Honors College Alumni
The Honors College has been and continues to be dedicated to creating and supporting a thriving Honors community. We hope to grow our community by connecting Honors alumni with current students in the College and with one another.
Alumna Discovers the Beauty of Teaching Language
2006 Honors Alumna Kristen Sparks teaches German to Exchange Students in Austria
Kristen Sparks is fascinated by how language works and how people acquire and use their second languages. The journey to the place in which she currently finds herself, a UNESCO World Heritage city in southwestern Austria, began at the Texas Tech University Honors College.
Kristen, who graduated eighth in her high school class, was attracted to Texas Tech because its Honors College combined the environment of a small liberal arts school, small class sizes and a challenging curriculum with the advantages of a large university, including collegiate football, a wide range of classes and a diverse and varied student body. After coming to Tech, Kristen delved deeper into German, which she had studied in high school, and declared it as her major, pairing it with Art as a minor. She became an active member of the Honors College, where she excelled academically and gave back to the Honors College by serving as the Social Chair of HON and as an Honors Ambassador. She also chose to make use of her Art minor by volunteering with the Buddy Holly Center’s HUG program, in which volunteers visited the local children’s hospitals and uplifted the patients by participating with them in art projects, such as jewelry-making and other crafts.
However, it was in her junior year that Kristen made the decision that would change the course of her future: to spend a semester abroad. She chose the Karl Franzens Universität Graz, partly as a result of her love for Austria, and partly because studying there would enable her to continue learning Austria’s neighboring country’s language, Slovene. It was in observing how other international students tackled the challenge of learning the German language that Kristen realized what she wanted to do upon graduation with her German degree and with the rest of her life. When asked what her future plans were, she was able to confidently reply, “I want to help people become proficient in languages other than their native language.”
After graduating from Texas Tech, Kristen received a teaching assistantship through the Fulbright Commission and the Austrian American Education Council for a period of two years. She moved to a small town north of Vienna where she taught for a year in Laa an der Thaya, Austria and Mistelbach, Austria, and the following year in Graz, Austria, where she is still living. During her two year Fulbright post, Kristen discovered a love of teaching, and rediscovered English as a living language rather than simply words in a text book. She hopes not only to become a foreign language teacher, but also study how foreign language is stored, accessed and used in the brain, and use that knowledge in language learning curricula.
Kristen remains motivated by continued education, and is currently attending the Karl Franzens Universität Graz once again, where she is pursuing a degree in Linguistics and also in Deutsch als Fremdsprache (German as Foreign Language). When not going to class, teaching English, or tutoring students, she enjoys spending time in the green parks in Graz, visiting friends near Linz and taking trips into Austria’s neighboring countries.
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