Germany Through the Eyes of My Students

Redding, far right, with students studying Marburg's Elisabethkirche.

Redding, far right, with students studying Marburg’s Elisabethkirche.

Professor Greg Redding – It has become a Wabash tradition for students to write blog posts during their off-campus immersion experiences. For the first two days of our current study program in Germany, however, the students have hardly had time to catch their breath, let alone write about their impressions thus far. By tomorrow we will have settled into a routine, so student reflections will be forthcoming. In the meantime I want to offer a few observations from the point of view of a professor who is traveling abroad with students for the 14th time in his 19-year teaching career.


Redding and students with Elisabethkirche in background.

Redding and students with Elisabethkirche in background.

When one travels as much as I and so many of my Wabash colleagues have, it is easy for it to become routine. Germany for me is not a strange, foreign place: it is like a second home. So when I arrive in familiar places like Marburg, where we are currently studying, it feels like a long-awaited homecoming. The language and the culture are comforting to me.

This is not true for my students. They are young men traveling in a group, so of course they do not willingly betray any lack of confidence. But almost immediately things begin to happen that challenge their self-assurance, the most important of which is the language. The students on this trip have had from 2 to 4 semesters of college German. They’ve been exposed to all of the essential grammar, have acquired (in theory at least) an active vocabulary of more than 1,000 words, are somewhat culturally competent, and have many hours of situational language practice.

There should be no real difference between using German in Crawfordsville and using German in Marburg, but as one might expect it does not play out that way in those first few encounters with native speakers in context. The simplest exchange becomes cause for self-doubt, sometimes even panic. I have to admit, I find those first blundered transactions amusing, but only because I know that what seemed difficult on day one will be quite simple by the end of our stay. Each situation that the student successfully navigates shows him that the German he has practiced in the Detchon classroom really isn’t any different than the German he hears on the streets of Marburg.

The German 202 immersion experience is immersion in the truest sense of the word. The students are expected to live the language and the culture while they are here. They live separately rather than in a group. They have at least 7 required active hours of language practice per day, and more on some days. They pick up groceries and cook their own meals at home. They have assignments that are designed to get them away from each other, to discover Marburg on their own, to gather information and bring it back to share with the group — in German of course.

Already there have been some surprises. Any notions the students might have had about German stereotypes have been challenged by some of their language partners. Each morning they have 4 hours of formal instruction with an instructor whose heritage is Turkish. On Tuesdays and Thursdays they have an additional 3 hours of “on the street” German practice with conversation partners who have Mongolian and Russian heritage. Marburg is multi-cultural, a small university town with a strong international presence that for the next two weeks includes 9 students from Wabash.

By the time these 9 young men return to Crawfordsville, they will be well on their way toward becoming citizens of the world. Their next trip abroad will seem a little less daunting, and those first conversations in a language other than English will be approached with confidence. They will move forward while in Marburg, and I will move a little bit backward. Watching them will remind me of the time when speaking German was not natural for me, and when the culture seemed foreign. I will rediscover Germany through the eyes of my students and reclaim a bit of the excitement of the new for myself.

Combs ’15 Embraces Classroom, City

Bailey Combs ’15 –  I would like to begin by thanking the generous Wabash alumni and the College for funding this trip into the often misperceived Chicago area and its educational system. Today was my first full day observing at Kenwood Academy. Far from being a failing school, Kenwood strives to get students to graduate and get into college but also take with them up to 12 college credits as well.

The first class I observed started promptly at 8 a.m. and was a senior psychology class working on a psychological disorder unit. It required every memory of Dr. Horton’s PSY 101 class as well as a cast of friends who exemplify some of the disorders. After that, it was several periods of 8th grade human geography class where I engaged students to fully develop their PowerPoint presentations and  classroom activities for their group projects. Students were very interesting in talking to me and I had several fun conversations throughout the day about class, assignments, and of course Wabash College. Additionally, I was able to observe how to handle a stressful situation amongst co-workers as a white teacher and a African-American teacher soon discovered that the seemingly innocent nursery rhythm, “10 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed,” had a more sinister rendition many years ago. There were apologizes all around and an acknowledgement that ignorance and not malice was truly at the middle of the situation.

