Culture in Germany

Posted by Katie L.

Hello again from the lovely German coast! Although dealing with the pandemic has certainly made my adjustment period here a unique experience, I am happy to be feeling very much at home in both my school and the small city of Cuxhaven.

Though Germany can be seen as a Western society and in this way is quite similar to the U.S. in many ways, various cultural differences can still be spotted. The first difference that always strikes me is the abundance of pedestrian and bike paths. Moving from a place in the U.S. where I am completely dependent on my car to a country where I am without it, I’m grateful that I never have to worry about how I’ll get to work, go to the grocery store, or even travel halfway across the country – Germany’s nod to Eco friendliness has taken care of that. I’ve also been taking the local trains around my state and other parts of the country, which makes travel so much more accessible. Additionally, I appreciate the culture of recycling. Though I recycle at home, things are definitely taken to another level here. My building uses four different color-coded trash containers, not counting the separate-by-color glass containers that the street shares. Becoming aware of such nuanced changes in daily life takes a little time, but will quickly become habit. Other (wonderful) differences include German breakfast, bread and baked goods. Walking into a good bakery or pastry shop can turn any day around. The “Brötchen” (similar to rolls) are breakfast classics that can be paired with any spread, meat or cheese. A cousin of the cinnamon roll and only found in Northern Germany, the “Franzbrötchen” is often associated with the city Hamburg, and is my personal favorite.

My feeling of adjustment is largely due to meeting people with a connection to Fulbright, such as past or present ETA’s, getting to know the teachers at my school, as well as meeting with people from across the county for things like night classes/events and volleyball training. Joining existing groups in a host community is a great way to feel more connected to your placement location and allows for visibility within the community (which is also one of the goals of Fulbright – establishing contact and relationships with members of the host state).

For the first time, Fulbright Germany has launched a mentoring program to pair American Fulbrighters with Germans who have carried out the grant in the U.S.. I’ve been paired with a former German Fulbrighter from Bremen (about 1.5 hours from Cuxhaven) who completed his grant year in Alaska. Programs such as these within the Fulbright community might be of interest for anyone interested in meeting more people of the host country, as well as getting to know how the other side of the scholarship looks.

Bis zum nächsten Mal!

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Returning to Germany

Posted by Lindsey D.

My senior year of high school, I first landed in Germany, with absolutely zero knowledge of the language and only very simplistic and mainly stereotypical ideas about German culture. At that point I never could have imagined that 5 years later I would be returning to spend another full year in a country that I now consider home. This sense of belonging and the host family and friends I still have here are the main reason I chose Germany when applying to Fulbright. Since arriving here in August, I have visited both of my previous host families, neighbors, high school friends, and reunited with many of my UA German House roommates who’ve also moved here. All of them have made this transition much smoother than I could have imagined was possible.

My new coworkers have also welcomed me with open arms. I am working 12 hours a week as an English Teaching Assistant in an Oberschule – a school with students in grades 5-13. I am specifically working with 7th, 8th, and 10th graders, and my role in each class varies based on the students’ and teachers’ requests. In one class, the focus is American culture so I have been able to share my personal experiences with high school and college life, road trips, and also sadly had to burst my students’ bubble and let them know that not all Americans have met someone famous. In another class I have been working on leading discussions and activities to help students continue developing critical thinking skills and recognize and challenge stereotypes they encounter in literature.
 
This role has been a major shift from my positions in Miami and Tuscaloosa where I was teaching classes independently, but both of those roles helped me feel significantly more confident beginning my job here. The shared responsibility I have in classes here has given me more time to observe and learn from my German coworkers’ teaching, reflect on the differences between American and German schools, and also to dedicate more time to hobbies outside of work, including cooking and aerial silks. Throughout the rest of this year, I am looking forward to continuing to developing relationships with teachers, students, and community members, helping a couple of my students prepare for a foreign exchange program, hopefully setting up an international pen pal program, continuing to improve my German, and so much more!

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Teaching in Schleswig-Holstein

Posted by Michael F.

As an undergraduate at UA, I was lucky enough to go through the German program for four years. During freshman year, our professors introduced us to the Fulbright program and I thought to myself, “That would be a lot of fun, but there’s no way that I could be qualified for that.” After a few years of learning the language and falling in love with German literature/culture, the opportunity presented itself to apply for an ETA position. This time my attitude was much different and I decided to go through the application process. There were a few positions in Europe that would have been a great experience but going to Germany would also help me continue to learn the language. Almost one year after starting the application process, I was fortunate enough to be chosen as an ETA in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany.

