Each year, Wendy Westphal, Ph.D., director of study abroad and assistant professor of German, shows her students that they have ample opportunity to use their German language skills, whether they’re in Berlin, Chicago, or speaking with local high school.
“I want students to see how what they are learning in German class can be immediately applied here in Indiana and throughout the Midwest,” Westphal said. “Not all German students will travel to Germany, but you don’t have to leave home to encounter German – Germans are everywhere! Germany is one of the world’s leading economies and globalization has brought over 3,500 German majority-owned business operations to the US to do business. These experiences connect our German classroom with the professional world.”
This month, Westphal took her students on a trip to Chicago where they visited the German quarter in Lincoln Square, enjoyed a lunch at the Chicago Brauhaus, and purchased sweets at German shops. They even got to see a section of the Berlin Wall, gifted to the city by the German government in 2008.
"In addition to being a cultural-learning experience, it was also a chance for students to apply their language learning," Westphal said.
The group also dropped in at the DANK Haus (a German-American cultural center); the “Schlarafen Club” of Chicago (dubbed the “Harry Potter room” because of its medieval style); the Goethe Institute, where their language director gave a presentation in German about the Goethe Institute’s language courses and exams as well as the cultural work done in the Midwest by the Goethe Institute; and the German Chamber of Commerce, GACC or the Auslandshandelskammer), an organization supports German and American companies in transatlantic business.
The group was welcomed by Gerrit Ahlers and Maximillian Tratzmiller, who gave an in-depth presentation about the work done at the GACC and opportunities for students studying the German language. They concluded by encouraging the students to apply for nine- to twelve-month paid internships at the GACC.
"Opportunities such as going to Chicago help tremendously because it gives one the chance to get a German immersion experience while still being in the United States," Kyle Steinebach '17 said. "Being able to meet with the employees at the GACC was the most beneficial thing I could do to help my chances of getting the internship."
The trip to Chicago was the culmination of a series of experiential learning opportunities for German language students.
In September, German students in the “Oral Communication in German” course welcomed German language students from Hamilton Southeastern High School to campus and gave a campus tour in German. The students were on campus to see the “Giving Voices to Ghosts” exhibit of German artworks and letters from German orphans who received food from American Quakers following World War I. The Hamilton students had been involved in translating the letters for the exhibit.
In October, German students took part in the Indiana German Heritage Society Essay Contest and two students, Kyle Steinebach and Chandler Roberts, were chosen to receive cash awards for their essays.
In December, the German students partnered with College Mentors for Kids, giving presentations on the German holidays of Nikolaus and St. Martin’s Day to over forty grade school children in the after-school outreach program.
This semester, German and Business students welcomed Martin Baier, president and CEO of The International Center to campus for his talk “Germany: A Strong Economic Player in the Global Market”.