Conducting research, teaching classes, observing cultural differences, and struggling with her less-than-stellar German, occupied professor Katherine Hertlein’s time in Austria this past academic year as the first Fulbright Scholar from the UNLV School of Medicine.
At the University of Salzburg, Hertlein taught two classes — Technology and Relationships and Modern Sexology: Biology, Psychology and Behavior.
Hertlein is recognized for her expertise in the field. Two years ago her book, A Clinician’s Guide to Systemic Sex Therapy, was honored with the 2017 Book Award from the American Association for Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists. That volume and another of her works, Systemic Sex Therapy, are used in more than 20 couple and family therapy training programs in the United States.
During her time in Europe, she was asked to make a presentation at the Interpersonal Relationship and Technology Conference in Annecy, France.
While in Austria, Hertlein also conducted research on how people there use technology to initiate, maintain, and terminate relationships.
“I am specifically interested in how accessibility of technology, affordability, acceptability, ambiguity, approximation, and other factors shape the structure and processes of relationships,” she wrote in her proposal.
“Part of what I’m exploring is what are the roles, rules, and boundaries around technology use,” she said from Austria. “That may be the same or different from those in the United States.”
In the classroom, she found herself with one class of 111 students and also a graduate-level course with 22 students. When it came to exams, she was expected to offer three opportunities for students to pass. “Grades in a class don’t really mean anything here — all an employer cares about is whether you got a degree.”
She said she enjoyed her students. “They ask wonderful questions. They are very interested in my tales of clinical cases.”
She also liked a university custom. “After a lecture, students knock on the desk if they appreciate it.”
Hertlein also reflected on the work schedules of faculty members.
“They come into work at 9 and leave at 5,” she said, adding that she wasn’t able to conform. “I still show up to the university at 6:30 in the morning. They have asked me if people in the U.S. really work 50-70 hours a week. I say ‘absolutely.’
They also take breaks together once a week in the afternoon, just to get together for coffee or a cigarette,” she said. “The university café in my building has beer and wine.”
Sprechen Sie Deutsch?
While her less-than-perfect German didn’t pose a problem at the university where everyone spoke English, it sometimes posed a challenge in the outside world.
“I would spend up to one to two hours in the grocery store just trying to (get) Google Translate to read everything, and once I would get home, I would have to take a long time to read directions on a package,” she said. “It took me two months to figure out I was using the stove wrong because I could not read it. My husband noticed I wasn’t reading it right; I would still be broiling everything to this day if it weren’t for him calling it to my attention,” she said from Austria.
She said she learned the word, “Entschuldigung,” which means “I’m sorry” or “Excuse me” on the way to Austria. “l learned it in the German airport on the way here when I accidentally hit their version of the TSA agent in the face. We are lucky we got here at all after that.”
Hertlein’s husband, Scott, and 11-year-old son, Adam, accompanied her on her Austrian adventure. Scott, a software engineer, worked from home as he had been doing in Las Vegas. Adam attended a bilingual school that operated on a university-like schedule in which his school days began and ended at various times throughout the week and where the days and times of each class varied.
“Adam has picked up the language quite well and can converse, order in restaurants, and ask for directions where I cannot do those things,” Hertlein said. “I’m pretty sure he has said some unsavory things — and then snickers — but since I can’t understand them, I’m just happy he’s using the language and he doesn’t get in trouble.”
About the Fulbright Program
The Fulbright Program, which operates in 160 countries around the world, is an American scholarship program of competitive, merit-based grants for international educational exchange for students, scholars, teachers, professionals, scientists, and artists. Fulbright alumni include 59 Nobel Laureates and 82 Pulitzer Prize winners.
Founded by U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright of Arkansas in 1946, the program, which was established to increase mutual understanding between Americans and residents of other countries, gives the opportunity to selected American citizens to study, conduct research, or exercise their talents abroad. Citizens from other countries can qualify to do the same in the U.S. The program provides 8,000 grants annually for individuals to undertake advanced research, graduate study, classroom teaching, and university lecturing.