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Imagine Fulbright: From learning German in Milwaukee to meeting Chancellor Angela Merkel in Hannover

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Student Fellowships

May 02, 2019

Amerin Idell ’17 in Germany.Amerin Idell ’17 in Germany.When she was a junior, Amerin Idell ’17 traveled to Germany as a student; today she returns as a teacher with a Fulbright English teaching assistant position. A lifelong love of German language and culture led her to living and working in Germany.

Ms. Idell is placed at a school in Hannover, a city in northern Germany founded in medieval times with a deep history that has witnessed the Holy Roman Empire, many devastating wars, and the modern era. She teaches fifth through tenth grade students at a Gesamtschule, which is a comprehensive secondary school in the German educational system.

“It’s an absolute joy,” Ms. Idell said. “My school has about 800 students with backgrounds from 43 different countries. In the news you often hear about how Germany is becoming more ‘bunt’ or colorful and it’s amazing to work at a school where you see that reality.”

The Milwaukee native grew up learning German at a bilingual school and the experience gave her a love of language learning she has been eager to share with the world. Her majors in German and public relations, and minors in business administration and communication gave her the skills and understanding of intercultural communication she needed to succeed as an ETA.

Amerin at Marienplatz in Munich, Germany.Amerin at Marienplatz in Munich, Germany.

While at Carthage, she was a member of the communication honor society Lambda Pi Eta, leadership fraternity Omicron Delta Kappa, United Women of Color, and served as a German language fellow and tutor.

Ms. Idell’s success as an ETA is no surprise to her former advisor in the Modern Languages Department, Professor Gregory Baer.

“From our first meeting, I sensed Ms. Idell’s intense intellectual curiosity, her desire to know and experience more,” Prof. Baer said. “She explored many disciplines as an undergraduate and embraced both classroom and experiential learning.”

He predicts her passion and potential will take her far past Fulbright.

“She’s able to use her love of learning and her desire to learn as a Fulbrighter, and these qualities will benefit her in the world of work or graduate school or wherever life takes her.”

Among the many exciting stories Ms. Idell has of traveling Europe and exploring Hannover, her favorite moment has been the opportunity to meet Chancellor Merkel at the award ceremony and reception for the 2019 Fulbright Prize.

“She gave her acceptance speech on the importance of transatlantic relations and afterward decided to attend the reception for 30 minutes. I was able to thank her for being a role model for women everywhere and chat with her about my Fulbright placement,” Ms. Idell said. “I spoke to Chancellor Merkel in German. I think I have peaked as a German language learner.”

Amerin Idell ’17 speaking with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.Amerin Idell ’17 speaking with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Even among the many experiences she gained while exploring, Ms. Idell says the most enjoyable part about living in Germany as a Fulbrighter is her teaching role. She works mostly with the ninth and tenth graders, who are advanced enough to be able to express themselves in English.

“With a lot of my students identifying as minorities in Germany, I wanted to connect them to those of similar culture in the United States,” she said, mentioning a black history unit and a discussion about how American community leaders are responding to the issue of police brutality.

“One of the best things about my school is that I work with kids who truly are eager to learn English,” Ms. Idell said.

The students are excited to see how accurate their media and popular-culture impressions of the United States are, and create cultural exchanges of their own.

“I’m currently putting together a presentation on abroad opportunities and scholarship options for German students and I was surprised by the amount of interest my students showed in wanting to someday participate in an exchange year.”

Ms. Idell’s advice for prospective Fulbrighters is a reminder that it’s not the same as studying abroad. The two experiences were completely different for her, despite being in the same country. Many study abroad programs provide guidance and other support while Fulbright allows much more independence.

“Having to navigate health insurance, finding an apartment, a missing key fiasco (a big and expensive deal here in Germany) and more all on my own made me aware of the strict order and systems that Germans have in place.”

Carthage has done a great job preparing her for that independence, she says. Her mentors here were “real” with her about the difficulties of going abroad, but encouraged her to take on the challenge.

If you want to keep up with Ms. Idell’s adventures, check out her instagram account @amerin.renee.

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Established in 1946, the Fulbright Program aims to increase mutual understanding between the peoples of the United States and other countries through the exchange of persons, knowledge and skills. It is the largest U.S. international exchange program offering opportunities for students, scholars, and professionals to undertake international graduate study, advanced research, and teaching in elementary, secondary, and post-secondary schools worldwide. The Fulbright Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, and fellowships are available to American students wishing to spend a year or more abroad after college to teach, conduct scholarly research, or engage in creative projects.

Carthage students interested in Fulbright opportunities should contact Professor Dan Choffnes, Fulbright Program Adviser.