UNC Greensboro alumnus Matthew Hellenbrand ’20 has received a Fulbright Austria U.S. Teaching Assistantship (USTA) award to teach English to high school students in Austria during the 2020-21 academic year.
Each year, the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science, and Research (BMBWF) seeks recent college and university graduates who are interested in teaching English in Austria. Fulbright Austria (Austrian-American Educational Commission) places more than 140 Americans in teaching assistant jobs in Austria every year. The program aims to expose young Austrians to native English speakers and arouse their interest in other cultures based on cross-cultural dialogue and personal contacts.
Hellenbrand, who graduated with his bachelor’s degree in May, studied German and international and global studies (human rights concentration) at UNCG. The honors student studied abroad in Konstanz, Germany, during the spring of 2018.
“A big congratulations to Matthew for this great accomplishment!” said Dr. Maria Anastasiou, associate provost for international programs. “The USTA award is a prestigious program for student international exchange and engagement. We are very proud of Matthew and wish him all the best in this wonderful experience he is about to embark on. I know he will make an excellent UNCG and unofficial U.S. ambassador in Austria.”
For Hellenbrand, the award represents the culmination of years of German studies and international travel. He started studying German in middle school, in part due to his mother being a professor of German at Appalachian State University. In 2001, he had the opportunity to live in Germany for six months, and over the years, he has spent time in Germany and Austria during the summer months with his family.
After studying abroad in 2018, he returned to Europe during the summer of 2019 and participated in an Appalachian State program in Vienna, studying art, architecture, and culture throughout the city.
That trip helped prepare him to return to the country this fall. Currently, Hellenbrand expects to move to Austria in September, although COVID-19 may impact the timeline of the program. He will live and work in Feldkirchen in Kärnten, a town in the south of Austria.
How does he feel about embarking on this new chapter?
“It’s exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time,” he said. “Austria is a beautiful country, rich in culture, and the people are phenomenal. It’s relatively small, with strong ties to eastern Europe. For me, Austria is a compelling place to study culture and to reach out to the younger generation.”
Hellenbrand will spend 20 hours a week in an English language classroom at a public high school, supporting English teachers and helping teach about American culture. Additionally, Hellenbrand has been accepted to the game studies and engineering master’s program at the University of Klagenfurt. The interdisciplinary program teaches the technical as well as analytical and ethical issues surrounding video games and other types of games.
In his free time, Hellenbrand hopes to find opportunities to work with the local refugee and immigrant communities.
Dr. Brooke Kreitinger and Dr. Benjamin Davis of the German program and Dr. Rebecca Muich, assistant dean in the Lloyd International Honors College, served as mentors for Hellenbrand throughout his time at UNCG. The three encouraged him to apply for the award.
“They were so supportive in helping me with my application. They were, and are, just incredible professors,” said Hellenbrand. “The entire German program at UNCG did so much for me, and the Honors College provided me a strong academic outlet.”
Learn more about the USTA program at www.usta-austria.at.
Visit the International Programs Center website to learn more about international opportunities at UNCG.
Story by Alyssa Bedrosian, University Communications
Photography courtesy of Matthew Hellenbrand