German Studies Alumni
A few summers ago, we sent the following letter to all German program alumni who had attended Whitman College since the Second World War! Here's what we asked:
Hello from the Whitman College German Department! We hope that you are enjoying the beginning of summer and that the weather wherever you happen to be is as beautiful as it is here in Walla Walla.
This summer we are updating the website for German majors and the German community and we would love to include some of the current activities of previous students of German as well any interesting bits of information from your life that you would be willing to share with us! What have you been up to since you left Whitman? How has your skill or interest in German helped you in your post-Whitman life? Do you have any advice for current students? Do you have any particularly fond memories of the College, the department, or even a class or professor?
Whether you graduated 60 years ago or last year, please let us know what you have been up to - we'd love to hear any and all of your responses!
Here's what you wrote:
Emily Ostrove '15 (BBMB major, German Studies minor)
I am currently interning in a laboratory outside of Frankfurt, Germany and am in the process of applying to Biochemistry masters programs in Germany. I was a BBMB major and German Studies minor at Whitman, class of 2015, and Germany is a very attractive place for me to pursue a career in science as well as higher education. While there are multiple German Universities offering courses in English, I am also applying to masters in German because that gives me more options on where to study.
I feel incredibly lucky that I have the opportunity to simultaneously pursue my interests in science and German language and culture. It has been a challenging and gratifying experience to watch my German skills improve. The better my language skills are, the easier my life here becomes and the better I become at integrating myself into German society. Integration has been a fun, confusing, surprising (and sometimes embarrassing!) process, but one that I really treasure because as an American, it's an experience I would normally not get to have.
As information to current Whitman Students, they should know that Germany offers a wide variety of courses of study, not just in the natural sciences. So even students studying politics, history or art could find fantastic masters programs in Germany. Not to mention, studying in Germany is incredibly cheap in comparison to the states - we are talking less than €150 per semester! In addition, Germany has education programs that are not available in the states. For example, two of my housemates are doing Duales Studium. That means they have a cycle where they study for 3 months, then work for 3 months and they get paid by the company they work for. They effectively get their tuition paid for, get paid on top of that, and get practical experience as interns as they study. Unsurprisingly, it's a very popular method of study in Germany right now.
Living abroad is an invaluable experience, and I wouldn't be here if I hadn't enrolled in German 105 my first semester at Whitman. The German Department is small, but that means it's an intimate group and I really enjoyed being a part of the German speaking community at Whitman. I started taking German at Whitman somewhat on a whim, and it was so much fun that I kind of never stopped. So Whitties, if you have space in your schedule, I'd highly recommend you sign up!
Karah Kemmerly '14 (German Studies major)
After reading Der Schimmelreiter as her oral exam text, Karah Kemmerly '14 was thrilled to be placed near Theodor Storm's hometown of Husum for her Fulbright teaching assistantship. After graduation, she moved to St. Peter-Ording, a tiny town on the North Sea, and worked with a group of wonderful colleagues and students at the Nordseeschule for a year. Then, in the summer of 2015, she traded seaside views for mountainous ones and moved to Denver, Colorado. She currently works for 5280 magazine.
Mackenzie Gerringer '12 (German & biology major)
Since graduating, I have had the pleasure of experiencing Europe firsthand. After a summer stage managing for a touring opera company in Italy, I move to Germany to work as an English Teaching Assistant through a Fulbright Grant. It has been such a delight getting to know the diverse and quirky city of Bremen and there is certainly never a dull moment with eighth and ninth grade students. Bremen has also served as a wonderful home base from which to feed my travel addiction. Overall, it's been a challenging and fulfilling year with a program that I am truly inspired by and excited about. If you're keen on a Fulbright year, do feel free to contact me and I'd be happy to answer any questions that I can.
I had a very fun and rewarding time studying German at Whitman; it's always such an interesting and passionate group of people. My favorite courses were "The Fairy Tale," taught by Professor Babilon, and Professor Sharp's "Modern Germany." I am so grateful to the German Department for encouraging my interests and offering classes that I was genuinely excited to attend. For current Whitman students, I'd say pursue your varied interests to the fullest extent that you can find joy in them. Whitman is such a great place to indulge your passions, so take the opportunity. Just remember to sleep once in a while! And to those taking German, continue! It can open up so much that you might not even expect. Also, the formal and you-plural cases are actually important, so consider practicing them every now and again.
Although I am now heading to the University of Hawai'i to study marine biology, I will look back fondly on my time in Germany and I'm sure I'll be back again someday. Contact: email@example.com
Caitlin Hardee '12 (German major)
While I was still in my last year at Whitman, I applied for the DAAD "internXchange" journalism grant to Berlin, with the extraordinary help and support of Keith Raether and the fellowships office, as well as my wonderful adviser Susan Babilon. I was accepted into the program, and headed back to my former study abroad city almost immediately after graduation.
Over the summer of 2012, I engaged in academic and practical seminars on media, politics and social issues, and then completed a short five-week internship at a German radio station. In the meantime, I was battling with the forces of German bureaucracy to attain a work visa that would enable me to stay and build a life in Berlin. Again, the support of Susan Babilon and other friends and contacts was invaluable in assembling the necessary references and supporting materials for my various endeavors. Eventually I succeeded in attaining a two-year freelance journalism visa, and happily settled back into life in my favorite city.
In the fall of 2012, I began doing an assortment of freelance writing and editing. Whether running my own blogging project, doing tech support with one of my media mentors in the city, translating travel reports or attending press events, I slowly began to build up my network and find more opportunities. I am currently doing regular freelance work for a media firm in Berlin-Mitte, editing texts for another company and continuing with my own blog.
I have also been fortunate to continue to see many friends from Whitman and study abroad as they pass through the city on their own adventures. My fellow German Studies majors Kayla Foster '12 and Mackenzie Gerringer '12 have both dropped by, and I'm looking forward to seeing Frau Babilon when she visits Berlin for a seminar in June! It seems like more people are moving to Berlin all the time - the city and the country's increasingly important role in world economics is bringing Germany back into the international eye, and as a happy side consequence, people are rediscovering the beautiful language, as well as how much vibrant culture and diversity this awesome land has to offer.
