Fulbright Austria nominated me to teach German language and culture with a focus on Austria at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. Located a little bit south of Toledo, Ohio, and a bit further south of Detroit, Michigan, Bowling Green—or "BG" [beeh-geeh], as the locals call it—became home away from home for ten months of my life and academic career and provided me with the chance to grow personally and in terms of my professional development.
I had the opportunity to teach two German-language and culture classes at the university. The curriculum required me to mostly teach the language itself and help students to reach a certain proficiency level in order to be able to travel abroad. However, based on the students' interest and curiosity, the culture part soon became absolutely crucial. In conversation about the differences and similarities between the US and Austrian culture, this part never actually felt like teaching but more like a mutual exchange of ideas and experiences.
The same kind of exchange happened in a class taught by Clemens Berger, an Austrian novelist and columnist who happened to be the "Max Kade Writer in Residence" during the second half of my stay. Despite the overall topic of the class being climate change and activist notions in creative fiction, a lot of “Austria” discussions came up. Especially because many of the students taking Clemens's class had been to Salzburg through BG's longstanding collaboration and exchange with the university there, many of them shared his and my ‘inbetweenness’ of cultures, and it was incredibly rewarding to experience and share stories.
Before leaving for the US, I’d had a lot of ideas about how Fulbright would influence my life and career and how I would like to structure my stay and travel the country. Most of the things I’d planned in advance were quickly thrown overboard, and my plans had to change: I was taken to places by people I lived and worked with, was invited to peoples’ houses, and spent time with friends I hadn’t seen in years. This way, I quickly became more than just a tourist, and staying there felt more natural than I would have expected. I was invited to participate in conferences, talks, and German and Austrian events on and off campus and also got to go to my first “Oktoberfest” and a German Christmas market abroad. I became a learner and a teacher, found friends and academic collaboration partners, and even got to work on my dissertation. My biggest achievement happened thanks to Dr. Geoff Howes though: figuring out my dissertation topic. Thank you!