Two Receive German Study Award

June 29, 2015
Lisa Gulasy
Deutsches Technikmuseum (German Museum of Technology)
Currently studying in Berlin, Germany, Alex Baker ’17 says he has had many opportunities to visit historical sites and museums—like the Deutsches Technikmuseum (or German Museum of Technology) pictured here—as part of his intensive language course. Photo credit: Alex Baker '17

In May, students Aaron (Alex) Baker ’17 and Alain (Muci) Yu ’18 each received a Max Kade Summer German Study Award to help support their plans to study in Berlin, Germany, this summer. Both students were accepted into the Freie Universität Berlin im Sommer (FUBiS) program, which offers intensive German language classes at up to five proficiency levels as well as classes on various other topics.

The Max Kade Summer German Study Award is presented annually by the Department of German Language and Literatures to students who have been accepted into an intensive summer program for the study of German language and culture. Recipients are given a $2,000 stipend they may use to assist with travel costs, tuition, or living expenses.

According to Elizabeth Hamilton, associate professor and chair of the German department, two students have received the award each year since its introduction in 2006. It is funded primarily by gifts from individual donors and alumni, who, she says, “really fuel and drive this program.”

Recipients of the award are typically in their first or second year at Oberlin and have completed at least one German language course. “The competitive scholarships are especially well suited to students who were surprised to learn how much they loved German and wanted to keep going in the summer,” Hamilton says. The department does not require recipients to become German majors; however, Hamilton says, many past recipients did declare a German major, often combining it with another major. “Germany is so strong in the arts, sciences, economics, and politics. It really is a rich, vibrant culture, so learning German and learning these other subjects together makes wonderful sense for students.”

Baker, a double-degree student with a major in cello performance and an undeclared major in the College of Arts and Sciences, says he plans to declare German as his second major upon his return to campus in the fall. “Alex has worked really hard to advance his language skills. He’s a dedicated, consistent, disciplined student,” Hamilton says.

Baker has been studying in Berlin for four weeks. His discipline and dedication to studying the German language are evident in his insistence to practice his speaking skills outside of his Berlin classroom—even when those around him are speaking English. “Pretty much everyone in Berlin speaks English. If you are buying something, asking for directions, or ordering food and the person you are talking to notices your accent, they will switch to English right away,” he says. “I've had a few conversations where I will ask a question in German, the person will hear my accent and answer in English, I will reply in German, and it keeps going.”

Also studying cello in Berlin, Baker has attended performances by the Berliner Philharmoniker and the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, among others. “Berlin is really incomparable for its musical culture. German orchestras are like no other,” he says.

Yu, who says his interest in the German language stems from an introductory language course he took in Düsseldorf, Germany, last summer, will begin his studies in Berlin mid-July. Yu’s major is currently undeclared, though he intends to declare environmental studies in the fall, possibly adding economics as a second major. He says his interest in environmental economics contributed to his choice to study in Germany.

“Germany has been doing great in developing the economy while protecting the environment,” he says. “In that country, I will have chances to learn about many good ideas in environmental protection.”

“Muci is deeply interested in improving our environment and wants to learn how that happens from people in Germany,” Hamilton says. “He’s at the stage where he’s ready not just to learn German but to use German to learn. That’s exactly what we want to support.”

Yu also hopes to use German to forge lasting social relationships. “I hope I can improve my German and, with my improved German, make some German friends,” he says.

Baker’s FUBiS term ends in July and Yu’s in late August. Per award requirements, both students will write a brief post-study report of their experiences upon their return.

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