Robert Bloom, a graduate student in Germanic studies at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB), has been selected for a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) Scholarship that has him in Austria for the 2011-12 academic year.
The award covers round-trip airfare and a monthly stipend for serving as a secondary school assistant English teacher. He will be taking graduate-level German courses at the University of Klagenfurt, which will be his city of residence and employment.
Part of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, the Fulbright ETA Program is designed to improve foreign students’ English language abilities and knowledge of the United States. Participants are placed in schools or universities outside of capital cities in more than 20 countries and are fully integrated into the host community, increasing their own language skills and knowledge of the host country.
“I was definitely honored to have received such a prestigious award which would enable me to serve as an official ambassador of the United States. Had it not been for me studying German in high school and college, this opportunity may not have been afforded to me,” said Bloom. “What initially attracted me to the Austrian Fulbright ETA position was having the ability to expose German-speaking Austrian students to various aspects of the American culture in a classroom setting. In addition, I would also have a chance to immerse myself in the Austrian culture and interact with native and non-native German speakers in different social contexts, which would greatly enhance my cultural and linguistic preparations to fulfill my future goals.”
His title project “Austria: the Mosaic of Peoples” will enable him to share with native-German high school students his personal experiences as an African-American male and to explore the social dynamics of African-American mainstream culture in the United States.
Beyond his role as an ETA, he plans to create a project to help German-speaking students better understand the political and social connections between Austria and the U.S. The project will involve: creating an open forum for German-speaking students to engage in candid discussions about the causes and effects of institutional racism in both the U.S. and Austria; discussing the effects of racial stereotypes on their perception of African American peoples within contemporary culture; and exploring effective ways to improve social tolerance of different ethnic groups within Austrian and American society.
He is currently working on his master’s degree in German studies at CSULB and graduated there this spring as an undergraduate with a double major in German and psychology.
This summer he attended the Deutsche Sommerschule von New Mexico (German Summer School of New Mexico) at Taos Ski Valley through the University of New Mexico in consortium with CSULB. The German immersion program enabled him to earn academic credits towards his master’s degree and enhance his reading and oral proficiency in the language. At the end of the summer session, he will be eligible to take the German proficiency examination Zertifikat C1 from the Goethe Institute.
After completing his master’s degree, he hopes to pursue post-graduate studies at the Oxford University in Oxford, England, and teach German as a foreign language.
The U.S. Congress created the Fulbright Program in 1946, immediately after World War II, to foster mutual understanding among nations through educational and cultural exchanges. Senator J. William Fulbright, sponsor of the legislation, saw it as a step toward building an alternative to armed conflict.
Today, the Fulbright Program is the U.S. government’s premier scholarship program. It is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and the primary source of funding for the program is through an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the Department of State. Since the Fulbright Program’s inception, approximately 294,000 participants have been chosen for their academic merit and leadership potential.