Age of Enlightenment

Community came easy through Ellie Jensen’s German studies. Now a Fulbright teaching assistantship invites her to cultivate a community of her own.

May 17, 2023

Brittany Moseley

Elizabeth Jensen.
Photo credit: Tanya Rosen-Jones '97

Ellie Jensen didn’t plan on majoring in German, but once she began taking classes, she came to appreciate the supportive professors and the tight-knit community she found in Oberlin’s German Language and Literatures Department.

Now the spring graduate will have the opportunity to exercise her extensive knowledge of the language as a Fulbright English teaching assistant in Germany.

Beginning in September, Jensen will spend 10 months in Schleswig-Holstein, a northern state near the Denmark border. Jensen, who is a German and economics major with a concentration in mathematics, began studying the language in high school. With long-term teaching ambitions of her own, she looks forward to interacting with students and experiencing another country’s education system.

“I’m really hoping to gain experience in the classroom setting and working with students,” she says. “This will be my first time living abroad, so I think that will help me have an open mind and grow as a person and learn more about this different culture. I think that will affect my outlook on life and my personal development.”

For Jensen, a favorite course at Oberlin was Enlightenment to Classicism, a German lit class taught by her advisor, Professor of German Steven Huff.

“[He] made the content so interesting and made it feel so real,” she says. “That was the first real German literature class I took, so it was interesting to be able to read these German novels and be able to break it down and analyze it.”

A native of Lino Lakes, Minnesota, Jensen knew she wanted to attend a small liberal arts college. During a visit to Oberlin, what struck her most was the people. “They all had very unique hobbies,” she recalls, “and they were all super-passionate about what they were studying.”

“Even if you don't know everyone on campus, it’s so easy to just go up to someone and strike up a conversation, and you'll likely know someone in common or have a mutual friend. That kind of camaraderie—it’s really unique to Oberlin.”


Ellie Jensen playing lacrosse
Jensen was a four-year midfielder on the Oberlin lacrosse team. (photo by Maggie Balderstone '24)

Outside of the classroom, Jensen was a four-year member of the women’s lacrosse team. She also takes secondary lessons on organ—with access to Oberlin’s 30-plus world-class instruments—and is a member of the dining co-op Pyle Inn.

As she prepares for life after graduation, she knows she will miss the community aspect of Oberlin the most.

“Even if you don't know everyone on campus, it’s so easy to just go up to someone and strike up a conversation, and you'll likely know someone in common or have a mutual friend,” she says. “That kind of camaraderie—it’s really unique to Oberlin.”

The Fulbright Program was established in 1946 to increase mutual understanding between people of the United States and people of other countries by sponsoring students and scholars to study, teach English, and conduct research overseas. The U.S. government’s flagship international academic exchange program, Fulbright supports exchanges between the U.S. and more than 150 countries around the world. In February, Oberlin was named a top producer of Fulbright Fellows for the 14th consecutive year. It ranks third among U.S. colleges and universities on the all-time list, with more than 260 Fulbright recipients.

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