Judging from the many stories and experiences fellow FLTA colleagues told me about, I have come to the conclusion that my stay in Missoula, Montana was quite a unique one with regards to the fairly remote geographic location, the extremely helpful and friendly people there, as well as my teaching duties. I was considered more or less a young university teacher who had her own class of students to teach and grade at the end of each semester. Personally, I found it to be a challenging but also very rewarding task.
Not only did I learn about my own language's grammar in more detail, I also had the opportunity to improve my American students' awareness of cultural differences and similarities in terms of not only the German-speaking countries but also in comparison to the United States. I realized that young Americans studying a foreign language are most eager to learn about its culture in order to better understand the people as a whole. Therefore, lessons about the Austrian/German school system, the Euro and Austrian's financial system, differences in health care between Austria and the U.S.A and many more topics were highly appreciated by my students and were taught enthusiastically by myself.
Apart from in-class activities, I helped the German Club organize several fun events over the course of my two semesters in Missoula. Students really enjoyed the Bratwurst mit Sauerkraut at the Oktoberfest, they joyously celebrated Weihnachten with authentic Glühwein und Punsch, they made their own masks for Fasching/Karneval,and had tons of fun with "Mensch ärgere dich nicht" at the German Spieleabend.
Helping out at the annual Germanfest organized by the city of Missoula was a very interesting experience for me, since I first realized how proud Americans are of their German heritage. Besides my duties as a teaching assistant at the university, I had a great time getting to know the U.S. geographically as well as socially.
I am convinced that my year as a German language teaching assistant equally shaped both my personality and my view of America in a positive way. I am glad to be able to go back to Austria as this new person,an ambassador of understanding if you will, to share my newly acquired knowledge of the United States and its people with teenagers and young people at my high school. I am confident this will raise awareness of the cultural importance of both countries, Austria and the US, and therefore contribute to the "mutual understanding between the people of Austria and the United States".
Claudia Albrecht was a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant at the University of Montana in 2011–12.