Name: Patrick Crane
Location of Study: Munich, Germany
Program of Study: Goethe Institut- Munich
Sponsors: Center for the Study of Languages and Cultures, Nanovic Institute for European Studies
A brief personal bio:
I am a sophomore studying both Information Technology Management and International Economics in German from Boston, Massachusetts. In being able to accrue data in Economics and present that data with analysis in IT Management, I have found that the ability to understand German, whose speakers dominate economics of the European Union, will be essential in my future career in business. As a cadet in the US Army ROTC, I feel proficiency in German language and cultural understanding of Germanophone nations will aid in communication with German Soldiers, who are one of our greatest allies.
Why this summer language abroad opportunity is important to me:
Without the SLA Grant, I would never be able to study abroad. Due to my obligations with Army ROTC, I would not be able to leave campus in order to pursue a traditional study-abroad opportunity. I was initially dejected upon learning this as I would not have the opportunity to practice my language skills with native German speakers in the United States, unlike (for example) Spanish. With the opportunity presented by the SLA grant, I will be able to develop language skills by conversing with Germans and, in those conversations, gain a greater understanding of their unique world views. These world views will develop my own views, which will benefit me as a future leader in the United States in both the military and business world.
What I hope to achieve as a result of this summer study abroad experience:
My primary goal will be to develop communication skills. As a Bostonian with a noticeable accent to my English, I want to develop true pronunciation of my German to a high enough amount that a native speaker would be confused upon learning that I had learned my German in a South Bend, Indiana, classroom. By working on my communication skills, I will need a partner. By living in such a vibrant city as Munich, I hope to be able to develop relationships with various people, who will be my peers in the business world and, hopefully, friends in the future. By networking in Germany in German, I hope to develop the connections, which I hope to use in the future to work in Germany or with Germans back in America.
My specific learning goals for language and intercultural learning this summer:
- At the end of my summer study abroad, I will be able to clearly communicate in German on academic topics, such as Economics, Politics, and Business, as well as general martial language in order to benefit my future in the military and the business world.
- At the end of my summer study abroad, I will be able to navigate the cultural nuances, such as the Transit system and dining norms, by which most Americans without an understanding of German culture are dumbfounded, in order to show the proper respect, which is often lost in the informal American culture.
- At the end of my summer study abroad, I will be able to recognize and utilize patterns of German scholarship in order to conduct economic research in German and utilize appropriate citation and reference patterns in my German writing in order to craft my Senior Thesis.
- At the end of my summer study abroad, I will be able to, at the most basic level, create experiences in German in order to later share these experiences with native speakers so that they might feel at ease with me, when they are placed in a similar situation in America.
- At the end of my summer study abroad, I will be able to speak, read, write and listen at a level of proficiency equal to a full semester beyond my current German coursework placement at Notre Dame.
My plan for maximizing my international language learning experience:
From the minute the wheels touch down on the tarmac of Flughafen München, I will be communicating with everyone in German as I spend the first week navigating Bavaria and Tyrol in order to see as much of the beauty, history, and culture of the regions before classes start using the transit systems. Once classes start, I will be fully utilizing the benefits of the program, such as the Gastfamilienprogramm (in which I would be able to spend a weekend in rural Bavaria in order to understand the history and culture of the region), intramural sports programs (in which the only shared language will be German), and the weekly Goethe-Treff (a venture to a local restaurant for every student in the Institut). I am already excited to view the revelry of the Stadtgründungsfest München, which celebrates the founding of the city in 1158 by recreating tableaus of the lives of Müncheners throughout the last 857 years. With such events in addition to class and daily life, my experience will be maximized to the fullest and I will return a better student of German and a better global citizen.
Reflective Journal Entry 1:
This trip already has been a whirlwind of amazing experiences. Having touched down at Flughafen München a week ago, I have been on the go continuously as I want to feel everything Bavaria and Tirol have to offer.
