My little challenge
Ingrid Hoffmann

A Canadian Work & Travel student reports from Germany

Every so often in life we are given opportunities that seem too good to good to be true. I recently took advantage of one of these golden opportunities and for the past two and a half months I have been working as a Canadian summer student at the Steigenberger Grandhotel Petersberg, Germany. Moving abroad to work for a summer is not always an easy or comfortable experience, but I already know that when I will look back I will be grateful for every part of this adventure.

The Steigenberger Grandhotel Petersberg

After two years of studying German at university I signed up for the Werkstudentenprogramm, which arranges summer work and travel opportunities for Canadian students in Germany. My resume and cover letter were sent to multiple employers across Germany, and I was hired by the Steigenberger Grandhotel Petersberg alongside four other students from across Canada. We live and work together at the five-star hotel, majestically situated atop Petersberg Mountain in the Siebengebirge Nature Park.

The beginning of our stay here was a little challenging. We arrived to be welcomed by some of Germany’s worse summer weather in years, which meant that there was little to do at work. As a result, I developed near professional polishing skills after hours of practice. When the weather suddenly improved, I had to quickly learn to match the fast pace of the hotel’s very popular bistro. At the beginning, I had a constant fear of heaving to communicate with guests while my German was still rudimentary. As someone with a typical German name on my nametag I have had to explain to guests on multiple occasions why German is not my mother tongue. However, more often than not these guests would happily chat about the experience and congratulate me on the language skills I did have. I tried to keep a list of all of the interesting and inspiring guests I have met while serving here, but there have been too many to count.

Left to right: Kevin Champagne-Jorgensen, Susan Kroker,
Josh McGee, Krystal Belsito and Ingrid Hoffmann © DKG

My employers and co-workers have also made this experience an incredibly positive one by being overwhelmingly friendly and supportive. There are a few stacks of German books, for all ages, sitting in our living room that have been loaned out to us to practice our German from many people I haven’t even met in the office. We have also been supplied with board games, 45 channels of German TV, and an online language course. As it was becoming increasingly difficult to walk in my poorly chosen work shoes, a coworker took the day to help me find better ones in Bonn. I have become great friends with many of my coworkers here, while whiling away the hours together doing room service, or waiting around until 1 am to deliver dinner to the presidential suite.

I will take away a lot from this summer. My German has improved beyond what I thought it would, I’ve developed some amazing friendships, and I’m sure my parents can’t wait for me to polish all of our cutlery and glasses at home. My serving experience will no doubt be essential to finding a job next summer. On a more personal level, I have become much more aware of the way I interact with people at work and at home, having had to live and work with complete strangers.

I also believe that the benefits of my, and my fellow Canadian students’ stay here extend beyond that which we have personally gained. We have been fantastic tools for English-speaking guests; we’ve helped our co-workers improve their English; and hopefully we have inspired others to try moving somewhere beyond their comfort zone and experience the world differently.

While serving a North American cruise ship dinner I met a guest from Toronto. He told me, “I wish I had done something like this when I was your age.” I am extremely happy to be experiencing Germany like this now, but I also know that it isn’t the last time I’ll take on this kind of challenge.

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My experience in Germany has been invaluable. In addition to learning German and taking part in another culture, I have learned so much about myself. I am confident that I can thrive away from the comforts of home and that I am dynamic and flexible. This is exactly what today’s employers are looking for – giving me a competitive advantage in the working world.
Kate from British Columbia – working for an international not-for-profit organisation.