Lucia Lorenz with her German students.

Fulbright Scholarship Offers Adventure Abroad

Lucia Lorenz 12C embraced change and adventure when she became one of Emory's Fulbright Scholars and immersed herself in German culture.

By Charity Gates 16C
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The Fulbright Program is the U.S. government’s international educational exchange program which creates opportunities for intercultural understanding and public diplomacy. The brainchild of Senator J.William Fulbright, the program has allowed over 310,000 students and scholars engage in international exchange opportunities from research to education. Emory has had a great track record with program with more than 115 students and 40 faculty members having been awarded Fulbright grants.

When life gives you moments of uninhibited adventure, sometimes you have to take it and appreciate them for the experiences that they are. Emory alumna Lucia Lorenz 12C took this chance as soon as she graduated from the college. Wanting an experience to engage in German culture and dedicating time to understanding a foreign education system, Lorenz gained invaluable skills during her Fulbright tenure. She always knew that she wanted to pursue a career in law, so after completing her fellowship she continued on to Northwestern University School of Law where she will graduate this spring. EmoryWire sat down with Lucia Lorenz to discover her inspirations for getting involved with the Fulbright program and learn more about her experiences working abroad.

What inspired you to dedicate time to serving in a program like Fulbright to work abroad?

Studying German at Emory inspired me to apply for Fulbright my senior year. I thought teaching abroad would be a great way to improve my German language skills and immerse myself in the culture. I also knew that Fulbright would be a great way to network with other young people like me abroad and that it would provide an amazing opportunity to travel before I started law school.

What surprised you most about your experience in a new culture?

The most surprising thing about my experience was the way in which I made new friends. For my Fulbright year, I was placed in a very small town, and at first I had a really hard time meeting anyone outside of the elementary school where I was teaching. Eventually I joined a gym. Usually I just like to use the elliptical machine, but I thought I’d take a chance and try the dance aerobics/Zumba class and make a complete fool of myself. I made some of my best German friends in that class, and I think it is because I was truly out of my comfort zone learning hilarious dance moves in a second language.

Fulbright Scholar Lucia Lorenz 12C.

Fulbright Scholar Lucia Lorenz 12C.

In what ways are the education systems abroad, in Germany in particular, similar to or different from the American education system?

The school where I taught actually looked a lot like my high school in Indiana. The students were similar to American students: the 6th graders were rowdy but eager to learn; the 9th graders were focused on who they were going to ask to the dance; and the seniors were reading Shakespeare and getting their driving licenses.

The most noticeable difference was the tracking system. After 5th grade, students are either sent to a university preparatory school, a trade school, or something in between depending upon their academic abilities. I taught at a university preparatory school so I was exposed to high performing students with very few or no behavioral issues. I was especially impressed by the foreign language classes at my school. Starting in 6th grade the students’ classes were immersive, conducted entirely in English. I was shocked to see older students reading the same materials I read in high school, including Death of a Salesman and Lord of the Flies. 

What is the importance in engaging in international fellowship programs or educational opportunities like the Fulbright program?

Programs like Fulbright are important because they expose both sides to new perspectives. My students had so many questions for me: “Do you eat McDonald’s every day?” and “How do you feel safe if everyone has guns?” and “Who do you think should be the president?” Fulbright let them ask those questions and let me give a more complete picture of what the U.S. and Americans are like. In addition, I learned a lot from my students about what life in Germany is like and what their hopes are for the country’s future.

Describe your weirdest travel memory while teaching abroad in Germany. 

While working as a teaching assistant in the small town of Lauterbach, I lived in an upstairs apartment above a retired teacher named Herr Graue. One day I was grading papers when I heard a knock at the door. Herr Graue wasn’t home so I answered the door. To my surprise I found an oddly dressed man. He looked as if he was 7 feet tall, but that may have been because he was wearing a large black top hat, a white linen neck scarf, costume-like pants, and a large, black Victorian-era coat with brass buttons. I thought I was dreaming. I introduced myself and asked how I could help him. He looked confused. He announced “I am a Schornsteinfeger. I need to get into the house so I can do the work.” I had no idea what a Schornsteinfeger was and I was pretty sure I shouldn’t let this historically costumed stranger into the house. Fortunately, Herr Graue returned just then.  Seeing the scene happening at his door, he started to laugh. Herr Graue explained that the man was a chimney sweep and that in smaller towns like Lauterbach chimney sweeps are still organized in guilds and the members of the guild are required to wear the historical attire as part of their profession. I was exposed to this fascinating tradition, and I’ll never forget the German word for chimney sweep - Schornsteinfeger

Editor's Note: For more information about the Fulbright Program regarding information about other Emory Fulbrighters and application requirements please go to Emory’s resource or to the Fulbright program’s main page