My experience in Vienna as a Fulbright Student and subsequently as a US Teaching Assistant (USTA) at two Viennese high schools has had unexpected payoffs today. For example, I developed an appreciation for music during my first year in Vienna, which was also largely influenced by my fellow Fulbrighters who were musicologists and performance artists. Now, I teach at Chapman University—which has a music conservatory—and many of my students happen to be vocal performance majors and instrumentalists. Based on my experience in Vienna, I am able to connect with music students and share with them the notion of being in an environment where classical musicians are not only respected, but revered. I feel as though I have come full circle.
While conducting research for a biography on the Austrian literary critic and translator Marie Herzfeld, I benefitted from the scholarly community in Vienna in diverse fields, including the late Dr. Otto Gschwantler, who was the founder of the Scandinavian program within the German Institute. One of my current student’s grandparents came from his hometown of Brixen, Tyrol, and through this connection (and Dr. Gschwantler’s later interest in his hometown dialect) I have helped her to gain an appreciation for her heritage. The second year as a USTA at two schools for aspiring tourism-industry specialists, I learned more about Austrian culture. The first occasion I spent any time in Vienna was as a junior semester abroad when I interned at the Austrian Parliament. After my Fulbright ended, I worked at the International Atomic Energy Agency. I was well aware that J. William Fulbright had laid the stones for the establishment of the UN system.
I have made invaluable connections through the Fulbright Program that have affected my life positively, sometimes in unexpected ways.
Karen Gallagher graduated from the University of California, Irvine with a PhD in German. She was a US Fulbright Student in 1998–99 and a USTA in 1999–00. She is currently on the faculty of Chapman University. Photo courtesy of Karen Gallagher.