Home. Transitions Abroad founded 1977.  
Travel Work Living Teach Intern Volunteer Study Language High School
  Study AbroadStudent Writing Contest ► 2010 Finalist

Student Writing Contest Finalist

Learning to Teach English in Germany

A Semester of Studying, Living, and Traveling while Studying for a TEFL Degree

by Noemi Hayslett
Resources updated by 12/10/2023

Dresden, Germany at Christmas.
Dresden, Germany at its Christmas height.

"This," said my co-teacher, pointing to a pen she held. She pointed at a pen I was having, "That."

"Zis!" repeated the beginner's class enthusiastically. "Zat!"

My fellow teacher and I exchanged smiles and proceeded to stick our tongues between our teeth and point to our mouths while making an odd "ttthhhhh" sound. We explained this was the only way to make the dreaded "th" sound possible.

Our students shook their heads in dismay and tried again, "Zis! Zat!"

The TEFL program 

The year before, as a sophomore in college, I decided that I wanted to make study abroad a reality. When my roommate randomly sent me a link for a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certificate program through Kent State University, I began researching earnestly. I had just recently switched my major to sociology but was also very interested in English teaching overseas. While many programs offer TEFL certificates in record time, I wanted something that would give me college credit and be more comprehensive than a four-week program could ever promise. As it turned out, the website my roommate sent to me proved the best option and included:

  • Eighteen credit hours I could easily transfer back to my college

  • A patient contact person to answer my countless questions

  • Relatively low cost for study abroad (Kent State tuition price)

  • Hands-on experience observing and teaching

  • A certificate at program completion that would enable me to teach English in any country where English is not the first language

And all of this while living in Germany for the whole spring semester! It was almost too good to be true. 


I was sold on the idea after attending an informational meeting at Kent State University, where I met a few other students and the director. I completed the application process and figured out some details about studying abroad. I learned that the following questions should be answered before going abroad. They are applicable regardless of country or program.

  • Is my passport valid? It is a good idea to ensure your passport is valid for up to six months after you return, so be sure to renew it.

  • Do I need a visa? Each country has different regulations. See's section on international visas and embassies for where to get your visa for any country. It could be free, but it could also cost as much as €160. For study in Germany, U.S. citizens can wait until they are there to get a visa, which costs about €75.

  • How do I get insurance? It is a must to have insurance while abroad. Kent State already provides an insurance package, as many programs do. If you need to obtain your own, check out these insurance companies, with many offering affordable insurance to students going abroad. Getting an International Student Identity Card delivers many other discounts for students abroad.

  • Do I need to fill out forms for my home college/university? Like most universities, mine had a study abroad application and informational sheets I needed to fill out. You may also need to fill out forms for transferring credit before you leave. Check with the study abroad office at your university for information.

  • How much will it cost? Before you go, you should have a rough idea of how much money you will spend. This includes the following costs:

    • Program fees
    • Accommodation (if not provided)
    • Meals
    • Transportation while abroad
    • Airfare
    • Books and class supplies
    • Passport
    • Visa
    • Insurance
    • Spending money

Also, check with your bank or credit card company for extra charges that may apply abroad. The Euro does not have the exact same value as the U.S. dollar and usually fluctuates below being on par, so you may run out of money if you think that way. It would help if you considered currency conversions and the local cost of living, and sites such as Numbeo can help you estimate.

Wilkommen in Dresden! 

After reading the above, the process leading up to a semester abroad may appear too complicated and require too much effort to be worthwhile. I could not disagree more with that conclusion. Nothing can compare to being immersed in a new culture. It may challenge you but will broaden your horizons and provide lasting friendships, experiences, and stories to last a lifetime.

“All passengers should have now boarded Flight 706 to Munich, Germany,” said the loudspeaker in the Philadelphia airport. 

My thick sweater and warm winter boots were a curse as I ran frantically through the terminal. Completely breathless and red-faced, I finally reached gate A23 and handed the bemused ticket agent my boarding pass. It was 6:25 p.m. The flight was to leave in 10 minutes. I had just made it!

There was another passenger right behind me. He was not breathless or red-faced. Apparently, he was not too concerned about missing the flight. The ticket agent thought we were together and asked if he would stay in Germany until May. I glanced back and decided for him: "No."

Thus began my 4-month adventure in Dresden, Germany. Thankfully, the rest of my time was less intense than the first 24 hours.

Once I finally made it to Germany after some rather tight connecting flights, the program director awaited me to my new "home" — a room at the International Guesthouse. The room was in a high-rise apartment building across from Technische Universitat Dresden (TUD). It was ideally situated within walking distance of my classes, the tram stop, and even a grocery store.

