The German Studies department was my first home at William & Mary. Walking in to meet my advisor was like coming up for air after the frenzy of freshman orientation. After four years of German in high school and a month in Aachen, I knew going in that I wanted to pursue a degree in German Studies. Unlike the new faces, the new hallways, and new room, German was comfortably familiar. That feeling, of course, did not last long. Like any good languages major, I dove straight into the deep end with a 300 level grammar and stylistics course, in addition to a writing intensive freshman seminar on the Berlin Wall. Surrounded by seasoned upperclassmen, I was, at first, afraid I had no business being there, but was quickly made included by the students and our professor.
After several more German classes the next semester, I was inspired to go back to Germany, and was accepted to a summer research program at the RWTH Aachen in philosophy. It was a summer of firsts: my first solo international airplane ride, the first time living and cooking for myself (also the first time having unlimited freedom in a German grocery store!), and the first time relying on public transportation. The independence was exhilarating, the town was magical, and, especially having to survive in a foreign language, I felt like an adult for the first time. I learned so many things living independently abroad and my perspective shifted dramatically. I was then able to share the lessons of these adventures as well as my new Öcher-influenced vocabulary as I worked as a TA in German 201 and 202 sophomore year and lived with other coursemates in the German house.
One semester abroad is never enough, and I was back to Europe for a junior year abroad. As I was also curious about Welsh, I split my year between a semester at Cardiff University and the University of Münster. While in Cardiff, I took an intensive seminar in German literature and worked as a TA in several language classes. I then spent three months working as a research intern for the Deputy Presiding Officer of the National Assembly for Wales, and one of my larger projects was to translate German newspaper articles about the upcoming Scottish referendum. Once I arrived in Münster, I was reunited with my beloved off-brand Fanta and pretzels and prepared to take on German university classes. I was often the only foreigner in my lectures, which was certainly a challenge, but well rewarding in the end.
Participating actively in a languages major and studying abroad doesn’t just teach you a new language: you learn how to live. I am indebted to the incredible professors in the German department and for their support and all of the opportunities they provide to immerse in the language and culture in and out of the classroom. As I prepare for a Fulbright Fellowship to Germany next year, I am confident that studying in the German department is the best choice I could have made at William & Mary.