“The Language of Medicine is Universal”

Joey Ballard ’20 spent his Spring Break in Ecuador for a Global Health Immersion trip with fellow student Joey Lenkey ’19. The two students shadowed Dr. John Myers ’74, who established an award-winning congenital heart surgery program in Guayaquil, Ecuador and leads a team of healthcare professionals on two-week missions to train Ecuadorian surgeons and perform life-saving procedures on sick children. 

Joey Ballard, Dr. Jack Myers, and Joey Lenkey

Joey Ballard, left; Dr. Jack Myers, center; and Joey Lenkey, right

What was your favorite part of your immersion experience?

My favorite part of the trip was being able to openly and honestly discuss difficult aspects of medicine with Dr. Myers. Inevitably, things will go wrong in medicine, yet we rarely take the time to explore these scenarios and how to deal with them. Spending extended time with Dr. Myers allowed us to delve into these issues and spurred significant internal reflection on my part.


What surprised you most about the experience?

The hospital we stayed at was a state-of-the-art facility, comparable to any new hospital I’ve seen in the United States. The equipment, technology, and quality of care were impressive. However, I found it difficult to reconcile this advancement with the water quality crisis in Ecuador. Even at the hospital, we were instructed to avoid drinking the tap water. This points to governmental shortcomings, but it was surprising to see such an advanced facility still lack the access to clean water.


What was the biggest lesson you learned?

I learned that the language of medicine is universal. During the trip, there was a language barrier between Dr. Myers and the fellow surgeons he worked with in Ecuador. Despite this seemingly impassable barrier, they were all united by their passion for medicine and their love for patient care. It was heartwarming to see their professional mission overcome communication challenges.


What has been your biggest takeaway?

That other cultures are beautifully complex. I immensely enjoyed feeling the immersion component of this trip – I had to speak in Spanish most times, leading to authentic and meaningful interaction with locals. While I certainly learned so much about Ecuador and its culture, I recognize that I do not and perhaps cannot fully understand it. This experience provided a glimpse into another way a life. I lack much of the context that contributes to it, which cannot be obtained in one week.


Why are immersion learning experiences important?

While Wabash is a wonderful place, our time here is limited. Immersion trips provide firsthand experiences that cannot be replicated in the classroom and serve to influence our perspectives and inform our career paths. Immersion experiences help Wabash men become better through their ability to influence our worldview and challenge us to consider what we see on these trips.

Will Amberger ’19: Common Law in London

Will Amberger '19

Will Amberger ’19

Will Amberger ’19 traveled to London over Spring Break as part of the Common Law Immersion Experience. Lead by Professors Scott Himsel and Stephen Morillo, the group’s experiences ranged from visiting historic battle sites to sitting in on a real terrorism travel in the United Kingdom Supreme Court.


What was your favorite part of your immersion experience?

My favorite part was touring the Battle of Hastings, one of the most significant battles in human history. The Battle of Hastings in 1066 set the foundation for our course and really that of modern England. It was an incredible experience to learn about the origins of Common Law and English society as we understand it today. It was also really valuable to have time to ourselves to explore and experience London as a city and culture.


What surprised you most about the experience?

The accessibility of the English Court system – we were able to explore so many different courts and observe a lot of different trials. We even had the opportunity to sit in on a hearing in the UK Supreme Court! The freedom we had to study the different courts made this a really exciting trip.


What was the biggest lesson you learned? 

The importance of embracing the subject matter directly. We read a ton of different materials leading up to our trip, but actually being in London and interacting with the history cemented my knowledge and appreciation for the course material.


The 2018 London Immersion group

What has been your biggest takeaway from the experience?

I now have a deeper understanding and appreciation of English history and its influence on the United States throughout history. We were able to relate things we saw in London to our course material, and it helped me understand exactly how the United States, especially its legal system, has been influenced by England.


Why are immersion learning trips important?

Immersion trips are extremely important because they allow you to engage the class at another level. You just can’t learn or appreciate the subject in the same way if you stay in the classroom. Immersion trips are great because you can get your hands dirty and directly apply what you learn in class to real life. It’s a kind of “learning by doing” that is extraordinarily valuable.