The director ensured we got a preliminary tour of Dresden, which included the old and new sections separated by the river Elbe. Filled with images of history and culture, we were amazed by the variety of music and art venues. If you are in Dresden, you should check out the Dresden tourism site, or Google “Dresden events” for specific dates and events.

Getting to know the culture in which you will be staying long-term requires more than just acting the part of a tourist. The personal connection is what makes the difference. We met some local German students through a language partner program, but also through going out to the local bars, cafes, or even churches. Since our TEFL program was separate from the local university, making contact was up to us.

Through these local contacts, we found out about the student discount to the opera (four performances for €20), the enormous Grosser Garten where everyone would go to hang out, the bakery discounts an hour before they close, and music bars like Blue Note Jazz Club.

Dresden, Germany at Night.
Dresden, Germany at Night. Photo by Noemi Hayslett.

The program itself proved to be an excellent experience for me. I loved learning about linguistics and grammar (OK, so I'm a nerd) and learned much from the local English teachers we observed. We also had to teach a community English class to some local Germans. One of my classmates created an insightful blog with video footage of us teaching and sharing tips for other students planning a semester abroad.

Local train pulling into the station among green hills.
Local train pulling into the station.

Traveling on a Budget in Germany 

If you are like me and would rather spend money on a train ticket than an expensive meal, I have provided some tips below that you might find helpful.

Germans pride themselves in their train system. If you visit their official trains website, you can type in any city combination to see times and prices. Unlike some of their neighbors to the south, German trains run like clockwork, and I have rarely faced a problem. The ICE is the fastest train but also costs more. Regional trains (RE) are the cheapest and slower alternative. A personal favorite is to buy a weekend-only "Schönes-Wochenende-Ticket." For around €35, you can buy a ticket for five people to travel anywhere on the RE trains. The tickets are valid for either all day Saturday or all day Sunday. German regions also have their special offers. For example, we used the "Saxon Ticket" to travel anywhere in Saxony — even up to the Polish and Czech borders. Speaking of borders, since the EU, there is no such thing as border crossing. In Dresden, Polish pierogis and Czech beer were only an hour away.

If you want to travel west toward France by train, besides the German train system, check out the official French train site. They often have special deals from major German cities to Paris.

Perhaps trains are not your thing and you would prefer to spend that time sightseeing or exploring. If you like meeting new people, consider another German novelty: an upscale version of carpooling in German known as "mitfahrgelegenheit." At BlaBlaCar you can type in your intended destination and see if anyone else is going your way. People will post when and where they are going along with how many seats they have available. Usually costing a fraction of other transportation options, this is a time and money saving option. If the timing works out, give it a try!

Cheap flights are also popular for traveling around Europe. Sites like and will offer endless possibilities for venturing outside Germany. The closest airport to Dresden is Berlin Schonefeld Airport. Still, a bus line travels directly to the airport several times daily. And if you are OK with paying more, Dresden also has its own airport.

More Tips for Traveling and Living in Germany 

If you decide you would like to have a cell phone while in Germany, there are some very cheap options. Most European cell phones run on pre-paid cards that you insert in the back of the phone. You can buy these at almost any convenience or grocery store. So all you need to do is find a cheap phone. Be forewarned that they may have you show your passport and proof of housing before they sell you the phone. I went to the local electronics store and found the cheapest cell phone. The phone was in pretty bad shape, but I only planned on using it for a few months. Mine even came with a €10 pre-paid card for free.

Skype (and many other competing tools) is a beautiful way to communicate with friends and family back home. Once you have downloaded the free program from Skype you can chat or talk to others who have the program at no cost. Skype also offers impressive rates for calling cell and landlines. Just check on the website for specific offers.

Be sure to check the weather before you go. It can be annoying to be stuck with clothing that does not match the temperature. Bringing an umbrella or a waterproof jacket is a good idea regardless of where you go.

Do not even bother bringing things like hair dryers or curling irons. They will generally "die" while trying to function with the increased voltage…even with a converter. Laptops, however, work fine. Most of them have a built-in converter and only need an adapter for plugging in to the wall. You can purchase these in the U.S., but I just waited until I went to the local electronics store. Google "European adaptors" for more information on your needs and where to use them.

Finally, feel free to get lost. Seriously. It adds to the whole experience. Most locals are more than glad to help and show you around. And who knows, you might meet a new friend in the process.

For More Info

Kent State’s TEFL Program

German railway

Related Topics
Student Participant Stories
Living Abroad in Germany: The Best Expatriate Resources
Study Abroad in Germany
Study German in Germany

About Us  
Contact Us  
© 1997-2024 Transitions Abroad Publishing, Inc.
Privacy Policy Cookie Policy Terms and Conditions California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) Opt-Out IconYour Privacy Choices Notice at Collection