A story about a student of mine who fought for her dreams
English Level: B1 🇨🇦
I met Zhenya at the end of 2018, a friendly but shy woman in her late 20s. She stuttered as she told me, “I move in Germany as teenager and focused learning German, not English.” She told me her dream was to work for Infineon. A semiconductor manufacturer with over 50,000 employees around the world. Working for Infineon would allow her to maximize her potential as a chemical engineer and provide stability for her family in the east of Germany. The main obstacle standing in her way was her poor English level.
After our first call, I remember thinking, “oh boy, this will be a challenge.”
I put on my teaching hat and got to work. I taught her how to develop the right mindset for learning and the most effective methods to learn a language. She learned the fundamentals of English grammar and expanded her business vocabulary. She was open to instruction and completed the tasks I asked her to do. All the while, she kept her eyes open to job postings at Infineon. Nothing appeared, and life at her current company left her tossing and turning at night.
Colleagues envied her work ethic, and her manager showed little respect for women. I suggested she focus on the big picture. “Why do you go to work? Is it to argue with colleagues or to provide a better life for your children? How can you grow your experience and expertise now to present Infineon a better CV the next time you apply?”
Long-term learning is ineffective under high stress levels, so I recommended we take a break.
At the end of 2019, she contacted me again. Zhenya was calmer and in a better state of mind. She had completed an important project for her company that saved it millions of euros. I was all smiles as she told me how she had automated processes that lowered costs and sped up production. She told me, “my dream of working for Infineon is still alive. Can we continue lessons together?”
We brushed up on old concepts she had forgotten, and I helped her work through her fear of speaking with international clients.
Then the pandemic hit. As a full-time worker with two young daughters, she now had to work and manage her daughters’ schooling. Her husband, a self-employed car salesman, lost his business from one day to the next. So again, we decided to take a break from our lessons.
Over a year passed before she reached out to me again. By this point, I had enough knowledge to know her strengths and weaknesses, so I developed a plan that focused on her areas of growth.
One day she said to me, “I’ve got an interview with Infineon!” I was excited for her and prepared interview questions to help her practice. We also discussed how to present yourself, small talk before an interview, and what questions to ask the interviewer.
The day of the interview arrived, and I nervously awaited an update. She told me she had a good feeling but didn’t know if she’d get the job. They told her to wait two weeks for a response. Two weeks later, there was no answer. Competition for well-paid jobs is fierce in the east of Germany, so she concluded they must have chosen someone better.
Three weeks later and she finally got an answer. She was the newest employee of Infineon Technologies AG. I raised my hands in celebration and did a happy dance. Years of hard work had paid off.
On the final day at her company, she sent me a message that said, “Jorge, it’s my last day at work, and I feel sad. I don’t know if I’ve made the right decision. Why do I have these doubts?”
I told her that when I experience fear, doubt, or anxiety, I get into an imaginary car and have a conversation with the feeling. “Hello Doubt, you’re allowed to sit in the car, but I’m not letting you drive. I know you want to prevent me from reaching my destination, but you’re not in control. I’m in the driver’s seat.”
Later that day, she wrote me that she had spoken with her Doubt on the drive home and told it exactly what I had explained. She was now ready and confident to begin the next chapter of her life.
- stutter (verb): stottern
- provide (verb): bieten
- envy (verb): beneiden
- fierce (adj.): erbittert
- doubt (noun): Zweifel
- confident (adj.): selbstbewusst
Phrases to Remember
- toss and turn: to move about and turn over in bed because one is unable to sleep
- all smiles: happy and smiling
- brush up on: improve one’s existing knowledge or skill in a particular area.
- area of growth: areas a person can improve on
- pay off: (of a course of action) yield good results; succeed.
Question to Consider
What have you overcome in your life?
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