Dan Azar ’18: Glee Club in Boston

Dan Azar '18

Dan Azar ’18

Daniel Azar ’18 spent Spring Break 2018 with the Wabash College Glee Club in Boston. The group had sang at several large performing arts venues around the area while also battling the effects of the Nor’easter snow storm, which made for some fun snowball fights with Glee Club Director Reed Spencer. 


What was your favorite part of your immersion experience?

My favorite part of this immersion experience was having the opportunity to get to know my fellow Glee Club brothers. I also enjoyed singing and performing with other schools and learning how to improve our sound as a group through masterclasses.


What surprised you most about the experience?

I was surprised by how moved so many people were by our performances and how powerful an impact our music had on others outside of the Wabash community.


What has been your biggest takeaway?

This tour truly reminded me of why I am so lucky to be a part of the Glee Club and why it is so important to our College. Singing with others provides you with a community you cannot get anywhere else. You are able to connect with your brothers in song in such a profound way and that is something I will really miss when I graduate.


Dan Azar '18 conducts

Azar conducts the Glee Club in Boston.

Why are immersion learning experiences important?

Immersion learning helps students understand why the classroom isn’t the only place for learning. It gives students the opportunity to see the significance of their influence outside of the Wabash community. It connects us with people we never thought we’d be connected with and helps us hear their perspective on the enduring questions we seek to answer as Wabash men.

Peters ’16 Enjoys Typical German Life

Wabash guys enjoy a wurst-fest gill party with local Mayor.

Wabash guys enjoy a wurst-fest gill party with local Mayor.

Steven Peters ’16 – Traveling to another country, one tends to have certain expectations going in about the people of that country. Ask most people in the USA what they think is typical of the German people and likely their answers will be fairly similar. Germans are a lederhosen wearing people, throwing around large steins of beer, their vocal inflections carry an underlying hint of anger, and all they eat are large wursts (sausages). My younger sister even feared that I would face many rude Germans, because apparently they are a mean people. After studying the language and culture for two years, one comes to find that those stereotypes are not necessarily true. Despite that education, however, there is still that hope that some of those stereotypes will be seen. A benefit, then, of an immersion trip like this is to discover for yourself, by mingling with the people, what is in reality typical German.


Neustadt Mayor welcomes Wabash guys to his town.

Neustadt Mayor welcomes Wabash guys to his town.

Our trip to Neustadt, a small town near Marburg, gave me and my fellow classmates an experience which allowed us to see who the Germans really are as a people and to practice our language skills. Through connections that Erik Kile has with Neustadt residents, we received a personal tour of the historical sites by two local historians. One of them, Gerhard Bieker, hosted Erik’s aunt as an exchange student some 30 years ago, and the families have been close ever since. Herr Bieker quite literally wrote the book on Neustadt’s history (entitled Nova Civitas: Eine Wanderung durch die Geschichte der Stadt). Through him we gained full access to the curious 15th-century “Junker-Hansen-Turm” (tower) that looms over the town. He also got us into the old town hall and gave us a tour of the most historic parts of town. Another friend, Herr Krapp, gave us a tour of the town’s oldest Catholic Church (built between 1502 and 1517). He led us through the small space behind the high altar, took us up rickety stairs into the attic of the church, and showed us the air pumps that drive the organ. We got a more personal view of these old sites than one can typically get in more popular sites in tourist-filled cities.

After our tour we were greeted by Thomas Groll, the mayor of Neustadt, and our hosts grilled kilos of wurst supplied by the local butcher. A reporter took our picture with the mayor and the historians who guided us, and an article about our visit will appear in Oberhessische Zeitung, the region’s largest newspaper. This part of the trip to Neustadt was the most memorable and useful part for me in experiencing German culture and practicing skills used in class. Our generous hosts fed us wurst after delicious wurst and we were able to converse with the mayor and others in a stress free environment where we were not worried about saying the wrong thing or not being understood well enough. While some of us lingered over apple strudel, some of the group joined a group of local teenagers in a game of pick-up soccer at the adjacent part.

