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Peterson ’16 Spends Summer Traveling

Peterson (second from left) gathers with classmates.

Peterson (second from left) gathers with classmates.

Aren Peterson – Grüß Gott!

I would like to start by sincerely thanking the Rudolf family for funding an absolutely fantastic summer for me! My language skill grew tremendously through the constant interaction and immersion in the German language!

I’ll start by briefly summarizing the itinerary of my time abroad.  The day after finals finished, I boarded a plane with my German 202 classmates for a two-week immersion course in Tübingen. After our wonderfully conducted course had wrapped up, I took a train to Stuttgart to stay a few days with a friend before flying to meet my parents for their 25th anniversary in Edinburgh. When I returned, I took a train from Stuttgart to Luxembourg City to stay a week with a friend I met through my internship with the university there. From Luxembourg I took a bus to Heidelberg to stay a week with yet another friend before finally making my way to Freiburg for a month of my Goethe Institute language courses. From there I traveled to stay with my Great Uncle in München for a week. My final stop before flying home was a stop in Ulm to visit my Großonkel’s twin brother for a few days.

If that seems like a lot, I assure you it was. Pairing the physical exhaustion of so much travel with the mental strain of thinking and interacting in another language left me always craving more sleep. Fortunately Wabash had prepared me well for that, so I did just fine!

You may ask if my “dedication” to learning became spread thin by so much travel;  quite the opposite! Excluding the short excursion to visit my parents, I had to hold my own continually with native speakers; all of my German friends and family I spent time with were well aware of my interest in learning German, and certainly didn’t go easy on me! I had heard testament to the value of “immersion,” but for some reason figured its effect was exaggerated. Now I fully appreciate how difficult but rewarding something as simple as keeping up with a conversation can be!  Outside the classroom is certainly as much, if not more of a learning experience in a foreign country!

Peterson2The classes were fantastic as well! I was placed with a dedicated and engaged group, who kept me accountable when I was tempted to slip back into English. The benefit of such an international group of students attempting to learn German is that it tends to be practically the only language connection! Our teacher introduced us to plenty of learning materials and opportunities, and the institute certainly provided an excellent environment to interact exclusively in German.

Definitely worth mentioning is how absolutely beautiful Freiburg is! Located on the South-Western corner of the Black Forrest (or Schwarzwald), it is backed up to some gorgeous coniferous covered mountains. The glittering Dreisam flows nearly through the heart of the city, and feeds the dozens of mini-canals and gutters that help supply the Altstadt (or city center) with fresh, cool water; wonderful for chilling your feet during the many over 100 degree days in Germany’s hottest city! The Munster is also one of the oldest in Germany, made from red Limestone that is always corroding, and requires constant restoration; the tower hardly is ever without its hat-like scaffolding!

Overall, the whole summer and abroad experience was utterly invaluable, certainly providing me with experiences and interactions I simply couldn’t get in a classroom.  It also provided me with a more international understanding of issues of which we only ever get to hear one side! I look forward to sharing my experiences with anyone interested, and know I will be going back to Germany some day in the near future!


Locksmith ’16 Arrives in Germany

Germany1Timothy Locksmith – First helpful tip about living in another country for any amount of time… It’s a hell of a lot easier if you speak the language fluently! I came to Bremen with the goal of improving my German at the Goethe Institute here, but man the way I handled my trip was a bit like learning how to swim by being thrown into the deep end of the pool.

My flight to Hamburg was scheduled and easy enough to get to since I took off from Orlando and only had a layover in New York (both airports I am relatively familiar with, and everyone there speaks English). However getting from Hamburg to Bremen (a bit over an hour trip by train), wasn’t quite so easy. I was up for a bit of a challenge so I didn’t buy my tram/train tickets ahead of time, and told myself I was going to only speak English if I really got into trouble.  Long story short, Germans speak very quickly so any of the directions I was given meant absolutely nothing to me. So I asked for a “Stadtplan” (map) and figured it out by myself after a while, since I was a bit too embarrassed to ask them to repeat themselves for a fourth time. Eventually I arrived safely in Bremen, and after I was finally settled into my room and had taken my placement tests, I realized that I hadn’t slept for the past 28 hours (34 if you count the time change) and took a quick 14 hour nap.

