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Entries in Germany (2)

Thursday
Aug062009

The European Experience by Christine Parcells

During this trip I find myself most interested in the European mindset and the eclectic (or not) nature of the cities’ buildings and layouts. When I’m not in interviews, or going over materials and notes, I’ve been wandering around, watching people—tourists and locals alike—and thinking about what it means to be European. I’ve gathered quite a bit more information about people’s perceptions of Americans and am not entirely surprised at the negativity associated with some of the stereotypes. Our previous presidential administration certainly had something to do with this, but it is distressing to think about how few Americans hold passports or can speak another language. I think that studying abroad and increasing international student populations will only continue to be more important to reach the younger generations in schools to promote international interests.

 

My interviews in Germany ended on a great note. Well, I still have one more at the very end of my trip. I spoke with a staff member from a Fachhoschule in Cologne—which translates to a university of applied sciences and focuses more on practical applications of study as opposed to theoretical. There aren’t quite as many differences as there used to be between the two types of institutions. I also took a day trip to Dortmund University, where my host took me to lunch, had another colleague speak with me and took me to a presentation on South Africa by returned students. Granted I couldn’t understand a lot of it since it was in German, I could still get a general idea of what was being said and Laura (my host) filled me in later. The German higher education system is fascinating and I hope I can relate this in my paper in the context of its international education systems. I’m looking forward to looking into Czech higher education next.

 

Sunday
Jun072009

Arrival By Christine Parcells

I arrived in Berlin on a dreary Saturday night. I was less than thrilled to see it pouring down rain as I stepped off the plane, although thankfully, it stopped by the time I got outside.  It was very easy to get myself to the homestay in West Berlin that I had arranged through the German classes I would be taking. Graciously, the host provided me with a spread of food to choose from immediately, as all stores were closed. That first night, and the following, I think I must have slept 12 hours each as jet lag took its toll. 

I had two days to wander around Berlin before my German classes started. I don’t think I have been that silent in quite some time, but it was nice to take everything in and decompress before getting started on my project and class. I revisited some of the sites I had seen in a previous trips to Berlin. This time, I was able to see them in sunshine.  I had visited Berlin in April two years earlier and it was very cold and cloudy. Unfortunately, the warm weather has not lasted in Berlin and we have had one cold day after the next this past week, with scattered rain throughout. Cold weather is not the most conducive for wandering around and getting a feel for the city, but I had preparation to do before my first interviews that kept me inside part of the time anyways. 

By Wednesday, I had my first interview with a representative with the DAAD (German Exchange Service) at a striking square in the heart of Berlin. In this interview I learned the foundational aspects of German education and the prime motivations for this integral organization of Germany’s international education system. Thankfully, he provided me with several documents filled with facts and figures of German and international student mobility within Germany. 

Thursday followed with an interview at Free University with an assistant dean for international exchanges. As if it dropped out of the sky, Mr. Schepker provided me with a document that answered exactly some of the questions I had been planning to ask! It is a brand new report from the DAAD; the one drawback—it was in German and my German skills are far from being competent enough for understanding such a document. Thanks to the internet, there are various language tools at my disposal for translating the statistics and survey results. 

Next week: an interview at an Art university and a resident director of an American study abroad program with some more sightseeing and writing in between.