MARQUETTE – Monique Yoder, a recent Northern Michigan University graduate from Stevensville, is teaching English and American culture to students in Austria. The opportunity comes courtesy of the Austrian-American Educational Commission, which works in conjunction with the Fulbright Commission and the Austrian Ministry of Education.

          Yoder began her service as a foreign language assistant at two business vocational schools on Oct. 3. She will facilitate 12 conversation lessons per week for students ages 16-19, team-teach with their English instructor, and introduce students to various aspects of American culture. She is based in Neusiedl am See, in the eastern part of the country near the borders of Slovakia and Hungary.

          Yoder graduated from NMU in May with an English/graduate-bound degree and a minor in German. This will be her second trip to Austria.

          “I went to Vienna with two NMU professors and a group of students last year as part of a study-abroad program, and I really liked it there,” she said. “It’s similar to the Midwest with its rolling fields, but in Austria you have the Alps in the background.”

Yoder’s heritage inspired her to choose German as her foreign language in high school and as one of her minors in college. Selecting a major did not come so easily.

          “I started out as a biochemistry major because I liked science, but I switched to English my junior year because I like writing more. I’m glad I made that decision; it’s given me a chance to explore the humanities more. I have a better understanding of myself and the world around me.”

          The Austrian students that Yoder is teaching have already taken two or three years of the English language, but she hopes to bring more to the classroom than language skills.

          “I think it’s important that the students over there have a positive image of the U.S.,” she said. “I hope to create an open environment so they’ll be comfortable with asking questions about life over here; I want them to know how diverse it really is. I also plan on introducing them to some good music.” 

          But Yoder also understands that even though she’s the teacher, the Austrian adventure will be a learning experience for her as well.

          “This will be my first time living someplace on my own,” she said. “I’m also curious as to how they deal with the same issues that we do, and I want to brush up on my German skills. But most importantly, this experience will prepare me for grad school at Michigan State next year, where I’ll be studying how to teach English to foreign speakers. Once I finish that program, I’ll be able to teach anywhere in the world.”

          Yoder is one of 121 teaching assistants hired by the Austrian-American Educational Commission this year to promote communication between the two countries. Her service runs through May. She said her long-term goals are to teach abroad for a few years after graduate school, then return to the states for her doctorate in linguistics.

Prepared By
Becky Kratz