As an ETA, I began by sharing about my life in Alabama and the U.S. with students from grades 8-12. Similarly, students shared things about their life in Germany with me. Many of the teachers welcome the assistance of a native English speaker and allow me to help their students prepare for their written and speaking exams. Some of the ways I do this are through small group conversations on a specific topic, “Speed Dating” activities, and mock interviews for students who will soon be applying for jobs. Outside of classes, a few of the English teachers and myself hold an English club. In this club we watch popular American films that highlight history and culture. We play games like paper football to teach about the sport. We even cook food that is common in the U.S.

First and foremost, the faculty within the German program prepared me for this experience by teaching me the language and sharing a few things to add to my interest in German life. While most Germans speak English to some capacity, knowing how to communicate in German helps break down some of the initial barriers that may be placed between an ETA and students, and between an American and Germans in general. Furthermore, my time spent teaching guitar and coaching MMA has helped tremendously in preparing me for being an ETA and navigating everyday life in Germany. As a guitar instructor, I learned how to make teaching/learning fun and found a way to be outgoing as a teacher. Coaching MMA gave me the confidence to be outgoing in daily life while also allowing me to find an amazing community within a gym here in Germany. The overall feeling that I have had since making it here has been gratitude. From coworkers and friends, I have felt overwhelmingly welcomed and am beyond thankful for this opportunity.

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Moin from Cuxhaven

Posted by Katie L.

Moin! This is the most common greeting in Northern Germany, where I am currently living and working as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA). Before I graduated from The University of Alabama in 2019, I majored in International Studies and German and knew I wanted to find ways to later study and/or work abroad. I had also grown up with spoken German at home, so my personal connection to the language was the deciding factor in choosing a German-speaking country as a future work/study goal. Through extracurriculars on campus, I learned about the Fulbright Grant and how I could choose to apply to study, teach, or participate in research, among other options, abroad. Because I will likely continue to teach throughout my career and hope to gain more (international) experience in the classroom, I chose the ETA track of the Fulbright application.

I was thrilled to be accepted to the grant program, and am now living in Cuxhaven, Germany and working with language faculty at the Berufsbildende Schulen Cuxhaven (or “BBS” for short). Cuxhaven is a small city on the North Sea in the state of Lower Saxony. Because of its location on the North Sea, as well as the mouth of the Elbe River, the city attracts many tourists each year. (I am definitely taking advantage of the walk to the beach!) The surrounding waters are home to the Wadden Sea (oder ,,Wattenmeer” im Deutschen), an area of shallow water with tidal flats. Walking to one of the small nearby islands during low tide is on my to-do list for this year!

As I transitioned from working in higher education (I am in the middle of an M.A. in German Studies at UA) to a secondary school, I felt fairly prepared after having taught my own language course in a previous semester at UA; however, it still took a bit of time to get used to the shift in learning goals, the different instructional styles of the teachers I support, and the German educational system in general. Fortunately, two “mentor teachers” have offered so much support during my transition to Germany and the new job.

Although it was a bit of “information-overload” during my first days, I have also fallen into a rhythm and schedule that I am really enjoying. My school is a vocational school with a variety of focuses, including traditional study as well as culinary, technical, and social work tracks of study. I am working in both German and English classrooms with teenagers and young adults. In addition to working in the classroom 3-4 days each week, I also assist with program/school-wide events such as “Europe Days” that promote global understanding and interest.

When I’m not in the school, I’m exploring more of Cuxhaven and the surrounding area, taking a class at the local “Volkshochschule,” or playing volleyball with a local club team.

I’m excited to continue to get to know my students and community!

Liebe Grüße aus Cuxhaven

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Fun in the Canary Islands

Posted by Logan F.

In my sophomore year of college, I fell in love with the Spanish language. Before, I saw it more as a useful skill to be able to better understand patients down the line in the medical field. However, during a Beyond Bama service-learning trip to Nicaragua, I found that Spanish wasn’t all conjugations and vocabulary- it was a gateway to another world. Spanish was the key to not only learn about real people and their histories, but it was a way to connect and form relationships. I was amazed at how easy it was to bond over food or traditions when I put myself in situations in which I couldn’t use English. This love for Spanish and enthusiasm for cultural exchange were my main reasons for applying to Fulbright.

Once I narrowed down my options to Spanish-speaking countries only, it was an easy decision to decide to apply for Spain’s Fulbright program. I already had an understanding of life in Spain because of a summer study abroad program in Madrid. Visiting museums and parks all over the city, meeting Spanish college students, and finally gaining confidence in my Spanish abilities helped to make the experience incredible. I knew Fulbright would be immersive in a completely different way, but I couldn’t wait to return.

