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Driving instructor Arslan: “For me, a journey doesn’t end when the engine is off.”

Photo: Private

Starting your working life is exciting, exhausting – and often completely different than planned.

In the series “My First Year in the Job,” young professionals talk about how they experienced this time.

This time: Gamze Arslan, 30, works as a trainee driving instructor in Berlin.

»The passenger seat is my home, I feel comfortable in it.

For almost a year I have been guiding my students through the streets of Berlin, often through Spandau or past the Olympic Stadium.

I'm still a driving instructor candidate and only finished my training in the middle of this year, but I'm still allowed to give lessons on my own.

So far I have taught about 15 people to drive.

Previously, I worked in supermarkets and fashion stores for ten years.

Shifts on weekends and often in the evenings – that was difficult to reconcile with my life as a mother of two.

I longed for more time for my family.

And for a job that fulfilled me.

I've always enjoyed being behind the wheel, I love the smooth nature of the automatic transmission, the freedom and how quiet the car is.

A few years ago, when I was giving my sister tips for her driving test, I realized how much fun I was having.

Training to become a driving instructor lasts one to one and a half years and begins with a theoretical part.

At an education center I learned more about traffic law, engines and how to drive in a fuel-efficient manner.

What I found most exciting was the educational part, where we were shown, using case studies, how to calm nervous novice drivers.

During the practical part, an experienced driving instructor sat behind me in the first few weeks, but now I teach alone.

There are still two training tests ahead of me before I can call myself a driving instructor.

It is often said that driving instructors are lazy and just sit on the sidelines.

That's not true.

I have to be vigilant, I must never switch off.

The first few months were particularly stressful, I had to pay attention to so many things at the same time: giving precise instructions, anticipating traffic flow, observing the students' behavior.

I often felt empty and mentally tired in the evenings.

I now like how demanding and varied the job is: I always have to improvise, no two days are the same.

As a trained driving instructor, you are usually paid based on driving lessons.

According to the job platform Stepstone 

You get at least a gross salary of 3,000 euros per month, although the salaries vary depending on the federal state.

I have enough money to live on - and it's about the same as what I earned in retail.

Of course, I now also take on weekend and late shifts.

But most of the time I can decide when and how long I want to work.

This way, my job can be better combined with my role as a mother.

Parking made easy

I spend about five hours a day in the car.

In addition to young adults, older people who still want to get their driver's license also get behind the wheel.

Unfortunately, a prejudice has been confirmed for me: women often drive worse than men.

They tend to be nervous and timid, whereas most men drive in a relaxed, intuitive manner.

For me, a journey is not over when the engine is off, but only when I have filled out the training chart card.

There I document the students' learning progress and plan what I want to teach in the next lesson.

If I notice that there is still a problem or someone is very excited, I practice in traffic-calmed areas and deliberately make the parking exercises simple.

This often eases the nervousness.

It hasn't happened yet that anyone has dropped out.

So far I have gotten everyone through the test.

Mixed up the pedals when turning

Driving in no other city is probably as stressful as in Berlin.

Constant traffic jams, constant hustle and bustle, something can happen at any time.

Luckily I haven't had an accident yet.

Once we almost collided with a motorcyclist while turning left; my student mixed up the pedals and stopped in the middle of the intersection.

I shouted: 'Feet off!' - but she had already reacted herself and accelerated in time.

After such shocking moments, it is important to be empathetic.

You can't reach insecure new drivers by shouting at them or blaming them.

Instead, you should praise them for what they achieved.

In general, to survive in this profession you have to be patient.

My driving students often say: 'You always remain so calm.' That makes me proud.

Other road users are often annoyed by us driving school cars, they honk or follow closely.

We're just doing our job and sticking to the speed limit.

Many people probably don't understand that their aggressive driving style increases the pressure on new drivers.

Still, I like my job – working with different people, the unpredictable.

I think it's best when my students pass the practical exam.

Tears roll down for me too.”

Have you just started your career and would like to tell us about it?

Then write to us at SPIEGEL-Start@spiegel.de.