Having passed through the excruciating customs line of one whole passenger after my red-eye flight from Boston, I was struck with the sound of instructions, calling passengers here and security officers there in a deep, Bavarian-accented Deutsch. But, unlike when I passed through the airport years previous, I was not oblivious to those sounds. In the weirdest way, I felt comfortable with the sights, the sounds, and especially the smells (namely, the warm, golden brown, oven-toasted German bread), which I had not been expecting. Buying a phone card and a ticket for the suburban rail, I already felt eerily at home in this city, thousands of miles away from my home in Boston and farther from that under the Dome.
Taking the train to the city through the Ackerboden north of Munich with groggy eyes from not being able to sleep on the seven hour flight due to pure excitement, the scene scrolling across the windows looked nothing dissimilar to the greenery of the Northern Indiana pastures outside the South Shore Line from South Bend to Chicago, save the German lettering and the industrial beauty that is Gary, Indiana. I bought an unlimited subway pass for the month and took the U-Bahn, as it is called, and arrived at my room. Checking in with my host, Erhard, I quickly unpacked my bags in order to see if I could catch a bus to Austria.
Thanks to the lead foot of the taxi driver, I was able to make the bus to Innsbruck by an amazing three minutes. I knew that, unlike the MBTA back home, German public transit waits for no man. Enjoying the scenery of mountains, plains, and the occasional castle, I arrived in Innsbruck to meet my friend and live the life of a Südtyroler! Eating amazing food and drinking amazing drinks with a view of the encircling mountains, I was amazed by everything around me. Daring to risk my health by eating food from the street vendors, I found out that Fleischkäsesemmel, which is basically a bologna-meatloaf sandwich, and Austrian-style frankfurters need to make an appearance in the food trucks of South Bend soon, very soon. I was also able to attend high mass at the Innsbruck Cathedral, Dom St Jakob, said by the Bishop of Innsbruck, which was absolutely amazing! Not only was I able to practice my German by reciting the Vaterunser with the congregation, but also to practice my faith in a way, which I had never done before.
Returning back to Munich, I have continued this adventurous spirit by just walking around and seeing all the sights the city has to offer. Though self-guided (meaning I was lost quite a bit in the best possible way), the ambiance of the city is amazing.
Starting my German language course today, I was placed into the advanced middle class, which I am very excited about as I will hope to receive certification from the Goethe-Institut at the end of the time here in Munich. I will be off to the Goethe-Treff, a meeting of all students at the Institut at one of the many Brauhauses in Munich for conversation auf deutsch, in just a few minutes. I am really excited to interact with more of my classmates, who come from all over the world: Italy, China, Spain, India, and, even, New Jersey.
This trip has already been amazing and I cannot wait to be further amazed!
Reflective Journal Entry 2:
Today was my last day in Munich. I have completed my course at the Goethe Institut and have earned a certificate recognizing my advancement through the course, which has been a hard-fought victory for myself. It was a trip of a lifetime. I am thankful for every single benefactor, who has allowed me to attend, for every person, whom I have met here in Munich and shared my experience with, and for every experience, which I have lived.
Having just climbed a mountain over Neuschwanstein Castle netting one thousand meters above sea level and two hundred over the beautiful Bavarian castle, I must admit I am ready to return to the United States. It’s not that I am sick of Deutschland (on the contrary, I want to stay here for a good while once I graduate from Notre Dame), it is that I am ready to take what I have learned here and apply it to my study habits as an Information Technology Management and International Economics major, to my language techniques as a German students, to my leadership skills I have developed as an ROTC cadet, and to my community and country as a more well-rounded American.
With this in mind, I want to talk about the dichotomy I have seen in the perception of the United States here in Germany. Due to the “liberation” of the city by the US 3rd Army in the final days of World War II as well as the occupation in southern Germany, especially in Bavaria, by American troops in the post-bellum time, the overall perception of the United States as an entity, not in terms of any single policy or event, and the idea of what the United States represents is supremely positive. Our two nations share alliances, share enemies, share a place in history; so, we stand together, but the individuals I spoke to were varied in their approach to the United States.
