Saturday, November 26, 2016

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Grant Christian Headed to Germany, Excited about Learning More German

Dear Friends at Saint John's,

Recently I took the Defense Language Aptitude Battery test, which is essentially a test to determine your aptitude for learning new languages. I scored slightly above the average of the soldiers at the Defense Language Institute, which is where the military sends soldiers (a very, very small proportion of all soldiers) to learn new languages. Needless to say I am thrilled about this, because it means there is a very real possibility that I could be sent to the language school to learn a new language as part of my job. How cool is that?? Now if that doesn’t underscore the true value of a liberal arts education I don’t know what does.

German Major Jessica Raboin Offers Current Students Internships in Germany-- Applications due October 31.

Jessica Raboin

Jessica Raboin

Name: Jessica Raboin
Year of Graduation: 2015
Major: Sociology
Minor: German Studies

 Link: Jessica Raboin Webpage

Dear CSB/SJU students!

After my high school exchange year in Germany, I had my eyes set on returning with the goal of working abroad after college graduation. During my time at CSB/SJU, I spent every summer in Germany—teaching English, volunteering, taking language classes, and ultimately, arranging and completing an independent internship at the German Federal Employment Agency. ( I had a truly transformative internship experience that solidified not only my chosen field and goal to work abroad after graduation, but also finished the internship equipped with advanced linguistic and field knowledge.

After graduating from Saint Ben’s with a degree in sociology and minor in German Studies, I spent a summer learning Turkish in Ankara with the Critical Language Scholarship. Instead of returning with the group to the U.S. at the end of the program, I got off the plane during our layover in Munich. I first taught English in Austria, but within two months, had received two job offers—one from the agency I had interned at, and one from a university. I’ve been working at the University of Augsburg as an International Scholars Advisor for a year now.  I am so happy that I put in the extra time, money, and effort during college to prepare myself for getting off that plane in Munich after graduation. I took a huge risk, and it has had huge personal and professional returns!

I want more CSB/SJU students to benefit from a similar, career-driven internship experience and also wanted to give back to the CSB/SJU community. Therefore, I worked with the Office for Education Abroad to offer summer internships in Germany that I coordinate here in Augsburg. Students must have at least four semesters of coursework completed in their major and be interested in doing an internship directly related to their field of study. This program is for the adventurous, career-driven student looking for a tailor-made internship experience here in Germany. There is still time to apply until October 31, 2016! If students have any questions about the internship program, please have them contact Annika Turner in the OEA.

Current Position/Name of Organization:
Visiting Scholars Advisor/Welcome Service for International Visiting Scholars, University of Augsburg, Germany

Please give a brief description of your position and what it involves.
I advise international visiting scholars about everything having to do with completing a research stay here in Augsburg, whether that be for a month or a couple of years. I coordinate the housing search and maintain and create relationships with landlords; plan and run events and excursions for the scholars and their families; create informational material in German and English; and manage the program statistics and evaluation.

What path did you follow to arrive at your current position?
I knew very early on into my college career that I wanted to work abroad, so I took the appropriate steps towards that goal: I arranged my own internship abroad; minored in German; and got acquainted with job application procedures, requirements, and standards in Germany in my field of interest. After I graduated, I took the leap and moved to Europe, without having any secure job prospects. I received two job offers within about a month of arriving - one from the agency where I had previously interned, and one from my current position in Augsburg.

What advice/suggestions would you have for students interested in working abroad?
Preparation is key. I spent my college years preparing for working abroad in Germany. It was (still is!) my dream and I didn't let any naysayers or doubters change my positive thinking or my long-shot plans.

However, I positioned myself well by:

Creating career-oriented experiences abroad: I absolutely suggest that students go abroad to the countries they want to possibly work in, and go with a purpose. A traditional study abroad semester just does not cut it anymore. Arrange your own internship with a company you would like to work for; conduct informational interviews while abroad; job shadow; go to networking events and conferences while abroad. Make your study abroad career-oriented, not tourism-oriented.

Mastering the language: Get your language skills on an amazing level. Even though my German is decent, I still take German classes, study vocabulary, and make mistakes. It is really cool if you can speak multiple languages, but if you cannot speak one at a professional level, the other languages won't do you any good.

What skills are most important?

First and foremost, flexibility and adaptability are crucial. Having patience and learning how to live with the unknowns are essential, because there are days when living and working abroad are simply challenging. As far as "hard" skills, I would say that computer and office skills (including computer programs in foreign languages!) are the most important. A bit of critical thinking suave and cultural/regional knowledge, including knowing the local dialect(s) doesn't hurt either.

Additionally, I believe that the Benedictine Values of listening, moderation, and stability are especially important for cultivating a holistic global life.

What are the most satisfying and rewarding parts of your position?
I really enjoy helping new scholars get adjusted to Germany. When I arrived in Germany for my high school exchange year, I didn't speak a lick of German. Everything was a challenge, every day a new adventure into the unknown. In my current position, I get to help scholars from around the world get situated and settled in Germany, oftentimes starting before they arrive. I also love that I can use much of what I learned from my coursework, student employment positions, and internships - it all comes together seamlessly in my job. Lastly, I get to work in my chosen field, abroad; ride my bike to work; and speak German every day. What's not to love?

