During the academic year 2014-15, I lived in McMinnville, OR, where I taught German at Linfield College. Before I went to the U.S., I thought that I knew the German language and Austrian culture like the back of my hand. After all, we’re talking about my native language and the country I grew up in. As soon as I arrived in McMinnville, however, I realized that there was still a lot that I didn’t know. I frequently came across aspects of German language or culture that I wasn’t familiar with or even aware of during my supervisor’s classes (that I was allowed to sit in on), when I prepared for my own classes, but also when I just talked to people from different countries.
What I enjoyed most during my teaching assistantship was sharing Austrian culture. Let me give you an example: As I love to attend balls, I watched the opening ceremony of the Vienna Opera Ball with some students. A few days later, I gave a Viennese Waltz lesson, because ballroom dancing is a part of Austrian culture that I really enjoy and that I absolutely wanted to share with the Linfield community. Initially, it was planned as a one-time thing, because I didn’t think that many students would be interested in waltzing, but after the lesson, some student asked me to continue the classes and so, it became a weekly event (and it still goes on, even if I’m not there anymore, because some students created an official Waltz club). What I liked most about it was that not only students, but also professors attended the classes.
As so many people were interested in ballroom dancing, I decided to organize a Viennese-style ball. Fortunately, the International Club helped me, and Linfield’s first Viennese Ball took place on April 11, 2015. I had choreographed an opening dance that some of my Waltz students performed, and I taught the ball guests how to dance the “Fledermausquadrille” (a group dance that is typically danced at Viennese balls). On the other hand, I experienced many aspects of U.S. culture while I was working and travelling. I benefitted from this year in the U.S. in countless ways. I might not even be aware of some of them yet.
Marina Stadlbauer was an Austrian Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant at Linfield College in McMinnville in 2014-15. Photo courtesy of Marina Stadlbauer.