I will start with the first person, with whom I discussed the United States with in Munich, a young woman in her early 20s, who was standing next to me, while we enjoyed the local nightlife. As I spoke to the bartender in German regarding what I wanted to drink and maintained my conversation in English with a new friend, who was beginning German at Goethe, she asked me if I was American. Beginning the conversation, we discussed her impression of the United States over the last fifteen years. She was majorly against the War in Iraq, because she felt it was based off of oil interests. She said she hated George W Bush, because he was only making war for profits. She was making valid points based on her media’s perception of what was occurring. I had to begin laughing a bit as she went on her diatribe against Bush. When she asked why, I asked her opinion on the current President and she continued to bash him for not being truthful to what he promised. I asked if she liked America and she said she did, very much, but she was just disappointed that we couldn’t be truthful. I found this interesting as she was never wrong in anything she said in her opinions, but it was interesting to see that the political leaning of the Germans would be to the left of the American center, while circling the international center.
The next person I spoke to regarding the USA was one of the students in my class at the Goethe Institut. She was an immigrant from Albania and a middle-aged, mother of two. She wanted to learn German as she needed to have the language skills in order to work here. I asked her about her interpretation of the United States. She said it was mixed. It was mixed, because the US had been a part of the civil war in her homeland in the 1990s but never did enough to stop the widespread suffering in her homeland. As a new German, she maintained her mixed emotion. There was nothing that affected her life, which was either positive or negative; so, she was ambivalent. I feel this was the interpretation of the US for most of the Germans I interacted with as we are all people. As long as we work together and do not get in each other’s way to prosperity, there’s not reason for any animosity.
My favorite interaction was with a gentleman from the Japanese Embassy in Berlin, who was in town for the G7 Summit. He was German by birth and he lived in the vicinity of an American Army post in his childhood during the 1950s. He said he remembers that Americans were always good friends with him as a kid and that shaped his view of America into the future. He was talking my ear off about the United States. He absolutely loved it as he was planning to visit his daughter, a resident at a children’s hospital, in Seattle after the summit. He was visibly excited to drink a beer and watch fireworks on Fourth of July, perhaps the most American statement ever. He displayed his discontent with certain US policies, yet he tempered it with statements of why he feels they might be right for Americans, but not him as a German. The greatest takeaway for me was that he was excited to converse with an American in some fashion. As he practiced his English, I spoke to him in German. We fixed each other’s grammatical problems and gave cultural insights, which ended up shaping my trip for the best. This was, by far, my favorite experience of the entire trip as I was able to represent my school and my country to a German, while speaking German, in the greatest possible way.
Reflective Journal Entry 3:
This begins my last week in Germany. It has been an amazing experience in itself. It has allowed for me to immerse myself in everything that Munich has to offer. I have taken German courses, which have allowed for me to increase my knowledge of the language, which then leads to increased cultural awareness through speaking to people around me. That interaction with the German people, who are next to us at a restaurant or another venue, has allowed for me to take every Essenhaus and Beer Garden by gastronomic storm.
When people think of Bayern, they think of two distinct and famous cuisines, which have been refined for generations to be paired together perfectly: beer and sausages. While I could extoll the virtues of German beer, especially the six distinct beers of Munich, it was the wursts, which have captivated me over the last four weeks. The signature sausage of Bavaria, having been claimed to be created by no less than five of the restaurants I attended, is the weißwurst. To the average American, a two white sausages served in a bowl of hot water, like a swollen teabag, with a packet of senf (sweet mustard) and perhaps a pretzel would fall anywhere from weird to mildly unappealing, but, upon peeling back the casing (or, maybe, sucking it out as the locals showed me), the concoction of veal, pork, and a bunch of spices is heavenly.
While waiting for the food to arrive at a more relaxed restaurant, while on a tour of Munich, I was able to ask the waitress, whose family had owned this restaurant in Maxvorstadt since the 1920s, how this is made. She said, “Taeglich,” meaning daily. With the help of a conveniently at-hand guide to making weißwurst, she explained that these were traditionally made every in the morning, allowed for ferment for a few hours, then cooked as a post-breakfast snack and because they are made without the preservatives, which keep the color in other sausages as well as their freshness for more than a few hours, they turn a milky-grey in color. Because a good restaurant makes them daily, it is important to ask when the weißwurst was made as they will go bad overnight from lack of preservatives.