So on my first real day in Bremen, I walked around the school a bit on my own and then had a proper tour just before starting my first lesson. The campus is much larger than Wabash’s, and has many gorgeous spots hidden around with great views where one could sit out and study, or just relax and enjoy the weather (unless it’s raining… which it does here frequently). The lessons are going fine, all in all not too difficult with the exception of the listening comprehension. I’m not too worried though because I’ve already noticed some improvement, and I believe that will only get better with time. My instructor’s English isn’t great and very little is spoken in English, save a few word here and there for clarification. Luckily I’m here to learn German, which she is (obviously) fluent in.

Germany3So far my best experience has been “exploring” the older part of the city. I use quotations here because most people would probably say that I was lost. To elaborate I had gotten rough directions from my roommate to the Tram Büro so that I could get a ticket to ride the trams for the rest of the month free. Seemed simple enough, so I headed on my way and wouldn’t realize that I had left my map behind until I was in the middle of the old part of the city without a clue where the Büro might be. Since I had a few hours before my lesson started that day, I figured I might as well have a look around and ended up touring a large portion of the city by myself, while occasionally asking a passerby in broken German about certain areas. I’m not sure why, but being lost in an entirely foreign city while a bit frightening, was extremely exciting, and it was so satisfying when I was able to ask someone for directions, and then manage to understand said directions well enough to get me back to the university.

I am thoroughly enjoying my time here in Bremen, and it has already become clear to me that one month isn’t very long, as this past week and a half has flown by. But I plan on doing a bit of traveling this weekend to fully take advantage of my time abroad, and will hopefully have plenty more stories to share with you in the near future.


Miller ’16 Finishes in Germany

Kurt Miller ’16 – From Turkey to Finishing up in Freiburg

Oh my how this summer has flown by! Last week, our program visited Izmir and Istanbul, Turkey. For nine days, we explored ancient cities, new cities, and learned about Turkey’s accession process towards the European Union. Surprisingly, it was actually colder in Turkey than it is in Germany!

The first stop in Turkey was the university city of Izmir. Myself and my classmates attended the Izmir University of Economics and stayed in their dorms. Our professor’s father-in-law owns a beach house and invited all 23 members of our program to come out and spend the 4th of July on the beach. Unsure how Turkish people would react to Americans celebrating our independence day in their country, I was shocked when our presence was greeted with applause and shouts of “U.S.A!” It was heartwarming to feel welcomed and at the end of the perfect day, the father-in-law had a special surprise for us – fireworks.

After leaving Izmir, we first stopped at the ancient city of Ephesus before we made it to Istanbul. The ancient city, originally built in pre-Alexander times, was remarkably well preserved. I was stunned to see how the ancient Greek writing had survived Roman, Ottoman, and now Turkish occupation.

When we arrived in Istanbul, my first impression was shock. The city was HUGE. I had never been to a city this large, but at approximately 17 million people, this is one of the largest in the world. Between workshops on Kurdish and Armenian issues, strolls through the Grand Bazaar, and tours of both the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sofia, my experience in Istanbul was eye opening. I witnessed Muslims fasting for Ramadan, the integration of Christian and Muslim cultures, and the recent problems brought about by such a large influx in Syrian refugees. My favorite experience in Istanbul, however, was visiting the Byzantine Cisterns. These ancient well-like structures were buried deep underground and held up with massive columns. During times of siege, this underground oasis kept water flowing to the city.

Today, I am well rested and back at the IES Center in Freiburg, Germany. Over the summer, this city has become my home. Unfortunately, this program and my summer will soon come to an end. This has been the most progressive summer for my personal development in my entire life. Being abroad has taught me many new lessons, and very importantly, made me ever so thankful to be born in the United States and attend the great institution of Wabash College. I want to thank the Rudolph Family Scholarship Fund for the generous assistance this summer. They allowed me to explore and understand our modern world from a whole new perspective, and for that I am eternally thankful.

I am afraid that many students go abroad and succumb to their fears of being alone in a foreign place. With the preparation I received at Wabash College, I feel more prepared than many of my peers to face the challenges of studying abroad. Learning abroad with other non-Wabash students has made me more proud than ever to be a Wabash Man.

The German Department, specifically Professors Redding, Tucker, and Miles, have all taught me exceptionally well. With their guidance, I have been more than able to get by in Germany speaking their language.

Wabash Always Fights!


Miller ’16 Learning in Srebrenica

Srebrenica
by: Kurt Miller ’16

How can we pat ourselves on the back when so many died?
When good men do nothing, evil always thrives.
Through the horrors of horrors, that bloody genocide,
Too many tragedies in too short a time.

