During the academic year 2014–15, I lived in McMinnville, OR, where I taught German at Linfield College. Before I went to the U.S., I thought that I knew the German language and Austrian culture like the back of my hand. After all, we’re talking about my native language and the country I grew up in. As soon as I arrived in McMinnville, however, I realized that there was still a lot that I didn’t know. I frequently came across aspects of German language or culture that I wasn’t familiar with or even aware of during my supervisor’s classes (that I was allowed to sit in on), when I prepared for my own classes, but also when I just talked to people from different countries.
What I enjoyed most during my teaching assistantship was sharing Austrian culture. Let me give you an example: As I love to attend balls, I watched the opening ceremony of the Vienna Opera Ball with some students. A few days later, I gave a Viennese Waltz lesson, because ballroom dancing is a part of Austrian culture that I really enjoy and that I absolutely wanted to share with the Linfield community. Initially, it was planned as a one-time thing, because I didn’t think that many students would be interested in waltzing, but after the lesson, some student asked me to continue the classes and so, it became a weekly event (and it still goes on, even if I’m not there anymore, because some students created an official Waltz club). What I liked most about it was that not only students, but also professors attended the classes.
As so many people were interested in ballroom dancing, I decided to organize a Viennese-style ball. Fortunately, the International Club helped me, and Linfield’s first Viennese Ball took place on April 11, 2015. I had choreographed an opening dance that some of my Waltz students performed, and I taught the ball guests how to dance the “Fledermausquadrille” (a group dance that is typically danced at Viennese balls). On the other hand, I experienced many aspects of U.S. culture while I was working and travelling. I benefitted from this year in the U.S. in countless ways. I might not even be aware of some of them yet.
Marina Stadlbauer was an Austrian Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant at Linfield College in McMinnville in 2014–15. Photo courtesy of Marina Stadlbauer.