The freshness of their weißwurst and their claim to its invention (as it is a tradition of fewer than 200 years) is a major point of pride for Munich’s restaurants. Though Germans are not as nationalistic as Americans or as finicky about food as the French, these Bavarians are meticulous in their meats and meat-preparation, which makes me quite a fan as well as hungry. The identity of each and every Bavarian is tied into their stomach. Whether beer, weißwursts or schweinshaxe (roasted ham hocks), I have become one with the culture over the food and am excited to bring some of the techniques learned back.
With the last weißwurst of this fiscal year to be mourned in the next week, I am excited to complete my course at the Goethe Institut. I have taken my two years of grammar work from ND, am adding the confidence in language from this course, and will take my German to a higher level back in South Bend (and, hopefully, a recipe for Weißwurst as well).
Reflective Journal Entry 4:
This week has been absolutely awesome. Having met a group of guys from across the world, who also study at the Goethe Institut, we went to one of the most quintessential festivals in Munich’s calendar year, Stadtgründungsfest, the anniversary of the founding of the city. Having seen a flyer blowing around outside of the City Hall Building, the Rathaus, I went up to one of the information desk the next morning only a few minutes away from where the flyer was found a few days before.
I had known about Stadtgründungsfest from a quick Google of the events of Munich during the month of June and was excited to see the festivities in full form. I approached that information desk and asked them what the best part of the festival was. I began speaking to a cheery Bavarian woman dressed in the traditional garb of a dirndl, who seemed to be there to answer these sorts of questions. She pondered it for a second and then began firing activities from a concert at the Field Marshall’s Pavilion to a special Farmer’s Market to the Zumba and other dance instructors on the stage here in front of the Rathaus in Marienplatz and of course the endless tables, which were being set up as we spoke, for the beer garden in the city hall square. There were tours of the Frauenkirche (the Cathedral of Munich) and the Old Rathaus’ modern rebuilt, having been destroyed. I asked the significance of the event on the scope of things to celebrate in Munich. She explained that, while it is not the biggest festival of the year, it was still an important celebration that many visitors come from far away to attend. She said that the festival has grown yearly with the reinvestment in Munich’s city center, but it has been going for the last 857 years. Because I was running a bit late already to my class, I thanked her for her help and was excited to attend that upcoming weekend.
Once I got to my class, I turned to my speaking partner, who had lived in Munich for the last ten years, to ask him what the best thing to do at Stadtgründungsfest. With a straight-face, he turned to me and said, “Well, we usually go to Marienplatz, sit at the tables, and have beers and pretzels with my buddies.” I asked if it was really important for a Muenchener to attend. He laughed and said no, because it was a touristy holiday, much like Oktoberfest, but not as famous. I asked what I should do, while I was there, because I was still intrigued. He said to just walk around everyewhere and stay where you like.
I told his advice and had an amazing time. Walking down to Odeonsplatz, we saw a concert by a country music, “Rockabilly” concert by a group from Munich itself. I found it funny how the older Germans in the audience really enjoyed the music, which older Americans, in my experience, may not have been. It was only slightly a celebration of the culture with a few booths teaching the Bavarian dialect and others selling wares from the surrounding countryside, but the majority of the festival as Raf had explained was for tourists to come into the area for a weekend of shopping and drinking, just like city events back in Boston. While the talked up version by the information receptionist was slightly hyperbolized, I had a much better time than the drab version explained by my friend from the area, who saw it purely as a way to seize tourist revenue.
I really think that I was able to turn a corner this week in my German language skills through the instruction provided by my B22 class. The ability to connect the concepts important to the German people with an immersive environment, which was initially uncomfortable for me, has now allowed for me to make underlying associations via syntax and common words, which would be out looked in translation to English and back to German.
Reflective Journal Entry 5:
When I was reading the German papers, I found that the German people were fascinated by the American use of drones in the attacks on ISIS in Syria as well as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The issue, while political, was very difficult for the Germans take in any sense outside their own cultural experience with one having grown up in the post-war generation and the other two of the more recent eras.