History says we saved them, but we are the victor.
It’s a filthy lie that with time, only grows thicker.
Remember not the guts and glory,
But the Cowards who fled, now that is the story.

Peace keeping is foolish, when war has begun,
But it is even more silly to drop everything and run.
All for the sake of a few dozen men,
Tens of thousands met their tragic end.

Why, oh why did these events unfold?
So many chances to not repeat the mistakes of old.
“Never again” – the mantra we uttered,
But how, then, does this keep happening amongst brothers?

Too many mothers grieving for sons.
Even today, many still succumb.
Genocide on an industrial scale,
A tragedy of modernity, people still wail.
While we all were young, crying and sleeping,
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, evil was creeping.

 

Kurt Miller ’16 – This summer, we  have studied over the past several weeks the limits and potentials of enlarging the European Union to include the country of Bosnia & Herzegovina. This week, we visited the beautiful city of Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia & Herzegovina. Amongst this ancient and beautiful city, the scars of the devastating war from 1992-1995 still remain present. It is hard to imagine that for four years in the 1990s, while I was living a comfortable life in the Midwest, this city was under siege. The longest siege of a city since World War II has left an eerie mark on this city. Shrapnel scars pepper buildings and many structures remain skeletal shells – stuck in a state of limbo as their legal owners’ fates are unknown.

The real tragedy of this war was not, however, the siege of Sarajevo, but the genocide committed throughout the country by paramilitary and military forces. Yesterday, we visited Srebrenica – a town smaller than Crawfordsville, Indiana. This picturesque town, nestled between scenic mountains and lush green forest, was the site of the most destructive genocide on European soil since World War II. We met with a Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) who lost both his twin brother and his father to Serbian forces. His eyes and speech told me the story of his struggle and I felt his pain during his presentation.

Bosnia & Herzegovina is divided into two main state entities comprising three main ethnic groups. In one half of the country, the Federation of Bosnia & Herzegovina contains a majority of Bosniaks (Muslims) and a minority of Croats (Catholics). In the other half of the country, Republica SPRSKA, an overwhelming Serbian majority (Orthodox) is present.  The conflicts between these ethnic groups and religious groups reflect thousands of years of foreign occupation dating back to Ancient Rome. Over the past 2,000 years, further occupations by Ottomans, Austo-Hungarians, Nazis, and Communists dichotomized this country and drove deep divisions based upon ethnic lines.

After the breakdown of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, multiple wars of independence were fought. In 1992, Bosnia & Herzegovina was on the brink of civil war between the two state entities. During a parliamentary session, the leader of the Serbian delegation threatened the “extermination” of the Bosniak population. Bosniaks expected war, but they did not expect genocide. When Serbian forces rolled into the mountains around Sarajevo, cutting the city off from all electricity, phone lines, water, and food sources, horror stories began coming out of tales of mass murder. All Muslim men between the ages of 12 and 77 were targeted by Serbian forces. The goal of these murders was to ethnically cleanse Bosniaks in order to create a greater Serbian state.

When we visited the site of the largest genocide yesterday, I felt an overwhelming wave of sadness. As a Wabash man, we are taught to think critically, lead effectively, act responsibly, and live humanely. All of these values could have helped prevent these heinous crimes from unfolding, yet none were present. U.N. Peacekeepers were present at this site during the time of the genocide, yet they did NOTHING to stop it. I cannot help but feel regret that the international community did so little to stop these atrocities. The hardest part was knowing how many mothers and young children still grieve at the unknown fates of their fathers and brothers.

We have intently listened to multiple speakers tell their stories of the war and while the scars are present, they paint the hope for future reconciliation. The international community has by and large failed to solve this country’s problems, so the people take the difficult responsibility upon themselves to cobble together a history that is neither discriminatory, nor falsely accusatory.

We will return to Freiburg, Germany on Saturday, but the people, cities, and mountains have told me the story of a people on the grieving side of history that I will remember forever. Twenty years after these tragedies, I feel a sliver of hope. Bosniaks still ostracize Serbs and vice-versa, but the killing has ended. The state, described by political scientists as a minimalist state, has successfully integrated military forces containing multi-ethnic units. This may not seem like much, but it is a major step forward that only two decades ago these men were killing each other simply because of their ethnic heritage.

For now, we must never forget. Before I came here, I knew next to nothing about Bosnia. Now, I leave here with the goal to never allow my fellow Wabash scholars to glance over this small Balkan country as another tragedy of history.