By Nicole Veenstra
Three words were all it took to change Jessica Nagle’s future.
“I read the first line — actually, only about the first three words, ‘I am pleased’ and my heart started beating so fast,” she said.
Nagle, a senior who is double majoring in secondary education and German while getting her certification in English as a second language (ESL), won a Fulbright scholarship on April 6. She applied for an English teaching assistantship and will now help teach English for one school year in Austria, a German-speaking country.
According to Don Steven, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, the Fulbright scholarship “is a very prestigious national award based on academic excellence.”
Arkansas Senator J. William Fulbright created the Fulbright Program in 1946. The English teaching assistantships in Austria were established for college and university graduates in 1963.
From Oct. 1 through May 31 (with orientation taking place during the last week of September), approximately 140 U.S. teaching assistants will be placed in various secondary schools throughout all nine of Austria’s provinces.
Although the English teaching assistantships are not directly a part of the Fulbright Grant Program, applications are reviewed by the Austrian-American Education Commission, or Fulbright Commission, according to its website, www.fulbright.at. The program is funded by the Austrian Federal Ministry for Education, Arts and Culture.
Nagle is excited for both the experience she will have overseas as well as the impact it will have on her future.
“This is a very prestigious award that will give me an advantage when applying for jobs,” she said. “I am also really excited to learn more about the process of learning English as a foreign language. I think it will improve how I teach ESL.”
Although Nagle studied abroad in Austria for a semester during her sophomore year, she has no previous experience teaching in another country. However, a letter signifying her language proficiency is required in the application, verifying that she can help establish a “mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the peoples of other countries,” which is the program’s professed purpose.
For her specific program, Nagle will help teach in a classroom for 13 hours a week with a monthly salary of approximately $1,050 after taxes, according to the program’s website. Housing and airfare are not covered, but Nagle said she is not worried because she will stay with a friend in Graz until she can find a cheap apartment.
“I will be working in Gleisdorf and Weiz,” she said. “Both are tiny towns about 30-45 minutes away by train. Taking the train to work is nothing out of the ordinary for an Austrian, though.”
Dr. Margaret Schleissner, a professor of German at Rider, is Nagle’s mentor because of her position as the Fulbright Program adviser. Schleissner is also a two-time participant of the Fulbright German Studies Seminar, which selects 25 faculty from all over the U.S. to visit Germany for a few weeks.
Nagle’s experience will be a wonderful opportunity for student teaching, Schleissner said.
“It gives her additional practice and hopefully she’ll learn a lot of new methods,” she said. “It also gives her the opportunity to put what she’s learned to work.”
Nagle is Rider’s sixth Fulbright-winning student since 2006, according to Steven, though there are currently a few more students waiting to hear back since the deadline is dependent on the type of award for which one is applying.
Nagle never questioned her interest in the Fulbright scholarship or in the possible opportunity to teach overseas. In addition to studying abroad in Austria, she also lived in Gee for the first half of her sophomore year and acted as an international student mentor for three years.
“I lived in Gee, so I got really close to a lot of international students,” she said. “That’s another reason why I am so excited to go back to Austria. I miss my friends in Austria, Spain, France, Germany and Serbia. I miss the lifestyle, the food and the people of Austria.”