For the older man, who experienced the totalitarian East Germany as a truck driver from the democratic West Germany, the issue was reminiscent of the perpetual peering eye of the Communists of that era. As he was discussing the possibility for an eye in the sky without possibly knowing it is there, he was reminded of the visa system on the border of the two Germanies. When issuing the visa for entry into Ostdeutschland, the border guards would calculate the exact time it would take to drive from the border to Berlin and back. If he was late, as he carefully explained, the East Germans would assume him to be a spy and deport him, in which he would lose his trucking job and all his livelihood. This gaze over the shoulder at any moment by these drones would be the nagging invasion of privacy, which haunted him in the past, and for that reason, though there are upsides as well, he cannot support them.
The younger two Germans I spoke two held the same sentiment as the former trucker, but the rationale was based on their own cultural background, not life experience. I met them, when I was just hanging out at a restaurant in the central city. They were just your average young professionals, who you would find in cities from Seattle to Seville, Manhattan to here in Munich. I really do not remember how we started talk, but once they realized I was American (apparently the accent is quite obvious), we began comparing our views on things. I asked about drones, since I had been writing a report and presentation for my program at the Goethe Institut. They said, that there were good reasons to use them, especially when people could be killed without them, but who would be the one in charge of who is the target? Who could be the fair assessor of the necessity to be neutralized by a quiet invader from above.
I would have assumed that these Germans would have been against the terrorist threats, against which we Americans use those drones for safety and security at home. I was actually a bit shocked at first by their opinion, but every time I saw drones in the Munich and Bavarian papers, there was a negative connotation to drones, which I had not perceived until I spoke to those German gentlemen. These Germans, though they knew that I was receptive to whatever they were to say, did dance around the questions a touch, because they did not want to offend me as an American. It was an interesting experience as they were some of my first experience with Germans and their culture of being very polite to strangers.
On the school-side of things, this first week has been a rough transition as I was one of only four English speakers in the class of 14 students. For the first time, I was not able to ask a clarification question in my native tongue, nor were the lists of new words given with English equivalents. It has been quite the immersive course and I have been gaining the confidence necessary to perfect my Deutsch. I cannot wait for next week.
Reflective Journal Entry 6:
Reflection on my language learning and intercultural gains:
When I began to take German, it felt like I was reaching for the language and culture of a country, whose only history I knew of was from History Channel documentaries. It felt like I was on the outside looking in, where I did not know. I proceeded like this for a semester or two, then I felt closer but there was still a wall. When I landed in Munich, that wall was torn down by a sign auf Deutsch, a customs agent trying to decipher my groggily slurred German, and a trip on the S-Bahn to the U-Bahn to my apartment in Goetheplatz. I was able to gain security in the language as my confidence was waning. I was able to complete, in my opinion, all of my learning goals during this trip. While I did use English at times, I always used German, when I could. I learned that the best way for me to learn German was to throw myself into the fire, speak in German even when the waiter knows English, and do not be afraid to make a mistake, then correct it.
Reflection on my summer language abroad experience overall:
The advice I would give to anyone, who is considering applying for the SLA grant, would be to try to plan activities before you enter the city, because life in Munich is, like life in every major metropolitan area, fast and time can be lost without even thinking about it. With that said, I would recommend this program until I was hoarse. The ability to experience the world without the constraints of anything save twenty hours of class time per week was something I will never be able to experience again. This experience has taught me that it is beautiful world to be lived in and that participation in the world at even the most minute level can leave a lasting input. A minute talking to one person can leave an indelible mark. A foreigner greeting you in your own language can put a smile on your face, which brightens your day.
How I plan to use my language and intercultural competences in the future:
After my SLA Grant, I was sent to Bulgaria by the Army ROTC in order to work with their military, at one point in an English teaching role. I excelled at the language instruction piece, because I was able to explain the same concepts in English to the Bulgarians, which had plagued me in German for so long before my SLA experience. With the combination of these two experiences, I am looking forward to working with foreign companies and governments, because the SLA grant taught me that I can live in Europe on my own, I can meet people, I can make friends, I can perform to a higher standard like in the States, I can do anything anywhere with the right dedication and drive.