Accessibility navigation

A day in the life of...Dr Melani Schroeter, Lecturer in the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies

Dr Melani Schroeter

'I really enjoy interacting with my students and helping them develop their ideas, but I also love writing for publication and really getting stuck into my research.'

Dr Melani Schroeter has been a Lecturer at the University for five years. Here she outlines what her work involves and tells us about the differences she has found in the way German and English universities are run...

When did you join the University?

I started in the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies in 2007. I moved to England for the first time with my partner and daughter from Germany, to begin my job as Lecturer in German Studies. Before that I was studying for my PhD and worked part time at the University of Leipzig.

What do you like about working here?

Reading is a great place to work - a more than well-established university with a distinct Arts and Humanities profile, and a beautiful campus. It's been really interesting to see the similarities and differences between English and German universities, and comparing the two Higher Education systems.

Tell us more about that...

The difference in the way universities are run in England compared to in Germany was surprising and took some getting used to. Here it seems that changes in government policy have an immediate impact on daily life at universities, requiring the institution and every member of staff to adapt to ever-changing situations, but in Germany things are a lot more slow moving and it takes a while for any changes to come into effect.

In Germany, students hardly pay any fees at all, but this also means that the universities don't look after them as much as they do here; in the UK there is a lot more support for students and they are much better catered for in terms of both welfare and their studies, so more is required of us as teachers.

What does your work involve?

Teaching and research are the main components of my role. My main research area is within the field of Applied Linguistics, Critical Discourse Analysis; particularly political discourse, media discourse and popular music. I have recently finished writing a book about silence and concealment in political discourse and I am now exploring further some new routes, such as discourses of normality and denormalisation in German punk bands' lyrics.

I am also doing more and more comparative studies; for example, I recently looked at the way the German and British media compared Angela Merkel to Margaret Thatcher when Merkel became chancellor in 2005. I have also just completed an article about the political key word ‘multicultural society/multikulturelle Gesellschaft', which seems easy to translate, but is in fact used in quite different ways in the British and German discourses in relation to migration.

What can students coming to Reading to study Modern Languages expect from their course?

It's a four year course, with one year spent abroad. A third of the course is dedicated  to developing students' language skills, the other two thirds is learning about German culture - we offer modules dealing with history, literature, film as well as applied linguistics. This means that students who study for combined honours can link their German Studies very well with their other subjects.  It's quite a small team of us who teach German Studies, but we work within the larger Department of Modern Languages and European Studies.

Can you describe a typical day in the life of a Lecturer?

It's quite difficult to tell you about a typical day as things are very different during term time and in vacations.

In term time my day is usually split between teaching, administrative tasks, answering emails, marking, supervising  students' dissertations or meeting with students in my role as their personal tutor, and I try to fit in some research where I can.

During the student vacation the majority of my time is spent getting on with my research, i.e. writing articles or preparing papers for conferences and delivering talks at conferences. Sometimes I won't look at my emails until the end of the day so I can fit in a whole day working on something without distractions. I am also Conference Secretary for the Association of German Studies in the UK and Ireland, so I organise our annual meetings - the next one is taking place in Edinburgh.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I really enjoy interacting with my students and helping them develop their ideas, but I also love writing for publication and really getting stuck into my research. Whilst I enjoy both of these aspects I don't think that I could do one of them exclusively all the time, so the contrast between the busy term time and the slightly quieter vacation is a welcome one, although it seems to be a never ending challenge to find a balance between these two aspects.

What do you find challenging?

When I first came over to England to work at Reading I found dealing with two languages at the same time a challenge, but I have got used to it. When I am reading or talking in English I don't translate to German in my head, however I find myself publishing more and more in English and then I have to translate German material for an Anglophone audience which makes me feel even more like a cultural mediator.

What do you especially like about the University of Reading?

I keep comparing things over here to my first work experience abroad, and I appreciate the support that is available to staff and the clearer career paths. I have seen no equivalent of the Centre for the Development of Teaching and Learning (CDoTL) in Germany, and the support that Research and Enterprise provide for funding applications is very helpful indeed. It also seems vital that there is this support because there is considerable pressure on UK academics .

Page navigation

Search Form

Main navigation