So what is typical German? It is impossible to fully understand a people after only one week living within their culture, but from what I experienced the Germans are a people who seem reserved on the surface, but if given the chance will show you the greatest hospitality, even if they do not know you, and fill your stomach with good food and your head with good conversation. We may not have seen any large Germans with a beer in one hand, and a rope of wurst around their neck, but what we did receive was a greater understanding of who the Germans are as a people and an opportunity to become more knowledgeable as a whole. –

Scully ’16 Taken by Germany’s Unique Culture

The group visiting Frankfurt, Germany

The group visiting Frankfurt, Germany

Sean W. Scully ‘16 – The German people are fit, intellectual, and artistic; however, they seem to lack a sense of humor. In the one week that I have been here in Germany I have learned a great deal about the country and its people. I have come to appreciate the charismatic people of America much more having experienced this very different culture. I think that both countries can learn a lot about life from each other: the Germans can learn to not take life so seriously, while Americans can discover that there are greater things in life to appreciate like music, art, and poetry. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, one of the greatest writer/poets in history, was born and raised in Frankfurt am Main, and I had the privilege of visiting his house yesterday.

350 Daniel Craig, Annemieke Klein, Erik Kile, and Sean Scully at Goethe Haus

350 Daniel Craig, Annemieke Klein, Erik Kile, and Sean Scully at Goethe Haus

I awoke to the pleasantly warm breeze coming through the open window in my apartment at around 7:45 with a gigantic smile as I realized it was the first day without language class since I arrived in Germany. I made a breakfast with coffee, yogurt, bread, and the best cheese I have ever tasted. We met at the train station at 8:30, which is when I realized that I needed to use the restroom. To my surprise, the bathroom mandated a payment of 1 Euro for its use! This seemed absurd to me and although I am not the most frugal person, I decided to wait. We boarded the train to Frankfurt and luckily found some seats.

The train system itself is an amazing feature of Europe. Being able to pay a few Euros and jump on a train to anywhere in Europe is incredible to me. As we arrived at the enormous train station in Frankfurt I witnessed a completely different side of Germany. Frankfurt is probably the most Americanized city in Germany. The skyscrapers that tower over the plethora of tourists from all nations give Frankurt am Main the nickname “Mainhattan.” Frankfurt is a center for world finance, and most of those skyscrapers are bank headquarters. One of the first buildings we passed by was the Central Bank of the European Union.

Our group was joined by Annemieke Klein, who will work at Wabash as the German Teaching Assistant next academic year, and Wabash juniors Pierce Velderman and Jesse Stuckwisch, who are both studying this semester in Vienna but took time to come visit us. Our first stop was the house where Goethe was born and raised. As we entered those hallowed grounds I thought: I’m finally going to find out why Dr. Redding has such an unhealthy obsession with the man! We learned a great deal about Goethe, his family, and the manner in which he lived his life. The halls were filled with beautiful antiques and portraits that seemed to tell their own stories. After we finished a historical scavenger hunt in Goethe’s childhood home, we moved next to the portrait gallery next door. Some of the most profound art I have ever seen lined the walls and garnered my full appreciation.

How could one go to Frankfurt and not eat a frankfurter!? After the Goethe Museum we made our way to the Römerberg, the huge central square of Frankfurt, for food and a short break. The first thing I saw there was a beautiful young couple emerging from the town hall, having just been married while all of their loved ones waited outside to congratulate them. As we stood in line to buy a frankfurter I gazed upon the mass of people in the square: people from all nations were there experiencing the beautiful city just as I was. An Italian man played seemingly the only song he knew on his accordion for the hour or so that we spent there. Out of nowhere a large rally began to form in the courtyard with all sorts of people peacefully advocating their beliefs. There was a Christian rally and a gay-rights demonstration happening simultaneously!

