Jun 21, 2012
Senior Katie Schmittauer is a self-described "language geek," who has studied five languages during her time at Ohio University. The linguistics major's goal is to know one language per continent, except for Antarctica. Her devotion to languages helped her to earn a Fulbright U.S. Student Program award to teach English in Malaysia.
Schmittauer is not the only Ohio student who will be teaching English through the program. Recent graduates Allen Flint and Harrison Baldwin will teach in Germany, and Tiffany Schlein will teach in Spain.
All four worked to earn their teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) certificate while at Ohio. They will receive funding to live in their host countries for a year and a placement at a secondary or high school to accompany a formal teacher in teaching English language, culture and history. All four Fulbright awardees hope to increase their fluency, travel and learn if teaching is the career they want to pursue.
Schmittauer has studied Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, Indonesian and Chinese while at Ohio but decided she wanted to strengthen her knowledge of Malay, the primary language of Malaysia, also known as Bahasa Malaysian.
"I picked Malaysia, because I thought it would be more of a challenge," she said with a laugh.
While five languages may seem daunting, they align with her career aspiration: language documentation.
"You go to where a language is dying and help people document their language … and help revitalize it," she said.
Before she tries to pursue this career, she will live one year in Malaysia teaching English. She has no idea where she will be placed, how rural her community will be or how much English will be spoken in her area. Fortunately, she will have friends nearby, because she has studied with students from Malaysia and neighboring countries while at Ohio.
"I want to travel a lot while I'm there, and catch up with my friends that have moved back home," she said. "I also want to find out who I am as a teacher and see if that's what I want to do for the rest of my life."
She has some experience teaching through the TEFL program. She taught English in Ecuador with the TEFL, which only increased her desire to teach abroad.
Flint graduated at the end of fall quarter, so he already possesses a bachelor's degree in German. He completed two study abroad trips in Austria—one in Gaming and one in Salzburg—and now will teach and study in Germany. He hopes to be placed in the southern, more rural, part of Germany specifically the state of Bavaria.
"There is tons of pride in Bavaria … It's a lot of country. There are not a lot of big cities, which is good for me, because I am not from a big city," Flint said. "I want to be in a state that is pretty rural with a laid-back culture and people. I feel more at home there than in other states of Germany."
Flint traveled for two weeks in Bavaria already while studying in Austria. He also had the opportunity to travel around much of Western and Eastern Europe, from Paris to Budapest, and he hopes to spend his Fulbright time traveling exclusively around Germany. Above all, he hopes to use his time with the Fulbright as a springboard to find another teaching job in Germany.
"I am really looking forward to one, getting experience teaching and seeing if this is what I really want to pursue after spending a year straight doing it. And two, improving my language skills. I only plan to speak English at work," Flint said.
Schlein, a European studies and Spanish double major, graduated in three years and is excited to spend a year abroad in Spain. This will be her second time in the country. Her first was with Ohio's Toledo program, where she spent the spring quarter of her freshman year taking classes in Toledo, Spain.
Her interest in the Spanish language started at age nine when she lived in North Carolina and was required to take Spanish in the fourth grade.
"I really liked the idea of being able to communicate with other people. It opened up this whole new world for me, and I just wanted to expand that," Schlein said.
Next year, her learning of the Spanish language and culture will expand while she concurrently teaches students English. Since she only recently worked on her TEFL certification, she looks forward to using what she has learned.
"Everything I learned will be implemented," she said. "I have a real passion for languages, and I am really excited to implement them in all I do."
Though her excitement is apparent, she is nervous about living alone. She has only been out of the dorms for one year. Luckily, she already knows her parents, who have never been to Europe before, will come visit her while she works abroad.
After her year in Spain, she hopes to return to the U.S. to go to graduate school, but she doesn't yet know what she will study.
Baldwin graduated early with degrees in German and history. The former president of the German Club spent an entire academic year studying abroad in Leipzig, Germany, as well as a quarter studying in Salzburg, Austria. After all of his time in Germany, he fell in love with the German people.
"I'm definitely looking forward to being back in Germany the most," Baldwin said. "After living in the country for a year, it's kind of a second home to me now. I'm looking forward to being back with the Germans."
In the time not spent teaching, he hopes to explore much of Eastern Europe and to return to the friends he made in Leipzig. After he spends the year abroad with the Fulbright, he hopes to work towards a master's degree in German.
For now, his focus is on the Fulbright. He still remembers the feeling he had when he found out he won.
"It was the best feeling ever. It was like, nothing could go wrong that day … The days are very few and far between that you find out that kind of news," he said. "It was a remarkable experience."
All four winners are about to embark on a remarkable experience teaching English language and culture abroad as Fulbright awardees. After this year abroad, they will be more proficient in their language of choice and will know whether or not teaching is the career path for them.
In other Fulbright news, Elizabeth "Bee" Jenkins will be teaching English in Armenia. As previously reported in Compass, Nadine Ajaka will be teaching in Jordan, Adam Liebendorfer will be studying international journalism in Great Britain, and Cayla Skillin-Brauchle will be conducting research in India.