To give you an insight into the Fulbright year I spent at St. John’s University in Minnesota (Oh ya, you betcha!), I would like to describe four things that I really enjoyed.
Every semester, there is something called the “24-hour Play Festival”at CSB/SJU. A group of incredibly talented students gets together to write, direct, rehearse and perform a total of 8 plays in 24 hours. In January, I wrote an 8-minute play and acted in it as well. Even though I was on about an hour of sleep and there was more blood in my caffeine than caffeine in my blood, I enjoyed every second of it, and it was a total blast. Teaching theater in Austria, I was able togather some valuable experiences as well.
One of my German club related highlights last semester was Oktoberfest. We served authentic pretzels, danced the polka,and had a gummy-bear guessing game. We put a lot of work and effort into it, and I think it paid off! For advertising, we had a great flash mobwith traditional Austrian music at the Gorecki dining center, and we also handed out hot cider at the bus stop. All in all, I enjoyed working together with an ambitious team of German club officers.
Another highlight was definitely winter break. I left freezing Minnesota mid-December and travelled for about a month. After a fantastic Fulbright Conference in DC where I got to meet all of the other Fulbright teaching assistants, I went to Hawaii, San Francisco, drove up to Vancouver, and then metup with some fellow Fulbrights in New Orleans. I ended winter break with a road trip to Boston. I met amazing people, saw different landscapes, cities, cultures, weather, you name it!
Finally, I would like to talk about how teaching German and studying at CSB/SJU helps me professionalize my teaching skills. I was a teaching assistant for four German courses, and I enjoyed working with the students as well as with the German professors. First semester, I was taking two classes on ESL. Second semester, I took a class on how to teach theater to children while also participating in a “Public Speaking for Teachers” seminar. Those are the types of classes that I had been looking forward to for a very long time. What I appreciated most about them is that they were hands-on learning experiences. Furthermore, the professors were very knowledgeable and had great insights into pedagogy.
All in all, I had a great Fulbright experience at CSB/SJU, teaching and learning, performing and watching, freezing and getting warmed up again. Now, being back in Austria, there is one question that remains. Is it really over? Honestly, it seems to me that my journey is just about to begin. I’ve met so many amazing people who I still keep in touch with. I’ve shown friends from Minnesota around Vienna and my guest bed was occupied frequently last summer. Fulbright has made me part of a network for a lifetime.
Martin Spendlhofer was a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant at St. John's University in Minnesota in 2013–14.