H-F graduate will travel to Germany as Fulbright Scholarship recipient

As she awaits her return to Germany on a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship, Homewood native Kayla Griffith says she feels like an actor at curtain call.
 
“Now I just take a deep breath and jump in,” said Griffith, a 2013 graduate of Homewood-Flossmoor High School. This fall, she leaves for Germany to teach English as a participant in the U.S. Department of State's premier international exchange program.
 
  Kayla Griffith
 
Griffith was acting in a commercial, and in the make-up chair when, in April, the news arrived that she had been awarded a Fulbright Scholarship.
 
“It was quiet on the set,” she said. “And I saw the notification in my email, and so I just started having a silent celebration with the people around me.”
 
Griffith had spent months preparing her application, and many more fretting the possible outcomes.
 
Fulbright applicants submit a single application, so everything must be perfect. The process rolls out in several stages over an extended period.
 
In the summer of 2017, following her graduation from Northwestern University, Griffith spent three months writing and rewriting a draft. She worked closely with Northwestern to prepare the final application. From there, she interviewed before a regional committee of experts. Her application was then judged by a U.S. committee and lastly a German committee.
 
“It was nerve wracking,” she laughs.
 
And now she can hardly contain her excitement about returning to Germany. It will be her third opportunity to study in Germany, marking the development of a passion that began as an H-F student. Even so, she knows that there will be changes in the country she has previously visited.
 
“Germany is different this year than it was last year, or two years ago,” she said. The influx of displaced people and the effects of the Euro Zone crisis have made it an exciting and complicated place.
 
She toured Germany with the Viking Choir in 2012. After that, she studied German at Northwestern and then participated in Middlebury College's intensive German immersion program. During a summer in Berlin, Griffith worked with recently displaced people and refugees and this experience was especially poignant for her.
 
“Germany is grappling with a lot of ideas around what it means to be German,” Griffith said. 
 
Her teaching assignment will take her to Landsberg am Lech, in Bavaria, located in the nation’s rural heartland. Bavaria is described as a traditional area and its recent history has included anxiety and tensions. 
 
With a smile, Griffith says she is excited about “bratwurst and beers.” But she is also excited for the multicultural exchange that lies at the heart of the Fulbright program. She will learn about teaching English and improving her German language skills while also experiencing a totally foreign culture.
 
Griffith credits her experience growing up in the Homewood-Flossmoor community as one of the reasons for her desire to be part of this multicultural exchange program. She says she continues to seek out experiences in life that give her the kind of diversity that's often taken for granted at home.
 
She relates a story from her trip with the Viking Choir. Director Michael Rugen encouraged the group to sing in public, even in cathedrals. One day, the choir was visiting a cathedral, and broke out spontaneously into an aria. They sang for a minute or two, but after the director cut them off, the last note they had sustained continued to hang in the air.
 
The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to build lasting connections between the citizens of the United States and the people of other countries.
 
Past Fulbright winners have included a Secretary General of the United Nations, Pulitzer Prize winners, Nobel Laureates, prime ministers, members of U.S. Congress and distinguished authors and poets.
 

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