What activities/experiences at CSB/SJU (and elsewhere) were helpful in preparing you for this position?
I knew I wanted to work in international higher education, so I used student employment positions to gain experience in education abroad, career services, residential life, etc. I also did internships, for example for the Minnesota Workforce Center. Together, these positions helped me make a mean college-graduate resume for higher education and played an important part in landing my current position. These positions were in hindsight immensely helpful with the college-to-career transition because of the various skills, time management practice, and professionalism I learned from my CSB/SJU supervisors. I do not think that the smooth transition into my job abroad - which has started my career - would've been possible without my on-campus work experiences.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Fulbright Associate from Austria Has Arrived!

Mein Name ist Ralph Kristl und ich komme aus dem wunderschönen Herzen Europas inmitten der Alpen- aus Österreich (Austria). Vor einem Jahr habe ich meinen Master in Teacher Education für höhere Schulen in Österreich abgeschlossen, wobei Lehrer in unserem Land üblicherweise zwei Fächer unterrichten- ich habe die beiden Fächer Englisch als Fremdsprache und Geographie/ Wirtschaft studiert. Unmittelbar nach meinem Studium absolvierte ich mit großer Freude mein vorgeschriebenes Praktikumsjahr an einem Gymnasium in Graz. Mindestens so sehr freue ich mich auf meine Tätigkeit als Tutor an der St. John’s University hier in Minnesota, wo ich vor allem Herrn Fr. Mark Thamert als Deutschassistent zur Seite stehen, das eine oder andere Mal aber auch in anderen Klassen assistieren werde.

Ich liebe es zu reisen, neue Leute kennen zu lernen und unterschiedlichste Erfahrungen zu sammeln. Während meines Studiums verbrachte ich ein Semester in Tennessee und profitierte nicht nur akademisch, sondern auch persönlich enorm davon. Schon damals fasste ich den Entschluss, nach meinem Studium als Fulbright Language Teaching Assistant nach Amerika zurückzukehren und meine Fähigkeiten als Lehrer und nicht zuletzt meinen Horizont zu erweitern. Fremde Bildungssysteme, vor allem Unterricht an einer Hochschule bringt viele neue Inputs mit sich und ist eine enorme Bereicherung für jeden Lehrer. Natürlich bin ich nicht nur gespannt auf die vielen neuen Eindrücke und Erfahrungen, sondern auch darauf, meine eigenen Erfahrungen aus dem Studium und meinem Jahr als Lehrer hier umzusetzen. Somit freue ich mich sehr auf das kommende Jahr und auf eine tolle Zusammenarbeit an der SJU/CSB.

Note:  Ralph will help arrange great German Club activities, do conversation groups and individual tutoring and will assist in teaching German classes.  Welcome Ralph! 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Rebecca Bilbro Enjoys Great Adventures in Teaching High School German

I graduated from St. Ben’s in May 2015 with a major in German and a minor in secondary education. Thanks to the great German program at CSB/SJU, I was hired as a part-time teacher at Prior Lake High School shortly after graduation. This year, I was hired as a full-time teacher at Faribault High School. Less than a week after being hired, I was invited to go to Würzburg with the school’s exchange program. We went on excursions to places like Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Munich, and Vienna. I even got to go zip lining in the Swiss Alps!

Grant Christian Heads to Germany for Three-Year Stay

In March 2017 I will travel over to Germany for the 4th time in my life. Only this time, to stay. Vilseck, Germany will be my home for the next 3 years. I will be stationed there in the US Army as a Military Intelligence Officer. I plan on living in an apartment in the town and assimilating into the culture so that I can truly perfect my German skills. Because of my passion for the language and affinity for the culture I requested to be stationed there, and I was blessed with an opportunity to fulfill my dreams of living in Germany. My skills that I have learned studying abroad, and completing a German major will help me immensely as I embrace the culture and my new home. 

Note to Grant: Congratulations on this great opportunity!  Keep us posted on how you are doing, ok? 

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Senior Ben Kollaja writes about his spring semester in Eichstätt, Bavaria

Dear Fellow Students at CSB/SJU,

I arrived in Eichstätt on Sunday, March 16th, 2014. My “tutor,” who was more like an assigned buddy to help me in my orientation process, picked me up from the train station and drove me to my apartment. The next morning I walked to the university to take a placement test for the three-week intensive language course which all international students take before the semester begins. The course started that same afternoon. After three weeks in the intensive language course I already felt that my German verbal fluency had more than doubled. The first week in Eichstätt there were events every evening for all 50-some international students to get to know each other, which allowed me to make friends quickly. I registered for courses one or two weeks before the start of the semester, which the academic advisors there helped me with. At KU Eichstätt, it is possible to take courses tailored towards international students, including courses taught in English (which I do not recommend), as well as the courses that native speakers take. I personally took only one course for international students, and three courses where I was the only international student in the class in order to challenge myself. German was the language of instruction in all the courses I selected, including a Czech class I audited for fun (a semester abroad is a great time to learn a third language)! A couple of the courses I signed up for were not recommended to me by the academic advisors and turned out to be a bit over my head. Thus, for most students, I would recommend you discuss every course you plan on registering for with the academic advising office. It also helps to talk to other international students and see which courses they are taking. Of course, if you really want to challenge yourself, any course offered at the university is available to you.

