By Lexi Taylor
School of Communication Intern Spring 2012
Danke. This simple word means “thank you” in German, but to East Carolina University senior Rachel Castro, it signifies a lifetime experience.
Castro was one of 15 young journalists chosen to participate in the German-American Fulbright Commission’s Berlin Capital Program in Berlin, Germany, in December. The Fulbright program is a chance for students and young professionals in the United States to earn merit-based scholarships to study in other countries.
As the only participant selected from the state of North Carolina, Castro jumped at the chance to pursue her dream of studying abroad.
“One of my greatest ambitions is to continue traveling,” Castro said.
Castro found out about this opportunity while taking a summer session journalism course in the School of Communication with ECU professor Dr. Cindy Elmore, who participated in a Fulbright during her career.
“Rachel is a truly amazing writer,” said Elmore. “I was happy to have the opportunity to recommend her.”
While in Berlin, Castro was given an in-depth look into German news and media. She participated in two to four seminars daily on topics such as “How to be a Good Journalist” and “Germany's Identity in European Media.” The group was given a tour of prominent political and news structures including the German Parliament and many publishing houses. These visits allowed Castro the opportunity to experience the difference in European and American news and media.
Along with the educational experiences, Castro got a closer look into Germany’s everyday culture. She was able to enjoy one of Germany’s favorite pastimes — eating bratwurst and schnitzel. She also had the opportunity to visit the Christmas markets that are only around for about a month during the holiday season. She was able try food there and buy small, handmade gifts, as well.
On the last day of the program, the group members were allowed a free day to tour the city on their own. This was Castro’s favorite day because she was able to walk the Berlin Wall.
“That was definitely my favorite part of the trip,” she said. “It was such an amazing experience to be able to walk along such a historic site.”
Even though Castro has returned home, she still keeps in contact with the other accomplished young professionals she shared her journey with. They talk frequently through emails and a Facebook group.
To Castro, the program was more than just another item to add to her resume, it was a step closer in her pursuit of studying and writing abroad. Rachel currently works as a staff writer at the ECU News Bureau and recently acquired a position as an ESL teacher with the ECU Language Academy. This new job will prepare Castro for next fall, as she ventures back to Europe to teach English for the year.
“My top choice is Budapest, Hungary,” Castro said. “However, I am just thrilled to continue my travels.”