Name: Leonsi Rambau
Location of Study: Berlin, Germany
Program of Study: Intensive 8, Goethe Institut Berlin
Sponsors: Bob Berner & Matthew Storin
A brief personal bio:
I am a fourth year PhD student in the Department of Theology. I come from Tanzania, East Africa. I studied for my basic degrees in Philosophy and Theology in Tanzania and Kenya, and I studied for my Masters degree at Notre Dame. Currently I am working on my dissertation.
Why this summer language abroad opportunity is important to me:
The SLA Grant is important to me because, it will enable me to attend an eight – week, Intensive German Language course at Goethe Institut, in Berlin, Germany. This language is important for my research, writing, and scholarly development. Better skills of the German language, in both reading and speaking, are central to my academic pursuits.
My specific learning goals for language and intercultural learning this summer:
- At the end of the summer, I will be able to read better German scholarly texts
- At the end of summer, I will be able to communicate in German language.
- At the end of the summer, my German vocabulary will be more expansive.
My plan for maximizing my international language learning experience:
In addition to class attendance consisting of 25 units of instructions, each lasting 45 minutes, as well as Mediothek, Goethe Institut programme includes evening as well as weekend excursions, which are meant to help the student to experience German language in its cultural and day to day use. These will give me opportunities to visit historically, culturally and geographically significant places in Berlin and outside Berlin, in view of practicing my listening and speaking skills, as well as learning more the German way of life.
Reflective Journal Entry 1:
I arrived here in Berlin two days before the beginning of the
programme, so I had time to settle in and learn the environments.
Getting around Berlin was challenging at first, but after few days,
I could navitage directions through many means of transit, surface
and undeground trains and busses. The city is very well connected
by these means of communication.
My residence is about 15 minutes commute by train from Goethe
Institute Berlin. The Institute is located right in the middle of the city,
near Alexanderplatz, one of the area in Berlin rich in history, political,
cultural and international significance.
The first week in class was great, though challenging, since all instruction
is carried out in German language.
Our class is pretty much international, there are ten of us, one South African,
one Syrian, one Korean, two from Spain, and three from America. It is pretty dynamic
group, and this helps in learning process and cultural adjustments.
Reflective Journal Entry 2:
In my second week here I have been able to familiarize myself more with the Berlin environment, and explore its rich history. My mastery of the S+U bahn system has greatly improved, as well as the bus transit systems, and this makes commuting easier. It is so impressive how public transit is so advanced. Connected to ?erlin’s excellent public commuting system is the fact that the city is very green. Recycling and biking are very popular here, as well as low emission vehicles. Whenever I lose my way and take out a map, there is always someone stepping up to ask me if I need any help. Although I try to express myself in German language, most people speak English here.
Reflective Journal Entry 3:
Goethe Institute programme includes culture immersions on weekends and in evenings. On the second weekend of my stay here a group of us visited Potsdam town, which is about 30 minutes train ride away from Berlin. This city is well known for its palaces, which were summer residences of the Prussian and Germanic kings in pre-WW I Germany. Specially important is the Neues Palais, with its impressive architectural, its vast gardens and vast grounds. The buildings now serve as museums, having been restored after the war damages. It was an opportunity to learn more about German and Berlin’s history and culture.
Reflective Journal Entry 4:
Four weeks have already passed, and we are ready to move to a second level of the Intensive 8. It is easier now to speak the language in normal conversations, such as at grocers, or on the bus. One of the weekend immersions we have done recently was a visit to the Museum Island, right in the middle of the city. The island is a complex of a series of museums, most important of which are Altes Museum and Pergamon Museum. Both museums have a vast collection of historical artifacts from Mesopotamia and Greco Roman world. I found these visits most fruitful, since subject matter has direct bearings on my area of study. Additionaly, Bodes museum, at the further end of the island, contains one of the largest and complete collection of coins, many of which cover the Greco Roman period as well.
Reflective Journal Entry 5:
Berlin was the centre of the rise and fall of National socialism and the horrors it unleashed in the middle of the last century. Thus, we had several excursions that acquainted us more with this unfortunate history of Berlin. We visited Sachsenhausen concentration camp, which is about 30 minutes away from the city, and Topographies des Terrors Museum, In these places, through the displays, videos, documentaries, as well as audioguides, we were able to learn about the rise and fall of this phenomenon, and the effects it had on its many victims, as well as the ensuing WWII.
Postcard(s) from Abroad:
Reflection on my language learning and intercultural gains:
My language learning process opened me up to new experiences that are meant to make language learning easier and more engaging. The language course through Goethe Institute was centered on active learning techniques. It engaged a student using different senses and modes of learning; listening, talking, reading, writing, as well as different activities, and first hand engagement with primary speakers of the language. By engaging a student in all these different techniques, it helped me to acquire the language quicker. The use of various forms of media, such as audio and video equally made the learning process easier. Learning and experiencing the language in its cultural settings, despite its challenges, was equally fruitful. Thus, it was not only an experience of language learning, but it was a cultural encounter as well. As a result, I was able to improve on the major goals that I had in mind before taking this programme. I am more comfortable with my reading skills, and the programme has given me basic foundations to my spoken German, upon which I intend to build.
Reflection on my summer language abroad experience overall:
Overall, mine was a learning experience, as well as a cultural encounter. Having lived in the USA for few years, and having previous intercultural experiences and international encounter, I was fairly comfortable with the encounter. But it was interesting to notice some basic cultural differences between Germany and USA. This insight helps me to always keep in mind that although Western societies share many things in common, each country or peoples are distinct, have their own distinct cultures, and that they should not be approached as one entity. Thus, this experience has broadened my cultural awareness.
Berlin is very international, cosmopolitan, and very diverse culturally. For anyone who is interested in applying for SLA Grant to study German language, if one is interested in the history of the major events that took place in Germany, then Berlin is the right place
How I plan to use my language and intercultural competences in the future:
I intend to maintain the skills that I gained through this programme by reading, listening as well as practicing the language. More so, I intend to use the language skills in my research and writing. Thus, this experience has a great impact on my research and writing.