#KStateSpanish student Sarah Marek, who graduated in May 2019 with THREE degrees — in Secondary Education (BS), Spanish (BA), and German (BA) — was recently awarded an Austrian Fulbright Grant to teach English in Austria, beginning in fall 2019. Fulbright Teaching Awards are very competitive, and this year TWO students studying Spanish in our Modern Languages Department won them. (The other, Hannah Harker, is an MA-Spanish/SLA student and graduate teaching assistant: MA-Spanish Graduate Student Awarded Fulbright to Teach in Uruguay.)
In this post, Sarah will share a bit about what she’ll be doing during her Fulbright year in Austria, what it was like to major in TWO languages at K-State with our fabulous German and Spanish professors, and a some tips for #KStateSpanish students as they work to build their language skills and proficiency.
Sarah actually received TWO Fulbright awards for teaching German and had to make the difficult between two exceptional programs. She was awarded the Fulbright award for Germany, which she turned down in favor of the Austrian Fulbright; this award is actually a grant sponsored by the Austrian government and facilitated by the Fulbright Committee. The town where she will be living and working is somewhat of a resort town, called Zell am See, where she will spend a year teaching English at 2 different schools, while also (hopefully!) taking a few classes at the local community college. These factors made the Austrian Fulbright most appealing to Sarah.
FELICIDADES, Sarah! We’re so excited about your award – even if you won’t be teaching Spanish… 😉 Can you tell us why did you decided to major in Spanish AND German AND Education?
I did all 3 because I couldn’t choose! First, I took Spanish in high school and wanted to continue, but then I took one German class for fun… and it ended up becoming my major as well. I majored in each language instead of just doing the education concentration because I wanted more language exposure and more experience speaking.
What was the biggest challenge of double-majoring in two different languages?
One of the biggest challenges was keeping the two languages separate. Especially at the beginning when I was first learning, I would mix up my grammar rules and vocabulary. Learning two languages simultaneously slows down your progress a bit, in my opinion, but it’s possible and worth it… just more difficult. Now that I’ve been learning the two languages for longer, I’ve separated them a bit more, although I still have some interference when I speak. Another challenge was having to balance all the classes required for each major, as well as the time I spent in each language. It was definitely a lesson in time management skills.
What has been the best part of your experience as a SPANISH major at K-State?
The best part of being a Spanish major was all the opportunities it opened up. I went on some amazing study abroad trips to Spain (summer in Granada), Austria, and Germany, had great teachers, and very interesting classes. I was also able to talk to native Spanish speakers outside of the class and meet new people, so I was able to put my Spanish language skills to use outside of class and in the community. I was able to join and participate in Sigma Delta Pi and Spanish Club. Out of all the classes I took I think my favorite is still Prof. Bender’s Don Quijote class!
What recommendations do you have for students interested in majoring in ANY language at K-State?
You have to take it out of the classroom!! If you only use the language when you are in class, you won’t reach the level of proficiency that you want — the more you use it, the more you learn. Try doing mini-immersion activities at home like changing your phone language, finding activities like clubs or conversation hours to practice the language, watch Netflix in the target language, or find a speaking buddy online. My language skills didn’t really start to develop fully until I put in more work on my own time.
Congratulations, again, Sarah! We’ll be looking forward to updates from Austria during 2019/2020 school year.
Learn more about:
The US Fulbright Student program here: https://us.fulbrightonline.org/.
Sigma Delta Pi Honors Society at K-State here.