Name: Henry Carlson
Location of Study: Freiburg, Germany
Program of Study: Goethe Institute
Sponsors: Innsbruk Fund
A brief personal bio:
I’m a Political Science and German major from Fairfax, Virginia in the Class of 2017, and an active member of Notre Dame’s Air Force ROTC detachment. I also find to time to play for ND’s Club Baseball team. When I’m back home I like to take advantage of my pilot’s license and fly my friends around the Shenandoah Valley.
Why this summer language abroad opportunity is important to me:
The SLA grant is especially important to me as a member of Notre Dame’s Air Force ROTC detachment because studying abroad during the academic year is much more difficult, since I would be falling behind in the ROTC program. To get such a great opportunity to have an educational and cultural experience in Germany for over a month means a lot because of this. It will also help me become a much better German student as I pursue the German major.
What I hope to achieve as a result of this summer study abroad experience:
Of course one of the most important things I want to achieve is to really become a lot better at understanding and speaking the German language, to the point that I could maybe even fool a German for a split second or two about my country of origin. Beyond that, though, the fact that I will be in Germany provides so many more opportunities for growth past simple language comprehension. I really want to gain a better understanding of German culture and politics by interacting with real Germans and experiencing life in their country.
My specific learning goals for language and intercultural learning this summer:
1. At the end of the summer, I will be able to carry out meaningful conversations in German about any topic.
2. At the end of the summer, I will speak German with an accent and inflection that is comparable with those of native German speakers.
3. At the end of the summer, I will have a better understanding of German domestic politics and how it affects their relationship with Europe and the world.
My plan for maximizing my international language learning experience:
Taking a course at the Goethe Institut gives me a great chance to maximize my experience culturally as they organize outings and events for their students that get them involved in and around the city while exposing them to various German cultural themes. This is especially true in Freiburg. For example, the Institut building itself is very close to the Freiburg Theater, which hosts plays and concerts year-round, so there are multiple occasions during the 4-week program that the Institut will take students to attend. Freiburg is also blessed with its location in the middle of the beautiful Black Forest, and the Goethe Institut takes full advantage by putting together hiking excursions through the hills and woods surrounding the city.
Reflective Journal Entry 1:
Reflective Journal Entry 2:
Reflective Journal Entry 3:
Alright, so I have to play catch-up with my blog posts a little bit, but luckily I have plenty of stories to tell. This one is from a couple of weeks ago, but I feel it’s interesting enough to take up a blog post. In my last post I briefly mentioned my encounter with a pantsless conspiracy theorist in the laundromat, and I said it was a story for another time and place. Well, the place hasn’t changed, but the time, unfortunately, has, leaving me with one week to write four blogs. Seeing as this story is still fresh in my mind (and how could it not be?) I’m going to go ahead and make good use of it.
So I walked into a Freiburg laundromat just a little after it opened, and it hadn’t really gotten very busy yet. It was just me and one other man, forty-something years old, sitting there reading the newspaper. I didn’t pay him any mind, and I put my clothes into the wash and started the cycle. When I turned around, though, I noticed that something was off about this guy. Namely, his pants. But he was just sitting there so quietly, casually reading the paper that I thought maybe this was just a cultural thing; maybe it’s totally cool in Germany to just chill in your tightey whiteys in the laundromat while your clothes wash. Kind of like at the Freiburg lake, where if you wanna let it all hang out on a hot summer’s day, by God, you can! So I, being the open-minded student of the world that I am, sat myself on down on the bench with him, as a sign of my cultural tolerance.
I quickly realized that there probably was no cultural norm in Germany regarding pantslessness in wash centers, though, and that this man was probably, in the most polite and sensitive way I can put it, a flat-out crazy person. And I’ll tell you why…
Right when I sat down, the man started talking to me about the Weltmeisterschaft (the World Cup), pretty typical conversation in Germany right now. So that was all fine. He was talking pretty quickly, though, and I wasn’t quite picking up everything he was saying. But it was all pretty standard small talk stuff. Then, before I knew what happened, this conversation just went right off the rails. I’m not sure what exactly the transition was here, but he said something about how the German soccer players making advertisements was contributing to the “Fussball Faschismus” in Europe. Again, wanting to remain open-minded to various political and cultural views, I politely asked him to explain this interesting opinion.
Big mistake. The next thing I knew, this guy was talking a mile a minute, throwing out all sorts of seemingly random examples trying to prove his Fussball Faschismus theory. Angela Merkel, the Pentagon, BMW, GM, the Holocaust, the height of certain skyscrapers in Dubai, all of these things were connected. Connected, but by what? Well, after 15 years of painstaking internet research, this man had concluded that the number 23 was the key.
Yes, 23, the all-important number! This man had cracked the code, and was now spreading his damning discoveries across Deutschland, one load of laundry at a time. You see, you take Angela Merkel’s birthday, add it to the length of one side of the Pentagon and divide by the height of the tallest building in Dubai, and it equals 23! Or subtract half the number of referees working for FIFA from the distance in light-years to this certain star, and BAM, 23! Or you take the square root of the number of Beemers on the road and divide by the width of Hitler’s stache in centimeters, and – you guessed it! – 23!
Now, I haven’t checked the math on any of these patterns, but I think it’s safe to say that they probably don’t work out. Still, I couldn’t exactly get out of the conversation, first because this guy was talking so fast nonstop, and second because I didn’t want to offend him and wind up shanked on the floor of the Freiburg “Wasch und Fun!” True, without pants this man had considerably fewer hiding spots for a knife than he would have normally had, but I didn’t want to take any chances. So, I sat there and smiled and nodded for about 15 minutes before he finally asked me, “So… was denken Sie??”
Was denke ich? What do I think about all that? For the past quarter of an hour I had either been enlightened with the minute details of the most diabolical conspiracy of all time, something that is so far-reaching and complex that it took 15 years to come to the bottom of, or I had just been half-understanding the complete gibberish of a clinically insane man in a foreign language. So I stuttered out my completely truthful reply,
“Uh… um… ich… er… ich muss ein Bisschen darüber nachdenken…” I have to think about it a little bit.
The man, clearly disappointed that I didn’t fully grasp the world-view-shattering revelations he had imparted on me, got up, pulled his toasty hot jean shorts out of the dryer, slipped them on, and made his way out of the laundromat.
Now, what significant reflection can I pull out of this story? No clue. Ich muss ein Bisschen darüber nachdenken.
Reflective Journal Entry 4:
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Reflective Journal Entry 6:
Reflection on my language learning and intercultural gains:
Reflection on my summer language abroad experience overall:
How I plan to use my language and intercultural competences in the future: