Fourth-year William Bolles-Beaven will spend the next academic year as an English teaching assistant in the Austrian school system with a fellowship administered by the Fulbright commission.
Each year, the U.S. Teaching Assistantship in Austrian Secondary Schools program recruits about 140 college graduates and places them at secondary schools in communities across Austria. The goal of the program is to bring talented and enthusiastic young people into Austrian classrooms to make learning a foreign language a lively cross-cultural encounter for their students.
Bolles-Beaven will be based in Bregenz, the capital of the westernmost state, where he will teach at two high schools preparing students for business jobs. A composition major in the Conservatory of Music, he says the fellowship provides “an amazing opportunity to become a better teacher, to interact with the language I love, and to find out more about myself and my culture by living within another.”
He dabbled in German in high school and began studying the language in earnest during his third year at Oberlin.
“I’ve realized that I like composition, the German language, and teaching for the same reason: they all synthesize logic and emotion,” Bolles-Beaven says. “They all enlist technical, almost mathematical skills for an emotional and relational purpose. I want to teach music in the future to students at a variety of levels, whether they are just starting out, are returning to music, or are at a place like Oberlin.”
Bolles-Beaven has been a music theory and aural skills tutor for a year and a half. He has also taught a “Beginning Swing” ExCo. Although he hasn’t studied abroad, this will be his third visit to Austria.
“I believe I will learn a great deal about pedagogy from being a USTA fellow, and by teaching and thinking critically about my native tongue and culture while abroad, I will broaden my perspective,” he says. “I look forward to developing more grit. When you’re abroad and trying to handle a different culture in your second language, all of the normally simple things in life become much harder. I expect to get a crash course in dealing with this kind of discomfort.”
A native of Maplewood, New Jersey, Bolles-Beaven says Oberlin has prepared him for the fellowship through rigorous instruction and practice in German.
“Beyond that, having exposure to great teachers has made me think about what makes a good teacher. In all of my classes I’ve learned how to think critically and I’ve learned how to make these ideas intelligible to others.”