Little did I know how different of an experience serving as an English Teaching Assistant in the Canary Islands would be! As an ETA, I spend 16 hours each week teaching classes, and 2 hours coordinating with other teachers. I work at a primary school, but I spend time only with grades 3-6. After school, I’m exploring new hobbies, like surfing, hiking, and running. I’m still trying to find the best tortilla in Las Palmas, and I’ve become obsessed with bocadillos and fresh squeezed zumo de naranja. In my free time, I’m also working on my side project. Originally, I had hoped to develop a service-learning curriculum partnering with a nonprofit, but volunteering is much harder than I expected here, especially with a group of elementary students. Instead, I’m searching for a volunteering site and plan to include lessons where students will act out different volunteering scenarios and can learn how they can get involved in their local community.

Coming into this experience, I was feeling a mixture of excitement and nervousness. I knew that all of my involvement had helped me to feel more ready for my Fulbright year, but nothing compares to walking into a new school on the first day, making friends in a new country, or the challenges that accompany everyday life when living somewhere unfamiliar. Add in an actively erupting volcano, and welcome to las Islas Canarias! I had mentored various ages of students throughout college- from programs like READ Alabama with first graders, Tuscaloosa’s One Place and Discovery Buddies with middle schoolers, the Spanish LIFT program with high schoolers, and even college students through UA’s ELL program. I also loved volunteering as a Spanish interpreter at Maude Whatley Health Clinic. After college, I spent a year working for a nonprofit in Greensboro, AL called Project Horseshoe Farm where I got even more experience mentoring and developing classroom materials, building relationships, and being outside of my comfort zone. Upon arriving in Gran Canaria, I realized I have so much to learn. But I cannot wait to experience everything.

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ETA Life in Budapest

Living in Bulgaria as a Fulbright scholar has been an immense gift. Whether it is teaching my 12th grade business English students about economics and teamwork or working with 8th grade students on poetry, each day is a new challenge and experience. The country has welcomed me with open arms, a bitter winter, and phenomenal food. Some of my highlights have been coaching a Speech and Debate team, weekly folk dancing lessons, and being a part of the Fulbright community in Bulgaria. It is an honor to be a part of a community with so many incredibly intelligent and world-changing individuals.

 

Posted by Erica B.

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All is Well in Greifswald!

All is well in Greifswald! From September through December of 2017, the machine at which I am working, the Wendelstein 7-X, was in operational phase 1.2a, during which I was working in the control room to help operate and collect data with specially filtered cameras. At the end of November, we ran the experiment that I am working on, in which we tested specifically designed new magnetic field configurations to mimic situations we might reach in later phases.

OP1.2b should begin in late summer, and then the hardware I am preparing for, the scraper elements, will be installed in the machine and we will repeat the same experiments to see how the scrapers affect the plasma. In the meantime, I am analyzing data from the previous phase, preparing multiple presentations on my work, and learning to operate probes which can be used to measure the temperature and density of the plasma near one of the installed scraper elements.

From this Saturday to next Wednesday, I am attending the Fulbright mid-year seminar in Berlin, and I will be giving a five minute “Ted Talk style” presentation on my research there. In mid-April, I will be flying back to the United States for a “working group meeting” at Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, where I will give a 20-30 minute presentation on the scraper element project. Then in the beginning of July, I hope to attend the European Physical Society’s 45th Conference on Plasma Physics in Prague to present a poster on my work and to learn more about recent advances in my field.

When my Fulbright scholarship ends in mid-July, Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory will be taking over my support and employing me as a summer student so that I can stay in Germany and continue working on my project until the beginning of September. At that time, I will be moving to New Jersey to begin a PhD program in plasma physics at Princeton University.
Here are two photos of me here, one of me working in the control room with a few colleagues and a recent one taken of me in my supervisor’s laboratory.

Post by Alex L.

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Zambian Women Are Dying From Preventable Complications

I am humbled and grateful that I have so many healthcare options, which are not available to most women in Lusaka, Zambia. Childbirth never seemed dangerous or scary to me. But, how would I know? I have never been pregnant. These are reflections after my time as a Fulbright Student Scholar in Lusaka, Zambia. I completed a documentary short as the research element of my appointment.

I was embedded on the labor ward at the University Teaching Hospital.  The hospital’s visuals are very different from my hospital experiences in US.  But, the human connection between doctors and patients is hauntingly similar. Those narratives resonated with me.

