In addition to running a mammoth longitudinal study in which we are testing the efficacy of a language learning platform, Altissia, the English Learning Support project has a number of other services for students. The English Café is one of those initiatives. Rahel Papatheodorou, the student assistant who mans the café, decided to tell us a bit more about her life as a distance learner, what it takes to run the English Café and why you ought to drop by from time to time.
What should people know about you?
Well, my name is Rahel or in English Rachel. Since my husband is Greek I travel a lot between my home country Germany and Athens, Greece. I’m almost 25 and in my last semester of the Master in Psychology at the FernUniversität in Hagen. I’ve studied at this university since my undergrad days and am therefore used to distance learning. Still, I understand the difficulties of this format and how lonely it can get. This is also a reason why I embraced the new project of The English Café when I started working as a student assistant. It’s a great opportunity for us distance learners to meet people and talk informally on a daily basis – just in English of course!
What compelled you to join the English Learning Support team?
For the people who don’t know this yet: I partly grew up in Ethiopia. And because where we lived there were no schools yet, my mother taught us. The only home-schooling system that existed, however, was American. This is the reason why I grew up with English almost as a mother tongue. So, when I saw that there was an open position for a student assistant where English was the most important requirement, I went for it immediately! I love this language and can’t stress enough how important it is for all of us to at least be able to communicate our basic thoughts in English.
Now this is also what I do at the English Learning Support service. I moderate The English Café sessions and try to encourage people to speak the language even if it’s not perfect yet. This is the most efficient way to learn. Apart from The English Café I also write articles for the ELS website and take on other tasks in order to help this project develop.
What have you learnt since you started working as a student assistant?
I have learnt a lot about this university, the way it functions and all the helpful opportunities it offers that I didn’t know about. I can only encourage students to search the studyFIT website for programmes every now and then. Concerning ELS and my work in The English Café, I have learnt to talk about pretty much anything in an informal setting with the students that drop by. All of them have their stories, their preferences and wishes; and, we always have something to talk about! It’s also nice to be so diverse as a group because we have visitors from many different nations, backgrounds and cultures and with different English accents. It’s definitely interesting every single time I join.
Apart from work, how else do you fill your days?
Well, my studies take up much of my time, but there are also duties of the household and living as a grown-up. The most fun parts of my daily life are meeting with friends and spending time in nature. I’m quite extraverted; therefore, I love meeting people and caring for my friends, so I try to spend many evenings and days with the people around me. But I also love nature, the mountains and the sea. When I can, I go on small adventures as often as possible. Another big part of my life is the local church. I engage in activities, attend services and other meetings and volunteer for programmes or wherever help is needed, trying to also build a bridge between Greece and Germany.
Why should new (and current) students visit the English Café in the new semester?
Well, first of all in order to have a place to practise speaking English from time to time. But meeting other students from all over the world and the informal fun talks in the evening are also bonuses. And last but not least, join because you have nothing to lose! If you like it, you stay. If you don’t, you can freely leave any time. If you’re free in the evening, you join. If you’re busy, you join another day. No pressure, no formal lessons, just a bunch of people talking in English!
We meet on Mondays and Wednesdays from 5 to 6pm and on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7 to 8pm. Tuesdays are unmonitored, meaning that there is no Student Assistant present; however, that should not stop you from logging in to chat to the other attendees.
Finally, we occasionally have some guest speakers to lead discussions. So, do make sure to visit The English Café this summer semester.