I am so grateful for my time at Whitman, and couldn't be more happy with my decision to study German. Sometimes the liberal arts education gets a bad rap - many are becoming increasingly cynical about the worth of a "soft" humanities major in today's difficult job market. But at Whitman, aside from the many extraordinary and deeply valuable opportunities to explore other disciplines and pursuits, I primarily spent my time learning about the German language and German culture with Susan Babilon, Dennis Crockett and Amy Blau, and learning how to write, whether in "Encounters" with Jennifer Mouat, in creative writing workshops with Scott Elliott and Katrina Roberts or at our wonderful student-run newspaper, "The Pioneer." And now? I'm making a living by writing in German. In addition, my time running a German music show on KWCW and learning basic music production and sound editing with Pete Crawford opened further doors and perspectives in the realms of radio and other passions of mine.
I think it would be hard to overestimate the true value of a liberal arts education. Yes, I think it's important to keep the job market in mind, to acquire marketable skills and to avoid student debt. But at Whitman, I was able to do these things while becoming a more complete human being and citizen of the world, and I am now part of a global network of like-minded people, with whom I will continue to find new adventures and create new connections. For this amazing gift, I say - thank you, Whitman, and thank you to the fantastic German department!
Isabel Hong '11 (Economics/geology major, German minor)
After graduating Whitman in 2011, I began a Fulbright ETA Fellowship in Freising, Germany. I taught at a Berufsschule and had an amazing time getting to interact with students of all vocations. For the other part of my fellowship, I volunteered as an English tutor with an organization in Munich that tutored immigrant youth in various subjects.
Currently, I am getting my Ph.D. in Oceanography at Rutgers University. You wouldn't think it, but German has helped me immensely in my studies. My research uses diatoms as indicators of environment, and in order to identify the genus and species of diatom, I have to sift through German reference books (because they're the most detailed!) If I were to have any advice to current students, it would be to get as involved in the German department as possible, because it opens up doors to so many opportunities.
Amy Soderquist '10 (History major, German minor)
I graduated from Whitman in 2010 with a major in history and a minor in German studies. My sophomore year I lived in Das Deutsch Haus and became quite close with the native speaker, Nelli, who lived with us that year. My dad even taught her how to drive! I have visited Nelli in Berlin and Dresden over the last few years and she has been a great contact to have when I am traveling. The German courses I took were invaluable in getting my German back up to proficiency and engaging me in German culture. The German department courses that I remember most are Professor Babilon's "German Fairy Tales" course and Professor Blau's course on "Germany and its Others." Having to practice reading in German was probably one of the most useful things I did at Whitman. Since graduating, I spent a few months in South Korea teaching English and then moved back to Seattle to work downtown for about 18 months. During that time I applied to graduate programs in international relations. I am now at Georgetown University at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service pursuing my Master of Arts degree in German and European studies. While my program has a strong focus on Germany and Europe, I have the chance to take classes through the School of Foreign Service. Just like Whitman, Georgetown has Stammtisch every week and I enjoy going there to practice my German with friends. It is always great to catch up with people and learn new vocabulary in a comfortable and supportive environment. I look forward to practicing my German and pursuing a career in international relations, hopefully somewhere in Germany, following my graduation in 2014. Thank you to Whitman and the German studies department for setting me on this path!
Dan Will '10
German has been at the center of my journey so far. It opened up an incredible path towards= my personal and professional development. While a student at Whitman, I pursued a summer internship in Erfurt at a German state agency for cultural preservation. At the end of that summer, I remained in Germany for the following year as an exchange student at the University of Freiburg. Freiburg is a beautiful city in the famous Black Forest, and provided plenty of opportunities to become acquainted with German culture. Enamored by my experience, I immediately sought another chance to live in Germany. After graduating from Whitman, I received a Fulbright Fellowship to teach English in a small German village near the German-Czech border. Despite the isolation of my remote location, interacting with Germans who rarely encountered Americans face to face was a highly rewarding experience. I was inspired and humbled by students and teachers who told me that I had positively affected their views of the United States. Rather unknowingly, I had become a cultural ambassador for my country. Since returning to the United States, I have enrolled in a master's degree program in German and European studies at Georgetown University. In Washington, D.C., I have been able to put my intercultural skills to use as an intern on various occasions at the U.S. State Department, the International Trade Administration, and Cultural Vistas, a nonprofit cultural exchange organization. I can trace all of my experiences back to German and my travels abroad. More importantly, the two years I spent in Germany have led to some of my fondest memories. I would advise any Whitman student to learn a language and to spend time abroad. German is an excellent choice for many reasons, one of which being the many programs that sponsor work, study and fellowship opportunities. I will never forget both the individual mentoring and sense of community offered by Whitman's German department. Vielen Dank!
Brian Dafforn '09
I would say my relationship with German is more personal than business: my studies have given me perspective and confidence. I doubt whether I would be as motivated and excited to travel and learn new languages had it not been for my experience at Whitman and in high school.
As for your other inquiries regarding advice and memories, I can best sum that up by saying my travels abroad in Berlin were invaluable. Students: travel abroad and pursue scholarships to help you do so! There is no better time than college to do so.
Greg Phillips '09 (German major)
I've been attending the University of Utah's Medical School since August 2012. I have completed the first year and had a great time. Whitman prepared me very well for the rigors of medical school, and my basic science foundation is invaluable. I have a better idea now about why some people compare graduate school to trying to drink from a fire hydrant.
I accepted a scholarship for medical school through the Army's Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP). The Army is paying for school and paying me to go to school. After residency, I will have a four- to five-year commitment to the Army, after which I can decide to continue with the Army or move into the civilian sector. I recently attended Basic Officer Leadership Course (BOLC) in June in San Antonio, Texas, and really enjoyed it - despite the humidity. I am looking forward to taking care of the brave men and woman who fight for our country, as well as their families.
