Two UND students prove they have what it takes to be language and cultural ambassadors for the U.S. Fulbright Program to help teach English to Germans in Germany
Amy Shirek and Ashley Schomer, both students at the University of North Dakota, are headed for Germany to help teach English to young German students for 10 months as part of the Fulbright Teaching Assistantship (ETA) in Germany.
They’ll depart in September.
The ETA falls under the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. There are programs in countries all around the world; however Shirek and Schomer were selected for Germany. The program is designed to help bridge gaps and build understanding between the United States and other countries and cultures.
ETA Programs will place the UND Fulbrighters in classrooms to provide assistance to local English teachers. Shirek and Schomer will help teach English language while serving as cultural ambassadors for the U.S. They will be cooperating with the teachers and schools in Germany to develop lessons about the English language and incorporate aspects of American history and culture, along with interests of the students into the classroom.
In addition to teaching, they’ll find ways to be involved with their host communities, including participating in after-school study groups or language clubs. Germany has a long history with the Fulbright program and also has a Diversity Program, which places a portion of the ETAs in schools with significant numbers of students with minority backgrounds.
“Because of my background in English Language Learner (ELL) education and because of the current refugee crisis in Germany, I am hoping to be placed in one of these schools where I feel I can do the most good,” Shirek said.
Shirek was born and raised in Grand Forks and is the second youngest of five children in her family.
“All of my older siblings studied German at some point, and that was what initially got me interested in the language,” says Shirek .
Through her four years in high school, Shirek studied German, and she also traveled abroad with the German American Partnership Program (GAPP) during her sophomore year.
“That trip was a definite motivator for me and was part of what pushed me to study German and education at UND,” says Shirek.
After the Fulbright experience in Germany, Shirek plans to come back to Grand Forks and complete her education degree. She eventually would like to get a job teaching in Grand Forks.
“I am very thankful for this opportunity and look forward to making the most of my time in Germany,” says Shirek.
Schomer, a native of East Grand Forks, is preparing for a similar experience abroad.
A spring 2014 graduate of UND with a bachelor's degree in German, Schomer is a licensed K-12 German teacher in North Dakota. She is currently working on her master's degree in ELL education at UND.
The application for the Fulbright opportunity was an arduous process, involving a lot of paperwork as well as two essays. Other steps in the process include on-campus committee interviews on campus and language clearances that Fulbright applicants must pass.
Schomer says she was actually rejected the first time she applied in fall of 2013. But She was undaunted and gave it another shot.
“I am beyond thankful to everyone who helped me apply the first and second time,” describes Schomer. “From my experience, I have learned that the worst thing that someone can say in this situation, is 'no.’”
Schomer pursued a Fulbright opportunity in Germany because of her undergraduate major and a desire to live in the country for an extended period of time.
“If anyone thinks that they want to do something like this, they should definitely try it,” Schomer said. “You may have the chance at a once-in-a-life-time experience.”
Teresa DiGregorio University & Public Affairs student writer