Student receives Fulbright, sets sight on Germany
PLATTEVILLE - It'll be bratwurst and beer in abundance for University of Wisconsin-Platteville student Erik Meinhardt, who will spend the next year teaching in Germany as a Fulbright scholar.
Meinhardt, a native of Clintonville and a 1998 graduate of Clintonville High School, will graduate from UWP in May with a major in German education and a minor in social science education. Meinhardt, who has studied abroad in Germany, will serve as an instructor of English conversation and American studies at a German gymnasium, most likely in Niedersachsen, a northwestern state of Germany that borders The Netherlands.
"This experience will provide me with valuable cultural and language immersion," Meinhardt said. "I will become fluent in German, and I hopefully will have the opportunity to further my studies of German literature and history at a nearby university. From a social science perspective, spending a year in Germany will allow me to see society, culture, politics, history and economics from a different point of view than I would be exposed to in the United States."
In addition to the personal and professional gains of participating in the Fulbright program, Meinhardt said travel abroad experiences such as this can bridge the gaps between the United States and other countries.
"Now, it is more important than ever to have U.S. students out in the world building (sometimes repairing) international relations," Meinhardt said. "If we send our best and brightest abroad, we educate ourselves and also natives of the countries we visit. Mark Twain once wrote, 'Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness'."
At the encouragement of UWP assistant professor Patrick Hagen, Meinhardt applied for the Fulbright Scholarship, filling out a seven-page application, submitting letters of recommendation, a German proficiency report and writing two essays in German.
"I encouraged Erik to apply for the Fulbright because he is an exceptionally talented student," Hagen said. "He also has great potential as a teacher. I wasn't surprised that he received a Fulbright because he is an excellent writer and has an outstanding academic record. I believe this experience will be the start of a remarkable career as a teacher and a scholar for Erik."
Designed to entice young educated Americans to experience the international community and strengthen foreign relations, Meinhardt said the Fulbright Commission offers a variety of opportunities for students with many levels of eligibility.
"There are many Fulbright grants available to undergraduate students and graduates in a variety of fields and countries," Meinhardt said. "It's an extremely flexible, yet selective, program. You can chose your country and the program you would like to pursue in that country. However, you can only apply for one grant at a time and they only want serious applicants."
Although Meinhardt has no specific plans for when he returns from his Fulbright experience, he has started an application with the U.S. Department of Defense and is considering teaching on a military base.
"Perhaps I can set up a brother/sister school program in the future where I am hired as a German teacher," Meinhardt said. "I'm not making any plans at the moment, but I'm sure this experience will open up several opportunities to me."
Meinhardt is the son of Allan and Mary Meinhardt of Clintonville. As a student at UWP he regularly attended Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, submitted works to Alternative Literature publications, was a photographer for public relations and the student newspaper, the Exponent. He also tutored at the Platteville Middle School and adult literacy as a part of the Even Start Program.