After classes were over for the day, I met up with Patrick Rezek, who is also observing at Kenwood Academy, and we started our journey back across town to the hostel we are staying at in downtown Chicago. We had the opportunity to talk with one of the chefs at the school while we were waiting on the city bus. He was very happy to hear that we were enjoying our time at the school and that we recognized urban schools weren’t all gangs, drugs, and violence. Unfortunately, the crowded environment of the Chicago Transport Authority Bus No. 6 prevented us from discussing urban education, as well as sports, with this kind gentleman.

Following dinner, everyone on the trip signed up for an architectural tour of the city by boat. My favorite part was when the tour guide asked if we knew anything about the Art Deco style. It didn’t take long for the memories of soft, warm breezes, crying seagulls, and beautiful buildings of Miami and Havana that  I saw on Dr. Hollander’s Cuba Immersion trip last fall to be recalled and my interest level to be peaked. The only downside to seeing all of the old super concrete building of the 1920s and 30s Chicago was hearing about how expensive it was to live downtown. $1.2 million dollars for a townhouse? Suddenly, room and board at Wabash doesn’t sound so bad.

As the week goes on, I plan to not only be more active in the classroom but I also want to see more of the historical sites and museums that Chicago has to offer in the evenings once classes are done for the day. I would like to thank the College and the wonderful Alumni for granting me this opportunity to extend my Wabash College experience beyond the campus but beyond the school calendar too.

Hammerle ’15 Learning About Interaction

Connor Hammerle ’15 –  Monday was the first day we student-taught at our host schools in Chicago.  The school that I will be teaching at this week is Collins Academy which is a turn-around school for high school students.  For today’s lesson, my sophomore class began working on their final immigration project for the semester.  The last few weeks the students have been learning about the process many immigrants go through to become citizens in the US and their project places them in the position of a person who wants to come to the US and must to decide if they will come legally or illegally.

I personally spent the day working with the students individually and helping them brainstorm different scenarios that could play out for the particular immigrant they had selected.   All of the students I worked with today were engaged with me, the teacher, and the prompt they were given.  It was refreshing to see students that genuinely cared about their education.  One of the best interactions I was able to see between one of the teachers and a student was listening to my host teacher ask students about their weekend and then pestering them when he felt their answer wasn’t sufficient.  He pushed them to actually talk to him about their weekend and I could see the appreciation in their eyes, although they tried to hide it.

Even on the first day I can see the connection between my host teacher and the class, and how important it is to the students to have someone in the school that they know is genuinely invested in their success.  Working with the students in Collins has been a great experience so far and has really opened my eyes to the possibility of teaching in an intercity in the future.

Preparing for a Week in Chicago

DAY 1Cody Buresh ’15 – The day began early for all of us this morning. We have had the privilege to ride the Amtrak into Chicago, which was a new experience for most of us. After arriving to the train station the group made its way to the hostel that we will be staying in for the rest of the week. When we reached the hostel we had a brief meeting about our one-day experience prior to this trip.

Our group was getting settled in Chicago and getting mentally prepared for the week ahead. The best way to get to know Chicago and feel more comfortable with the city is to have a dinner with some of our amazing alumni. The friendliness, connections, and just all around love of Wabash when talking with our alumni always blow me away. The community feel of Wabash only seems to grow over time. We dined at Tufano’s, an Italian restaurant with a great environment to talk about our past endeavors and what our future entails. It was amazing how natural all of the conversations were between the current students and alumni present.

The simple factor of Wabash College brings individuals from many different backgrounds and experiences together as big community. All of the current students are excited to have the opportunity to actually teach and observe urban education. This new experience of education with an unfamiliar environment and diversity will most definitely enrich our learning and teaching ability for the future.

Cuatecontzi ’17 Impressed by Pew Research

Felipe Cuatecontzi ’17 – Mar. 12 was such a busy day. In all, the class made visits to the Pew Research Center, ICANN and NPR. When the day first began, I had a hard time understanding how these organizations could possibly correlate with our class, which focuses on the rhetoric that is present in government and politics. After having discussions with the professionals of these individual organizations, I understood that these organizations were voices that fell into the relationship of government and organizations.

