A passion for teaching and travel—inspired in part by a semester spent in Rome while an undergraduate at Suffolk—led Alethea Stoltzfus BA ’14 to apply for the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Program after graduation.
Stoltzfus arrived in Hamburg, Germany at the end of August with limited knowledge of the language, tasked with teaching English courses and acting as an “ambassador for U.S. culture.”
Six months later, she is thriving as a “Hamburger,” as dwellers of the city are known. The nickname also led to the name of the blog she is writing during her time abroad, “My Life as a Hamburger.”
Life as a Hamburger
“Hamburg is such an international city, so I get to meet people from all over the world in addition to the Germans who live here,” Stoltzfus said. “I am absorbing new things every day, whether it’s something my students ask or teach me, or something about myself that I never knew, or even just trying some new kind of food.”
Stoltzfus teaches English classes at Handelsschule Berliner Tor, a school in Hamburg that offers degrees in shipping and tourism. Her students range in age from 16 to 25 and often have some surprising questions for her about American life. A frequent query is whether she knows any movie stars or has been to Los Angeles.
“My cultural duties are to be open-minded about German culture while simultaneously sharing my knowledge of American culture,” she said. “A big part of it is also admitting when I don’t know something about American culture and being willing to do some research.”
Suffolk Experience Paves the Way
Stoltzfus, who was an English major, credits her Suffolk mentors with helping her earn this prestigious position. English professors Leslie Eckel and Bryan Trabold helped Stoltzfus hone her application. “Part of the application was two one-page essays that outline who you are and why you want to teach,” she said. “As an English major, I could have written 20 pages about that. They helped me figure out exactly what to say.”
She also cites her Suffolk undergraduate experience as excellent preparation for her life in Germany. “Being at a school as diverse as Suffolk and in a city as diverse as Boston helped to prepare me for the experience of living and working abroad,” Stoltzfus said.
Impact of International Education
Stoltzfus will be heading back to Boston in June after completing her Fulbright experience. She plans to pursue a master’s degree in International Education and then work in a study abroad office at a university or at a study abroad organization. Her experiences abroad had such a positive impact on her life that she wants to help other students on their own international adventures.
“I really want to help students with their study abroad experiences, whether it's deciding where to go, supporting them while they are abroad, or helping them readjust back into American culture.”
The odds are Stoltzfus won’t be stateside for long.