Soon, a SIUE College of Arts and Sciences alumna will be sharing her knowledge of English to school children in Germany. Kate Eckert, a senior set to graduate with a double major in historical studies and foreign language and literature and a minor in European studies, was recently awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to spend nine months in Germany.
A Belleville native, Eckert said that her first trip to Germany came after her parents were approached about getting involved with a sister-city program between Belleville and Paderborn, a city in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany.
Following her junior year in high school, Eckert spent the summer studying abroad in Germany. She said that during this trip, she decided that she wanted to study German, even though she had been studying Spanish in school for two years. Eckert said that she received special permission in high school to take Spanish and German, but ended up dropping the Spanish completely. She stated that she was fortunate to have a good host family that she now simply refers to as her German family.
“I decided that I am going to learn German. I want to speak to them and I want them to not have to talk to me in English. I’m going to learn German,” said Eckert.
Eckert came to SIUE after two years at Murray State University, where she also did a study abroad program. She stated that she wasn’t sure that the program there fit her and her parents encouraged her to move home by offering to help with another study abroad program.
“My parents said, ‘If you come home and live at home, you can study abroad again.’ And I said, ok. Deal. So, I studied abroad through the program here, junior year abroad in Hannover,” said Eckert. “Then, just last fall, my German professor said those of you graduating soon should look into applying for some of these programs.”
Belinda Carstens-Wickham, professor of foreign language and literature, encouraged Eckert to apply for the Fulbright Scholarship, according to Eckert. Eckert said that Ron Schaefer, director of the international studies office, said that the German Fulbright was a difficult program to get into but that didn’t stop her from applying. With help, advice, and a good letter of recommendation from Jennifer Miller, assistant professor of historical studies, who was a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship recipient, Eckert stated she put the application together in about three weeks.
Eckert stated that she taught during one of her study abroad programs, a skill that she will be able to use during the nine months she will be in Germany.
“When I was in Heidelberg, with the study abroad program through Edwardsville, I had an internship in a German grade school, in a second grade class. This school was really progressive and they were starting language learning at first grade,” said Eckert. “I went one day a week and I taught songs, played games and just talked with them.”
When filling out the application, Eckert stated that she did not specify what state in Germany that she preferred. She believes this helped her receive the scholarship. Eckert also stated that she hopes to apply the skills she has gained in her seven previous trips and the one coming to her possible future as a professor of German.
“Basically, I’ll get placed anywhere in the whole country, in a random English classroom–it could be grade school; it could be middle school; it could be high school–and I’ll be assigned a classroom with a teacher. I’ll be an English teacher’s assistant. From what I gather, I’ll be teaching lessons,” said Eckert. “Ideally, I would like to get a master’s in German, a Ph.D. in German, and be a professor. Where better to learn German than in Germany?”