The first place we visited on that Wednesday morning was the Pew Research Center. It was explained to us that the Pew Research Center conducts research and polls to understand the relationship between religion and demographics in the United States. Leading the discussion was Dr. Gregory Smith, director of U.S. Religion Surveys, Religion and Public Life Project. Dr. Smith explained how religion is extremely important to monitor and analyze. Dr. Smith discussed that his research led to the conclusion that religion is the 2nd leading factor when determining the voting patterns of Americans, just behind race. This was very fascinating to hear, but what I found most fascinating was how Dr. Smith also went on to reveal that 1 in 5 Americans have no religious affiliation. These Americans are called “nones” as Dr. Smith labeled them. It was at this point in the discussion that you could notice an increase in question of how and why exactly religion is such an influence in how people vote.

After leaving the Pew Research Center, the class headed over to ICANN, The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. Personally, I think that the acronym rolls of the tongue a little easier. It was at ICANN that we met Patrick Jones ’96, who is a senior director, to engage in a discussion with him. Jones told our class that ICANN aimed at not only connecting Americans domestically, but also internationally. The purpose of ICANN is to manage Internet resources thru the Internet’s domain system.  ICANN has also been aiming to extend its boundaries by connecting with multi-stakeholders and by using certain strategies to overcome obstacles that include language, government and culture ICANN has begun to do so. One thing that I found a little ironic about our visit to ICANN was that the day of our visit also happened to fall on the same date as the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web!

Thoughts While Exploring Notre Dame, Paris

Adam Pagryzinski ’14 – Mar. 14 – We like to think of gothic cathedrals as temporally static, giant stone anomalies which have escaped the passage of time; constants that connect us with the genius of a lost age. This perception of cathedrals as constant and unchanging engenders feelings of comfort, security, awe, and perseverance which speak to the human desire for universal truth, for immortality. The thought that these stone giants could be movable, transitory, or destructible is existentially troublesome, for how can something that has endured so long be subject to the fickleness of time, subjectivity, or human interpretation? This was the very struggle encountered today while exploring the cathedral of Notre Dame de Chartres.

Despite the breath-taking exterior, intricate carvings, and the most magnificent stained glass windows ever created, the focus of our investigation and discussion was the partially complete renovation project seeking to return the cathedral’s interior to its original state. Rather than the gloomy, somber, and bare stone walls so associated with the gothic aesthetic and the medieval ages, we instead found brightly painted walls and columns in hues of yellow, red, green, and blue. The shadowy mysticism and cold uniformity of the building was lost, and along with it all the feelings and sentiments typically associated with the gothic.

In the quest to rediscover the lost historical aesthetic of the cathedral, a different aesthetic truth has been destroyed. The perception of cathedrals held by modernity, although not true to history or the creators’ intent, has maintained for centuries and is engrained in the global mind. The traditional bare stone walls offer us something; they fulfill some need, satisfy some unique desire which remains unaddressed by society. While it is true that modernity has a duty to antiquity, to preserve and rediscover the lost realities of lost times, we must also be careful not to destroy the modern conception of the cathedral that has been developed over hundreds of years. It is evident after appreciating the cathedral in Chartres that the role cathedrals play in politics, community, religion, and society has changed since the birth of the gothic, however we must reach a balance between remaining true to the gothic aesthetic of antiquity and exploring the modern gothic interpretation lest we lose the many things that this new aesthetic provides.

Late Night Walk Impressive as Site Visits

Derek Andre ’16 – Over the past week, 14 Wallys, myself included, had the opportunity to travel to the nation’s Capital as part of a Rhetoric course about the various rhetorical aspects of Washington, DC. Over the course of the week we were able to meet with Senator Joe Donnelly, Representative Luke Messer ’91, visit NPR, America Rising, and Prime Policy Group, and see all the sights that DC has to offer. The trip was designed to provide those of us in the course, entitled Voices of America: the Rhetoric of the Nation’s Capital, the opportunity to view DC firsthand and to take our acquired knowledge back with us so that we can create a final project analyzing some aspect of the District.

Unlike the rest of the group, my project entailed a trip to Nationals Park, the home of the Washington Nationals. For my final project, I plan to analyze the rhetorical constructs surrounding Nationals Park, including the way that the park constructs a history for the young team and how the park plays into the overall rhetoric of DC. For my project, I took a tour of the ballpark, seeing the Presidential Lounge, the Washington Level suites, the clubhouse, and even throwing a pitch in the bullpen. Overall the tour yielded a surprising amount of interesting information and aspects of the stadium that will be useful in the analysis of the ballpark.

