Ufholz attained a prestigious Padagogischer Austauschdienst Teaching Assistantship, better known as a Fulbright Fellowship Scholarship, which took her across the Atlantic Ocean to work as a teaching assistant in Hamburg, Germany. Just 140 Padagogischer Austauschdienst Teaching Assistantships are awarded for each nine-month grant period, in Ufholz's case from September 2009 to June 2010, making her stand out from the rest.
The requirements to even be considered for the Fulbright are extensive and unique. Each candidate must be well-rounded, articulate and in possession of the skills and motivation needed to assist in teaching American studies, including English language and culture to German high school students. In addition, applicants must have strong proficiency in the German language and be under the age of 29.
"I honestly didn't think I would get it," said Ufholz, reflecting on her initial thoughts when going through the application process.
The Fulbright Program was founded in 1946 by Senator J. William Fulbright, with his vision of "the promotion of mutual understanding between our two countries through academic and bicultural exchange," stated on the Web site. Since the adoption of the program, the German-American Fulbright has sponsored more than 40,000 Germans and Americans, and Ufholz is the latest in a string of Wittenberg graduates to earn the opportunity.
"It's pretty competitive, and I'd heard that they were looking for people who wanted to teach German as a second language in America later. But I went ahead anyways, thinking if this fell through, I could use the essays for different applications," said Ufholz, who compared the Fulbright application process to the nerve-wracking graduate school application process. "No matter how early you start, it is not early enough."
Ufholz found out she made it through the first round in January 2009. The next step was to translate essays in German and send them to the committee. Then came the waiting game. Ufholz knew the committee could take until the fall to make final decisions, but she was told that if May and June went by without word, then odds of getting the scholarship were not very good.
"I think I stayed in shock for about a week," she said. It became real when all the mail from Berlin started to pour in.
The school is a primary school with an English language immersion program. Ufholz teaches first- through fourth-graders 12 hours a week, and the other teachers want her to speak English as much as possible. She teaches her students about American culture and real-life aspects of the United States.
Ufholz said the opportunity would not have been possible without the help of Associate Professor of Languages Tim Bennett and Associate Professor of Languages David Barry. Both helped Uhfolz with her undergraduate studies and guided her through the application process.
"I've been nicknamed the living dictionary," said Uhfolz, when explaining how the children look up to her as their native speaker. "In the classrooms, I usually help the students understand the English instructions or help them write in English. I get some very creative spellings."
Ufholz lives in the center of Hamburg, one of the largest cities in Germany. The native of Akron, Ohio, said this is her first time living in a big city, but she has adjusted well. About 10 of the 140 Fulbright recipients live and work in Hamburg as well, so there is always a support network.
"Everyone I meet is friendly," she said. "If they see you standing around with a map in your hands, they'll usually offer to help."
Written by: Hillary Monnin '12
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