Jewell, Matthew

Name: Matthew Jewell
Location of Study: Hamburg, Germany
Program of Study: Goethe Institute
Sponsor(s): Mark Moyer


A brief personal bio:

I am a sophomore History major with a concentration on Europe during the late 18th-19th centuries. My focus on this time period means I’ll be working with documents in German a good deal. I only began my study of German this spring, but I’m excited to continue my studies in Germany itself! I’m looking forward to bringing a new sense of reality to the places and culture that I’ve learned about by experiencing them in person.

Why this summer language abroad opportunity is important to me:

My study of German is extremely relevant to my study of history. I will be able to access far more documents if I’m not limited to only those written in or translated to English.  My time in Germany will help me to catch up on my study of the German language and unlock more opportunities to progress my grasp of European history. As I advance through graduate school and on to teaching History to my own students, the comprehensive understanding I’ll be laying a foundation for with this SLA grant will allow me to better deliver information to my classes.

What I hope to achieve as a result of this summer study abroad experience:

I love encountering other cultures. When I’m studying in Germany, I look forward exploring outside the classroom and getting the most out of my limited time as possible. Interacting in markets, participating in Mass, and visiting local social areas will help open my eyes to German culture as a whole. I’d like to gain a familiarity with the German language or at least a good amount of comfort with being in Germany. I’ll use any extra free time I may have to visit sites I’ve studied and hopefully join local friends to participate in activities that they normally enjoy. Overall, I’m looking to make my study of the German language also a lesson in German culture and in being a global citizen.

My specific learning goals for language and intercultural learning this summer:

  1. At the end of the summer, I will be able to describe basic and important aspects of German culture to other foreigners.
  2. At the end of the summer, I will be notably willing to take intercultural risks.
  3. At the end of the summer, I will be able to at least demonstrate a mastery of the German language better than the next level I would have taken at Notre Dame.

My plan for maximizing my international language learning experience:

I have found Hamburg to be the ideal program for my immersion into German culture while I master the language. I have compiled a list of activities to engage in, and the Goethe Institute provides excursions as well. With over sixty museums of art, history, and science in Hamburg and with the beautiful Wattenmeer, a World Natural Heritage site, just north of Hamburg, I will take advantage of the opportunity to experience German culture, landscapes, and history. At the time I will be in Hamburg, there will be a music festival in Schleswig-Holstein that is held every summer that I would like to attend. I am also curious to witness a Catholic mass in German and see how their services differ from those in the United States. I believe that fully immersing myself will be the best way to master the German language, so I’ll try to live as much like a German as possible while I am in Hamburg

Reflective Journal Entry 1: 

Germany didn’t take long to dive into. Arriving on a Sunday was difficult because nearly all of the shops, groceries, and restaurants were closed, but I was able to find a phone, some food, and a transportation pass before the day ended. These errands also entailed getting lost multiple times on the buses and trains– even once leading me accidentally to a carnival. Despite what everyone in the States says, there are many Germans who don’t speak English. Perhaps on vacation this might be inconvenient, but it helps me to practice my German without receiving English in response. I have already gotten to know a baker near my bus stop and a girl at a cafe at my train station. The baker speaks excellent English, but still teaches me a German word or two each day. The girl at the cafe essentially doesn’t speak a word of English.
In only a week I’ve become familiar with multiple different parts of the city from the wild St. Pauli to the beautiful Alster. I’ve used basic communications to ask for directions, order food, or simply make casual conversation. I’ve also had the pleasure of discussing a wealth of topics with my German roommate while learning more about the culture.
Not only have my horizons been broadened regarding Germany, but the Goethe Institute has introduced me to friends from Spain, Albania, England, Finland, Japan, and more. I can’t wait to see what the remaining weeks hold.

Reflective Journal Entry 2:

This week was a week of growth for my boundaries in Hamburg. I’ve received multiple compliments on my German from locals at food establishments and in taxis. I’ve been taking every opportunity through the Goethe Institute to explore Hamburg and its culture as the first 4-week course is more than half over. I’ve been very fortunate to be here during the Euro Cup (especially with Germany doing so well), and watching the matches with Germans is exciting to say the least. I’ve settled more into a routine as far as my commute and daily activities go, and this has left me more time to explore everything Hamburg has to offer. I’m also searching for a music festival or a similar cultural event.