I had the chance during the first year of medical school to use my background in biostatistics as part of a research project - I studied biostatistics at the master's level after I applied to medical schools the first time around. For the research project, I helped perform a number of analyses, helped write the paper and made the graphs for the paper. It is titled 'Moderate glucose control is associated with increased mortality compared to tight glucose control in critically ill non-diabetics," and was accepted by the journal "Chest."
As far as medical specialties go, I'm leaning towards neurology and interventional neurology. But I still have a way to go before any final decisions are made.
My background in German has even come in handy at medical school! I have a classmate who is from Germany, and five other classmates either majored in German or served LDS missions in a German-speaking country. So I have opportunities to speak German regularly. Also I have spoken exclusively German to my daughter since she was born, and it just amazes me how quickly she learns.
Whitman and the German department helped me learn to write well and to communicate with individuals from other cultures and backgrounds. These skills have come in handy many times in medical school while writing papers or speaking to patients from other countries. I am so glad I majored in German at Whitman.
My wife Julie, our daughter Audrey and I live in the Salt Lake area, close to our extended families. Julie works as a massage therapist and is doing a sports massage internship with Real Salt Lake - the professional soccer team in Utah, and cares for our daughter Audrey.
Cat Lewis '08
My studies in German at Whitman College led me to pursue a paid internship abroad the summer after my sophomore year. For three months during the 2006 World Cup, I studied astrophysics in Dortmund, Germany, through the DAAD's RISE program. This program allowed me to go abroad and get research experience without studying abroad through Whitman. Since this was my first college internship, I'm convinced that it paved the way for my internship the following year through the National Science Foundation, and eventually helped me get my current job right out of college as an actuary. While at Whitman, being active in the German department also allowed me the opportunity to live in Das Deutsche Haus. I wanted very much to live in the Interest House Community, and German was the only interest I had that lined up with one of the houses, since my major coursework was in math and science.
Grant Margeson '08 (English major, German minor)
I graduated Whitman in 2008 with a major in English and a minor in German. Last year, I was a Fulbright TA in Germany and this year I am a PAD TA, which is really the same thing but paid for by a different institution. I have spent both years in Dresden and worked in a Realschule in Königstein, a small town 40 kilometers south of Dresden. My interest in Germany stems exclusively from my studies at Whitman. I had studied German in high school, but only because my brother studied French and I thought it was the closest to opposite I could do. I decided to continue at Whitman simply to fulfill requirements. I enjoyed the classes, professors and students (students of German tend to be much cooler than students in an English class), so I just kept taking classes and my interest grew organically, leading to me eventually becoming a regular at Stammtisch. All this sort of naturally built up to me applying for a teaching assistantship in Germany, and since arriving - especially since my first trip to Berlin - my love of Germany and its culture has only grown.
Suzanne Zitzer '08 (German & history major)
I studied abroad spring/summer 2007 in Berlin through IES, and studied and researched in Leipzig from September 2008 through July 2009 with a Fulbright student research grant. I was greatly impressed by both programs - both met my needs at those particular stages in my life. The IES program involved more supervision and support than the Fulbright program - good for me, since it was my first time being in another country for an extended amount of time. The atmosphere in the IES center was warm and welcoming and students could receive as much or as little assistance from the IES staff as they needed. The Fulbright program is directed from Berlin, so many students, myself included, are not in the same city as the directing office. I was responsible for finding my own housing and registering with the city, as well as registering at the local university, all things which were taken care of by the IES staff during my semester abroad. But the Fulbright experience for me was so much more rewarding because I was surrounded predominantly by Germans and other Europeans. My German language skills improved so much, as did my understanding of German culture. While I learned a great deal conducting my research project, it was predominantly what I learned outside of the project that will stick with me the longest.
After completing my Fulbright grant I moved to Brussels, Belgium, where I served as an intern in the office of Reinhard Bütikofer, a prominent member of the German Green Party, in the European Parliament for five months. Now I am back in the Pacific Northwest, waiting to hear back from the graduate schools I applied to and looking for a job in the meantime. I applied to master's programs in international environmental policy starting in fall of 2010.
My study of German at Whitman mainly served to increase my interest in the the language, literature, art and history of Germany. Thanks to the presence of native speakers and events at the German House and the Stammtisch, my interest in popular culture and everyday life in Germany increased a thousandfold.
I lived in Das Deutsche Haus in my sophomore year and participated occasionally in the Stammtisch, but not as often as I would have liked. Now I really miss it because I have no one with whom I can speak in German.
Kyrstin Floodeen '06 (German major, history minor)
I was an exchange student my junior year in high school, which first got me interested in Germany. I studied abroad through IES in Freiburg the fall of my junior year at Whitman, and after graduating in December of 2006, I went to Berlin through the Internationales Parlaments-Stipendium (IPS). This was an amazing experience. I would encourage anyone to take part if they can, and they can certainly email me if they want to know about it. While the quality and variety of work depended on the representative you were assigned to intern with, I met amazing people from all over the world, some of whom are now my best friends. I got to travel quite a lot around Germany, and by working, I learned more about the country and people than I'd ever have known just by having studied abroad.
German has helped me travel and meet and make connections with people from all over the world (not necessarily just Germans), both here at home and while abroad. I think, in general, knowing any second language or culture gives you a better perspective on the world.
I am currently in Seattle, but am moving up to Vancouver, British Columbia, in December to start a master's in Library and Information Sciences at the University of British Columbia this January. I hope to be able to use my background in languages to work in an academic setting - either in a university library or a research center.
I loved living in Das Deutsche Haus - it was honestly one of my favorite parts of being at Whitman. Not only was it a great house to call home, but all the people in it were so laid back and fun. I made some great life-long friendships there. Stammtisch was a great way to relax at the end of the week, too. I also enjoyed working in the language lab, and getting to watching Deutsche Welle, etc., when things were slow.
I am currently working as a German-speaking Park Ranger in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park. It was my language skill which enabled me to get this job, and I get to speak to Germans many times every day, which is fun!
