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​Alumna Awarded Teaching Assistantship in Austria

September 15, 2016

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Each year, 140 college graduates from the U.S. teach in Austria with help of the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education. Deana Hero ’15 is one of those college graduates. The prestigious U.S. Teaching Assistantship (USTA) program focuses on bringing academically engaged young people from other countries into the classrooms of local secondary schools in communities all over Austria.

Hero, a music education major, is the recipient of an official USTA Fulbright Award and joins more than 2,900 college graduates who have participated in this program. Students are selected based on their personal essay statements, their resume, and transcripts.

Cultural immersion is a key factor for anyone selected to participate as a teaching assistant in Austria, as those selected will be learning a foreign language through an actual cross-cultural interaction with people from another country.

This marks the third time she’ll be living in Austria. As a student, Hero participated in two separate study abroad opportunities including a summer program focused on German language and music lessons, as well as an intensive music and history program through the Institute for the International Education of Students during Spring 2015.

Hero at Skischaukel Radstadt-Altenmarkt, a ski resort located in the Austrian Alps.

For this journey, she’s looking forward to living with a host family in Freistadt and working with students at the local high school.

“I can’t wait to be completely immersed in the culture and live within it every day,” Hero said. “Freistadt is a small town of 7,000 people about three hours from Vienna and I’m really looking forward to seeing more of the rural aspect of the country too. I’m also going to be in a brass band since I play the clarinet. We’ll perform traditional polka-style music so I’m really going to make sure I absorb the culture while there as much as I can.”

Living as an American in Europe and seeing the intersection of both cultures is key for Hero and a big part of the USTA program.

“Their mission is to provide a mutual understanding between the U.S. and Austria,” Hero said. “I really like seeing the differences between a European mindset and an American mindset about things like work. We’re really focused on working and careers here and there it’s more of a laid-back attitude where you’re encouraged to sit in a café for three hours and enjoy life. Both have their pros and cons and I think it’s crucial to be able to blend them together. It’s an amazing opportunity.”

Hero during a trip to the Musikverein (Music Hall) where the famous Vienna Philharmonic performs.

Business Administration Professor Annette Citzler was key in helping her secure a spot within the program. A former Fulbright Scholar herself, Professor Citzler guided Hero through the entire application process, including mock interviews and six revisions of both papers she wrote for her personal essay.

“I had mentors and coaches who did this for me, like TLU professors Louis Bittrich, Frank Giesber, and Harold Bier,” Professor Citzler said. “They were always challenging me to set higher goals and to work harder on honing my writing and interpersonal communication skills. I hope it was as rewarding for them to see me head off to Switzerland for my first year after TLU under the Swiss Government Fellowship Fulbright Program as it is for me to see Deana head to Austria for this coming year.”

While Hero says all of her experiences abroad have been transformative—and knows this one will be too—she said perhaps the greatest aspect is how the learning didn’t stop once she returned to TLU.

“People always say studying abroad is a once in a lifetime opportunity and it is,” she said. “But it also looks great on a resume. It changes you for the better as a person. What I loved most was when I came back, I had to take a class with Charla Bailey, TLU’s director of international education. It helped me focus on all the new ideas and perspectives I had and how to use the experience in the best possible way for me. Studying abroad changed my life and continues to positively impact my future.”

For more information about study abroad opportunities through TLU, visit www.tlu.edu/studyabroad.

Please note: While the USTA program contributes to the fulfillment of the Fulbright Program’s mandate to promote mutual understanding between the peoples of Austria and the United States participants in the USTA Program are not grantees of the Fulbright Program.