My year at Hartwick College was one of the shortest and longest years of my life. Short because time passed by so quickly looking back and long because the experience is worth a lifetime full of experiences. My adventure started nine months ago, when I left Vienna for Tempe, Arizona, where I had my initial Fulbright Orientation, I still remember the heat in the desert which felt like an oven to me; the landscape unlike any I had ever seen and most importantly the other Fulbrighters I met there -most of which became my friends and hosts when I went to visit them. After the heat of Arizona I was looking forward to a climate I was more used to, I was looking forward to finally get to see Oneonta and Hartwick College, I place I had heard so much but actually knew nothing about.
How shall I describe Hartwick and Oneonta? One of the commencement speakers at the Graduation ceremony a couple of weeks ago summed it up perfectly: Oneonta, the city of Hills and Hartwick, the college of stairs, where if you have to go from one class at the lowest building to another on the very top of the hill, you can just skip your workout for the day. I have to admit at first that daily workout -I lived on the bottom and worked on the top of the hill -seemed exhausting, but seeing the sun rise on a cold autumn morning from the top of the hill just before class, when everything is still quiet, is one of the most amazing views one can experience (and once I arrived in my office I just felt so accomplished).
Apart from the very student-esque city of Oneonta, Hartwick with its about 1,500 students seemed very different for someone like me coming from the University of Vienna with about 90,000 students. However, I soon learned to appreciate the very intimate community of Hartwick College where everybody seemed to know everybody and all were on a first name basis. I believe the people who influenced my experience most where my students. I had to teach two courses each semester and overall I had about 75 students who I was responsible for, or rather I was responsible for their German language skills. Federico Fellini once said that a different language is a different vision of life, thus I also tried to bring my students closer to the Austro-German culture. In the first semester I organized a cooking class where my students had to prepare “Frittatensuppe” und “Apfelstrudel”.
Unfortunately, we where so busy cooking we almost failed to take any pictures, still it was an unforgettable afternoon for us. Another Kodak moment was our trip to the Binghampton Zoo,in April, where my students where not only mesmerized by monkeys, but also had to present an animal of their choosing in German. I am proud to say to this day they still remembered what most of the animals are called in German. While I also taught a lot of German grammar I tried to balance it out with outdoor activities such as a German scavenger hunt, where at least one group at to sing the Austrian national anthem to my supervisor and German Professor, Wendell Fryre. Teaching competitive and athletic students made preparing this hunt a fun challenge for me which I will remember for the rest of my life.
Still, what makes a true and unforgettable Hartwick experience is watching all sorts of varsity games. Personally, I prefer the classics, like football, soccer, and lacrosse, but there is also basketball, water polo, golf, swimming and diving, cross-country, an equestrian team, and many more. For those not so interested in sports, there is a vast club life, some ofthe clubs even organize trips or sponsor the ones organized by a class. Thus, I had the opportunity to attend school trips to both Montréal and Gettysburg (where I was almost pilloried). In the end, I would lie if I said,there were no bad days during my time at Hartwick college, but the day when Oneonta became my home and the Hartwick community became my family made it all worth it and truly unforgettable which, unfortunately, only made it harder for me to leave it all behind.
Julia Schotzko was an Austrian Fulbright FLTA at Hartwick College in 2012–13. Photo courtesy of Julia Schotzko.