I had first heard about the Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) program when I was still in school. When I was finally almost done with my studies at the University of Graz, I was really excited about the prospect that I could potentially be in the program. I eventually applied for the grant after the information session at my university, and, after my interview, was told that I had been accepted just before the winter break.
In early February 2018, I got an email that I had been placed at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, which was actually the school I had been hoping to be placed at.
My Fulbright adventure started on August 19, 2018, when I arrived in Portland, Oregon, for my orientation conference. The location of the conference was initially a bit frustrating for me because it was about as far away from Maine as it gets in the continental US, but in the end it all worked out really well and gave me and my fellow Fulbrighters a chance to see a new state. The conference was very informative and gave us a good overview of what to expect, although a lot had already been covered for me in Fulbright Austria’s annual Seminar in American Studies held in Strobl and at the pre-departure orientation in Vienna. The best thing about the orientation conference was that we all got to meet so many other FLTAs from such a lot of different countries, people that I was really able to connect with and that I am still in contact with.
The orientation conference ended on August 23, which was a week before I was allowed to move into my home in Lewiston, so I used the time to travel the West Coast before heading to Maine on September 1.
Bates College was an incredibly generous host, and my fellow teaching assistants and I were provided with room and board for the year by the school. I lived in a fully equipped house with two other TAs; we each had our own room but had to share a tiny bathroom. All meals were included in the meal plan, and we usually had all our meals in the dining hall, which provided delicious and varied food.
My experience in the German Department at Bates College could not have been better in my opinion—it exactly suited my level of experience. I assisted and taught in the beginner (101 and 102) and the intermediate (201 and 202) courses. I would usually teach one session a week on my own (more regularly in the intermediate-level classes) and be in the classroom with the German professors during all other sessions, for a total of eight sessions (roughly 12 hours) a week. In addition to that, I had two office hours in the first semester and office hours by appointment during the second semester. During the first semester, we also held weekly German Stammtische, but decided to switch to themed events (Bleigießen, Nachtslalom livestream, dinner at a German restaurant, cooking classes, etc.) in the second semester.
My mentors in the German Department, Raluca and Jakub, were exceptionally welcoming and helpful, and I already miss working with them terribly. They always allowed me to try new things when I wanted to and helped me out when I felt stuck in my lesson planning or when I felt I wasn‘t being creative or innovative enough. Even with non-work-related questions they would always help me out.
I took a total of four courses at Bates College as a student, and I enjoyed them very much (some more than others admittedly). The courses I especially enjoyed were “Berlin and Vienna, 1900–1914” and “Daily Life under Hitler and Stalin.” I did not take these courses because I thought they were going to be easy for me, but because I was very interested in how these topics and issues were dealt with in the American education system, and I must say, I learned a lot—not only about the subject matter but about different cultural connotations and viewpoints. The other courses I took were “US Women and Politics” and “Classical Music in Western Culture,” both of which were also very interesting, especially “US Women and Politics,” which I took during the US midterm elections.
Bates College is a small school with only about 1,700 students, so after a while it feels like you know everyone there, which is good. Lewiston is a small town that has definitely seen better days, and it is very quiet, but if you want to, there are still a lot of things to do around town. I personally enjoyed downhill and cross-country skiing the most. The Bates community enjoys free access to a small skiing resort ten minutes from campus, and with free rentals from the Bates Outing Club, my colleagues and I skied for free all winter long. I also volunteered at a kids‘ cross-country skiing camp that took place on Sundays during winter, which gave me the chance to spend time outside in the local community and get a bit of exercise at the same time.
Maine is a beautiful state, but it is hard to get around without a car because public transport is not very developed. Concord Coach offers bus services from campus to Portland, Maine, or even to Boston, Massachusetts, but it is a bit costly. Bates College offered bus trips to different locations throughout Maine on the weekends, which my colleagues and I took advantage of almost every week. Dean Reese, the associate dean for international student programs, also organized trips throughout the year and was always really helpful with everything we needed, be it a ride to the outlet mall or explaining taxes to us.
All in all, I loved my year at Bates College, especially my work and my work environment, and I was very sad to leave at the end of the school year. It was a little frustrating as well because all but one of my non-Fulbright TA colleagues were invited to come back for a second year at Bates, but being a Fulbrighter, that was impossible for me. I knew that from the very beginning, but it was very hard to see all the people I had become such good friends with stay together and to be basically the only one who had to leave permanently. Nevertheless, I can honestly say that I had the best time and that this year on my Fulbright grant had a profound impact on me as a person, on my professional development, and on my understanding of different cultures. It is impossible to put all my experiences during this year into one story—I could probably fill a whole book. It was a year that I will never forget, a year that helped make me the person I am today.
Andrea Kreditsch received both her BA in American studies and her teaching diploma from the University of Graz. She was an FLTA at Bates College during the 2018–19 academic year. Photo taken by Anastasia Popova.