David Boyer and Daniel Craig study Goethe

David Boyer and Daniel Craig study Goethe

As the rally went on, we toured the Paulskirche. This church was the site of the first attempt to create a German democracy following the revolution of 1848. Delegates from all the German territories met here for most of a year to debate and write a new constitution that would form a parliamentary monarchy. Ultimately the attempt failed as the monarchy used that year to reconsolidate power. Many of the delegates, now marked as political dissidents, fled to America and did much to create the modern civil society that we enjoy.

Our next stop was another church, the Frankfurt Cathedral. There is something enthralling about being in a seven-hundred-year-old church that is relatively unchanged. Ornate images with Latin subtitles covered the walls while gorgeous crucifixes and statues graced the remaining areas. Here we saw the so-called Electoral Chapel where the seven electoral princes met to pray, debate, and ultimately elect the Holy Roman Emperor. After learning a good deal about the church, we had time if we wanted to climb the endless spiral staircase to the top of the cathedral tower. To save both a little bit of money and my calves, I decided instead to walk along the Main River. Here I witnessed yet more beautiful scenery. While everyone else was sweating their way up and down the tower, I retraced Goethe’s favorite walk across the bridge over the river. We congregated again as a group, walked to the train station, and headed back to Marburg.

Back at my apartment I cooked myself an amazing chicken and egg sandwich and went to sleep with another gigantic smile. Germany seems to me like one colossal painting of surreal beauty, with an aesthetic that one cannot truly grasp until experiencing it first-hand. I cannot wait until I study abroad here next spring and even possibly live here for a portion of my life. The experiences I have gained so far on this trip are priceless, as are the ones to come.

Snyder ’16 Learns Jewish History in Germany

Paul Snyder ‘16 – As our German 202 immersion experience hits the one week mark, I pause to think about some of the things I have learned so far: 1) I often feel like I don’t know what I am doing. 2) Even the doors are different here. 3) There is more to Germany than beer and wurst. Although my first week trying to speak German in Germany has at times been difficult and frustrating, my overall impression is that the Germans are a very accepting people.

Today after our morning language class we hit the streets to learn about the Jewish history of Marburg. We began at the ruins of a synagogue that was built around the year 1319, but just 30 years later it was torn down by angry residents who blamed the Jews for a plague epidemic. The ancient excavated sanctuary is now a memorial, and we lingered there for a long time to discuss our text about Jewish Marburg. Like most people, when I thought about the Jews in Germany the first thing that would come to mind is the Holocaust, for obvious reasons. However, here I learned that the history of the Jews in Germany goes back much, much farther—and the discrimination against them does too.

Snyder, far right, gives his presentation to class.

Snyder, far right, gives his presentation to class.

During the reign of Philip the “Magnanimous” in the 1520s, laws were passed that prevented Jews from owning houses or land and restricted what jobs they could do. These laws were in many ways similar to those passed by the Hitler regime in the 1930s. This shows that the murderous policies of the Nazi era had their roots in a long history of discrimination, not just in Germany but throughout Europe.

In many German cities, including Marburg, you can find on the sidewalk small brass squares called “Stolpersteine”—stumbling stones. They are a memory project created by the artist Gunter Demnig to commemorate the lives of victims of the Nazi regime. He engraves the name and fate of a victim in a brass block about the size of a cobblestone, then sets it in place in front of houses where that person used to live. The idea is that a person walking along the sidewalk “stumbles” over the stone and remembers the person who could have once been their neighbor.

Each of us was assigned an address that had a Stolperstein in front of it, and we had to find it and gather the information prior to today’s discussion.  My address led me to a grouping of 6 Stolpersteine that memorialized members of the Katz family who were sent to an extermination camp in Sobibor, Poland. The Katz family was murdered because they were Jewish, but we saw other stones for people who were killed for speaking out against Hitler, for listening to foreign radio stations, for being on the wrong end of the political spectrum, or for being schizophrenic. Although we can learn about these things in a classroom, it cannot have the same impact as standing at the front door of a Holocaust victim, seeing their pictures, hearing their stories, and visualizing what their life and death must have been like.

