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Hildegard Pfanner

"As I have – incidentally – just finished reading my “American Diary”, written beautifully in shorthand, I have so to speak re-experienced my stay in the States, but now I need a magnifying glass for reading."

I went over in July 1957 as a graduate (Dr.phil. sub auspiciis praesidentis 1954 from the University of Innsbruck, first woman there after a man and first person in Vorarlberg) in the fields of German, English and Latin. We had to take the boat from Cherbourg, and I just recently found our SS United States in the paper, rusting at Philadelphia and waiting for her future destiny. I came back on the Queen Elizabeth in June 1958.

We first spent interesting nine days in New York before going up to Waterbury, Conn., for our “Experiment in International Living” with American families for a month. Hospitality and friendliness were impressive everywhere!

We visited Yale. Before starting at my University of Michigan in Ann Arbor I went to Washington for a couple of days. A colleague from Vienna, meanwhile lecturer there, had booked a YWCM – room for me, and this is remarkable for the fact that he had been shipwrecked on the Andrea Doria and only been saved in his pajamas with watch and eye-glasses, dissertation lost.

I loved the atmosphere of Ann Arbor, a smaller town, and found many friends there from all over the world, completed my studies in linguistics and wrote my diploma-paper for the Austrian Teachers’ Exam at Innsbruck, topic “The New England Landscape in the Poetry of Robert Frost”. It was my third “Hauptfach”, and in consequence I taught many grammar-school students in English. They still appreciate the way of language teaching after so much experience with native speakers. They tell me that when meeting me again on their anniversaries.

Today I would need a brushing-up.

I travelled to Niagara Falls on Thanksgiving and to Chicago in the February vacation, was invited to Akron, Ohio, for Christmas and Easter by immigrants from my area here and even had the chance to go skiing in Upper Michigan with friends.

Mr. Porhansl and Mr. Tänzer from the Austrian Ministry of Education came to see me – “not to inspect me”! – in Ann Arbor, and we spent some very pleasant hours.

I knew that a fellow-student of mine, whose home-place was the same as mine, also had a study grant for some months, but his mother did not have an address yet when I left. In Ann Arbor I once went to the German Restaurant, talked to the owner and found out that he was from Friedrichshafen on Lake Constance. He said that his son was studying at Chicago with a man from my home-place – and he was my fellow-student! A meeting for a week-end was arranged. So I had found his address in Ann Arbor!

There was much cultural life on the Campus, including many high-quality-concerts (and football!), and the foreign students were really taken care of. We had opportunities to get a bit around and get to know family life and the ordinary “way” in the Middle West.

As I have – incidentally – just finished reading my “American Diary”, written beautifully in shorthand, I have so to speak re-experienced my stay in the States, but now I need a magnifying glass for reading.

New York was beginning and end: I was lucky enough to spend my last days in the States with an Uncle and Aunt who had immigrated in the late 1920s. They made any possible effort to top my experience of the United States, showed me e.g. idyllic Candlewood Lake with friends living in a house exploding with flowers, and finally accompanied me to the boat, almost missed leaving it before the signal for departure was blown.

The Fulbright idea is great indeed for international understanding.


Note: Fulbright Austria received this story in the form of a typewritten letter.

Hildegard Pfanner is a graduate of the University of Innsbruck and was an Austrian Fulbright Student to the University of Michigan in English in 1957-58. She later went on to become a teacher, Hofrat and Landesschulinspektorin.

Austrian Student Language Language and Literature Innsbruck Midwest Humanities