I was studying in the Mary Idema Pew library just three weeks away from graduating, when I received an e-mail from the Institute of International Education with the subject line “Fulbright U.S. Student Program Application Notification;” an e-mail I had awaited for more than six months.
Reading the first sentence and its congratulations, I gasped loudly and threw a hand over my mouth in disbelief. Those studying around me probably wondered, and rightfully so, what kind of thing could possibly elicit so much joy in the university library with the exam period looming. Let me tell you what kind of thing that is…
A Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship to Germany entails one’s placement at a German school to teach part time English language, American history, culture and politics, and the general fostering of cross-cultural dialogue both in the school and community. The overarching program goal is to promote mutual understanding between countries. I was also granted a spot in the Fulbright ETA subgroup called the Diversity Program, in which one’s school placement is quite diverse with many students having migrant or refugee backgrounds.
I teach in Fürth, Bavaria at Hardenberg-Gynamsium, an institution for grades 5-12, as well as at the diverse Grundschule Frauenstraße, a school for grades K-4. My colleagues are wonderful and my students so eager and curious. For example, if I had 1€ (Euro) for every time I’ve been asked how I feel about Donald Trump, gun laws, and football, cheerleaders, or prom, I would be rich! Controversial questions, the exchange of perspectives, and breaking down stereotypes are all an exciting part of the job.
There is no denying the challenge of being plopped in a new city, in a foreign country, to live in a new language/culture, with a new job, new apartment, new roommate, and new friends. One important lesson that teaches you, if you let it, is how to really establish yourself in a new place, make connections, and build a new life.
In my quest to do just that, I’ve enrolled in the university here (Friedrich-Alexander-Universität) where I study Arabic and Swahili. I’ve also joined an organization (Ehrenamtlisch Flüchtlingsbetreuung in Erlangen) that offers tutoring to refugee students who have been resettled in Germany; I teach English to two boys from Damascus, Syria while they act as Arabic tutors for me. I also play basketball for a club team in Nürnberg and coach a team of fifth and sixth grade girls through a nationwide effort called Integration Durch Sport that seeks to help migrant and refugee students better integrate into German schools. Practice is always a hilarious mix of charades and translations given the girls’ variety of native languages.
Sarah Cullip graduated in 2017 with a degree in English & German Secondary Education after her tenure as a member of the Cross Country, Track & Field, and Women’s Basketball teams, a representative on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, a German Club member, and a Cook Leadership Academy Fellow. Sarah then received a Fulbright grant to Germany, where she currently works as an English Teaching Assistant, studies Arabic and Swahili, tutors refugees, and plays and coaches basketball. Sarah will spend the summer interning at a school in Kenya with hopes to teach another year in Germany before pursuing a Master’s degree in International Comparative Education. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, travelling and reading.