Monday, September 10, 2012

How Did I Get Here?

If you had told me 10 years ago that I would be going to Austria to teach English, I would not have believed you. 

So how did I get here? 

When I was little and later in high school, I knew I either wanted to go to the Culinary Institute of America or go into clothing design and be a costume designer. I was so sure of this. Nothing could dissuade me! 

However, reality ensued. I attended my state university, which has a great clothing design program. The program is quite competitive. I wasn't accepted into the program until my 2nd year of college. In my first few design classes, I struggled to stay afloat. Anyone that knows a design major knows how much they have to work to maintain grades! I had no free time and was super stressed all the time. To make a long story short, besides my textiles class, which I loved, I struggled in ALL of my design classes.  I realized that I was more an appreciator of design than a designer. (Side note: I'm like my Mom in this way. She originally went to art school, but abandoned it when she realized she is more of an appreciator of art than an artist. Like mother, like daughter, I guess!) I had two chances to go through portfolio review, before continuing on in the major. I canceled my appointment for the first and panicked before the second and just never went. Effectively, I had dropped myself out of the program.

By this point, it was the end of my junior year, and I had nowhere else to go except back to the College of Liberal Arts. I had taken only two years of high school Spanish, and needed two more years of a language in order to graduate. I was interested in taking an American Indian language, and I registered for a Dakota class. However, the more I thought about taking Dakota, the more I realized that while it would be a fascinating language, it wasn't the most useful language, especially for traveling abroad. 

In high school, I studied Spanish. I'm originally from Texas where the automatic second language is Spanish. I continued studying Spanish in high school without a second thought. I actually hated Spanish class and dreaded going. I thought I was terrible at languages, and was relieved that I could get away with only two years of high school Spanish and still get into college. (Later, as you will see, I’m quite good at languages. I probably was bored and my teacher didn’t challenge me. One day I’m going to get back to my Spanish.)

Why did I choose German? My dad's family originally came from Germany (actually, where they came from is now part of Poland) and my great grandparents were the last to speak German. They grew up during World War I and were discouraged from speaking the language. I wanted to embrace my heritage. And I also liked the way German sounded. Some people may think German sounds ugly or angry, but ever since I saw Run Lola Run in high school, I've liked the way it sounds. Run Lola run has become the de facto movie for German students to see, but, for me, it really promoted the language.

At this point in my studies, I was still planning to major in American Indian Studies. One of the first classes I took in college was an American Indian class. That class and the book, Lies My Teacher Told Me, fueled my interest in American history as well as American Indian history and culture. But after taking my first German class, I knew that German was what I wanted to study. 

I abandoned my plans to major in American Indian Studies and changed my major to German that first semester of my senior year. I felt my decision was crazy. The German advisor thought I was a little crazy, too. I was a senior after all! My credits were scattered over so many departments that I felt that either way (German or history), I was starting over.

I completed a German major in two years and was very proud of myself. I was awarded a certificate from one of my professors deeming me an excellent German student. Unfortunately, I was never able to study abroad in a German-speaking country while in college. However, after I graduated, I worked as a teaching assistant for a month in Berlin, and I spent a month in Berlin two years later when I took a German class. While my time in Berlin gave me the confidence I need in speaking German, I always regretted that I didn’t study abroad for a long period of time. I really wanted a Fulbright position as an ETA/USTA in Germany or Austria.

Most Fulbrighters apply during their senior year in college. My path was more unconventional. How many design students go from sewing at 3:00 am to teaching English in Austria? If I had told my design instructors that I was going to Austria on a Fulbright teaching assistantship, they would be happy (and relieved) that I had found a field of study other than design.


  1. Your story made me smile :)because I'm so amazed you like the German language so much - I really like it that you do :)
    And beccause your story reminds me so much of my own - I've been changing my profession entirely too and when I'm done studying I'm going to change it again ;)
    I hope that teaching in Austria will be a wonderful time for you.
    Ich wünsche Dir eine schöne Woche und sende Dir liebe Grüße :)

    1. Yeah, I have a problem with trying to decide what I want for a profession! I actually was taking a class in a library science program, but I'm taking a break from it to go to Austria. We'll see what I want to do when I get back. :)

  2. Thank you for visiting my blog! I am so glad you did because it was so great to read your story and I can't wait to read more! I am your newest follower! :) I am German and my husband is American and he always says that Germans sound angry. Haha. But I am glad you like the language!
    Alles Liebe!

    1. It's funny, because I used to think the same thing, that German sounded angry and harsh, but I still liked the way the language sounds, so I don't know what that says about me! Now that I can (mostly) understand German, I don't notice the anger or harshness that other Americans seem to notice, unless someone is yelling at me! ;)

  3. i want to learn German too so bad. i think it's so cool you can speak in several foreign language. and your story of how you could stand where you are now is just great. we never knew where life might take us and it's just full of surprise.

    1. Yeah, your last statement is so true! It's amazing how life is so strange (and beautiful!) and can take you places you would never imagine. :)

      I hope you can study German some day! It's fun, but hard!