Because most courses at KU meet only once per week, most students spend much less time in class and much more time in the library studying. Overall, I would expect most Johnnies and Bennies will have much more free time in their semester in Eichstätt than they do in a normal semester. So that begs the question: what to do with all that free time? German universities do not have competitive athletic programs like American universities. However, KU Eichstätt offers intramural sport programs which meet once a week, and the selection of sports is large. I attended a Muay Thai course and played Ultimate Frisbee regularly, which I really enjoyed. Additionally, each major within the university has its own soccer team which competes for a cup in the spring/summer semester. The ERASMUS program (an exchange program for European students) also fields a team, and all international students are welcome to play on it. This is a good option for more competitively minded people, and the games are taken seriously. I made friends with international students from all over the world playing on the team. And if you like to run or lift weights, Eichstätt has a small weight room and beautiful running trails. The town is located in a valley, and the running trails encircle the valley and give you a wonderful view of the town below. If sports aren’t your thing, another option is to get involved in music or theater. KU has an orchestra, band, choir, and a theater department which are considered extracurricular activities. Having played in an orchestra all through high school, I decided to pick up the violin again and join the orchestra in Eichstätt for a semester. This was another great opportunity to meet locals and practice my German, all while getting to play beautiful music (Dvořák, Max Bruch, etc.).

In addition to offering athletic and artistic opportunities for students, the university does a great job of providing international students with events and travel opportunities to attend. Throughout the semester, there were four day-trips and one overnight excursion offered, and all of the day-trips were free of charge for international students. I attended all four of the free excursions, which included Regensburg (my favorite city in Germany), Rothenburg ob der Tauber, the Chiemsee, and Salzburg. These excursions were a great opportunity to travel within Bavaria and Austria at little to no cost, and I recommend all of them. I also recommend traveling on your own during the semester and/or doing pre or post-travel. I took two weekend trips to Munich with friends during the semester, one of which was for Frühlingsfest, essentially a smaller Oktoberfest that takes place in April. I also took a weekend trip to Prague with some other American students, and we found a cheap apartment to stay in on AirBnB. After the conclusion of the semester, I post-travelled with my sister and cousin in the Czech Republic, Austria and Croatia. If you plan on doing such a trip, I recommend traveling by train or inter-city (IC) bus because it is a great way to get to see the countryside. We traveled using Eurail passes, which allow you to travel to multiple countries within a 30-day period. These passes are not cheap, but for the amount of travel you can do with them they are a good bargain.

Things to consider if you are trying to decide between Eichtstätt and Salzburg:
Eichstätt will provide you with a better opportunity to immerse yourself in the German language and really improve your speaking fluency. That being said, it will also be more challenging as all of your courses will be instructed in German.
Eichstätt allows you more flexibility in choosing courses because you can take any course offered at the university, compared to Salzburg where your courses are mostly selected for you. This is a double-edged sword though, because in Salzburg you can be assured that all of your courses will count for CSBSJU credits and fulfill common curriculum and German requirements. In Eichstätt, it will be up to YOU to try to get courses approved for common curriculum or German credits. Additionally, most courses will count as three credits, not the usual four.
In Eichstätt you will have to be much more independent than in Salzburg. Eichstätt does not have a faculty program director who travels along, and the group size is usually one or two people. Thus you will have to branch out and learn to live on your own. This is an exciting opportunity for some and daunting for others. I felt that studying abroad in Eichstätt was a great experience for my personal development, and it helped me to become more extroverted.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Josh Wittrock Checking In from New Home in Berlin

It has been a very long time, and I thought I would check in to see how you are doing. How have you been the last 11 years? What have you been up to?

As for me, things are great. After graduation from Saint John's, I moved to Germany to bum around a few years at German Universities (Göttingen and Bamberg). It gave me the chance to take some very interesting courses from Cultural Anthology, History, Philosophy, and German. I jumped back to the US to do my Masters in Industrial Organizational Psychology and then ended up working at a small start up for Leadership Development out of Bamberg. It was a great job that brought me into contact with incredible people and allowed me more travel than I ever dreamed. Six months ago I quit my job at the start up to move to a freelance role. Along with that, I made the decision to move to Berlin. Thus far I am really loving it.

Are you planning on coming over to Germany any time soon? It would be nice to see you again. You are always welcome at my home for a visit.

I look forward to hear from you soon.

I wish you all my very best,


Joshua Wittrock
Mobile: +49 172 6886 042
234 Kurfürstendamm
10719, Berlin