Lindsay Satterlund '06 (German major, history minor)
During the spring semester of my junior year at Whitman, I attended the IES Freiburg program and loved it! After graduating from Whitman, I received a Fulbright grant in cooperation with the Pädagogischer Austauschdienst and thus taught English for two years at a Mittelschule in Dresden. I am currently a DAAD scholar and am attending the Technische Universität in Dresden. I will complete my master's degree in German studies in March 2010 (also at the TUD). I am also teaching a beginning German class for foreign exchange students at the university, which has been a lot of fun!
Studying German was my main interest while at Whitman! The friendly professors and smallness of the department really made me feel welcome and comfortable exploring German language and culture. Because of the great education I received at Whitman, I hope to become a German teacher myself.
Lea Simek '06 (German major)
My path so far has been challenging and exciting at the same time. First, I worked as a translator and business process analyst for Commercial Metals Company travelling between Croatia, Poland and Irving, Texas. Among other work, I also helped design and run IT trainings. Unfortunately, my German deteriorated in that period.
Then I lost my job in the recession and returned, after working for five years, to school. Now comes the interesting part for you. I have just completed an Erasmus Mundus masters degree in Global Studies at the University of Leipzig. My German is now very good, and with academic background in international relations and higher education internationalization and development (and the professional IT background), I am looking for employment in the field of education internationalization and technology-based education development.
I am also getting married and am moving with my husband - who's from Indonesia - to Jakarta. We met at the university and after practicing our German over beer and Döner, we decided to give a joint life a try. So, I am expecting German to be spoken in my future family. We also plan to go back to Germany for a Ph.D. in a year or two. So, yes, my German degree from Whitman and my Germanness continues to thread my life in many positive ways.
Kim Boese Duvall '05 (German Studies major)
I graduated with a degree in German Studies from Whitman in 2005 and I've never stopped trying to learn German and find places to use it. I work in the medical field now as a PA-C (Physician Assistant - Certified) in Urgent Care and, admittedly, do no use German on a daily basis. However, my background in German Studies has helped me get where I am today. I gained life experiences from studying abroad and highly recommend that to everybody. Studying a foreign language allows you to develop creativity when interacting with different people, an important life skill! Through interviews for graduate school and job interviews, many people have asked me about my German degree and it was always a point of interest. Every person who has commented on the degree has found it an asset that I had a varied background and varied interests. Enjoy the time at Whitman, it goes too quickly!
Ben Miller '04 (German major)
Ben was a German major, spent two years in the Philippines with the US Peace Corps and has been living in Washington, DC and studying international politics and economics.
Mark Lanning '02
After having received a Pickering [Foreign Affairs Fellowship] to study international policy at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University, Mark Lanning is working for the foreign service. He writes: "I'm working as the lone political officer at the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou (formerly known as Canton), China. We're about two hours by train from Hong Kong. I cover mostly political issues like health, labor, human rights, Taiwan relations, etc., from the Southern China perspective. I'll be here two years." He adds: "Guangzhou is awesome: the Lonely Planet calls it the best food city in the world."
Lisa Beyl '01
Lisa Beyl is completing a degree at the School of International Policy and Analysis at Columbia University and gives a quick update on her current project:
"My project is working as a Municipal Development Volunteer in the Municipal Planning Office of Chiantla, Huehuetenango. Since Guatemala doesn't really have a culture of planning, I have spent quite a bit of time getting people to come to staff meetings, developing annual and monthly plans for the office and trying (so far in vain) to get my officemates to prioritize the many different projects that we are supposedly working on. The fun part of my job relates to increasing women's civic participation.
"I have learned so much about the challenges facing rural women by attending a monthly civics workshop for women. All the women attendees are local leaders. Despite that, most can't read. Those who can, do so at an elementary level. In many communities, parents don't send their daughters to school. And in almost all of rural Guatemala, educational opportunities - for those lucky enough to get to go to school - only extend until sixth grade. I have been visiting rural schools. Frequently, one teacher is responsible for the whole school. Yes, that means that he or she is teaching six grades and probably about 70 students. Clearly, this is not an ideal learning environment. I hope that working with mothers - teaching them about their rights, helping them understand how to advocate on behalf of themselves, getting them registered to vote - will slowly help. We are also working to open a women's office in my muni that would help women's groups secure funding for projects in their communities. Little by little, as the Guatemalans say, I hope that some of these initiatives will bear fruit."
Kristin Cain '01
I am currently living in the Netherlands, using my German skills to help me learn Dutch. I'm planning on applying to a master's program in Conflict Resolution and Human Rights in Utrecht next spring. I also taught German for a year and a half in China, including a master's literature class - somewhat beyond my qualifications, but quite interesting. I did the Whitman in China program and stayed on afterward.
Tanja Englberger '99
After graduating, Tanja Englberger '99 spent two years in the Peace Corps in a remote village of Niger. She then completed a Master's of Public Health at Emory, which led to more public health projects in Africa.
Now she's married and working in the Athens, Ohio City County Health Department. She wrote to "Whitman Magazine:" "I was encouraged to study abroad in Berlin, which increased my enthusiasm for working and learning abroad."
Mark W. Neff '99
My current work has nothing to do with German language, but has a lot to do with what I read in German classes. I'm currently a Ph.D. student at Arizona State University, where I study science policy, the creation of scientific knowledge and the ways in which science shapes the way we see the world. I first started thinking about some of these ideas while reading books and novellas for German classes at Whitman (Christa Wolf's "Störfall," Dürrenmatt's "Die Physiker," etc.)
I've had a variety of jobs since graduating from Whitman, including biomedical research, environmental advocacy and a stint as a professional ski bum. Each boss along the way has made some comment suggesting that they hired me because of my diverse educational background. My advice to any students interested in German (but unsure if they want to pursue careers specific to the language or culture) is that they should stick with it. It will lead to opportunities and ideas that you did not expect.
