After graduating from Michigan State University with three bachelor’s degrees, a perfect 4.0 grade point average, and as a member of the Honors College, Kaylee McCarthy set her sights on working and living abroad where she now teaches at a secondary school in Austria through Fulbright Austria’s U.S. Teaching Assistants program.
The school where McCarthy teaches, the Higher Federal Teaching and Research Institute Raumberg-Gumpenstein, is located in a small town in the middle of Austria’s Northern Styrian Alps. With a school population of about 400 students, each student is required to take English while enrolled there.
“I accompany English teachers to different classes and prepare lessons on topics the students are covering in class or about my life in the United States,” McCarthy said. “On average, I go to 13 lessons per week, and there are only a few classes I haven’t visited yet.”
Since the school has an agricultural focus, McCarthy says she talks to students about farming in the United States and how it differs from farming in Austria. Other topics of discussion include high school in the United States, American holidays, immigration and the American dream, and U.S. presidential elections.
“I’ve definitely learned a lot about the Austrian school system, and I love hearing from the students about what life is like here. It’s also been a really great opportunity for me to get hands-on experience in the classroom.”
With her position ending in May 2023, McCarthy says she hopes to reapply for a second year in the program.
“I’ve definitely learned a lot about the Austrian school system, and I love hearing from the students about what life is like here,” she said. “It’s also been a really great opportunity for me to get hands-on experience in the classroom. I’m currently trying to figure out what career path I’d like to follow, and one of the possibilities I’m considering is becoming a teacher.”
McCarthy lives in the community where the school is located. She rents an apartment from a former English teacher of the school who converted her basement into an apartment that she rents out to teaching assistants.
“It’s a really nice balance of being independent and having someone nearby who can help me out and introduce me to our neighbors and surroundings,” McCarthy said. “We’ve gone on hikes together and spend a lot of evenings doing crafts or playing bilingual Scrabble.”
“My College of Arts & Letters education opened up a variety of opportunities for me that completely changed the course of my undergraduate career and life.”
Since arriving in Austria in October 2022, McCarthy has taken the opportunity to travel around the country.
“I visited some of the other teaching assistants in Vienna, which was a dream for an art lover like me, and I went to the Christmas markets in Salzburg,” she said. “Other highlights have been learning more about Austrian culture and traditions, like singing songs in dialect during choir at the school’s Advent concert.”
McCarthy graduated from Michigan State University in Summer 2022. Her three bachelor’s degrees are in Art History and Visual Culture from the Department of Art, Art History, and Design and German from the Department of Linguistics, Languages, and Cultures, both departments in the College of Arts & Letters, and in Arts and Humanities from the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities (RCAH). As if that wasn’t enough, she also was a member of the Honors College and her perfect 4.0 grade point average earned her MSU’s Board of Trustees Award at graduation.
Each semester, the MSU Board of Trustees recognizes graduating seniors who have maintained 4.0 cumulative GPAs throughout their undergraduate education. For the Summer 2022 Semester, 18 students earned this distinction, including two students from the College of Arts & Letters: McCarthy and Nathaniel Chevalier, who graduated with a B.A. in Linguistics. For their accomplishments, the Summer 2022 Board of Trustees Award winners received $1,000 from the university and were recognized by the Board of Trustees at its meeting in October 2022.
“It was an honor to be recognized with this award,” McCarthy said. “I’m especially grateful for the grace and support of my professors and mentors without whom I couldn’t have been successful.”
During her senior year, McCarthy also received the Department of Linguistics, Languages, and Cultures Outstanding Graduating Senior Award for her coursework as a German major. She also studied abroad in Freiburg, Germany, where she attended art history classes, practiced her German language skills, interned at a school in the city, and worked at both a camp and a study abroad office.
“My time at MSU was in parts challenging, magical, scary, and exciting. Even though there were some difficult adjustments, it led to some of the best moments in my life.”
“My College of Arts & Letters education opened up a variety of opportunities for me that completely changed the course of my undergraduate career and life,” she said.
During her time at MSU, McCarthy interned at RCAH’s Center for Poetry, participated in the national honorary band fraternity Kappa Kappa Psi, and played with the Spartan Marching Band and Spartan Brass teams, extracurricular activities that made her feel “incredibly supported to undertake creative and intellectual challenges.” She also was a summer intern at the Lansing Art Gallery and Education Center.
“My time at MSU was in parts challenging, magical, scary, and exciting,” she said. “Even though there were some difficult adjustments, it led to some of the best moments in my life.”
Written by Kseniya Lukiy