The final  film, WARD B12,  offers a hyper-realistic behind-the-scenes view of the low cost labor ward, B12, at the University Teaching Hospital. Follow patients,  doctors, caregivers, and midwives as their days intersect and unfold into a powerful narrative about determination, strength, life, and loss.  The film highlights the need for improvements in women’s healthcare and the powerful personal narratives that beat all odds.

The film tackles globally significant, easily relatable, issues that bridge borders and have the potential to deliver a new, significant point of view to an international audience.

Watch the trailer for the film, WARD B12, on vimeo now.

 https://vimeo.com/206996681

While in Zambia, I made connections that I will continue to grow.  And I hope that my documentation will add to a public discourse on the subject of women’s health and specifically encourage institutions and individuals to give available resources.

Every adventure supplies new inspiration for artistic expression, content and process.  I believe in the immortality of art & collaboration. With so many stories to tell, there’s no reason to stay in one place.

BIO: Becky Beamer is a freelance documentarian who is currently searching for screening and speaking opportunities related to this project, WARD B12.  For Becky Beamer’s contact information and other projects visit her  website.

 

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Top 8 Fulbright Students’ Must Pack Items

Lusaka, Zambia – One needs to get creative at the Birdsnest Backpackers when you are not just staying for a few days, but months. The bunkbed is covered with a very necessary mosquito netting but the cement ceiling made it hard to hang from the top.

Congratulations to all Fulbright recipients for 2017-18 school year.  I fully understand the intensity of the application process and then the excitement of receiving the appointment.  You will surely have an unforgettable adventure.  I am taking a moment to reminisce about my time last year preparing to depart to Lusaka, Zambia. I wish I had a list of recommended items to throw in my suitcase.  And then I really wished I had that same list even more once I arrived and spent a lot of money on some items that are much cheaper in the USA. So, without further adieu – I give you my list of Top 8 Items to Pack for your Fulbright Adventure!

Top 8 Items to Pack for your Fulbright Adventure:

  1. This is an inside look at Becky Beamer’s Fulbright adventure packing must-haves and maybes. Only about half of these made the suitcase.

    Headlamp : Ugh, I always pack my headlamp.  I take it to the beach.  I take it to youth hostels and I take it camping.  I can’t remember a documentary shoot in 10 years when I didn’t have my headlamp.  But, I forgot to take my headlamp to Zambia. Zambia suffers from regular load shedding (or planned power outages) across the city.  I broke down and had to buy one since I had no light in the neighborhood.

  2. Crystal Light Single Serving Packets : Nothing gets older to drink than bottled water for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.  Well, it was water or drink super sugary soft drinks and juices.  I’ll be feeling the effects of this bad choice as I try to lose the 10 pounds I packed on from poor eating habits.  Everything here is full fat and full sugar. It’s something to think about before you put on a couple extra pounds like I did. Now, I truly appreciate the options for healthy and safe eating that we have in the USA
  3. Fast Drying Camping Towel : Like many budget travelers, I found myself bunking in at a backpackers when I first arrived. I was so thankful that I could wake up to a towel the first day I arrived. It also packed easily into a backpack when I went on small journeys or sat by a pool.
  4. Carabiner : I attach things to things to things.  I packed pretty light and so, I couldn’t afford to misplace anything. So, I attached my shoes, umbrella, and bag of food to my backpack.  Also, in a pinch, I found that it could be used as a trade.  Carabiners are impossible to find in Lusaka so it’s a hot commodity on the crafts market.
  5. Extra Battery Pack for Phone – Solar If Possible : I mentioned before that Lusaka regularly has power restrictions.  As a technologically based project and person who likes my computer, a lack of power slowed me down.  I regularly sat in the dark doing literally nothing but, being mosquito food. I wish I had brought a power block.  If power is questionable in your Fulbright location, splurge for power now. Also, I did have the forethought to bring rechargeable AA and AAA batteries.  That has saved me a lot of money.
  6. Cloth Folding shower caddy / Flip Flops: This item is probably not at the top of your list of things to buy before you leave.  But, if you are sharing a bathroom at any point in adventure pick one up at Target.  You can grab one during the “back to school” sales for about 15.00 USD.  And then wander over to Walmart and grab the 2.00 cheap-o flip flops.  I used them at the backpackers, around the pool, in my house, and when visiting friends.  
  7. Ziplock Baggies: Nobody does ziplock like Ziplock. I cherish the large baggies with a slide zipper closure.  Those are unheard of in Lusaka.  I brought 10 and I’ve reused each one about 30 times.  I keep bread, cheese, veggies, meat, chips, cereal and more in my baggies.  I wash them and reuse them another time.  I bet you don’t do that in the states.
  8. Journal: Books and paper are expensive.  In Zambia, it’s very difficult to find nice writing paper or a blank journal.  Throw one into your bag.  You will love the way your moleskine journal feels in your hands compared to what you can find in some cities.

