Harrison Schafer ‘17 – Once again, Wabash has given me an opportunity that I could never hope to repay. With funding from the Rudolph family and their summer abroad scholarship, I am able to write this blog post from Goethe’s Munich office just around the corner from the Altstadt.
Though I came to Munich to primarily enhance my skills in German, I now see how this trip has helped me become a more able Wabash man. I would like to think myself more independent because of this trip. No longer can I rely on the Sparks Center’s seemingly endless supply of warm meals, available whenever I want. Instead, I travel every week to the supermarket down the street to figure what I am going to cook for lunch, not only forcing me to learn how to finally provide for myself but also provides me with a little German practice as I run through the checkout or decide what to actually buy. Every weekday, I unfortunately experience the mixed bag that is public transportation. Despite the U3 line being the oldest and busiest line in all of Munich’s subway system, I’ve developed perhaps an odd affection for the line. With Munich’s size, I experienced an unbelievable range of people on my daily trips, with more variation than I am used to in Crawfordsville.
Munich offered an overwhelmingly different perspective than Wabash’s campus. I attended my Goethe classes with an international smorgasbord. To my surprise, I interacted with far more than just Germans during my time abroad. I became friends with Mexicans, Panamanians, Spaniards, Saudis, Russians, and encountered many more nationalities through our weekly “Goethe Treff” program, where students attended dinner at renowned Munich restaurants and created new friendships over plates of Bavarian cuisine. Outside of the classroom, I also took the opportunity to observe the enormous variety of internationalism in Munich. Sitting on the Marienplatz fountain, I watched and listened as thousands of tourists shuttled to and from the famous square to the nearby Viktualienmarkt or Frauenkirche; I heard echoes of Southeastern Asian languages, Australian & British accents, nuggets of fellow Americans’ English, and, of course, the busy conversations of Germans bustling about on their lunch breaks. People-watching quickly became a new hobby, as I slowly realized that Munich was not the rustic, quintessential Bavarian town known only for Oktoberfest, lederhosen, and pretzels. To my surprise, Munich offered much more than merely language studies; it allowed me to appreciate cultures from across the globe.
Within my classroom, I studied German with people of many different backgrounds. Under the command of a wonderful German from Hessen, our class developed a quick sense of friendship, despite hailing from diverse backgrounds. My classmates and I formed bonds by striving through our language course; in fact, German was the only common language between me and a few other classmates. Despite having only four weeks with this international crew, I know I will miss them and hope to visit them in the future.
My application for this scholarship talked about how learning German at Wabash and immersion trips only whet my appetite for overseas study. Foolishly, I thought that this trip would sate that hunger. My time abroad has opened my eyes to new possibilities in the future; why not try to continue what I started this summer? I am completely thankful for my opportunity, which has now set in motion more concrete plans for the future–though I would have loved to have experienced this yearning sooner!