Reflective Journal Entry 3:

I joined a dojo here this week. I am now training five nights per week in a Pa Kua dojo. At Notre Dame I practice Shotokan, and I thought that this would be a unique experience. In fact, I was right. Lessons are taught in German and what I don’t understand I largely have to learn through imitation. I’m interacting with locals from around my age and up to middle aged men and women. When I was imagining my time in Hamburg, I would not have guessed that I’d be practicing a new martial art surrounded by locals who are teaching me in the language I’m trying to learn. Each day seems almost scripted as the vocabulary words I learn in class are used conveniently the evening after studying them. Observing the interactions between different ranks and the shows of respect conveyed through the German language is something that I likely wouldn’t find easily outside of my dojo. Over the weekend I traveled to a town named Kiel and explored it during a festival. Unfortunately, inclement weather conditions prevented me from fully experiencing what Kiel had to offer.

Reflective Journal Entry 4:

Last week was a celebration with Schlager music. Imagine this music as the German equivalent to the Beatles and other older music that is widely popular in the United States. At the festival, the streets are packed with people both to watch and parade with large trucks that hold celebrities and blare different music from massive speakers. The people dress up in memory of the music’s original decade and sing along while dancing and simply enjoying the nostalgic feel. The festival was described to me by a local as “uniquely German”, and the experience certainly was eye-opening regarding the culture. There were no lederhosen, but there were plenty of disco-esque outfits with afros and brightly colored accessories. Germany seems to have far more festivals than the United States, and while everyone celebrates and drinks, there is surprisingly little conflict and the people remain impressively friendly.

Reflective Journal Entry 5:

This was my last week in Hamburg. Enjoying local food, music festivals, and sights for the last time was a bittersweet experience. It was definitely sad to say goodbye to everyone, and I won’t ever forget the experiences I’ve had this summer. From my roommate to the local friends I made, everyone was entirely helpful in my efforts to learn the language. I feel confident in the skills I’ve built in speaking, reading, and understanding German and am excited to continue practicing whenever I get an opportunity. The generosity of the donors that make this experience possible for myself and other people are changing lives, and I’m forever grateful for that. As I took the train out of Hamburg I sat with two older women who spoke German and held a conversation with them without resorting to English for the better part of the ride. They were both very complimentary, and further encouraged me to put my abilities to work.

Reflective Journal Entry 6:

Postcard(s) from Abroad:

Reflection on my language learning and intercultural gains:

Studying in Hamburg was an entirely different experience than studying in a classroom.  During class you listen to the teacher and respond from time to time, sometimes in German and sometimes in English.  Then, you leave the classroom and enter a world dominated by English with essentially no German at all.  The Goethe Institute in Hamburg provided me with a completely German atmosphere both in and out of the classroom.  The perk to this experience was the subconscious diffusion of the language in my mind in addition to the conscious learning that took place.  Simply by being surrounded by German at all times, I became far more comfortable with the language and learned to hear it as something familiar which enabled better learning.  I feel I made great strides and accomplished the established learning and familiarity that I set out for.

Reflection on my summer language abroad experience overall:

Studying in Hamburg didn’t just open my eyes to the German culture.  Surely I came to know the German culture the most out of any I encountered, and I fell in love with it.  The Germans are a kind, efficient, and productive people.  Their food, music, customs, manners, and mannerisms became facets of day to day life that I grew to love.  Aside from the locals, I also met other students from around the globe, including Japan, Albania, Turkey, Brazil, Spain, Finland, Ukraine, and the UK.  For anyone else going abroad, I suggest truly opening your mind to learn about other cultures and their merits.

How I plan to use my language and intercultural competences in the future:

For now, I’ll continue my studies in the classroom on campus.  I made many friends overseas that may enable me to find an opportunity to return to Germany again and practice even more, perhaps in an internship or job setting.  The bolstering to my German foundation will allow me to pursue more options such as research that works with German documents.  I will also be able to travel through German speaking lands and utilize their archives and resources.  I’ve become more of a world citizen over the summer, and I hope to continue expanding my horizons and traveling outside of the United States to continue my learning of the German language and culture.