Gayle Christensen '98
Gayle Christensen went on to get an M.A. in International Relations at Tufts University, another M.A. in International Educational Administration and Policy Analysis at Stanford University, and a Ph.D. in Education at Stanford University. She then got a Bundeskanzler Award from the Humboldt Foundation to support her work at the Max Plank Institute for Human Development. She is now a Research Associate at the Urban Institute. Some of her work has been referenced in the German press.
John M. Thruelsen '98 (German major, French minor)
I started taking German in the seventh grade in middle school. I continued with German into high school and spent my junior year of high school as an exchange student in Germany. When I graduated and arrived at Whitman, it just seemed like the natural progression of things to continue on with the language. I remember Professor Jim Soden welcoming me as my counselor. We were sitting in a group with Professor Soden and he asked us, "Do you know why you're all here? It's because you're all German students." My years at Whitman were basically spent bouncing back and forth between Professor Soden and Professor Tobin's classes.
Since I had been studying German for six years with a year in Germany, I decided that I should do as the Germans do and take French. My life then began to rotate between the French Table and Stammtisch or La Maison Française and Das Deutsche Haus. One time, Professor Tobin and I were the last two people at the Stammtisch, so we decided to walk over and join the French Table. We just sat down and jumped from German to French. Another time in one of my classes, we were reading "Der Zauberberg" by Thomas Mann. In the book, the main character makes the acquaintance of young French woman and after they decide to communicate in French, the following 30 pages or so were in French. Professor Tobin told me that to truly be a German major, one must also be a French major. That sealed the deal and I spent my senior year with IES in Nantes, France.
So I returned and graduated with my German major and French minor and married my French girlfriend whom I brought home from Nantes. It worked out well between us as her mother is German. Apart from a regular civilian career in telecommunications and then in finance, I enlisted in the Army Reserve (one weekend a month, right?). I somehow managed to avoid the Middle East, but I did get to spend a year with NATO forces in Kosovo. Guess who was the go-to guy when we needed to work with the German and French forces? I made great contacts and even received a medal from the French Army. After I returned, I was able to land a defense contracting job in Germany, where I am currently.
I guess I never really thought about my life after Whitman or how my major would serve me best. I just knew that I wanted to keep the adventures coming and never get bored. The classic German authors still sit on my bookshelf and I pulled out Heine's "Loreley" before visiting the statue along the Rhine. I live in a Franco-Germano-Americano household and my children all speak English, French, and German so that must be the adventure I was seeking all along.
I was sad to hear of Professor Soden's passing. I'll never forget his stories of his time as a Fulbright scholar in Hamburg, where he would stay up late drinking at the bar to maximize his speaking practice with the late night patrons. What a great example of "Learning German Outside of the Classroom."
German studies at Whitman - never a dull moment!
Rhean Souders '98
Rhean is the assistant to the executive editor of "The Seattle Times."
Rachel Wecker '98
After a second study year in Germany after graduation (the first being junior year abroad), I returned to Berlin with the goal of testing out my German skills in the working world. I got an internship with a large automotive financial services company and six months turned into five-and-a-half years and a full time position in Human Resources. I guess I passed that test! Not only that, but I met my husband, a native German, with whom I speak German 99 percent of the time, even though he speaks fluent English. It's the best way to keep up my German. I'm fortunate that I could transfer to the U.S. to continue working with the same German-American company in Michigan and have the opportunity to use my German there as well.
Sasha Berson '96 (German & economics major)
My, my - it has been several years since I've graduated from Whitman! I was a German and economics major and went to work on Wall Street after graduation. I very quickly discovered that all my German business contacts spoke fluent English and so had to pick up Spanish quickly to make myself useful in international work.
I now live and work in London (working for eBay) and do find German useful once in a while, especially when traveling in Europe. Not only does it allow me to order a Spätzle with a Gewürztraminer, but also to sort of understand the signs throughout the Nordic countries and in the Netherlands!
I have very warm memories of our small classes filled with great books with Professor Jim Soden and the fun classes with Professor Bob Tobin. Hope everyone is doing well.
Katherine Hirt '94 (German major)
I graduated in 1994 and am currently working on my dissertation on music aesthetics in nineteenth century German literature. I have used German often since graduation from Whitman, teaching German as a graduate teaching assistant as well as living in Slovakia (the common language was often German), and of course, in Austria and Germany. My skills in German helped me learn Swedish fairly rapidly. (I've been told I actually speak Swedish with a German rather than American accent). I switched from a music to a German major at the end of my junior year at Whitman, and I owe it to Professors Tobin, Soden and Estabrook (who was at Whitman my senior year) for encouraging me to continue graduate studies in German literature.
Some of the less academic experiences I enjoyed most at Whitman include: running on the cross-country team, going to New York for a week with art majors, watching a meteor shower one summer from the baseball field, studying on Ankeny field, living in Das Deutsche Haus and engaging in winter activities such as ultimate frisbee on the snow-covered golf course and "sledding" down the hill on garbage bags.
However your knowledge of German may be useful to you after graduation, my advice to you is to keep it up - a foreign language is a wonderful skill, if not directly for your future career, at least personally. You can read foreign newspapers online (for a different and sometimes quite refreshing perspective on global events), translate letters for friends and neighbors and, of course, you can keep reading German literature - whether medieval sagas, E.T.A. Hoffmann, Tucholsky, Sebald or popular children's authors such as Christine Nöstlinger and Cornelia Funke. There is also, of course, the value of studying abroad. In my own experience living in Slovakia, Austria, Sweden and Germany, I have noticed that the openness and self-discovery acquired while being faced with cultural differences often needs to be repeated. Therefore, I also advise you to continue traveling to non-English-speaking countries as often as possible, if for no other reason than to challenge your views on life throughout your life.
Claudia Cumes '93
Claudia Cumes has had a baby, and writes: "I've enjoyed my German for more personal reasons, since I have some German friends and have visited Germany many times. I've traveled most recently to the Baltic Sea, the Black Forest, Lake Constance and the German Alps, and feel my trips have been that much more wonderful and relaxed thanks to having studied the language. I'm now in my fourth year of a doctoral program in clinical psychology at Rutgers University, and I've occasionally used my German to read up on research projects by German psychologists. Guess I could read Freud in his own language if I wanted to. Otherwise, I've not used my German much except to rescue lost German tourists in New York City (and once in Hong Kong)."
