Immersion into German culture

Students and faculty talk at dinnerBy all accounts, the first installment of the new Summer Program in German and European Studies was a tremendous success. Timing was ideal as Heidelberg’s delegation of five students was on the campus of the American Junior Year Program (AJY) during the University of Heidelberg’s 625th anniversary celebration.

Concurrently, President Rob Huntington and Provost David Weininger were at the University of Heidelberg in Heidelberg, Germany, for meetings and discussions.

According to Charles Scamman, one of the participants, the Heidelberg students had the experience of a lifetime. Through intense classes in German language, specialized seminars, extensive travel and living with host families, they returned with a new appreciation for and a deeper understanding of another culture.

“We got the most out of the experience, being immersed in the German culture and trying to learn the language,” said Scamman. “It was much richer and more fulfilling.”

Through the six-week program, students were enrolled in three courses, taught by AJY faculty, about four hours a day Monday-Friday, with several additional hours of homework each night. They completed seven credit hours in German language with weekly seminars about Berlin and the European Union.

“Our teachers were so involved and interested and helpful,” Scamman said. “No one missed a single day of class. We really wanted to be there.”

Heidelberg, GermanyScamman said one of the biggest benefits of the experience was the travel. As part of their tuition, with scholarship assistance provided by the Heidelberg University, the students received a GermanRail pass. They took advantage of the opportunity to explore new places almost every day, he said. Destinations included France Belgium, Norway, Italy, the city of Prague and others.

The program was made possible through the Kalnow Family Academic Endowment Fund, created by Heidelberg Trustee Andrew Kalnow. Kalnow, who was in Germany concurrently with the students, spent time with them exploring Nuremberg for a day, including the Nazi Documentation Center and a German art and cultural museum.

In addition, they valued the experience to “look at life lived in different ways,” he said. “Some differences are better and some ways make you appreciate being American.”

Just as the administrators visit reinforced the two institutions’ 50-plus year relationship, the students began to form connections of their own by immersing themselves in the German culture. Scamman said “the friendships we made and the sense of family we experienced will last a lifetime.”

For Scamman, there also was another benefit: He was able to reconnect with Jens Schumacher, his freshman-year roommate who had been studying at Heidelberg in Tiffin through the AJY program. They plan to visit again, hopefully in 2012.

Posted on: 
Jul 15, 2011