While the trip was great for seeing the sights of DC and visiting a number of offices around the District, one of the most memorable moments took place during a discussion I had with our professor Dr. Sara Drury and two of my fellow students. As we were walking between the Korean War Veterans Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial we started discussing the ways those two memorials and the World War Two Memorial conveyed three very different messages when viewed at night. We talked about the lighting of the memorials, the presence or lack thereof of seating, the size and layout, and even the positioning of the three memorials. Without going into copious detail, the conversation embodied the critical thinking that is the backbone of a Wabash education.

I’d like to thank Drs Sara Drury and Shamira Gelbman, Wabash College, my parents, and my classmates for making this phenomenal trip possible. Not only was the trip intellectually stimulating, but I also was able to solidify old friendships and make new ones. Last week when we flew out of Indianapolis I didn’t know what to expect. But one week, six memorials, a Capitol tour, a trip to NPR, and twelve games of euchre later, I can honestly say that an immersion trip to DC was a great way to spend a Spring Break.

Puckett ’15 Fascinated by Kings, Cathedrals

Austin Puckett ’15 – As our group entered into day five of being in Paris and studying the different Gothic themes of the Cathedrals in Paris and the surrounding cities, it was easy to tell that everyone was becoming more comfortable. Conversations started to become a little more organized and a little more passionate. That was largely in part because now we have seen multiple cathedrals, enough that we can start making comparisons and viewing common themes.

One of the biggest aspects that I have found particularly interesting when we are looking at these cathedrals is the way in which the government of the time was and still is intertwined within the religious community. That is something that we have been asked to look at since day one and it is just something that is difficult to wrap your brain around. We visited the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Reims today and one of the things we were told to look at was the way in which the kings of France were shown in stained glass windows at the very top of the church. The kings were even given their power inside of the cathedral and the coronations happened there also We find this so interesting because in America we mainly see a major separation of church and state and here we see the actually leaders of the country being displayed inside what is a holy, religious building.

It wasn’t just at Notre-Dame de Reims in which we saw evidence for this; it was also at Notre Dame de Paris, where the statues that are located in the front are associated also with the 28 kings of Judah and Israel. We are not actually sure who the statues are supposed to be but throughout the years it has been accepted that they in some way they depict these kings. Obviously, there would have to be a reason for this intertwining to happen and it would have had to stem from the people. The reason I believe this happened is security. The people that resided in the town would have wanted security and to feel safe. That is what the cathedral gave these people, the sense that they were part of a bigger community and not a stranded individual. They lose themselves within the church and therefore feel safer.

Another aspect of this churches that I have seen in almost everyone we have visited, something that I believe correlates well to the first idea, is the open space that is located in front of most of these cathedrals. The open space maybe today, is seen as a tourist area but what it could have been used for is amazing. Essentially you have a building where everyone goes to church to worship and then you have all this space out in front in which they all fit, this is where the two worlds collide. The church is where citizens went and citizens make up the city and therefore the government and church are intertwined. It was an inevitable merger that played out and has been personified within the walls of the church. There are stain glass windows that depict God giving the power to the King and also the fleur-de-lis is found throughout many of the churches. The idea that the church and the state being one is so foreign to us as Americans. We see that as something that would hinder the efficiency of the government but however the French embraced the idea and we can see that within the cathedrals that we are studying. The citizen went to the church for everything. If there was ever a problem, the church is where they would go. The readings only made me believe more in this idea that the church helps to manifest these principles of security and comfort within the individual. They gained knowledge of government and certain issues all while worshiping within the walls of the church. This was the idea that I found the most intriguing and challenging as I searched for a topic within the readings and group discussions we had.

Zurek ’16: Immersion Trip Lives Up to Billing

Mason Zurek ’16 – When I was signing up for this class, I was torn between whether or not to take it. I had yet to go on an immersion trip anywhere, but I had not gone on the fabled collegiate Spring Break trip. At the beginning of the immersion trip, as I received numerous Snapchats and texts about the sun, beach, and women, I feared I had made the wrong decision. I figured “Washington DC is not going anywhere soon, but I only have a couple Spring Breaks in college.” Yet, as the week went on, I realized the incredible opportunities that the immersion trip offered me.

