March 11, 2013
More than a dozen exchange students from Germany spent a day at Knox College, learning about its history, strolling around the campus, and chatting with Knox students -- often in German.
The exchange students attend high school in Wildeshausen, Germany, which is southwest of Hamburg. Through the German American Partnership Program, they are staying in Galesburg, Illinois, for three-and-a-half weeks. Their Knox visit on March 7 was a cooperative project organized by Knox College Assistant Professor of German Todd Heidt and Galesburg High School German teacher Eric Spindler.
While on campus, the students from Germany heard Owen Muelder, director of the Underground Railroad Freedom Station at Knox College, speak about Knox and Galesburg's abolitionist roots and the College's connection to Abraham Lincoln. (Photo above: Owen Muelder talks with exchange students from Germany.)
"They also had a campus tour and the opportunity to see and learn about studying at a small liberal arts college -- a type of university education which simply does not exist in Germany," Heidt said.
The visiting students joined Knox students and faculty for German Table, a weekly, informal lunchtime gathering where everyone speaks in German. The exchange students also attended Heidt's Advanced German Composition and Conversation class, conversing with Knox students (photo at right) about contemporary German culture.
Florian Bartsch, one of the German students, chatted at lunch with Knox senior Lena Brandis, who was born in Germany and grew up in Lombard, Illinois, speaking German and English.
"I think it's a great college with a lot of history," Bartsch said of Knox.
"Their English is really impressive," Brandis said of the German students. "It's fun to speak to them and share stories and find similarities. German and Germany hold a special place in my heart."
Knox sophomore Yibin Zhang, who is from Rockford, Illinois, and German student Marlon Tollner also got acquainted at German Table. Zhang is taking a German class, and he said he found it helpful to "engage in dialogue" with a native German speaker. (Photo below right: Marlon Tollner, in dark shirt, talks with Yibin Zhang.)
Heidt said such interactions are important for Knox students.
Many of the Knox students who attended German Table and spoke with the visiting students "are just starting their German studies at Knox, and they had the opportunity to really use the language," he said. "I was so proud to see students who have only had two terms of German at Knox converse with native speakers over a meal."
"These students saw first-hand that they can really use this language, and that German isn't just tethered to the classroom," he added. "I hope it built their confidence and expanded their understanding of what it means to learn a language -- and what impact that can have on their lives."