This dark history could easily lead one to argue against my earlier comment that the Germans of today seem to be a very accepting people. But daily life in Germany quickly reveals a commitment to tolerance and social justice. Not only do they very publicly confront past atrocities through memorials, commemorations, and public dialog, but they have enshrined into law the concept that modern Germany will be a safe haven for people who are oppressed because of things like faith or ethnicity. The immigration policies are also fairly generous, so on practically every corner there are shops marketing food and merchandise from many different nationalities. As further evidence, we ended our tour of Jewish Marburg on a positive note at the new synagogue, which currently serves a congregation of about 500 local Jews.

So where does all this reflection on contemporary Germany lead me? Well, for one thing I know now not to get too discouraged when I freeze up while ordering a Döner Kebab because the guy asked me what toppings I want on it, or when I can’t even figure out how to get into the bakery because the door doesn’t work like I think it should. Someone might laugh at me, but someone is more likely to kindly offer the help that I need. For all of the anxiety and missteps that I and our group made when we first got here, we are now successfully navigating German culture—with a little help from the people we interact with on a daily basis.

At Wabash we hear often that immersing oneself in another culture is the best way to learn about it. I agree 100 percent. This experience has opened my eyes to different cultures and has given me better insight into how the world works than I could have gained just in the classroom.

Craig ’16 Has Unique View of Immersion Learning

Daniel Craig ‘16 – Day 6 in Germany: I want to go home. Yes, I said it. I’m not even halfway through the program, and thoughts of home keep creeping into my mind. Mom’s cooking, my own bed, Netflix (that’s right, NO Netflix here!), friends and family: all of these keep flashing through my mind as I sit here listening to people speak in a language I can seemingly just barely understand.

“So what is it that keeps you here?” I hear you asking. Is it the Döner (a tasty Turkish sandwich); the crazy, awesome, Goodwill-esque clothes everyone wears; or is it fear from knowing that if I actually try to leave, Dr. Redding will chase me all the way back…RUNNING…? Well, a little bit of each. But the biggest reason is this: My German is getting better.

It’s true. Full sentences, short phrases, colloquial nonsense — I can say them all. Sure, I may butcher them every now and then, but for the most part I say it just right. If I had met the current me 6 days ago, I would have been blown away. Heck, I’m having full conversations with people. It’s slow and hard, but it’s happening! Just recently when I ordered a scoop of ice cream, I was charming enough that they gave me an extra scoop!

Last evening I was relaxing on a bench in the Oberstadt, Marburg’s historic center, when Dr. Redding walked by. When he asked me how I was doing, I confessed that my brain is a bit full: 4 hours of language practice each morning, then lunch, then on alternating days another 3 hours in German with our language partners or Dr. Redding. It is mentally exhausting.

So in summary, why will I stay? Because it is fantastic here. Because I am actually being challenged, and I am learning. And on top of all that, it’s free (sort of). It’s just too good to pass up. –

Hoover ’15 Learns About Education Opportunities

Daniel Hoover ’15 –   As we are wrapping up our week in Chicago, let me first say that I am so grateful and blessed that I have been able to partake in this education learning experience. I will say that Chicago is a whole different world than where I grew up, but it has been an eye-opening experience overall. I am placed at De La Salle Institute, which is private catholic school a block away from US Cellular Field. Interestingly enough, my school has two gender-based campuses, so I have been able to relate to my students well considering we are both in all male institutes.

One of the best parts about this trip in the classroom has been able to experience such diversity in the classroom. De La Salle accepts an even amount of white, Hispanic, and African-American students. Having been able to co-teach these wonderful students has opened my eyes in terms of how different people have grown up. It has been a pleasure to experience different cultures in the classrooms.

This week, we have been studying a unit over the Renaissance Era. Specifically, today we talked about the Reformation and Martin Luther. At the end of the class, I was able to discuss with the students what they would like to reform. I was quite impressed when the students said that would like to do work in the community to reform some of the problems that Chicago faces. It was extremely thrilling listening to high school freshman so engaged in wanting to perform in the community.