Kris Daughters '93 (German major)
I have not really used my German major much at all since leaving Whitman. I got my master's in teaching at Seattle University in 1997 and did do a brief student teaching experience in a high school German class in the spring of 1997. I was hired to teach English at Liberty High School in Issaquah, Wash., in the fall of 1997 and have been doing that ever since. I did take a group of students to Europe several years ago, and we visited Switzerland where I spoke some Deutsch.
Theodore George '93
I am extremely thankful for the education I received from the German program at Whitman, and I have many fond memories of the department, certainly the courses I took with Professor Tobin, and especially the wonderful and intensive independent studies Professor Soden and I did together on Thomas Mann and Nietzsche.
The interest I developed in the German language and intellectual heritage while at Whitman has remained an important part of my life, and I am now an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Texas A&M University, where I focus primarily on German philosophy.
Currently, I am in negotiations with a university press in the U.S. to provide an English translation of a recent German book on hermeneutics by Günter Figal, professor of philosophy at the University of Freiburg, Germany, entitled, "Gegenständlichkeit."
Lynn Greenough '86 (German major)
Howdy - Here is a brief history of what I've done since leaving Whitman. I graduated with the class of 1986. I bummed around Eugene and Portland for a few years before getting into the graduate program in German at the University of Oregon in 1990. I got my master's in German in 1992 and then spent 10 months or so in Göttingen on a Fulbright study grant. I returned to the University of Oregon and completed my coursework and exams for a Ph.D., but during that time I had a lot of doubts as to whether I wanted to continue with academics.
So I took a friend up on his offer to follow him to Japan and teach English to university students. I did that for two years, and then I moved to back Portland, where my partner, Kalli, had just started naturopathic medical school.
In Portland, I started temping at Xerox, got hired, promoted, etc., and eventually quit to take a nine-month, intensive, full-time program in information technology. Before graduating in July 2001, I was lucky to be offered a job at the Port of Portland in the I.T. department. For the past couple of years I've been developing and delivering training to Port employees on all kinds of software and business processes.
In the meantime, I had two kids. My daughter Lily is seven, and her little sister Cameryn turns four in July. Having kids, working full-time and keeping up the house and yard take most of my free time. Fortunately, my partner works part-time and handles the lion's share of household logistics.
So I don't actively use my German now, and I don't know if it has directly helped me along the path(s) that I've chosen.
I do have many fond memories of Whitman and Walla Walla; too many to list here! One of the great things about being a German major was that our books were very small and inexpensive. I had a huge dictionary, though (and still have it!)
My advice to students - take advantage of as many kinds of activities and programs as you can while in school. Artistic, cultural, athletic, activist, wilderness - whatever. Get to know as many different kinds of people as you can, too. I know you're busy with your studies, but you won't regret it.
Karin Krueger '86 (German major)
I studied at Whitman for two years between 1980 and 1982, and German was just one of many classes I took. My great-great-grandfather had immigrated in the mid-1800s and my grandfather on my father's side still read and spoke German, so I thought it would be interesting for me to learn. I decided to go abroad to Germany for my junior year, as was popular to do then - maybe it still is. I went through a program in my hometown through Oregon State, as it was cheaper, and I lived in Konstanz for a year. It was a difficult year. I didn't speak German that well in the beginning, didn't make friends that quickly, it was cold and dark and all of the other American students with my program were placed in other cities - although I loved spending time in the Altstadt, Marktplatz, etc., and I did a lot of exploring. I did meet more Germans that spring, but through being naive I didn't realize that they were not very nice Germans, and they actually relieved me of my next year's tuition at Whitman. Oops!
So I went home and worked the next year rather than returning to Whitman, but I also began to study French and Spanish - the influence of being near Switzerland and realizing that most people in the world speak more than two languages - and I was able to go back to Europe and study a half year in each of those countries. When I finally returned to Whitman, German was the quickest way to get graduated in one year, so that was what I chose.
After I graduated I went on to the University of Oregon for two semesters in German, but applied to the Peace Corps at the same time, so I only studied two semesters there. I thought I'd end up in South America, as I'd studied more Spanish than French, at least on paper, but the country I was selected for was Cameroon. So I went there and stayed for three years as an English teacher in a rural middle school. I learned a fifth language: Fulfulde. I ended up meeting the person I married there and we returned to the U.S. in 1990.
In 1990 our home language was mostly French and Fulfulde, but over the years we have become American monolinguals, I guess! We mostly speak English to each other and our kids. I went back to school to get a master's in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages and I used German to pass the second language requirements for that. I've been teaching in Corvallis Schools for 10 years and my day is divided between duties. I support several sections of science classes for ELL students by pre-teaching/clarifying what students have learned in Spanish - now maybe my strongest second language - and teach English to immigrant students, mostly Mexican and Korean, but occasionally other countries like Japan, Israel, etc. I use German when I speak and write to the German family that hosted me for a month the first time I went to Germany summer 1982 - ages ago! They visited us in 1996, and we visited them in July 2001. I guess in some sense, the German classes I took started me down the path of life connected to other countries. When we visit Cameroon with our kids, going through France and Germany has a bit of a feeling of coming home for me.
Times have changed a bit. When I lived in Europe in the 80s, the dollar was strong, Americans were popular, there was no Aids - the German government gave us a "Stipend" just for studying there (500 Deutschmarks per month), and I lived in France in a student dormitory for maybe $80 per month with free tuition. It is no longer so easy, I'm guessing. But it is still such an important experience to live among people who speak a different language and are of a different culture - that would be my advice, for students: to grab those opportunities as they present themselves.
Jennifer O'Donnell Conner '83
Yes, I have used my German here and there. Before graduation. I went to the University of Freiburg in Breisgau for the summer program. I also worked at the World Health Organization at the U.N. in Vienna, Austria, as an intern. I then worked in publishing and advertising for a few years. Next I helped a startup foreign student exchange firm called Aspect in San Francisco, and I used my German quite a bit there.
