Christoph Lens from Germany came to study English in our Summer School in 2012. He continued his studies with us on our Bridging Course and Intensive English classes until November. He was a pleasure to teach. Thanks Christoph.
Hi Christoph, Thanks for taking the time to do this interview with me. I really appreciate it.
Brendan: First of all, can you tell us a little about yourself? Where are you from? What are you studying?
Christoph: Sure! My name is Christoph, I’m from Southwest Germany. My region is located next to France, which is why we can enjoy their fresh pastries. I’m studying English and Religious Education in order to become a secondary school teacher.
Brendan: Why did you choose to come to take an English language course at UCC Language Centre? How did you hear about our Language Centre?
Christoph: Well, first of all, the reason for going abroad was that I was obliged to. Language students of my university have to stay for a certain time in a country in which their studied language is spoken as an official language. As our stay abroad is supposed to be communicative and productive, I thought I could make the most of my time when attending a language course. I looked for a language course at a university, because I wanted professional teachers and a strong connection to a student community. Before choosing UCC, I had checked different websites and had leafed through many flyers. UCC Language Centre seemed to be the perfect place, because it combines the quality of teaching with a location worth exploring as well as a welcoming community. I think all the festivals in Cork and the university’s reputation tipped the scales.
Brendan: What about the cost of the courses? As a Saarland University student did you get a discount?
Christoph: The price was reasonable. Needless to say, there are always ‘cheaper’ possibilities…but on the other hand, you’ll get what you paid for. I got helpful teachers and a caring staff, could I ask for more? I didn’t get a discount for being a student from Saarland University, but it would have been grand.
Brendan: Before coming to Ireland, what did you know about our country?
Christoph: Before coming to Ireland, I knew about leprechauns, the black stuff and Penneys. No. I learned some facts about Ireland during my course of studies. Especially, since I attended a course on Irish culture and history. However, the moment I literally stepped on Irish soil, I realized how little I actually knew.
Brendan: When you arrived what was the biggest surprise for you?
Christoph: The weather. No really, the weather. Everyone told me to prepare for rain the whole time. However, I mostly had brilliant weather. There were some cold days and you should always be prepared for a quick downpour, but it all balances out. It was great, after making a raincoat my fulltime companion.
Brendan: Did you stay with an Irish family or in student accommodation?
Christoph: I stayed in student accommodation.
Brendan: Is Cork a safe place for students?
Christoph: In my opinion, Cork is a safe place for students. I’ve never encountered any real dangers.
Brendan: Are Cork people friendly?
Christoph: As far as I can tell, Cork people are lovely. It’s sometimes hard to understand them, because they have a certain intonation. Apart from that, I had only good times with them. I found them very welcoming and open-minded.
Brendan: What about the nighlife and the world-famous Irish pubs? Did you have a good social life?
Christoph: Oh yes, absolutely. Cork features a bunch of good locations, regardless what you are interested in. No matter whether you like live music, dancing, bowling or good food, you can find everything in Cork. Mixing or making acquaintances isn’t complicated, since Irish people seem to be interested in ‘strangers’.
Brendan: What were your classes and teachers like?
Christoph: In sum, my classes were interesting. They helped me to iron out some fossilized errors and gave me the opportunity to improve my communication skills during class time. My teachers encouraged me to ‘go out into the world and learn’. You could say that their intention was to equip us with a good set of skills and then send us out to practice. ‘Learning is a life-long process’ is something I learned at my home university and my Irish teachers showed us that our classroom is not that room in which we sat five times a week, but rather the whole town or wherever we went (as long as we spoke English). What is more, all teachers were interested in their students and were happy to help them. Everyone took the time for an ‘end of class’ chat. In my opinion, they did a great job.
Brendan: What was the daily routine for you?
Christoph: My daily routine consisted of getting up, running to university, learning with my classmates, going to the gym, reviewing my lessons and doing homework, writing a research paper and then meet with people (to learn ).
Brendan: Where did your classmates come from?
Christoph: My classmates came from all around the world. Since I stayed for thirteen weeks, there was quite some fluctuation in my classes. Spain, France, Italy, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Korea, China and Japan just to name a few of their home countries.
Brendan: Did you make friends with your classmates?
Christoph: Yes, I did. We often organized group dinners or went to attractions in Ireland together. Also, we had some beverages in pubs together.
Brendan: Did the course help your in your university studies?
Christoph: In short, yes it has helped me. I think you can learn something every day and you have to constantly develop (and improve). There is a proverb, which says (more or less): “When you stop improving, you stopped being good.” The course provided me with the scaffolding for that.
Brendan: While you were in Ireland, did you get to visit different parts of Ireland?
Christoph: Oh yes, I travelled around Ireland. When in Ireland you have to travel around! The language centre offered weekly tours to places of interest during summer school and I was lucky enough to go with them.
Brendan: What was the best place for you?
Christoph: That is not easy to tell. Maybe I have to say UCC was the best place, because my Ireland adventure started from there.
Brendan: If one of your friends was coming to UCC Language Centre, what advice would you give them?
Christoph: Speak English, mix with locals, join university clubs or societies, use your free gym access, and use every opportunity to travel around the country. Ah and the most important: Bring your raincoat!
Brendan: What did you miss about Germany when you were in Cork?
Christoph: I only missed what I left in Germany: My girlfriend and my cats.
Brendan: What do you miss about Cork, now that you are back in Germany?
Christoph: First and foremost, the people I met. Thinking back to my stay always leaves me smiling. Second, the city itself. Cork has a certain atmosphere with its little streets, its events and dozens of cafés and bakeries. Last but not least, Ireland’s diversity. You only have to drive 30 minutes by car and you can experience a completely different side of Ireland.
Brendan: I hope you will come back to Cork. Will you?
Christoph: Yes, I’m going to come back. I don’t know when, but I really want to come to Cork again.