Category Archives: Europe

Holidays in Germany

Posted by Katie L.

Hello from Cuxhaven! The past few months have consisted of time off for the holidays with family, getting to better know colleagues, brief snowfall, and lots of walks and hikes. At the end of November, many cities were able to open their traditional month-long Christmas markets. With holiday music, decorations, and so many good things to eat, I happily checked out markets in Bremen, Hamburg and Cuxhaven. My parents were able to come to spend the holidays with me here in Germany; it was such a cool and nice experience to show them were I work and live, as well as to introduce them to a colleague from my school’s English team. We spent the break exploring the surrounding area and visiting with family friends in central Germany. After spending New Year’s together (known here as “Silvester”), my parents flew home and I headed back to Cuxhaven to wrap up my first school term. The school schedule here is somewhat different: the fall/winter semester just ended with the last days of January, and the new school semester will begin tomorrow (February 2nd). I will continue working in some of the same English and German language classrooms that I have been involved with, as well as with a few new English classes with 11th and 12th graders. In my “German as a Foreign Language” class, (for teenagers and young adults who have moved to Germany in recent days, weeks or months and must reach German language proficiency), another teacher and I are working on a “Stadtrallye” for the students. This is somewhat like a city scavenger hunt/rally, designed to help the students to become more familiar with the city of Cuxhaven. In my English courses, students tackle a variety of subjects from current and historical social justice issues (in the US, in South Africa, and around the world), to Shakespeare, to the integration of refugees and migrants in Germany, to the politics of clothing production, and more. Students are interested in learning more about recent and current political and social movements in the US in particular, which allows for a good deal of reflection on my own perceptions and for a curiosity of my own regarding my home country. 

The German education system’s structure is somewhat different than what we experience in the US. After primary school (after the fourth grade), students are funneled into different study tracks based on teacher recommendations. Some are selected to follow a track lasting until they are about 18 years old that will offer preparation for studying at a university, while others may follow tracks at separate schools (such as vocational training programs) lasting until approximately age 15. At the school where I work, there are a variety of study tracks, along with the option to combine traditional academic learning with vocational training and internships. Some argue that the country’s educational structure leads to an unfair separation and organization of young people, while others suggest that the separation better targets students’ needs.

On a final note, new foods tried this month were Roulade and Labskaus (Northern German classics!).


Liebe Grüße aus Cuxhaven

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ETA in Germany

Posted by Robert H.

Hey y’all, Robert here.

I am from Mobile, Alabama and a 2018 graduate of the University of Alabama in political science and lifelong Blount Scholar. I originally thought I was not able to pursue a Fulbright Scholarship because of my GPA. It was good, a 3.28, but not great compared to the GPAs of other applicants for the three most prestigious international scholarships: Rhodes, Gates-Cambridge, and Fulbright. Further, I was a first-generation college student with no one in my community who had even thought about ever applying to Fulbright. Yet at the recommendation of Dr Feminella, who at the time was my German Professor (bless him for having to read my German essays back then), I set out to make an application for masters studies in Germany. Looking back as a graduate student now, this application was lacking a precise vision for what I wanted to study and how I wanted to apply both my time in Germany and my Master that I would gain in Germany. However, with the incredible support of UA’s Fulbright advisors, I was able to pass the first round and on to the final decision. However, around the time that I was about to graduate, I received a rejection letter. Distraught as I was set on starting my masters and being in Germany, I decided to seek out advice from both UA faculty and friends abroad and came to the conclusion that I should spend a year taking a job abroad and building up my resume to apply again. That decision, with encouragement from the entire advising staff, ended up being the best year of my life at that point. My time living and teaching English in Korea gave me the confidence and showed me a love for teaching that influenced my second Fulbright application as an English Teaching Assistant to Germany. Amidst the advent of the pandemic, I received notification that I had been accepted for a Fulbright Scholarship, which turned out to be a life-changer. I would have to wait another year to start my Fulbright, however, until we had the tools we had today to fight the pandemic with full force. Once August 2021 came around, I prepared myself for my flight to Germany with the assignment to the small city of Plauen, Saxony.

Since being here, I have constantly been surprised by the shared culture Germans and Americans have in, including finding love for American culture in cafes and shops. I even found a place that sells twinkies, of all things! Learning the language has been a continued struggle of renewing where I left off from undergrad and missed when I lived in Korea, yet I do surprise myself with how much I am now able to understand and communicate. My colleagues at my school regularly switch between English and German and I have gotten used to the Danglish needed to switch between the languages with ease. I am also taking an Academic German course with the goal of receiving my CEFR B2 by the end of the summer. I feel that I am almost entirely adjusted, joking with my German friends and the other foreign teaching assistants around Vogtland (Plauen’s county) that I need to save up to buy one of these amazing houses. I am currently living in a small apartment on the top floor that overlooks a small garden area and a part of the city. Saxony used to be part of East Germany so a lot of the buildings here are known as DDR-Builds, which my apartment is one, although updated. So far I have been on a good deal of adventures. I recently tried to learn how to ski and as a Southern Gulf Coast guy I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Needless to say, I had a nice visit to the doctor’s office after slamming into a tree.

COVID-19 has limited a lot of social and community life in Germany, with most places now having a “2G” requirement: either vaccinated or recovered. However I was happy to attend Plauen’s 900th year of existence book event and I am now assisting Fulbright Germany and the US Embassy in Berlin with Meet US, touring German schools and presenting on US culture and values. Education in Germany is far more specialized by education type than in the United States. I currently teach at a Gymnasium, which is a type of high school that is focused on university preparation, but there are several other types of schools that all have their role towards the different job and education needs in society. So to be able to travel and see all these types of schools and their amazing students is a fantastic opportunity.

Returning home I am looking forward to seeing my family and friends again and to picking back up in-person classes at my graduate school, American University’s School of International Service. I will certainly miss my time here and I will almost certainly be planning my return as soon as I get back to the US, yet to me, there is something beautiful about chapters of life coming to a close and thanking that time we have to give lessons to carry with us for the rest of our lives. After my final year of graduate school, it is my current intention to apply to Cambridge University’s POLIS PhD program, Gonville and Caius College.

My advice to a future Fulbright student is to keep your life goals certain but be flexible to all the ways life gets you to those goals. 10 year old me could have never imagined being in the position I am now. 20 year old me could have never imagined how I would get to the position I am now. 

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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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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:

      Shirahama Beach in Shirahama, Japan


      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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