Then I went back to graduate school to get my K-12 teaching credential. At first I worked as a sub, and was often asked to sub in the high school German classes.
After that, I was a second grade teacher. I stopped working after the birth of my first child 14 years ago, but I get to use my German occasionally, like when we had an exchange student here for a year from Hannover. Now, however, I use my Spanish much more, as I volunteer teaching English to new immigrant students here in San Rafael, Calif. That is it in a nutshell.
Carla Torgerson '81
In 1984, I started a rock band with another Whittie named Chris Eckman (class of '82 or '83) and his two brothers. The band is called The Walkabouts and we're still working 22 years later.
I took Chris all throughout Europe in 1981-82 on a seven-month trip, and we vowed to not return to Europe unless we had a band. After touring America for six years, we finally started working in Europe in 1990 with Subpop Europe, which was run by Germans. Subpop USA was, of course, started here in Seattle. In 1995 Subpop was sold to Warner and we didn't want to work for Warner Records, so Subpop Europe (the same German team that we had already worked with for five years) reverted to their original German label nam, Glitterhouse Records. In essence we've been working with same German people now for 16 years.
My German language speaking ability has come in most handy. I've been able to read contracts, understand subtle miscommunications due to translations, and order food off menus that my bandmates actually want to eat! I've understood both cultures for many years now, which makes for a better business and social sense. I can at least address German audiences in their mother tongue, which always surprises them. We also released two albums with Virgin Germany, one of which - "Devil's Road" - sold 85,000 throughout Europe. We very much enjoy our career abroad and have traveled to Europe at least once if not twice a year for 16 years now.
We also work with German bookers, managers and publicists. I think my German knowledge has helped in all of these aspects.
Bob G. Jacobs '80 (German major)
Since graduating from Whitman in 1980 with a degree in German, I obtained an M.A. in Germanics from the University of Washington. Then, of course (?), I went to Japan for two years to teach English. My interest in language continued, but I became less interested in literature and more interested in how language is acquired, so I pursued a Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics from UCLA. While there, I focused on neuroanatomy and completed a neuroanatomy dissertation, followed by a post-doc: neuroimaging investigation of brain maturation in non-human primates.
I became a faculty member in the psychology department at Colorado College (CC) in 1993 and started the neuroscience major here. It was when I came to CC that I fully realized the lasting effects of my liberal arts education at Whitman. I look back fondly on my time in the German department at Whitman, and have been ever-grateful to the Whitman professors that supported me in my educational pursuits.
One of my favorite memories of Whitman was an upper division German class we had with only three students. I rearranged the seminar room, putting a large table in each corner of the room, and stacked a chair on top of each table. When Professor Soden came into the room, we were all sitting on one of the chairs in one of the corners facing each other. Professor Soden, looked around, said "Okay!" and got up on the last chair on the table in the remaining corner, and we conducted class that way for the day.
Since leaving Whitman, in addition to studying German, I have studied French, Latin, Japanese, Korean and Chinese. But most importantly, I took up hockey at the age of 36!
Bernd Estabrook '84 (German and dramatic arts major)
Bernd received a distinguished professor award at Illinois College, where he has taught since 1994. "Dr. Estabrook is perhaps the single most energetic member of the faculty," commented Fred Ohles, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college. "Bernd is known and valued for the passion he brings to his teaching." Estabrook teaches German language, literature and culture.
Wendy Sanger McGuire '77 (German major)
I adored every one of my professors at Whitman. Stately Herr Santler, debonair Herr Soden and Herr Toews, who started every class with a poetry recitation that could make the hair stand up on the back of your neck. Frau Wolter gave us the bizarre Dürrenmatt, visionary Brecht and the modern East German geniuses. I majored in German because I was fascinated with German culture, and knew that when you studied a language it was the key that unlocked the door to understanding the people.
Shortly after graduation in 1977, I joined the Army and was stationed in the then-Federal Republic of Germany. I had traveled to Germany four times before, including to Munich during the Olympics, and a summer course at the Goethe Institute. I even traveled to East Berlin and crossed the border every 24 hours for four days to visit my father's old nanny's husband. None of those trips prepared me for living there for three years as what amounted to an occupying force. I worked on a Hawk missile site outside of Friedberg (home of Elvis Presley's old unit) and my battery was located on Schloss Kasern in Butzbach. My battalion was in Hanau and my group was in Darmstadt. I lived there for three years and my two daughters were born in Frankfurt.
Many years later, I traveled back to Berlin with my parents and my daughters. We visited the apartment building where my father lived as a child, and the Kaufhaus des Westen, which had been owned by his cousins, the Grunfeld family. We had wonderful meals, visited the beautiful Sanssouci, marveled at the various museums and went to three operas so we could experience each opera house.
After leaving active duty, I remained in the Reserve, and am currently a colonel in command of a brigade located in Vallejo, Calif.
My experience at Whitman meant that I could always find a friend in beautiful, old leather-bound books filled with old German verse. I will always be grateful for the love of literature and language conveyed by the German professors at Whitman.
Ann Brinson '75
Ich wohnte ein Jahr in München in 1973 und studierte auf der Universität. Es is schon lange her, aber trotzdem erinnere ich mich an etwas, obwohl ich nur einmal zurück gegangen bin. Ich hatte zwei Austauchstudenten im Jahre 2000. Zur Zeit wohne ich in Costa Rica.
It is easier in English:
It had been a dream of mine after returning from the year in Germany to be able to live in a warm climate in a beach village and to learn another language. Somehow, my German stuck in my head for many years and I have used it a bit here. Now I am in the throes of learning Spanish, so the German has moved to the back of my brain and these days I fight to speak it, but I need to since there are people who enter my office and do not speak Spanish or English. Because I have learned one language already it may have been easier to pick up Spanish.
