Verena Wappel: Ok, so my name is Verena. What can I say, I don’t know. I’m from Austria, I grew up in a landscape very east of Austria, so on the Hungarian border, but I’ve lived in Vienna for the last 5 years, so yeah that’s where I’m from. I’m from the countryside, but also a little bit of a city girl, I guess.
William Ebert: What was your childhood like growing up?
VW: My childhood? Good, I liked it. It was very effective very safe, I was very grateful that my parents always took care of me and, I don’t know, being healthy, and dedication was always very important to them, so that was fine. Wasn’t that exciting though, I guess. I grew up in a village with 300 hundred inhabitants. We are not an independent community, we are with another town, and then we are 2 thousand people. The capital from our district was about 10 kilometers away and of course you go there for shopping or school or other things, but that’s not a city, that’s 8 thousand people. We travelled a lot though. My father likes to go by car to places, so we drove all the way to Denmark or Finland, Sweden, 5 people in the car, so much fun. We drove to England when I was 11 and it took us 25 hours. 5 people in a car. I was eleven so my sisters were 9 and 13, especially my 13-year-old sister was not interested in it. And when I became older, I decided to travel by myself.
WE: What was one of your most memorable experience growing up as an adolescent in Austria?
VW: A day I remember very well was my 17th birthday, so Easter depends on the moon and sometimes my birthday is at Easter. And I loved it, and so the Saturday of Easter, the day before Easter Sunday, we have a tradition. We have a huge bonfire and the tradition also says that on the Friday before Easter Sunday we go from house to house and we steal the wood. It is actually kind of allowed. We are allowed to take a certain amount per house, our mayor allowed us to, but still it is a little exciting. And we start when it is dark and we have a good time and it is really fun to steal the wood, and then the next day we prepare the bonfire, we prepare, um the bar and the music and everything, and then in the evening we have our event. The whole town comes to party, drink and whatever and with that money we go to Croatia. So I really liked that celebration, it is a lot of fun, and on my 17th, it was that Saturday and it was really nice, and I worked in a bar, I had my shift but then I was done so also the day after my birthday, it is my sister’s birthday, and the day after her, it is my best friend’s birthday, so we all celebrated together. And my boyfriends these days, told me that he loved me on that day. We broke up two weeks afterwards, but I really enjoyed that day. I really enjoyed the party and the tradition and yeah. I got nice presents.
WE: What made you go into teaching?
VW: So my house school was focused on business because when I was younger I thought, I don’t want to study, I want to work directly after high school. My parents somehow almost forced me to finish high school. I really didn’t want to. And um, at the time I finished I was old enough to realize that I want to study. I was 19 when I went to the school of teacher’s education in Vienna and at first I studied for elementary school teaching and there was also in the 5th term of study, I went to the Netherlands and so I came back and I had my 6th term and then I didn’t get a job right away; they did not need teachers for an elementary school and in the Netherlands I taught in an elementary school so in the Netherlands the elementary school is from 4 to 12 years old so the students are that age and I taught English and some German and it was just awesome to teach English and German to 11 and 12 year old ones but in Austria, elementary school is from 6 to 10 so when I came back, I decide to go for secondary school and with that qualification as well now I can teach in elementary school from 6-10 or in secondary school from 10-14. And um yeah and so last year I taught in a secondary school from 10-14 and I taught English and arts and I loved it and um, yeah my students in Ireland were the same age and that’s really fun with the 13 14 year old ones . And now I am here at Bates and I teach German to much older students, but sometimes they are just as childish. Sometimes they are.
WE: How did you end up at Bates?
VW: So I was actually placed here. I wanted to go abroad and I wanted to go to an English speaking country so my options were applying for Fulbright in the states or World-Wide Teaching and I could have gone to either England or Scotland, but at that point I thought, I’ve been to England, Ireland, and Scotland so why not go to the States? So um yeah, I applied for Fulbright and then I got the offer at Bates and it was either, take it or deny it but um you won’t get another offer and that was actually the first time I had heard about Maine, so I started watching documentaries and I loved it and I watch many videos on YouTube, like one girl explaining 280 and the basement and whatever and I just watch whatever videos on YouTube I could find and of the snowstorm and um, I think it was the basketball team celebrating after they won and I took the offer and now I’m here.
WE: What do you think of the states?
VW: That’s um, a very broad question, um what do I think? So in general, I like it. I think every experience is a good experience. And I really have good experiences here. I can’t say that I love it. I really love Austria though. I know it is not perfect but it is really awesome. Also seeing California, Nevada, Arizona, then coming to Maine and New England is very different. I prefer New England, it is very familiar to Austria, so the landscape, the weather, and it could be just the same. There are fewer mountains, but where I grew up there were only a few hills so it could be just the same. That could be here as well. We have better water quality though. I hate your tap water. In Vienna it is delicious, it is freshly out of the source in the mountains and it’s 40 thousand years old and with all these minerals and so on, it is delicious, you don’t have to change it. And we can be very lucky about that, most Austrians don’t appreciate it enough. They don’t appreciate many things enough.
WE: What are your plans after Bates?
VW: I will continue travelling until my visa tells me to leave and then I will have free for a few months so I will continue working in Vienna and I will start with the next school year in Vienna. But I want to see all of the world. As much as possible at least.
WE: Any final thoughts?
VW: No I don’t know what I said there is nothing you have to know about me, I am more the typical girl from next door, nothing interesting.