Darina Stamova (MAFLL German 2009)
Arriving in Newark, Delaware for a master’s program in German was a turning point in my life. My experiences in American academia have made me confront reality in new ways which, I feel, have facilitated the greatest leap forward in my personal and professional development so far.
Coming from a small country in Eastern Europe, it was a big surprise to find out that in America not everyone is aware of the benefits of learning foreign languages. It is not a common belief here that one of the best ways to find out more about ourselves, the world, and our own language is to put ourselves in the situation where we are foreign, i.e. by learning a foreign language. I was surprised to discover that in America, German is widely seen as a rather exotic language spoken in some remote countries in Europe – despite Germany’s present cultural, economic, and political prominence in the world. I learned that promoting the benefits of learning languages and German in particular is a central part of the duties of foreign language instructors. In my home country of Bulgaria, I had very motivated children in the classroom. In spite of these unforeseen difficulties of teaching foreign languages and cultures in the US, America offered me very intense and interesting learning experiences. For the first time, I could learn while teaching and was confronted with questions and approaches that revolutionized my understanding of both German and American culture, and the process of learning itself.
After graduating from UD, I began a PhD program in German at Washington University in St. Louis. I learned to give lots of individual attention to my own students as the class sizes were very small. I went through rigorous pedagogical training and became interested in psychological approaches to teaching. American society is clearly more advanced than Bulgaria in terms of general psychological knowledge, and I became interested in finding out about students’ motivations in order to teach more efficiently. America has proven to be the country of real opportunities for me. It has presented me both with funded opportunities to pursue my interests in literature and philosophy and with new perspectives on my field and the world in general.