don’t
speak the language fluently. However, some schools in the greater Dublin Area made it their mission to
revive Irish as a spoken language and bring back some of the forgotten culture (which is an amazing
proposition!). Those Gaelscoils use Irish as the language of interaction and instruction, which means that
no English is spoken at any time by any person on the school grounds. Turns out, I was allocated to a
Gaelscoil. I don’t speak Irish. Sounds quite non-sensical, huh? Spoiler though: It all turned out fine and was
actually really interesting! Of course, the staff and students were all very considerate and always used
English when talking to me. However, there were still some things that I struggled with and made me feel
a bit lost at times. Interacting with my colleagues and just casually chatting in the staff room can be hard
when everyone around you is speaking a language you don’t understand. You can’t just casually drop into
a conversation you overheard with a “oh yeah, that exact thing happened in my class last Friday, too” or
“What is the name of that pub you’re talking about?”. This led to me not really feeling close to most of my
colleagues, I mostly talked to the German teachers I was assigned to. One of them was actually half
German half Irish, we got along really well and she didn’t speak Irish either, meaning her lessons were held
in English. My other teacher strictly spoke Irish during the German lessons which made me feel a bit left
out and awkward. My time at the school was challenging in some ways, but we made the best of it! I learnt
a lot about Irish culture and picked up some bits of Irish, which was fun!

4. Free time/tips
As I said, the FLA program is designed to give you the time and space to do travelling and exploring, which
is fantastic. Most of my weekends were spent with other FLAs in the Dublin Area, we planned a lot of
activities in Dublin and trips around the country. We went out for brunch, coffee and dinner a lot, most of
us not being heavy drinkers so we prioritized restaurants and cafés over pubs. Dublin offers uncountable
options. Just go strolling through town and every 2 minutes you’ll walk past a place that you’ll want to try.
Activity-wise I recommend checking out everything that is free (or discounted) for students: museums, art
galleries, markets. Free-walking-tours are a great way to get a first impression of the city’s must-see places
AND hidden gems. In general, Ireland’s nature and national parks are great for hiking. Sadly, most of the
spectacular hikes are not accessible via public transport, but renting a car to do a trip with some friends is
definitely worth it. Driving on the lest side might be intimidating at first, but you’ll get the hang of it in no
time! Keep in mind though that roads on the countryside can be very narrow and curvy and driving in the
city can be stressful. I recommend renting a car at the airport, since that is usually a little further outside of
the city. During the mid-term break (one week off school in November and February) we took a trip to
Scotland, which was a real highlight. Below you will find a list of recommendations

– Trips around the country
o Kilkenny – 2 hours from Dublin, cute small town, beautiful norman castle
o Galway – 4 hours from Dublin, west coast flair, very cute around Christmas time
o Cork – 3 hours from Dublin, great town & university
o Belfast – Northern Ireland, very pretty city
o Sligo – Sligo city is rather dull but it’s close to Strandhill, surfers paradise, great hiking
options in the whole county (e.g. Queen Maeves grave)
o Killarney + Ring of Kerry – great national park, amazing views, Paddywagon does a great
bus tour
o Wicklow Mountains

– Trips to other destinations
o Edinburgh + Glasgow – great cities
o Scottish highlands – amazing views

– To do in/around Dublin
o Howth cliff walk
o Bray + Bray head
o Malahide + castle
o EPIC Museum
o Craic Den Comedy Club
o Irish Film Institute (for movies)
o Brunch at “Joy of Cha”

5. Conclusion
To conclude: I would recommend doing the FLA program to anybody wanting to explore Ireland (or any
other country they offer). Working at a school and „teaching“ German will give you a whole new perspective
on your own language and it will benefit you in a lot of ways! The Erasmus+ internship grant will enable you
to make the most out of your time. This experience along with all the lovely people I met are now a part of
me that I never want to miss! Time spent abroad will always have some ups and downs, but you will gain
so much from every experience (positive AND negative)

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