Washington D.C. has rhetoric of every type present: political, journalism, media, and public opinion. We studied them all. The politics part is simple: DC is the center of politics in the United States. The Newseum offered a funny and entertaining perspective on journalism and media (there was an Anchorman exhibit). Public opinion was on display when we met with America Rising and heard the procedures and ways opinion is shaped during campaigns. DC is an incredibly rhetoric-rich environment and probably the best place to study for a major like myself.

From meeting with lobbyists who could contact some of the most powerful people in DC with a single phone call to chatting with Representative Messer, a Wabash Phi Delta Theta graduate, the people we met and the things we did were once in a lifetime events. I cannot foresee having another chance to tour the FBI or any of a number of things we did, and I realized the true beauty of the trip was networking: professionally and personally.

On the professional side, I was able to meet and connect with a large number of alumni who were more than happy to offer advice and their business card. Even better was their insight into life in the city and after college. I learned it is quite important to establish yourself young in order to advance later in life.

Personally, I was able to bond with my classmates and fellow Wabash brethren in a new way. The 14 of us went everywhere together and had some discussions that I never would have expected. The Democrats and Republicans sparred on a bunch of issues, gay marriage was debated, and the intricacies of Tinder were brought up at shockingly regular intervals. It was refreshing to go outside of my friend circle and connect so well with other Wallies.

In conclusion, I had an incredible trip. The meetings, camaraderie, and city itself were wonderful. Wabash Immersion Trips are experiences everyone needs to have before they graduate, even if you skip going to Florida.  It is most definitely worth it.

Regnier ’16 Enjoys Library of Congress Visit

Rep. Luke Messer '91 with Wabash Rhetoric Class.

Rep. Luke Messer ’91 with Wabash Rhetoric Class.

Tyler Regnier ’16 – Today was our last day in D.C.  To start the day, Kyle Stucker ‘17 and I toured the Library of Congress.  The tour guide enlightened us with hidden insights about the meaning of the elaborate murals and carvings that fill the Jefferson building of the library. The designer wanted to build something as grandiose and ornate as a European structure, in order to show the European world powers in the 1800’s that the United States could compete with them.  The space certainly conveys power by aesthetically overwhelming one’s senses with massive marble columns and vivid and colorful murals.  The design of the building not only conveys the political power of our nation, but also the power and value of knowledge.  The Great Hall and the Main Reading Room feature murals and sculptures that speak to the different subjects housed in the library.  From corner to corner, the building is filled with symbolism.  For instance, the golden light fixtures at the main entrance to the building have thirteen bulbs to represent the thirteen original states.  Being the first building in D.C. to be wired for electricity, people came to the library just to marvel at the light fixtures.

After lunch we met with Representative Luke Messer (class of ’91) in his office on Capitol Hill.  I think it’s safe to say that the whole group enjoyed sitting down to chat with him.  He gave us a perspective on working on Capitol Hill, trying to balance family and work, as well as keeping his presence in Indiana while in Washington.  As Wabash men often do, we felt a sense of camaraderie as he told us of his days at Wabash as a part of the Wabash football team and a member of Phi Delta Theta.  After our meeting with Representative Messer, we met with Prime Policy Group, one of D.C.’s first truly non-partisan lobbying agencies.


Regnier at the Library of Congress

Library To end the day, I visited the major monuments of D.C. with Dr. Karl Grimmer (class of ’03) who now resides in D.C.  The monuments were majestic at night, especially the Jefferson, brightly lit with the wind whistling through the pillars and the sound of the water lightly crashing into the dam.  The Lincoln seemed to really speak to his power and the effect he had on our nation.  With its grand columns, slightly resembling the Parthenon, and the massive, gleaming white statue of Lincoln himself, the monument conveyed his graceful power and immeasurable influence on the U.S.  Almost equally as powerful, was standing in the spot where MLK gave his “I Have a Dream” speech.  With Lincoln over my shoulder, looking out at the moonlit mall where thousands gathered in hope of justice, I got a sense of the pivotal moments in civil rights that have happened in our nation’s capital.  It helped me realize how fitting it was for MLK to give the speech from the steps of the Lincoln memorial, because the only other man that had such a strong and positive effect on civil rights in the U.S. stood right behind him.