When most people think of the US, they think of Hollywood or the Big Apple, but there is actually a lot of space in between. For example, a small town in Ohio called Bowling Green. Many people in Bowling Green have never heard of Austria and have no clue where Austria is located on the map. During my year as a Fulbright FLTA, I was able to share a little bit of Austria with the people in BG. My highlight was being able to teach German at a local elementary school. My second-graders were motivated and eager to learn. Many of them have German ancestors, or have learned some German from their grandparents. I enjoyed every second of teaching them about my language and culture. The looks on their faces when they found out that Austria is actually a country in the heart of Europe, not an island in the Pacific Ocean were priceless! During our weekly lessons, the kids didn't only learn basic words and phrases in German, but I also introduced them to some Austrian traditions. For example, I managed to convince one of my TA colleagues to dress up as Saint Nicholas and surprise the kids with little gifts. We sang 'Lasst uns froh und munter sein' and recited a short poem for St. Nick! Later in the school year, we celebrated 'Fasching' with songs and dances. We also learned a typical 'Ennstaler Polka' and enjoyed some delicious Milka chocolates! A couple of weeks ago, a mother came up to me and told me that she caught her daughter teaching her American Girl dolls and some friends German. I'm very proud that I made my students interested in learning a foreign language. 26 8-year-olds in a small town in Ohio now know that there are no kangaroos in Austria..., and can introduce themselves in German!
Julia Haeusler was a Fulbright FLTA at Bowling Green State University in Ohio in 2016-17. Photo courtesy of Julia Haeusler.