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Student Finds New Interest, Job In Studying Abroad

July 8, 2010
SHSU Media Contact: Jennifer Gauntt

Emily ResnickSam Houston State University senior Emily Resnick has been a world-traveler since she was a teenager.

She studied in Spain when she was 16 as part of a Rotary Club exchange, later returning to Pamplona for one year to attend university there, and has also lived in Mexico for a year.

After coming to SHSU, Resnick studied abroad in Germany, but it wasn’t until her foreign languages department-sponsored summer class in Switzerland that her interest in the German language was piqued.

“I was really just doing it to give me something to do, but when I did it, it got me really wanting to study German,” Resnick said. “I didn’t think I was going to think Switzerland was that great, but I ended up loving it and wanting to learn more. A month really wasn’t enough.

“Yasser (Derwiche Djazearly, assistant professor of German, who organized the trip) suggested I do the exchange to Karlsruhe, Germany, and I ended up doing it a second semester.”

When Resnick graduates this August with her degree in Spanish, with minors in English and German, she will return to Europe to share her love for language with secondary students both abroad and in Huntsville through a year-long assistantship with the Fulbright program’s Austrian American Exchange Commission.

Resnick is one of the approximate 140 students nationwide selected as an English-language teaching assistant through the program. She will work in Imst, Austria, near Innsbruck, for eight-to-nine months, before deciding if she wants to apply for a second year.

“I will plan activities based on magazine articles, music and cultural topics the teacher may not be aware of or have access to or may not understand; things to give the kids speaking practice with English,” she said.

Applicants for the competitive positions are encouraged to submit a plan for a service project that engages students abroad, and those with teaching experience are preferred.

“The Fulbright wants to improve the relations between America and other countries, to provide Americans with a way to study or learn more about other countries and improve the image of America abroad,” said Resnick, who has worked as a writing and Spanish tutor at the SHSU Writing Center. “There is a character aspect, and that’s where the service comes in.”

Resnick’s service project proposal was to set up pen-pal/buddy system utilizing Skype between Huntsville High School German students and her students in Austria.

“In Europe they do a thing called ‘tandem’ when people are learning languages, in which, for example, if you speak French and I speak English and you want to improve your English and I want to improve my French, we buddy up and they call it tandem practice,” she said. “I had never heard of it before I went to Germany, but it seemed like a really good idea, and so I thought that German students, especially at the high school here in Huntsville, probably would never have opportunities to do something like that.”

Resnick said she thinks the dialogue created through Skype will give Huntsville students exposure to the language that they may not otherwise get in an area with a low German-speaking population.

“When you’re learning a language, it’s important to find ways to put it to use. When I started taking German, I didn’t have any idea what it all meant because it was out of context and the only speaking practice I had was with other learners like myself,” she said. “A German student has a harder time finding opportunities to use the language. When you study Spanish, for example, you are constantly seeing manifestations of the culture—you hear the music, you meet people who come from the culture—but with German, it was similar to when I studied Latin; it was like speaking a dead language.

“The project I am planning with the German students (in Huntsville) is a small step, but for many of them, it may be their only opportunity to use German and that can make a big difference.”

Students who would like to take advantage of SHSU’s many study abroad programs should check with the Office of International Programs or foreign languages professors. As an advocate of traveling abroad for study, Resnick said doing so is not only an opportunity to experience a new country and culture but looks great on job and graduate school applications, and scholarships are available to help offset costs.

“Sadly, few students take advantage of the opportunities out there,” she said. “Aside from being one of the best ways to learn a new language, studying abroad gives you a chance to have great new experiences, to network and make friends and to travel. In my case, it has led to a job that I couldn’t have gotten if I hadn’t spent a year in Germany.”


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