From Ship To Germany: Curtis Rabe Discusses His Fulbright Experience



Although it wasn’t his intention, Curtis Rabe ’16 seems to be following his parents’ career path thanks to an opportunity with the Fulbright program.

Rabe, who was a member of the Honors Program, majored in computer science and minored in German studies, music, and ethnic studies at Ship. Today, he’s assisting English teachers in Germany through a Fulbright award.

“Both my parents were teachers in elementary education. My mom was an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher,” he said. “I’ve heard the stories, I’ve seen the planning. They often asked for my input. …

That background meshes nicely with his latest venture. “This experience is impacting my career,” he said.

When Rabe learned about the Fulbright award through the Honors Program, it initially appealed to him as a chance to travel. He catered most of his academic career around achieving that goal. Rabe’s hard work paid off when he learned that he earned the award last spring.

In September, Rabe left for Neumünster in northern Germany, where he was assigned to teach the English language and American studies classes to students at Theodor-Litt-Schule. The school is similar to a technical school in the US, where high-school-aged students take both general education and professional classes.

“They made it clear that I was not just to act as an American dictionary in the back of the room,” he said. Rabe’s days vary—he helps to plan lessons, warm ups, visual aids, and overhead slides. He often reads English aloud as a listening comprehension exercise. He also encourages role-play with his students.

“They initially complain, but they enjoy doing it.”

During free periods, Rabe lets students choose what they’d like to do, often teaching through music, games, and American family or school traditions. “They are very interested in American high school and the extracurricular activities like choir and sports teams,” which operate very differently in Germany.

Rabe also is learning plenty from his students. Having traveled briefly to Germany twice before, he looked to the Fulbright as an opportunity to learn more about German culture. After classes, his students often take him to the movies or to ice skate and the nearby Christmas markets. He also visited a German naval memorial with a local German woman who studied at Ship during the fall 2015 semester. “I’ve been getting great inside tips!”

Because of his previous travel, Rabe said it was fairly easy to adjust to living in Germany. “I knew the language. I learned different cultural aspects and dialects.”

That’s opened other doors for him as well. Rabe’s mentor got him involved as a guest with a local German choir, an activity that he participated in at Ship. He’s been invited to all choir functions, including the recent year-end festival. “It’s fantastic. There probably has not been a year that I haven’t done choir since fifth grade.”

He also participates in the German equivalent of the Boy Scouts, another organization that he has dedicated plenty of time to at home. “These are not necessarily activities that are part of the Fulbright program, but without the grant, I could not have done it.”

Choosing to pursue the Fulbright was self-motivating for Rabe. “It was something I wanted to do and no one was making me do it. It was something I wanted to achieve for myself. …It gave me something to work for.”

Although Rabe will return to the US in July with an IT specialist position waiting for him, he already is considering the impact of the Fulbright on his future. “Ever since I began retaking German, I’ve been toying with becoming a professor. …I really want to continue my education so that I can pursue that long term goal.”