University of Richmond graduate Griffin Trau, ’18, will be traveling back to the Czech Republic, a country he said he “fell in love” with during a summer study abroad program after his junior year. This time, he will be on an English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, which gave him a Fulbright award this year.

“The Czech Republic goes pretty far back for me,” Trau said. “In undergrad, when I was studying the Cold War, it was being in the heart of Europe, kind of a recurring theme and really a focal point of a lot that was happening.” 

For this Fulbright experience, Trau will be in the Czech Republic from August 2019 to June 2020 at two schools: a business school and an industrial and technical high school, Trau said.

While teaching English in the Czech Republic, Trau will also be continuing his academic research from graduate school on national identity, he said.

“I looked at nationalism and kind of collective identity, how it’s formed and how it creates different dynamics and identities,” Trau said. “I wrote one of my biggest papers for my master’s degree on the Czech Republic and the birth of their national identity, and so I plan on continuing what I started.”

Trau completed his Bachelor of Arts in leadership and international studies with a concentration in world politics and diplomacy in January 2018. He then received his Master of Liberal Arts from UR in December 2018.

Trau is committed to immersing himself in the culture, and the first step in that process is to learn Czech. He will also be instructing lacrosse in the Czech Republic during his Fulbright experience. Both of Trau’s parents are teachers and lacrosse coaches, and in the past, he has had the opportunity to teach and coach lacrosse while working for schools during summers spent in Indiana and Richmond, Trau said.

“I’m going to be working with youth sport development,” Trau said. “I’m going to be doing as much as I can to grow the game of lacrosse.”

While attending UR, Trau also played on the football team as a kicker. As a redshirt senior, he was able to share the field with his brother, redshirt first-year Duncan Trau, during the 2018 season.

“Through his major, he’s been able to study abroad,” Duncan said. “He’s a really adventurous person. It’s really something to admire that he’s been able to step out of his comfort zone coming here to [UR], playing a sport and also being able to excel in the classroom. A lot of people can only do two out of those three things, which is cool.”

A lot of students from prestigious universities apply for a Fulbright, Duncan said. He knew that his brother was determined and believed Griffin's resume would put him in a good position.

“Griffin has always been very goal-oriented, looking towards the future,” Duncan said. “It’s clear to me that he’s shown no matter what the odds are or what’s in your way, you can really do whatever you want.” 

Griffin said Yvonne Howell, a professor of Russian and international studies, was a major help throughout the Fulbright process, reading his essays and writing him a letter of recommendation. 

Howell first met Griffin when he signed up after his junior year for the summer study abroad program based in Prague she has been running for 10 years.

“He’s a great student,” Howell said. “He had this great combination of being very interested in how people learn and in learning himself.” 

Soon after Griffin sent in his application, he found out that he had been shortlisted and would have to wait as a semi-finalist along with 14 other UR students to see whether he would receive a Fulbright award. It was a sigh of relief followed with several weeks of suspense, Howell said. 

“I think it’s a fantastic match, in the sense that he went on the summer program and obviously loved Prague,” Howell said. “But that year we traveled to the Baltics, we went to Latvia and Lithuania. And summer programs are the most wonderful way of teaching because your entire environment is your classroom and so we talked a lot.”

With Griffin embarking on his Fulbright to the Czech Republic, he joins a list of UR graduates who have been ETAs in many countries around the world. Tim Gruber, ‘16, is currently in Malaysia on an ETA. He teaches at St. Anthony’s, a school with about 400 students. 

“I am teaching and engaging activities outside of the school day,” Gruber said. “Right now, we've got an awesome girls' soccer team going on. We've got some speaking workshops, we are also working on a mural, just kind of more activities that the students like to do.”

Gruber is excited to hear that another UR alumnus will have the same opportunity. Some days can be full of challenges, but the best advice is to lead with kindness, Gruber said.

“I think, especially in teaching, you want to see the result,” Gruber said. “You want to present information, you want students to learn the information and then be able to regurgitate right back. 

“But I think in all teaching, you kind of have to be satisfied [in the] drops in the bucket you make each day. You may never see the fruits of your labor, but maybe five, 10 years, for that student, there was something you said or did that may have helped them and inspired them in some way.”

Contact features writer Kyla Coleman at kyla.coleman@richmond.edu.