I got married in 1981, had a daughter (now 20 at CWU) and moved to Costa Rica almost a year ago. I had worked in the mortgage industry for some years, but there is no such animal here so I am a broker for RE/MAX Coastal Property in a little village of maybe 2000 with many Germans, Italians, some people from the U.S., Canada and other countries. I am really glad I put the effort I did into learning German. Upon my return from Germany I was told by one of the esteemed professors that I was one of the most fluent students to return from a year abroad but also one of the least literate! I had spent that year learning the language with the idea that the books would still be there after I returned home. Not sure that philosophy was received well at Whitman. People are welcome to contact me, the firstname.lastname@example.org is the best address for that.
Gretchen Beilstein Ramey '75
I was taking classes from Herr Santler coming up on 35 years ago. He was one of my very favorite people at Whitman. I have a story to share about him. When I arrived on campus for the first time, age 16 and a thousand miles from home, there was a picnic lunch scheduled for the freshman students to meet their faculty advisers. All around the lawn in front of Prentiss were groups of students surrounding individual professors. And there was Herr Santler, all alone. I walked up and introduced myself, Gretchen Beilstein. He said, "Hmm, Beilstein, Beilstein - there was a student here, I think she graduated in perhaps '44 - she married a man named Beilstein. Any relation?" Well, of course it was my parents, and I was enchanted. He then said, "Are you looking forward to sitting on the ground and eating lunch out of a paper sack, or may I take you to lunch?" So we went to lunch at a restaurant downtown and discussed whatever advisers were supposed to discuss with their advisees.
And yes, I still use my German fairly frequently. In fact, my younger daughter and I are going to Germany this summer, just to drive around and improve our language skills. I practice at home mostly by reading children's books (my favorites are "Pu der Baer" and "Der kleine Lord," a translation of "Little Lord Fauntleroy"). In the choirs I sing in, I'm the person who gets to teach the singers how to pronounce German texts.
Advice for current students? Adjective endings are less vital than you might think.
What else do I do with my life? I accompany two children's choirs, I do the other half of a court reporter's job (editing transcripts on the computer), and I teach wood shop to middle school students. What could be more fun?
Jean Elwood Hamilton '71
I'd forgotten that I was once a German major, before I left school to be married. I eventually earned a B.A. in Liberal Studies from California State University at Hayward, and then an elementary teaching certificate from Western Washington University here in Bellingham, Wash. I have always enjoyed my background in German. When our choir at First Presbyterian sang a German cantata one Christmas I was the soloist, while everyone else complained that they didn't understand it and couldn't pronounce it.
When our daughter was in German class at Sehome High School, she went on a Summer trip to Munich. We tagged along, of course, and my German got a good workout as the translator-in-chief for Kris and our son, although most people gave up and spoke English with us. My shining moment, however, was as part of Structural Engineer's conference in Madrid a few years back. The engineer's spouses had our own special tours of Toledo, El Escorial and other lovely sites. Most of them were Germans and the tour guides, of course, were Spanish. Since I know both languages, my services were in high demand. It turns out that when we say, "It's Greek to me," the Germans say, "It's Spanish to me."
Learning German has been a long tradition in our family. My parents met each other in a German language class at WSU. Kris and I both studied it in school. Our daughter Ellen Hamilton Schwede '00 married a German-speaking math major (Karl Schwede '99) and our son Andrew studied German in high school. Although we don't have occasion to use it a lot, I would say it has enriched all our lives.
Thank you for the work you are doing on the German newsletter and webpage. It will be interesting to see what friends from my distant past have done with their language studies.
Nancy Arnold Weinstein '67
Eine tolle Idee! Deutsch habe ich von Professor Santler 1963-64 und von Professor Toews 1964-65 studiert. Dann habe ich mich entschieden, mich dem Studium slawischer Sprachen zu widmen und bin zur Universität Washington übergangen, wovon ich ein B.A. Diplom in Russisch 1967 und Magister in Bibliothekwissenschaft 1971 bekommen habe.
Meine russischen und tschechischen Sprachkenntnisse habe ich im Beruf wenig benützt, Deutsch aber schon, indem ich von 1978 bis 1985 in Deutschland gewohnt habe erst als Soldat, danach als Bibliothekarin für die amerikanishcen Streitkräften in Europa.
Marilee Hansen '61 (German major)
I came to Whitman not knowing what I was going to major in. My older brother, who had majored in pre-med at Whitman, recommended that I take German because he really loved the professor, Herr Santler. I had Herr Santler for German from 1957 to 1959. He encouraged me to go to Vienna to study my junior year, which was not at all common in those days, on a program called Institute of European Studies (IES). At the time there was a registrar who would not accept credits from schooling abroad but Herr Santler said if I went, he thought that would change when I returned. What he was thinking was that she would retire. I went to Vienna for the 1959-60 school year and it was and remains the best year of my life. There were 100 college students from all over America in the program.
When I returned, Whitman still wouldn't accept my credits (the registrar didn't retire) so I finished my German major at the University of Washington where they gave me full credit. I understand that later foreign language majors were required to study abroad so I feel like a pioneer of sorts. After graduation, I worked for the airlines for a year and then started teaching after I got married. I taught German at Issaquah (1963-70) and Snohomish (1970-1978) and then became a high school administrator.
I finished my career as principal of Bremerton High School where I joined the Rotary and became chair of the Youth Exchange Committee for six years. Just before coming to Bremerton, I married for the second time. My husband was a man who had been on the IES program in Vienna but came from North Dakota. In 1960, you didn't fly back and forth between Washington and North Dakota at will. We had both married and had families but ended up together 27 years later.
The two of us have hosted nine foreign exchange students from the Rotary program, three of whom were from Germany and one from the German-speaking part of Switzerland. We have traveled many times to visit them and their families just as they and their families have traveled to visit us. None of them wants to speak German with us anymore - everyone under 50 in Germany speaks English.
Several of my former students majored in German and several have become German teachers. I think any language is good to study but I would probably recommend Spanish, Chinese or Russian today rather than German. But I still love the German language.
As you see, my two years studying German under Herr Santler at Whitman had a big impact on my life. Without it I would have lived a whole different life!
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