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English teacher: 'Seeing a smile'

Ara Donabedian  


Ara Donabedian


English Teaching Assistant. I assist the teaching of English at two schools in the small town of Moedling, just outside of Vienna, Austria.

Time in position

I just started in October 2000. And my contract ends this week. I'm looking for another job now -- I'd like to do something in international business, something in German and English.


I'm 22, and I'm a Scorpio.


I graduated with at BA in Economics and German from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts.

graphic Would you like to teach your native language and culture to students in another country?

Yes, oui, si, ja, you betcha.
Maybe, but I think I'd get lonely for my culture as I taught it.
No. Not my bag at all.
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How did you get your current job?

I applied for it while I was still in school. Many other teaching assistants are doing the same thing in Europe.

How many hours do you work per week? And what are your hours -- as in, what time of day or night?

I am officially supposed to teach 12 hours a week, but I spend lots of time preparing lessons after school too.

What's the first thing you do when you get to work in the morning?

Xerox my lesson plans for the students, or grab a cup of coffee

What time do you have lunch? What do you usually eat?

I love eating the famous Wiener Schnitzel sandwiches from one of the many Imbiss (quick eats) stands

What time do things get tense around the office? What makes it that way?

Sometimes it gets stressful if the students start asking me questions I can't answer. But otherwise it's a stress-free job.

If you're having a good day at work, what is it that makes it good?

Having fun with the students, and knowing that they're enjoying the English I'm teaching them. I especially like discussions about the differences between American and Austrian culture.

Ara Donabedian was born in North Carolina and at age 5 moved with his family to a United States military base in Germany. They lived for nine years in Munich, then for six years in Augsberg. Donabedian then returned to the States for college. Part of the pleasure of being in Austria as a teacher, he says, has been the chance to see Slovakia's rapid development as an emerging economy. And we met Donabedian when he let us know about his day on the job. You can do that, too. Just click here for our handy submission form..

How much work, if any, do you take home?

Quite a bit of my work is done at home preparing lessons about American culture.

What does your work contribute to society?

Teaching these students will prepare them for whatever they do. English is a very important skill for them to have, especially if they eventually work at a multi-national corporation.

If you could have two more careers, what would they be?

I'd love to work for a United States government intelligence organization dealing with current affairs in Europe -- or maybe being a professional golfer on tour in the U.S. would be nice too.

What's an unforgivable trait in a colleague?

Sometimes teachers I'm assisting have me teach about stuff about which I haven't a clue. But most of my colleagues are great.

What do you do to relieve stress?

I enjoy exploring the many tiny alleys of Vienna, or traveling throughout Western and Central Europe.

What have you been reading lately?

"1984" by George Orwell, and "A History of Slovakia: The Struggle for Survival" (1996, St. Martin's Press) by Stanislav J. Kirschbaum.

When you have one of those days on which you think you can't face the job again, what is it that gets you out the door in the morning and off to work?

Perhaps the most enjoyable thing about teaching here in Austria is the opportunity I have to act as an American ambassador. Most of the students here had never met an American. By showing them the United States in a good light, I can help many students learn and appreciate our culture.

Also nothing beats seeing a smile on a students face after he or she learns a new English word!


• College of the Holy Cross
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