I still think of my time in Austria as the most important time in my life. The friends I met while in Austria are some of my strongest relationships—the photo below is of some of us (USTAs, British Council members and Austrian friends at a former USTA’s and former British Council member’s wedding in 2015, eight years after we met. I still talk to many of my friends almost daily from that period of my life, and I certainly speak of Austria routinely as well. And Austrian friends have also come to visit me as well.
After teaching in Austria I recognized a desire to continue a life's work of helping others and I moved back to the US to pursue a career in medicine. It took several years to transition to a new career, a new degree and training, but I am now a physician assistant specializing in intensive care (ICU) at George Washington University Hospital in Washington, DC. I take care of the most critically ill patients in the hospital, and I absolutely love what I do.
I treat a lot of international patients and have even been called upon to treat some German-speaking patients too (Although most German speakers have to be pretty sick to give up wanting to speak in English!) However, in truth, I recognize every day that my ability to communicate as well as my skills of recognizing understanding are so important in what I do. Because I was a teacher and because I speak another language, I can tell when I am understood versus when I need to try another technique. It is such an important skill to have in medicine—itself a foreign language! I have also continued to intertwine my love for cultural understanding by taking part in civilian medical work in both Central Haiti and Iraqi Kurdistan.
And thank goodness for my skills in public speaking that I cultivated in Austria, which I used to present my first publication, a case report, at the Society of Critical Care Medicine conference.
Katie Farrar studied psychology at Wake Forest University prior to participating in the USTA program. She was a US teaching assistant from 2008 to 2010. Photos courtesy of Katie Farrar.