Atlanta, Georgia – This sunrise was only made possible thanks to a delayed flight. The 39 hour long flight to Lusaka, Zambia just got 24 hours longer.

Yes, every country appointment is different but, these items should be a consideration for all. Please consult your specific country’s representative to see if they agree with this list. And put them on the spot with a couple questions like  “What do you and your colleagues purchase when you come back to the USA? What everyday items are super expensive there that I might want to bring with me?”.

 

Happy travels to all,

Becky

www.beckybeamer.com

 

Some of my first impressions of Zambia. The vibrant color is obvious. I wish I could send the feeling of growing in the heat of September.

Some of my first impressions of Zambia. The vibrant color is obvious. I wish I could send the feeling of growing in the heat of September.

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Thoughts one month before departure for Poland!!!!

Hey all. My name is Pandora White and I am a 4th year chemistry doctoral candidate at the University of Alabama. I have been awarded a Fulbright U.S. Student Research Grant to Poland for the 2016- 2017 cycle. Currently, I am less than 30 days away from my scheduled departure. I am currently engaged in packing and preparing for departure. So, I will tell you my thoughts about this process.

First of all, let me inform you of some of my traits that heavily influence my packing process. I am an African American with natural hair, plus size, and a solo traveler. In America, this may not seem like a big deal. However, when it comes to other countries this seems to be an incredible mixture of traits. I have travelled abroad to 7 countries and have spent months in a few of them.  So while preparing to depart, I always ask myself these questions:

  1. Will my race/nationality cause a problem? In countries like Jamaica or Ghana where the majority of the population are members of the African diaspora, I did not have any problems with race. However, in some of the other countries I’ve visited, I felt my blackness. People stare at me, take photos of me, or ask me tons of questions. So in general the normal responses I get when people see me are:
    1. In some countries I have travelled to, some people have not seen African Americans and they want to document it in some way. Some people ask to take my photo and sometimes they just do it without permission. It makes me feel like I have my own paparazzi.  I have started taking photos with the people who ask to take my photo to document it. I generally respond kindly to these requests, and the people leave me alone.  Here are a few photos of this:
      Pandora1

      Shirahama Beach in Shirahama, Japan

      Pandora2

      Kochi, Kerala, India

    2. Confused/ Misinformed/Ignorant. These people are generally not a problem.  They just do not know of my culture, history and how to approach me. I consider those as teaching moments, but sometimes they anger me.  Recently, I was in the Philippines and a guy from Amsterdam asked me “Why are Negroes in America so violent?”  This was during the time when BLM protests were happening all around America. Instead of responding angrily, I explained to him the events that led to the protests and hopefully that influenced him not to think that African Americans are violent.
    3. Anger/racism. Although, I have never had anyone openly attack me. I have had a couple of altercations. I am always concerned about racists.
  1. What to do about my hair& skin?Pandora3A lot of study abroad programs tell you that you can just pick up shampoo anywhere so you do not need to pack it. However, in my case I cannot do that.  My hair is all natural. A lot of the things I use are not available in certain countries like Taiwan.  In those instances, I make my hair care and skin products from raw ingredients. So I have been compiling recipes and gathering some of the ingredients that may not be readily available such as Shea butter.
  1. Will they have clothes my size? Being both plus size and tall in America, there are specialty stores and tons of options which makes it easy for me to find clothes. However, in some countries like India and Japan, they don’t sell clothes in my size. I had to rely on what I brought with me and in some cases hire a tailor/ seamstress to make my clothes. So right now, I’m thinking about what is the most durable and versatile clothes I can pack.Pandora4
  2. Is it safe and are there rules for women that I should know? Knowing the appropriate dress code for women can help a lot in some places. I do not want to receive unwanted attention because my shorts are too short. So I pay attention to that.  In some places, it is uncommon for single women to rent apartments which makes it difficult to find apartments. In general, I just rely on instincts but I also research the country.

I have tons of anxieties about going to Poland, but I am also looking forward to all the new adventures that may befall me. I will post my detailed packing list closer to my departure date.  If you have any questions or comments, please post a comment.

 

 

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