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Experience in Education

Chase Francoeur ’17 – During my first month in the French capital I spent much of my time visiting the typical tourist areas with the other students in my class, places such as Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, Versailles, Tour d’Eiffel, and Arc de Triomphe. On the weekends my program would take us outside of the city to visit other sites such as the home and gardens of French painter Claude Monet in Giverny, the wine cellars of Tours and the southern city of Toulouse where the Cassoulet (a meat stew) could rival any American chili.

After settling in and getting the rush of exploring a new city and new country out of our system, our classes began to delve into the problems that existed in not only Paris but also France as a whole as they battled against many of the very same things that headline our own newspapers and media. Place de la République, a plaza in central Paris, was a shining example of the turmoil surrounding the country in relation to immigration, racism, police brutality and more. The plaza only two years ago was a bustling place for youth to hang out and spend their summer afternoons, but is now the focal point for violent protests, even forcing the metro station in the middle of the square to be indefinitely closed as it has become so dangerous after sunset. As we shifted to seeing past the façade that is a beautiful, bustling city we began to identify the daily hardships that many faced, many of them first-hand through our weekly class excursions.

The recent terror attacks, one of which occurred on Bastille Day (July 14th), were almost commonplace, as were the protests as France struggled to maintain control over a mass of immigrants entering the country through Marseille from countries bordering the Mediterranean. The task was made even more difficult when considering many citizens were also unhappy with the government as it pushed labor agendas that inch closer towards capitalism in a strongly socialist country.

In Calais, the closest city to the United Kingdom, a refugee camp nicknamed ‘The Jungle’ because of its harsh conditions, is home to over 7,500 refugees. Crowding many of the disbanded railroads of Paris, Roma communities, known to us more commonly as gypsies, have been present for well over a decade despite walls of plywood and tarpaulin roofs that are held down with anything they can get there hands on.

Although many of the children in these communities were born in France they are not considered French citizens as if you are born to parents of a foreign nationality you are considered a foreigner until you are 18, at which point you can declare as a French national. Even upon declaring as a French national, many still experience unofficial discrimination from the government as decades of intolerance have led to inequality, which directly contradicts the country’s motto, “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité”, or “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.”

Although France utilizes laïcité, religious neutrality in public spaces, and separation of church and state, the system faces constant harsh criticisms. In 2011 the government banned women from wearing the burqa or niqab in public, a measure that many believe interferes with the ability to practice Islam. Religious symbols were also banned from public schools in 2004, and as a result many religious families moved their children to private education, which has caused a slight divide in the culture as these children do not grow up with exposure to other religions and their corresponding cultures and have a higher prevalence of intolerance towards them.

When one thinks of France we often picture a short man dressed in a black and white horizontally striped shirt, a red beret and sporting a well-maintained moustache while holding a bottle of red wine in one hand and the legendary ‘baguette’ in the other. Or, if you don’t picture that, maybe it is of a group having a picnic in the countryside with a platter of various cheeses, breads, and a few bottles of wine. After 10 weeks exploring and studying in various parts of France (Bordeaux, Caen, Chantilles, Paris, Toulouse, Tours) thanks to the Rudolph’s generous donations, I have discovered for myself how the culture and daily life of the French is so drastically different from what I personally once thought. My experiences have taught me that while you can be in an area for even a few months, you will still be blind to much of the society and culture and if you seek to be able to truly immerse yourself you must be ready to break down barriers, leave behind preconceived notions and experience difficulties and defeat.


Schafer ’17 Summer Study More than German

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.

Schafer '17, at far left with new friends.

Schafer ’17, at far left with new friends.

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!


Xu ’17 Started German on Flight

Tianhong Xu’17 — First of all, I would like to thank the Rudolph family, who offered me an opportunity to take a month-long German language program at the Goethe Institute in Hamburg, Germany. With this opportunity, I had more chances to learn German not only in classrooms but also in real life situations.

My learning did not start with the program, but on the flight over. Before arriving at the Goethe Institute in Hamburg, I had an opportunity to meet one of my high school classmates in Paris, France. I had a flight to Hamburg operated by Germanwings, which was the time I spoke German in Europe for the first time.

Xu '17 in center of the photo.

Xu ’17 in center of the photo.

I was sitting in the 11th row in the flight. The flight attendant was doing cabin catering services, providing drinks for the passengers. I was not quite able to understand the substance he said with the front passengers, but, I knew that it was German. At the same time, I was so nervous: I will not be able to understand his sentences. What should I do? How embarrassed I would be!

The flight attendant had already been catering row 10, and he would reach row 11 at any second. My heart went to pit-a-pat suddenly. The flight attendant asked: “what drink would you like?” I did not realize he would use English to speak with me. “Orangensaft (orange juice)” just escaped my lips. “Here you are,” he said. “Danke schön. (Thanks very much)” “Bitte schön. (You’re very welcome.)”

It was a short conversation, but it was totally unexpected. That’s probably the start of my German language learning in Europe. Teachers in the Goethe Institute gave us a chance to learn German in a way that was different than my language learning at Wabash, due to the short duration and intensity.

My teacher, Kathrine, introduced us a relatively different learning method for learning German as a foreign language. Even though we know memorizing new words and phrases should be conducted by the students, Kathrine would use a large amount of class time to help us remember them. She asked us to match words and the corresponding pictures. Compared with the method of after-class, self-learning at Wabash, this study method actually did accelerate the speed of familiarizing and memorizing the new words and phases for us.

Also, Kathrine spoke German all the time. Even I could ask questions in English, but she would always reply me with German. In the beginning, I was not totally comfortable with that, but, as time goes on, I am totally fine with her all-German class atmosphere. By this way, I feel like I have a better grasp of the listening part of German.

Even though one month is a short period for language learning, I was able to use German to deal with some basic real-life situations. For example, I spent one weekend exploring the rich history of Berlin (about 1 hour and 50 minutes by train) and was able to ask some basic questions like, “How do I get to the Berlin Wall?” and “Which subway I should take to go to the Brandenburger Tor?”

In the meantime, I met lots of classmates from all around the world: Thailand, Malaysia, Italy, Bangladesh, Turkey, Scotland (I learned that some Scots do not identify as being British) and more.