Learning German - from beginner to prize winner

Posted on: 19 April 2021 by Isobel Hartley in 2021 posts

Student in graduation gown and cap

Isobel graduated in 2019 and here she tells us about her journey learning German at Liverpool - from starting as a beginner to becoming a prize winner!

From beginner to prize winner  

Learning German in four years from scratch was a daunting challenge to say the least, but it is do-able and it is possible to do it well. I studied ab-initio German at Liverpool from 2015-2019, with my 3rd year abroad in Würzburg, Bavaria. Although we are a family of Bavarian descendants, until me, none of us spoke any German. Through studying this at Liverpool, I wanted to reinstate this section of our family heritage… so no pressure! 

Look out for those letters 

There were several turbulent and extremely stressful times, but I am happy to report that in the end everything turned out well, culminating in one spectacularly proud day in July 2019. 

There had been two letters from the University of Liverpool sat on the kitchen table for a day or so, which I had been reluctant to open as I expected some form of admin task or worse, an invoice. I finally got round to opening letter number one - I had been awarded the David Williams prize for best overall performance. Already in a state of elation, roll on letter number two - I had also won the Korbach prize for best dissertation! Step number three - welled up a bit, made my parents cry, and then reached for the fizz. 

A secret formula?

Unfortunately I cannot share any magic hacks that led to winning the David Williams prize. I had actually never heard of either prize, so I don’t think there are any formulae to follow. In my case it was all simply down to good old fashioned hard work. 

The same goes for the Korbach prize: a tonne of hard work + equal amounts of unbending persistence + treats to look forward to = got me through.

One piece of dissertation advice that I can offer, is take your time choosing a topic! It is better to start a little later but be sure of a topic that you like, than to rush into something. Having to dedicate a huge amount of time to something that you aren’t interested in must surely be when the despair hits.  

Looking to the future

After a ‘gap year’ of working, I am now studying an MA in Cultural Heritage Management. This is of course very different to German, but I know for a fact that my undergraduate achievements played a large part in bolstering both my MA  and job applications. The skills you will demonstrate by achieving well during your BA will help you infinitely afterwards, often in ways that may not seem directly connected at face value. 

Life beyond the library 

I hope this has formed some sort of inspiration, but as a concluding note I would just like to make it clear that I did in fact have a life during my final year too, beyond studying. Most of all I hope to reassure you that it can be done alongside enjoying your precious uni days, which is equally important! 

Oh and one final thing… always read your mail.


Discover more

More about our student prizes.

Study a language at the University of Liverpool.