Springfield, Ohio – For 2007 Wittenberg graduates Kayti McCarthy, Samantha McCoy and Emily Fink, the academic journey didn't end in May in picturesque Commencement Hollow.
Three months later, all three have been selected by the Fulbright Commission in Vienna to receive awards from the Austrian government to teach English in Austria. With approximately 100 applications accepted each year, the fact that three Wittenberg graduates earned awards from the Fulbright Program in 2007 is a mark of distinction, according to Associate Professor of German David Barry.
The Fulbright Program was established in 1946 under legislation introduced by then Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas. The Fulbright Program is sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the United States Department of State, with the goal to "promote mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the peoples of other nations," according to its Web site. The Fulbright Commission works with the Austrian government to select students for the teaching program that accepted McCarthy, McCoy and Fink.
"These women are role models for students to come. After entering with different interests, they now have a similar interest that goes beyond Wittenberg, leading them to their first step after graduation," said Associate Professor of German Tim Bennett. "Students sometimes don't know exactly where they want to go after their four years here, but these women give others a glimpse of what may be to come."
When applying to the program, a passion must be conveyed to gain a prominent opportunity. The Wittenberg graduates each described in detail why they wanted to teach and why they wanted to do it in Austria. Bennett said McCarthy, McCoy and Fink displayed great eagerness for this chance of a lifetime.
All three will begin their European adventure at the end of September, starting with a week-long orientation and their first day of teaching on Oct. 1. They will serve as teachers' assistants to give students a "real-life visual aid" of a United States citizen and insights into the American culture. The Wittenberg graduates will each work at two different schools in various parts of Austria during their stay.
McCarthy will teach at the Bundesgymnasium und Bundesrealgymnasium and at the Bundesrealgymnasium und wirtschaftskundliches Bundesrealgymnasium Schloss Traunsee, both located in Gmunden, Austria, which is a little resort town. One of the schools is in a castle, making the whole experience even more surreal.
"I feel like I will be on a paid vacation," McCarthy said. "There are beaches everywhere."
When asked why she wanted to apply to the program, McCarthy said, "I knew it was something I wanted to do after I went abroad in Lutherstadt Wittenberg, Germany. I met a woman who graduated from Wittenberg and was teaching English in Germany and thought it would be a great experience."
Bridgett Mullan, class of 2003, met McCarthy in Wittenberg, Germany. She also majored in German and taught in Springfield's sister city as a Fulbright grantee.
McCarthy graduated with an education major and German minor, and she hopes this unique experience will benefit her career as a teacher in the United States.
"I'm looking at this experience from an educator's point of view, and I'm hoping to not only be able to put what I've learned into practice, but to incorporate what I've learned in Austria," she said. "I want to share this experience with my future students."
McCoy will be teaching at Neusiedl am See and Frauenkirchen. She will be teaching 10th to 12th grade students and feels it is a "really great program."
"I never had intentions to teach, but I enjoy interacting with students and encouraging them to pursue their educational goals," McCoy said.
McCoy studied abroad her freshman year in Leipzig, Germany. Not knowing any German at the time, she fell in love with the culture and language during her study abroad and picked up German as a minor the next year.
As a junior, McCoy studied abroad again, this time in Salzburg, Austria. At that time, she was informed of the English Language Teaching Assistantships Program administered by the Fulbright Commission and was encouraged to apply. McCoy was accepted into the program in April 2007.
"I'm a little nervous but extremely excited at the same time," she said. "Had I not been given the opportunity to study abroad at Wittenberg, this chance of a lifetime may have passed me up."
Wittenberg provides a wide range of study-abroad opportunities that allow students to gain exposure to different cultures. McCoy said the opportunity took her learning to a completely different level.
Fink's Fulbright journey began in July. She said "everything is hectic and exciting at the same time right now," but she added that "being a part of a program such as this was only a dream I had. I never expected it to actually come true."
This will be her first time in Europe, so it is an altogether new experience for her. She also was encouraged to apply for the program by Barry, but she didn't expect to gain entrance.
Fink will be teaching at HLW Riedendurg and HLW Marienburg in Bregenz, Austria. She hopes this experience will be a "good way to test the waters," referring to her passion of one day becoming a professor.
"What better way to start than in Austria?" she said.
The Wittenberg graduates will be working 12 hours a week, and they will have free time on the weekends to travel and get involved in the host communities. All three have different plans once their European teaching journeys come to an end May 31, 2008. However, they all anticipate incorporating the life-altering experience into their next phase of life, whatever it may be.
Written By: Elizabeth Burdsall '08