Author Archives: ethanhorvath

A German Student’s Perspective

11022881_871140402948029_137498649_nTo those of us born in the United States and have little or no international experience, it can sometimes be difficult to imagine the vast diversity and cultural differences present in the world outside of our own sphere of influences. This challenge also faces those who were born abroad, when they choose to pursue a study or work opportunity here in the U.S. To these international adventurers, our lives and cultural norms may seem completely new and foreign (literally and figuratively), from their own worldly views. During the fall of 2014, IU South Bend was fortunate to be called home by several international students who decided to leave behind their comfort zones and join us for their academic study. One such student was Alina Felder, who connected with us through a mutual exchange program with the Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt in Bavaria, Germany. Alina is pursuing her undergraduate degree in European Studies and was afforded the opportunity to study in the U.S. before returning to Europe to continue her education.

After sitting down with Alina for an interview, it became clear that she had a very different global view than many Americans I’ve met who have not had the chance to travel or study abroad. Alina reflected, “I do not usually judge people, I attempt to shy away from that. I did have some preconceptions of American life before I came, but in most instances they turned out to be wrong.” One major standout that Alina noticed was in the style of clothing worn by people of similar age groups in Germany as compared to here in the U.S. “In Germany,” she mentioned, “you never see young people wearing yoga pants or sweat pants in public unless they look like they are going to exercise. People, I feel, judge these persons because they are not properly clothed according to societal standards. In America, it is more relaxed. You frequently see young women wearing yoga pants and I do not believe that people judge them as harshly, if at all, as compared to Germany.” From my standpoint, it is difficult to imagine our society actively judging young women who wear these types of clothes in public as part of their casual dress. I often think about Alina’s words, and it is clear that yoga pants and sweats are really becoming staples for many men and women, both young and old. It is interesting to see this small difference through Alina’s eyes and realize we have just become accustomed to seeing such casual clothing without pausing to consider that they could cause controversy in another culture.11024836_871140416281361_1740623346_o

Alina also mentioned a difference in school routines between her own university in Germany and IU South Bend. In Germany, they are much more focused the final result of their learning in classes, as opposed to the gradual result that we employ in the U.S. Alina noted, “the class schedules are very different in the U.S. than in Germany.” The content and frequency of the homework in American institutions also shocked her. “I felt overwhelmed at times. In Germany, we do not have homework, we only have our final exams. It is difficult to complete all the readings and assignments during the semester, especially for someone who does not speak English naturally.” The rigorous classroom assignments and demands cut into her freedom to see more of what the U.S. had to offer outside of the academic halls. Alina is looking forward to wrapping up midterms and having more time to get out and experience American culture to the fullest.

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London/ Edinburgh Blog Post

As another chilly spring semester begins, we in the International Programs office are shaking off the winter blues by looking forward to the trips that will be offered to students this coming summer. In this blog, we will discuss the opportunity to visit London and Edinburgh. With both cities playing cohost to the Study Abroad trip, students will have the chance to explore the very essence of English culture, writing, and politics. As the capitol of England, London is a focal point of western culture and politics. Throughout history, London has had no equal in Europe, or globally, as a cultural and political powerhouse. Just walking down the streets of London one can’t help but notice the seamless meld of the old and historic with the new and cutting edge. Edinburgh is much the same, while largely overshadowed by London, the city is alive with new energy traversing centuries old cobblestone streets. As the capital of Scotland, Edinburgh enjoys its place as a dynamic international city. Just last year, the city of Edinburgh played an important role in the push for Scottish independence.

1The London/Edinburgh trip primarily focuses on the English language and political culture of these two iconic historical cities. Students will have two weeks to visit various classical sites such as the Shakespeare Theatre and Big Ben in London to Downing Street and the historical castles in Edinburgh. The goal of this trip will be for students to immerse themselves in the study of English and Scottish history, culture, and political systems. Students will then be able to demonstrate an enhanced ability to think critically in regard to English and Scottish thoughts and ideas.

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In addition to experiencing two of the most historically important and culturally significant cities in the Western hemisphere, there are many other benefits to this trip. IU South Bend student Sarah Smeltzer reflected on one of the personal benefits that this trip afforded her when she noted, “After my experience traveling abroad, I realized that I am a much more independent person than I thought I was.” Many students who wish to travel or study abroad while in college feel as though they will not be able to manage being away from home for a prolonged period, let alone out of the country. This testimony shows that through study abroad trips like this, students are given a safe opportunity to grow and can develop a new sense of independence as a result.

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Applications are available online and from the Office of International Programs. Any student desiring to participate in the program should contact trip leader Lee Kahan or Director of International Programs Dr. Lisa Zwicker.

Arzberg: South Bend’s Beautiful Sister City

Arzberg (2)When you look at the landscape of Arzberg, or even Southern Bavaria as a whole, you can see why the country is so filled with historical culture. The landscape of high grasses and forests on the hills make it seem unlike anything in the South Bend area. Just looking at pictures of this area really makes one contemplate moving there to live and retire.

In addition to the absolutely stunning country-side, the landscape is also dotted with medieval castles and towns with historical ties to the medieval-era. One such castle that is still standing is Berg Hohenburg. Used as a fortification along the Czech border, it sits atop a large hill and provides a breathtaking overlook onto the country side. The castle itself seems to be a standard fortification from the era. The Burg Hohenberg (2)stones that line the wall primarily consist of smooth river stones that were, in all likelihood, found in the stream adjacent to the castle.

The castle grounds are something straight from medieval stories and lore. With drawbridges, community gathering areas, and sprawling grassy knolls outside of the walls, this castle would have been absolutely stunning during its prime. That’s not to say that it is run-down or ugly in its current condition either. The castle has been remarkably preserved through the centuries. The main residential building, which lies next to the entrance to the grounds, is as large as many small hotels in the United States. Combined with the nature paths in back of the castle, an old bunker, and the community gathering area across another bridge within the castle, this lodging facility is as luxurious as hotels in America, but retains its medieval appeal.

Arzberg (5)The actual city of Arzberg is a gem also. The combination of buildings with historical facades and the cobblestone roads, along with the construction of modern windmills and paved roads, makes it easy to return to the past while staying connected with the modern-era.

Arzberg was primarily known for its fine porcelain products in decades past. This, however, is not the only thing to see and take away from Arzberg. Perhaps the Arzbergmost intriguing part of Arzberg is its citizens. When our group arrived, we were unsure what to expect. From the moment we stepped off of the train, though, we were immediately welcomed into the community. The only real way to describe their reception towards us is nostalgia. TheyArzberg (3) made us feel as though we always belonged there and had just returned home from a long trip. Immediately from the train, we went to Berg Hohenburg to unpack, and then went to meet Mayor Stefan Göcking. Once entering the city hall, we immediately realized how important the relationship between South Bend and Arzberg is. In the reception hall, we were greeted with a display case which houses the document of friendship between our two cities, along with other documents between South Bend and Arzberg.

Arzberg had so much more to offer than South Bend, even though it is not even one tenth its size. Where as South Bend offers quantity, Arzberg offers quality.  With such a deep culture and history, it is not surprising that I had such a wonderful experience and would go back in a heartbeat. It really gives you a sense of just where you are in the world and how much more there is to experience.