Greetings from the U.S.
Ein Bericht von Prof. Martina Schäper
First of all, I would like to wish you all a Happy New Year! I hope you enjoyed your Christmas break and are prepared for the new challenges in the months to come.
Finally, I would like to let you know how my life in my new home is organized and what I have experienced here in the U.S.
My new home
It’s been now 4 months since I arrived here in Cincinnati to start my year abroad for teaching and studying in the U.S. First of all, I would like to start at the beginning of my trip: after a 20 hour trip to the U.S., my roommate Cole (a nice girl from Wisconsin) picked me up at the airport and she showed me my new place to stay. I live in a huge and cozy apartment close to the University Campus that I have furnished piece by piece until it is truly a home away from home.
During the first week I recognized that the surroundings of UC aren’t as safe as they seem to be and there are some rules you have to know when you live in this city. The crime rate is quite high, but fortunately, there exists an Escort Service at the UC. Furthermore, one can remain wherever one wants during the day and that makes the daily life more convenient.
UC welcomed the International Students from all over the world with a nice city-trip and Cincinnati has a lot to offer: close to Kentucky and the lovely Newport area, one can view the lovely skyline of Cincinnati. Moreover, the city is influenced by German culture and the population is at least 40 % German-American. As a result, there is a the “Hofbräuhaus” as well as the world’s second largest “Oktoberfest” (which I have of course visited).
In addition, I am getting used to some typical American cultural peculiarities: For instance, I am a “sweetheart, dear, honey or sweetie” for mostly every salesman or saleswoman. Americans are really superficially friendly. Likewise, it is weird, when everybody wants to know “How are you doing?” and they are not interested in your answer! Those culture gaps are really interesting and nearly in every daily situation there are serious differences between our cultures. Even the teacher-student relationship is much more relaxed than in Austria. (The Teaching Assistants have already been invited to the Professors place for dinner!) In general, in the U.S. everything is more laid back and I have grown accustomed to the American way of eating (!!!), acting and speaking to each other. Finally, everything is huge, huge and huge again.
The life at the university
The University Campus is really amazing and I was impressed about this little town within a city (50,000 students). I am glad to be assigned to such a modern and beautiful campus with many possibilities to spend my leisure time. The Recreation Center is especially awesome and I have started to train and workout nearly every day. (For you guys: the Bearcat Football team is really successful and the basketball season is just beginning --> I will send you some pictures when I’ve been to a game) If you’re interested to get to know more about the University of Cincinnati, just visit the homepage: www.uc.edu.
During the first two weeks, the new Teaching Assistants participated in a helpful and informative orientation to get prepared for the American students. Meanwhile, I have gotten used to the combination of being a teacher and student at the same time. Above all, the hardest adjustment at the university is still the fact that I have just 15 students to teach and the rest of the day I am a student who has to read and write papers for class. Incidentally, the classrooms are equipped with high-tech and modern equipment that makes teaching really enjoyable. A document camera that projects everything that you put on it on the screen is something special for an Austrian teacher. Therefore, it is natural to use the computer, show movie trailers, do listening comprehensions and to communicate with the students through the online Blackboard. Thus, the teacher and the student have the possibility for an uncomplicated and easy daily exchange.
Furthermore, the Teaching Assistants work together closely and we have to observe each other and prepare our lessons in a two week rhythm for the other teachers. As you can see, an intercommunicative work environment is self-evident at the UC German Department. (Dear students, to be honest: the American students learn quite slowly, but I am proud that they can already introduce themselves and pronounce German words quite well after the first quarter)
Traveling in America seems to be a never ending story and the size of the country as well as the endless possibilities makes the decision where to go not easy at all.
Certainly, I try to travel as much as I can and I have visited an American family, close to Cincinnati (45 Minutes by car is really close for the Americans, they don’t know something about distance). They live on a typical mid-east farm in Oxford and the country is definitely the most widespread area I have even seen before. Cows, cornfields and cars are the most important things to survive at that place. (Don’t forget the AIR CONDITIONER and the ice machine) Thus, a special highlight was it to watch the “Racing pigs” at a typical country festival. (Old McDonald had a farm,…)
Furthermore, I spent a weekend in Toronto (It’s no problem to fly for a weekend far away, there are really good deals) and I traveled to the Niagara Falls in October too. What a wonderful and fascinating natural phenomenon. Canada is more European than the U.S. Everything seems to be more organized and clean (!). All in all, an unforgettable journey!
In November I traveled with some colleagues to Chicago, the “windy city”, by Megabus, a cheap possibility to visit this interesting city. In the first week of December, Fulbright invited us for four days to Washington D.C., where I have met 142 Teaching Assistants from 32 different countries of the world. This was one of the most impressive experiences I have ever had. The workshop was an excellent possibility to get to know different teaching methods and perspectives concerning teaching in general. All in all, it was a huge cultural mixture of different personalities coming together at one place. (the Nigerian guys ate their lunch simply with their hands – what should they do with all those forks?)
I really enjoy traveling around the U.S., simply, because it is so easy to get from one point to the next. For this reason, I used my Christmas break for about four weeks to travel around with Klaus, who visited me during this period. We started with the most popular city in Nevada: the “gamble city” Las Vegas where we have explored several hotels and casinos. It’s just the craziest, most colorful, entertaining, loudest and liveliest place to stay - all in all, a “pick `n` mix” city.
After that, we were looking forward to Florida, considered as the Sunshine State of the U.S. (30 degree Celsius awaited us) What a diverse and beautiful place to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s Eve. We organized a roundtrip through the state and started in Orlando (MGM Studios – a great stunt show, several shows and cinemas), followed by Sarasota and the shell isle Sanibel on the Gulf coast of Southern Florida (you are constantly walking over shells and powder white sand – a seashell collectors paradise). In Sanibel we celebrated Christmas.
??? Christmas in a foreign country must be strange…???
Definitely, it is different, but we have enjoyed a typical American service on the beach under palms, holding lighted candles in our hands. Honestly, it was one of the most impressive and reflective Christmas evenings I have ever celebrated. Next, we explored the Everglades (a huge natural resort full of rare and endangered species). I have seen many alligators lying around next to us. (Scary!) The ride through this wilderness was absolutely an unforgettable highlight. The last week of our trip we have visited Miami Beach (a great party place where you can find crazy freaks), Fort Lauderdale (little Venice with 40000 yachts) and last but not least Key West. New Year’s Eve we have been in Key West and celebrated a nice evening at the southernmost point of the continental U.S.
As you can see, the U.S. offers several different possibilities to explore new places, but after this exciting December, I am honestly looking forward to the next quarter here in Cincinnati. My students are already waiting for me and I hope that I have a nice and pretty quiet Winter Quarter on Campus.
I am missing…
…Klaus and my family
... the mountains
…the good Austrian food (I am more and more proud to be a European!) –
(Wiener Schnitzel, kein “Gummibrot”, Kaiserschmarren, gute Sachertorte, usw. )
…to go out whenever I want without being scared
…my familiar surrounding
…interested and well-prepared GYS students (even if you can’t believe it, but it’s true)
…and so on and so on…
I really enjoy my new life abroad even if it is sometimes an emotional rollercoaster. All in all, I am thankful for the possibility and this challenge I have gotten.
I wish you all the best and a good start into 2008 and good luck for all “Schularbeiten und Tests” und take it easy!
Bis bald, eure Martina Schäper