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Christine Luby – US Teaching Assistantship in Austria

Name: Christine Luby

Class Year: 2013

Hometown: Portland, Oregon

Major(s): German

Minors or Concentrations: Mass Communications

Opportunity and Year: US Teaching Assistantships at Austrian Secondary Schools, 2013-14

Project Summary: The US Teaching Assistantship is a partnership through Fulbright and the BMUKK (Bundesministerium für Unterricht, Kunst und Kultur). Fellowship winners work approximately 13 hours in Austrian classrooms, teaching English and American culture. There are also several hours per week spent preparing lessons. The approximate work week with lesson preparation and actual time in the classroom is about 20 hours. Fellowship winners are also encouraged to engage in the local culture as much as possible during their free time.

I work at the Pädigogische Hochschule (PH) in Feldkirch, which is a college for teachers, and also in the Praxis Schule, which is both a Volksschule (Elementary School) and Hauptschule (students through the age of 14 – so essentially a middle school). I teach 6 hours a week in the PH working with students who want to become English teachers. It is a continuing education program, so students range from about 19 to 40 years old. The courses also have a lot of practical aspects; for instance, in one of my courses we worked on CVs and interviewing for jobs.

As much as I love working with the adult students, I adore the children. I teach 8 hours in the Praxis Schule and my students are 10-13 years old. Of course we teach the necessary grammar, but the students also love to perform skits, write their own songs, and play games with new vocabulary. I love coming up with new ways to make learning English fun. Two of the hours that I spend in the Praxis Schule are with a program called Lern Atelier, which is an after school homework help program. During that time, students can take their homework to the math, English, science, and German departments to get some extra help. If the students have finished their homework, they can come to my classroom and work on conversation or reading.

A lot of my students also play with the local Musik Verein (like a symphony), act in theater groups, or play on local sports teams. My goal is to go to as many of their events as I can this year – first of all to support them, but also because it’s a great way to immerse myself in Austrian culture.

How did W&L prepare you for this opportunity? While at Washington and Lee I have had numerous opportunities to go abroad. In 2012 I spent Spring Term Abroad with Professor Kramer on the Bonn and Beyond trip. We spent four weeks in intensive language and culture studies, partnered with a class at the University of Bonn, and visited places such as the UN Campus, NATO headquarters, and the European Parliament.

I also developed a friendship with Professor Kramer, who now works with the Fulbright Commission in New York. Professor Kramer was also a Fulbright scholar and gave me lots of information about Fulbright and their partnership program with the BMUKK (Bundesministerium für Unterricht, Kunst und Kultur) in Austria. Professor Kramer was also my first German professor, my first year at Washington and Lee. From the first week of classes, he was constantly encouraging me to think about applying for a fellowship.

Throughout my four years of university I had constant guidance and support from the faculty. I originally chose Washington and Lee because of professors like my advisor, Professor Debra Prager, who truly believes in her students and goes the extra mile to help them accomplish their goals. She has encouraged me academically and personally throughout the entire application process and is not only a mentor, but a friend. Each of the professors that mentored me through the Fulbright process, wrote my recommendation letters, and read through all the parts of my application, were continually cheering me on and willing me to succeed.

Why did you apply for this opportunity? I first became interested in traveling, volunteering abroad, and teaching English when I started working with an organization called Josiah Venture in Kranj, Slovenia in the summer of 2006. I’ve now been volunteering in Slovenia at various summer English camps and other youth events for the past 8 years.

In addition, Washington and Lee originally deferred my application so that I could spend a gap year at Bible school between high school and college. During this time, I lived in Friedrichshafen, Germany for 7 months and volunteered as a teaching assistant at a Hauptschule (a type of school). I then finished out the year, by living for 4 months in Carnforth, England. After this year abroad I developed a love for German language and culture. When I returned to Washington and Lee I met with Professor Daniel Kramer and Professor Debra Prager. After hearing about my experiences abroad and my love of working with students, they encouraged me to enroll in elementary German with the goal of someday applying for a USTA fellowship.

I spent this last year, which was my senior year at W&L, as an exchange student in Vienna, Austria. I also had an internship at a local school, where I taught 1st, 3rd, 5th, 10th, and 12th grade. I fell in love with Austrian school children and Austrian culture. I knew the USTA Assistantship was a perfect way to stay for another year and really immerse myself in the local community.

Post-graduation Plans: This year in Austria allows me to explore some different ideas I have for post-fellowship plans. At the moment I think I would like to return to my home in Portland and pursue a Masters in International Business. I would love to work for a company that has ties to Germany or Austria.

How will this opportunity help you achieve your goals? As opposed to my exchange year in Vienna, where I really had to take initiative to go outside the bubble and find Austrian friends, this year I am totally immersed. My roommate is Austrian, I go to an Austrian church, and all of my new friends are Austrian. The chance to be totally immersed in the language and culture can only make me a better person as I become more globally aware and better prepared for my studies in international business.

Extracurricular Involvement:

Tutor at Waddell Elementary School for Math, Reading, Writing; College Ministry Staff for Trinity United Methodist; 2010 Sophomore Representative W&L’s Women’s Leadership Conference

Off-campus Experience:

2012 Spring Term Abroad Bonn and Beyond Trip; 2012-2013 Exchange Year with IES Abroad in Vienna, Austria

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