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Texas A&M German and international studies major Katherine Guidry
After graduating in May with dual bachelor's degrees in international studies and modern languages/German, Katherine Guidry '23 will be headed to Krems an der Donau, Austria, this fall on a U.S. Teaching Assistantship through Fulbright Austria. | Image: Courtesy photo

When Katherine Guidry ’23 first traveled abroad to Austria for a dance program in 2015, she had no idea she would return home to Houston with a deep passion for German language and culture.

Now, a handful of years later, that passion has led Guidry, a double major in international studies and modern languages/German and an honors student at Texas A&M University, down a path of unique opportunities — none bigger than the one presented by the Fulbright-sponsored U.S. Teaching Assistantship Program in Austria. The organization places individuals like her in classrooms across the world, allowing them to serve as cultural ambassadors while teaching the English language to students abroad.

Guidry was a sophomore when German professor Dr. James Howell, her mentor, convinced her to apply for a Fulbright assistantship. Hoping to increase her odds of being accepted, Guidry submitted applications to two programs, the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Germany and the U.S. Teaching Assistantship in Austria.

What she did not expect was to be selected as a Teaching Assistant in both countries.

“I applied in October, and I remember checking for updates every single day,” said Guidry, who was honored last week as one of 15 inaugural recipients of the Outstanding Graduating Senior Award in the College of Arts and Sciences. “I found out I was a finalist for the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Germany at the end of March and then was also accepted for the U.S. Teaching Assistantship in Austria a week later.”

After much deliberation, she decided to accept her offer from the U.S. Teaching Assistantship in Krems an der Donau, Austria, where she will be headed this fall. The program is a part of the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research administered by Fulbright Austria.

Guidry described the application process as long and grueling. Armed with a collection of recommendation letters, her personal statement and a Statement of Grant Purpose, she said she spent a large amount of time perfecting her submissions and tediously ensuring that each piece reflected her passion and dedication.

Despite knowing that Fulbright’s decisions are made over a long stretch of time — Guidry said she was set to hear back as early as March or as late as June — her anticipation began.

“I was worried that they wouldn’t get back to me before I had to accept or decline other job offers,” Guidry said.

The news of her admittance into the program came rather fittingly while she was sitting in Howell’s office, expressing her doubts and anxieties regarding the wait time she was given.

“I received the email from Fulbright that confirmed my finalist status while in Dr. Howell’s office," Guidry said. "It was a special moment because he was the first person who introduced me to the opportunity my sophomore year and supported me throughout the application process.”

In addition to Howell, Guidry said she has connected with Dr. Stefanie Harris, professor and head of the Department of Global Languages and Cultures, Guidry credits the entirety of the department for helping her get where she has today.

““Coming into such a large university with over 70,000 students as a freshman, I did not expect to receive such personal guidance from professors and staff," Guidry said. "However, that has actually been my favorite part of Texas A&M. I have learned so much from them. I’ve gotten to know them as people and they’ve gotten to know me as Katherine — I’m so grateful for that.”

 Guidry said she also has benefited from the opportunity to present her original research on the impact of German migration on Chilean politics, culture and economy as part of Texas A&M LAUNCH Undergraduate Research and at the annual conference of the German Studies Association. During her time at Texas A&M, she has honed her teaching skills while serving as an undergraduate teaching assistant in the German and International Studies programs and as a student assistant for the Texas A&M French Institute.

Guidry plans to use her refined knowledge of the German language to connect with those around her, a feat she was unable to accomplish when she first visited Austria and when she took a gap year in 2018 as part of the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange.

“I am looking forward to moving back abroad as a young adult,” Guidry said. “I loved living in Germany as an 18-year-old with my host family — I still talk to them almost every day. I have already made plans to have them come visit me in Krems!”

As she prepares to cross the Reed Arena stage this week and make the trek back to Austria, Guidry also is preparing to take on new adventures and integrate herself into her new space, professionally and personally. Her goal is to model her Texas A&M professors and all they have taught her by forging relationships and inspiring those around her just as her professors have for her.

“I’m really excited to go in and get to know everyone in my new community,” Guidry said. “It always comes back to the people.”

About The Fulbright Program

The Fulbright Program is the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program and is supported by the people of the United States and partner countries around the world. For more information about the Fulbright Program, visit Global Partnership Services.