Packing again for another adventure

SJU grad Austin Barkley earns Fulbright ETA Award to teach in Mexico

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June 1, 2015

By Alex Rothstein ’15

Austin Barkley

Traveling is where Austin Barkley finds perspective. 

Barkley spent his entire junior year at Saint John's University studying abroad. First, he studied in Chile during the fall semester, then in Spain in the spring semester. He spent his senior spring break in Ecuador. And, that's not to mention the traveling he does with his family. 

Barkley, who graduated in May from SJU, recently received a Fulbright Award and will be an English Teaching Assistant (ETA) for 10 months in Mexico starting in September. 

"I think I'm going to get really ingrained in my community. This happens during a semester abroad but during a year you get a daily grind, and that's how you get to know what it's like to live in place," Barkley said. "When you get up and it's 'Just another day in Mexico' instead of 'It's vacation.' " 

The Fulbright ETAs place U.S. students as English teaching assistants in schools and universities overseas. They improve foreign students' English abilities and knowledge of the U.S., while enhancing their own language skills and knowledge of the host country. ETAs may also pursue individual study/research plans in addition to their teaching responsibilities. 

He chose to spend his time in Mexico for two reasons. 

"One was, I knew I wanted to go to a place I've never been because you can go there with a completely open mind. ...The other reason was because of the proximity it has with the U.S.," Barkley said. 

Barkley has past experience with teaching English in Spanish-speaking countries and in St. Cloud. But, in receiving this award and becoming an ETA, Barkley hopes to gain something new. 

"I hope to gain perspective out of this experience, through meeting people that are not like you, you think about things in a different way... Perspective in the way you live and the possibilities for what else you can do in life," Barkley said. 

Barkley was asked about what this award meant to him. 

"Receiving the award is reflective of the really great experience I've had at CSB/SJU and more so the amount of opportunities we've had ... they (CSB/SJU) teach independence," Barkley said. "To me, it's a culmination of a successful four years, not to my credit but to the credit of the place here."

Barkley has high hopes for this new adventure. Although it's not required for ETAs to do research or join other activities, he plans to take part in many. He has three goals, outside of teaching English, he'd like to achieve. 

"I'd like to take a few classes at the university. I'd also like to join a basketball team there. I played on both university teams in Chile in Spain — it was the one way to feel like I was friends with people from that university ... it was the highlight of both times," Barkley said. "The third goal is, I want to do something I've never done before." 

Barkley leaves for orientation in Mexico in August. Once he receives medical clearance and his college degree, he will receive his placement within Mexico. 

"It's exciting because I know I'm going to have at least one year of an adventure that I'm going to look back on and say, 'That was pretty awesome.' It might not be easy or fun at every point but that's the whole point of an adventure," Barkley said.

CSB and SJU students interested in applying for a Fulbright Award for the 2016-17 academic year should contact Phil Kronebusch, professor of political science and coordinator of competitive fellowships at CSB and SJU.