To give you insight into the Fulbright year I spent at St. John’s University in Minnesota (Oh ya, you betcha!), I would like to describe four things that I really enjoyed.
Every semester, there is something called the “24-hour Play Festival” at the College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University (CSB/SJU). A group of incredibly talented students get together to write, direct, rehearse and perform a total of eight plays in 24 hours. Last January, I wrote an eight-minute play and acted in it as well. Even though I had about an hour of sleep (and there was more blood in my caffeine than caffeine in my blood), I enjoyed every second of the experience and it was a total blast. Having taught in Austria before coming to the United States, I was able to gather some valuable experiences as well.
One of my German club related highlights last semester was Oktoberfest. We served authentic pretzels, danced the polka, and had a gummy bear guessing game. We put a lot of work and effort into it, and I think it paid off! For advertising, we had a great flash mob with traditional Austrian music at the Gorecki dining center, and we also handed out hot cider at the bus stop. All in all, I enjoyed working together with an ambitious team of German club officers.
Another highlight of my Fulbright grant was definitely winter break. I left freezing Minnesota mid-December and travelled for about a month. After a fantastic Fulbright Conference in DC where I got to meet all of the other Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistants, I went to Hawaii, San Francisco, drove up to Vancouver, and then met up with some fellow Fulbrighters in New Orleans. I ended winter break with a road trip to Boston. I met amazing people, saw different landscapes, cities, cultures, weather, you name it!
Finally, teaching German and studying at CSB/SJU has helped to me become more professional in my teaching skills. I was a teaching assistant for four German courses, and I enjoyed working with the students as well as with the German professors. First semester, I was taking two ESL classes. Second semester, I took a class on how to teach theater to children while also participating in a “Public Speaking for Teachers” seminar. Those are the types of classes that I had been looking forward to taking for a very long time. What I appreciated most about them is that they were hands-on learning experiences. Furthermore, the professors were very knowledgeable and had great insights into pedagogy.
All in all, I have had great Fulbright experience at CSB/SJU, teaching and learning, performing and watching, being freezing cold and warming up again.
Now, being back in Austria, there is one question that remains. Is it really over? Honestly, it seems to me that my journey is just about to begin. I’ve met so many amazing people who I still keep in touch with. I’ve shown friends from Minnesota around Vienna and my guest bed was occupied frequently last summer. Fulbright has made me part of a network for a lifetime.