USTA grant recipients Jack Herr ’23, Drew Stenger ’23 leverage Gettysburg experiences to enhance learning opportunities for Austrian students

Jack Herr ’23 in the Dolomite region of the northern Italian Alps
Jack Herr ’23, shown here in the Dolomite region of the northern Italian Alps, is working as a teaching assistant in Austria this academic year.

Two recent Gettysburg College graduates—Jack Herr ’23 and Drew Stenger ’23—were awarded U.S. Teaching Assistantship (USTA) grants that have allowed them to utilize the knowledge and enduring skills they gained as undergraduates to mentor the next generation of students in Austrian schools this year. 

The USTA program to Austria is funded by the Austrian Federal Ministry for Education, Science, and Research (BMBWF) and recruits graduating U.S. students to live and teach English and American cultural studies in Austrian schools for one academic year, with the opportunity to extend it a second year if desired. The graduates collaborate with teachers to prepare lesson plans, facilitate discussions, prepare for English language exams, and share American culture and current events.

Since 2020, five Gettysburg graduates who majored in German studies have been awarded these prestigious grants, which provide opportunities to travel abroad and live and work in local Austrian communities. Herr, who is currently living in Mürzzuschlag in northeastern Styria, and Stenger, who is living in Spittal an der Drau in the western part of Carinthia, are teaching assistants at four different schools.

“I work with students of all ages and help them not only improve their conversational English skills but also learn about American life, history, culture, and more,” Herr said. “I started in the beginning of October, and now, two months in, I can already say the job has been very rewarding, both in the interest and progress I've seen students display as well as in the friendships I've made with colleagues.”

Majoring in German studies allowed Herr and Stenger to advance their language skills, improving their communication with both colleagues and students in Austria. As double majors—Herr in political science and Stenger in anthropology—they have been able to utilize their broad-based knowledge and experiences to engage with their students, relating their lesson plans and discussions on a cultural level.

Drew Stenger posing for a photo
Drew Stenger lives in Spittal an der Drau in the western part of the Austrian province of Carinthia.

“Understanding both German and English allows me to better communicate linguistic differences and pinpoint ways my students can enhance their English-speaking abilities,” Stenger said. “I also majored in anthropology at Gettysburg, which allows me to discuss cultural similarities and differences with my students in comprehensive and effective ways.”

Gettysburg’s faculty played pivotal roles in the growth of Herr, Stenger, and other USTA grant recipients. German Studies Professor and Faculty Career Liaison for the Humanities Tres Lambert and Chair Kerry Wallach helped them refine their German-speaking abilities and knowledge of German culture, and also guided them through the USTA application process. Other faculty, such as Anthropology Chair Matthew Amster and Political Science Prof. Scott Boddery, instilled the belief in them that they could move across the world and leverage this unique experience for a range of potential careers.

“Students come away from their time here with significant understanding of topics and themes that influence public intellectual life in German-speaking countries and are equipped with high levels of intercultural fluency that allow them to successfully adapt to life abroad,” Lambert said. “These are incredibly talented students, but it is also a testament to our community’s ability to equip students with skills—including language skills—that translate into future opportunities.”

As Herr and Stenger consider their future pursuits after teaching in Austria, they credit Gettysburg College for preparing them for a lifetime of career advancement and personal success.

“Establishing a presence in the classroom, building relationships with students, and learning what teaching methods work are all skills garnered through experience, and having earned that experience at Gettysburg gave me an advantage going into this position,” Herr said. “At Gettysburg, I learned to be aware of cultural differences and appreciate them. Things are certainly different in Austria, but I've grown to enjoy many of those differences.”

Discover the unique opportunities for students in the German Studies Department to learn about German culture and prepare for graduate study or a professional career in the field.

By Corey Jewart
Photos submitted by subjects
Posted: 12/14/23

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