SPARTANBURG, S.C. – When Ashlyn Keightley returns to Austria this fall, this time as an English language teaching assistant, she plans to incorporate all three of the majors in which she received degrees from Wofford College recently – English, German and theatre.
Keightley, who graduated magna cum laude from Wofford on May 15, has received an appointment in the U.S. English Language Teaching Assistantship Program in Austria through Fulbright Austria. She studied abroad in Vienna, Austria, in the fall 2013 semester, then spent the spring 2014 semester in Freiburg, Germany.
“I will be working as an English teaching assistant for two schools, a high school and a technical college,” she says, adding that she will be in Braunau am Inn, Austria, from September of this year until early June 2017. “I’ll attend classes with native teachers, and on some days I will be asked to present on an American topic, such as American sports, church in the South or country music. Other days, I’ll just be asked to assist the students with any questions they may have over the section they’re studying or English grammar. I also would love to start a theatre club while I’m there.”
Keightley, a native of Hendersonville, Tenn., says she expects her German language skills, which she honed while studying abroad but fell out of practice with after coming back, will improve again while she’s in Austria. “Learning how to speak German was very difficult, and I came into Wofford with zero understanding of the language. … It wasn’t until the cultures and the citizens surrounded me where people spoke German on a daily basis that I was really able to learn the language. Having friends who spoke fluently, and who forced me to use my German skills, drastically improved my understanding of the language. I want to return the favor. I feel it’s my responsibility to reach out and help them learn English, just as many from Austria helped me learn German.” Keightley does not plan to teach as a career, but she still believes this experience will help her build useful skills. “I believe the skills teachers possess are invaluable. Going through the work of prepping for a class or lesson, working and teaching hands-on with students, building intercultural friendships and having the responsibility of helping another person learn a new language are all things that can only help make me a stronger person in the long run.”
Keightley also embraces versatility. As evidence during her work with Wofford Theatre, she sings, dances and acts. “I also can run a table saw, hem a costume and design a set. In theatre, you have to be able to pitch in and get your hands dirty when the show needs it. Theatre has taught me to be a team player.”
That versatility and team spirit will serve her well during her Fulbright experience and later as she breaks into the entertainment industry. She plans to move to Dallas, Texas, after her May 29 wedding. Then, after the Fulbright program, she hopes to return to Texas for graduate school for an MFA in set design or acting, with an aim toward pursuing a career in the entertainment industry in California. “Someday, I would also like to work in the German theatre industry in Germany,” she adds.
At Wofford, Keightley was a member of the cheerleading squad her entire career, except for her year studying abroad. She also served as the chief operating officer of Kappa Alpha Theta and was president of the German Club and Sigma Tau Delta English Honor Society. She was a member of Delta Phi Alpha German Honor Society and Alpha Psi Omega Theatre Honor Society. She served as a German tutor and an assistant in the Theatre Department. She worked on the Bohemian yearbook staff for two years, was a student advocate for the Judicial Commission and volunteered for Wofford’s Relay for Life. During Wofford’s recent Honors Convocation, she received the James A. Chiles Award, the departmental award for German.
Keightley says she lives her life as author Hunter S. Thompson describes in her favorite quote: “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, ‘Wow! What a ride!’”
“That,” she says, “describes my view on life pretty well.”