Yesterday (Wednesday) we had the privilege of exploring the Museum of Science and Industry and what it had to offer in terms of education. Before, I had never really thought of putting a museum in a lesson plan. However, the museum taught me how to incorporate possible field trips in the future.

Overall, this week has been an amazing experience. It has really opened my eyes to urban education. Since the trip began I have really enjoyed working with my students and it really has changed my perspective on urban education. Again, I would like to thank all the alums who have made this trip possible.

Kile ’16 Better Understanding ‘Immersion’

Erik Kile ‘16 – Prior to our arrival I wasn’t sure what to expect from this immersion experience in Marburg. I had been to this region of Germany last year to visit family, and when I was with them everything was comfortable and relaxed. On this trip I have had to rely more on myself to use German in everyday situations. The first day we were here several of us had a rough time just trying to order food at a Döner Kebab stand. But now, after a few days of dedicated language practice it seems that everything has opened up for us and we are able to apply what we learned in the classroom at home to a real world setting. I am now able to converse entirely in German with my family and friends who live nearby in Neustadt.

Learning more about Landgrafenschloss in the museum.

Learning more about Landgrafenschloss in the museum.

We have also been experiencing the rich cultural history that Marburg has to offer. We’ve seen a plethora of historical sites throughout the city that escaped my attention when I came through here last year. Professor Redding led us on a tour of the Elisabethkirche, which some people claim is the oldest purely Gothic church in Germany. It was built by the Order of Teutonic Knights to honor St. Elisabeth, who gave up her rich life as Landgräfin (duchess) of Thuringia to care for the poor and the sick. She basically worked herself to death and was canonized in 1235, just four years after she died.

Yesterday after language class and lunch at the Mensa (student cafeteria) we visited the Landgrafenschloss, the castle that dominates the skyline of Marburg. We studied the castle inside and out, and learned about its role in the development of the city. In fact, Marburg takes its name from the castle, with “Mark” being an old German word for border and “Burg” meaning fortress or castle: Mar(k) + Burg = Marburg. In addition to its role in the birth of the modern German state of Hesse, the castle also hosted the famous Marburg Colloquy, a theological discussion between Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli. The meeting did not go well and essentially solidified the split between the Lutheran and the Reformed wings of the Protestant movement.

It was well after 5 p.m. by the time Dr. Redding turned us loose, but several of us still had enough energy to grab some supplies at the grocery store and hike to the top of the steep hills opposite the castle, where we picnicked and enjoyed the spectacular view of Marburg. We are less than halfway through our stay and already we have a lot to reflect on, and a lot to still look forward to.

Rezek ’15 Embracing Classroom Experience

Patrick Rezek ’15 –  Well, Tuesday was day two of our week-long immersion trip in Chicago. My host school is Kenwood Academy, a public, magnet school that for students grades 7-12. I have been placed in a 7th grade English class with a general class size of 42! This can get a little crazy at times, but the students are good at helping calm each other down when it’s time to get work done.

My class just started a unit over The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. The novel is full of short, little vignettes that are meant to give a snapshot depiction of Esperanza’s life as she struggles through adolescence. Its is a perfect time for these students to be reading this short novel because many of them struggle with the same problems that Esperanza does. We haven’t gotten much of the reading done, but we have been engaged in deep conversations and debates over important themes presented in the novel: family, identity, gender/race, lifestyles and expectations.

I have had some of the most unexpected and inspiring stories about the lives of these students and what they go through every day, and it’s an experience that you cant get anywhere else besides being in the classroom with them. My host teacher has created such an environment where the students are able to open up and discuss real life problems as they also see them applied to literature.

I look forward to teaching a full day of lessons Wednesday and Thursday! The experience of co-teaching in Chicago has opened up a new door for me in terms of both my options as a career but also my passion – my desire to help those students who really want to do well and continue their own educational growth, but may not have the money or resources to do so. Thank you to those alums, faculty, and current students who continue to donate financial support for immersion trips such as this one. It has truly been rewarding and inspirational!

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