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Students awarded Fulbrights

Megan O'Neil | Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Distinguishing themselves from thousands of undergraduates around the country, Saint Mary’s senior Nina Helman and Notre Dame senior Erin Mai were awarded Fulbright Teaching Assistantships this semester and both will pursue their projects abroad in Germany after graduation.Helman, a communication studies and German major who has German roots and family living in Colonge, Germany, is excited about her upcoming project abroad. She studied in Innsbruck, Austria her sophomore through the Notre Dame program and decided to apply for the Fulbright award with the encouragement of Saint Mary’s German professor Marianne Hahn. “It is actually kind of amazing that someone from Saint Mary’s got it because [the German program] is struggling right now and not a lot of people are interested in it,” Helman said.In her junior year, the Granger native helped organize a conference with Notre Dame Professor Denise Della Rossa. The event was entitled “Women and the Nation: 18th Century German Women’s Writing” and attracted women from all over the world. Helman, who hopes one day to go into public broadcasting in Germany, will be teaching English to middle school- and high school- aged students. Although she has not been given her location yet, she expects she will be placed somewhere near Cologne.”We find out this week where we will be exactly,” Helman said. “It probably won’t be in a major city.”Mai also studied in Innsbruck her sophomore and boasts equally strong German roots. Her paternal and maternal grandparents spoke German and she began studying the language in high school. “My family is very German, we have a lot of German traditions,” Mai said. “We throw our own Oktoberfest … and I brew beer with my dad in the backyard.”As a teaching assistant in Frankfurt, Mai, a political science and German language and literature major, will lead conversation groups and teach lessons herself occasionally, she said. “It really is a huge honor,” Mai said. “I’m really excited and my parents are very proud. My grandpa died last summer and he used to get so excited every time I went to Germany, so it is nice to sort of honor him.”Mai said she would someday like to enter the Foreign Service or work for a company and be based in Germany. A second Notre Dame student, Stephanie Aberger, was also offered a Fulbright scholarship and planned to study at Warsaw University and pursue a research project on the Holocaust in Poland. After careful consideration, however, Aberger decided to enter the Teach for America program and will spend next year at a middle school in New York City. “I hope to study in Poland someday and perhaps attend graduate school for Holocaust history, but right now, having lived a life where so many opportunities have been opened for me – such as my previous opportunities to travel to Poland – I would like to have the chance to open doors for others,” Aberger said. Established in 1946 by the U.S. Congress, the Fulbright Program seeks to promote international learning and interaction providing funding to students, educators and scholars for travel and research projects. It currently operates in 140 countries and issues roughly 4,500 new grants every year. Past recipients include artists, scientists, congressmen and heads of state.