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Thursday, Oct 28, 2021

Fulbright Scholar teaches native tongue

Ann Kathrin Kuder, German Professor and  visiting Fulbright Scholar,  is currently in residence at Mercer University.
Ann Kathrin Kuder, German Professor and visiting Fulbright Scholar, is currently in residence at Mercer University.

Fresh out of her own college experience, it might be hard to believe that young Ann Kathrin Kuder is a professor of German and a visiting Fulbright Scholar here at Mercer University.

You may have seen her riding her bike around campus or speaking solely in German with a few of her students. The scholar is at Mercer for the year to teach not only her native tongue but also her culture, all while gathering a bit of knowledge and experience to take back home.

Originally from Hannover, Germany, Kuder completed two exchange programs by the time she graduated from German grammar school. The experience she took away from these adventures, as well as the people she met along the way, inspired her to pursue the English language and American culture as a lifelong passion.  

She went on to receive a degree in Political Science and English from Leibniz Universität Hannover and is now here in Macon, Georgia on a German-teaching Fulbright Scholarship.

“The Fulbright Scholarship charge is to promote mutual understanding between the US and Germany . . . German students who are in their graduate year or who are already graduated from university can go abroad to teach,” Kuder said, giving her own take on the program.

Nearing the end of her college experience, Kuder applied for the Fulbright Scholarship, undergoing numerous applications and interviews before being selected for the position.

[pullquote speaker="Ann Kathrin Kuder, professor of German" photo="" align="left" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]“Here it is a closer relationship. I am always here at my desk for my students . . . they can come to me all the time.[/pullquote]

“They asked me about politics. They asked me about the American school system. They asked me a lot of very specific questions, but I was lucky,” she said.

“It is definitely not as easy . . . it’s a very selective process and also a very wonderful and honored program,” Kuder said.

The placement of a Fulbright Scholar is based on a mutual selection process that requires all schools and applicants to rank their preferred options for the duration of the year-long program. It just so happened that Mercer University and Professor Kuder were each other’s first choices.

The match appears to be going well as Professor Kuder teaches an advanced level German class three times a week. Due to the higher level of learning in her advanced classrooms, Kuder said she enjoys being able to share her language and culture with students who are eager to learn.

Other than the obvious language barrier and lack of official teaching experience, Kuder says the biggest challenge she has faced during her time here is the difference in expectations between American and German professors.

“It is the first time that I am really teaching a class, so everything, everything is new to me. [The relationship between the German professors and students] is much more distant,” Kuder said. “Here it is a closer relationship. I am always here at my desk for my students . . . they can come to me all the time.”

Outside of the world of academia, Kuder admitted that the biggest difference between Germany and the United States is the food. Kuder said she wasn’t pleased with our unhealthy white bread or lack of food options but said that the culture shock has mainly been a positive one. The openness of Americans, including the multitude of invitations she received in the beginning weeks of her time here, surprised and delighted her.

When asked about her plans for when the year-long scholarship reaches an end, Professor Kuder said she intends to return home to Hannover to begin the year and half long journey of ‘teaching practice’ required for all grammar school teachers in Germany.

Although the process appears to be more rigorous in Germany, Kuder said her time here at Mercer has, and will continue, to aid her in her journey of becoming a teacher back home.

“This is a wonderful experience because [Fulbright Scholars] have, on the first hand, a knowledge about a new system — an American education system — and also we have the opportunity  to teach and to get involved, to speak the language, to enhance our skills. Personally we will grow in this experience.”


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