Seniors Claudia Winkler and John Wood both win prestigious awards
SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Claudia Winkler and John Wood have spent much of their student careers at Wofford College together. They entered the college as freshmen in 2004 together. They shared every German class together. They traveled through Europe together. They even studied abroad in Germany together. As their senior year began they decided to labor together through the intensive application process for a chance at a prestigious Fulbright Program grant.
Now, as most of the senior class is preparing to say their farewells, Wood and Winkler are preparing to travel back to Germany together, this time as Fulbright English Teaching Assistants as both have been awarded grants from the prestigious foundation.
“Honestly, one of my first thoughts after receiving the news was, ‘I wonder how many total applicants there were,’” says Winkler. “It just seemed too good to be true.”
Wood, who is currently studying in Guanajuato, Mexico, was just as surprised. “It is such a tremendous honor to receive this grant, and it is a sincere pleasure to represent Wofford as a recipient.”
Dr. Kirsten Krick-Aigner, associate professor of foreign language, serves as the Wofford Fulbright advisor and helped Winkler and Wood with the application process. “Claudia and John are both incredible individuals, from both an academic and from a personal standpoint,” she says. “I am honored to be their professor and have been re-energized by their enthusiasm for German-speaking culture and the world around us.”
The Fulbright application process is long and laborious. Students write two polished essays, gather several letters of recommendation, fill out numerous forms, and must have a stellar GPA.
During her years as a Wofford professor, Krick-Aigner has helped many deserving students apply for Fulbright grants. The program is very competitive, and only a small percentage of those applying for grants actually receive them. Until this year, no other Wofford students were recipients of the Fulbright awards.
“Losing really hurts,” she admits, “but hopefully it’s the joy and excitement of winning that keeps us motivated, and gives us the energy to help future students achieve their goals.”
She notes that it’s rare to have two students win awards. “It is amazing that two students from a college would win an award in the same year, not to mention the fact that they both applied for the Germany program.”
As recipients of teaching assistantships, both Winkler and Wood will be placed in an English classroom in a German secondary school. They will be able to enhance their German-speaking skills, observe their host teachers, and even have the opportunity to do some teaching themselves.
“I would like to be a foreign language professor, and this is the best opportunity to observe how one best teaches a second language,” says Wood.
The Fulbright program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and awards approximately 1,500 grants to U.S. students to study, do research or assistant-teach overseas for one academic year. It is the largest U.S. international exchange program.
While their time at Wofford is coming to a close, both Winkler and Wood are excited about what lies ahead. “I am sure I am in for a few surprises, but look forward to experiencing what it is like to be the one standing at the front of the classroom, especially after having sat at a desk for 16 years,” says Wood.
Winkler agrees and admits that she’s excited to be taking this path with her good friend. “I'm thrilled to know that our collective journey as German-speakers and as friends is just beginning, rather than coming to an end.”
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