November 03, 2011
by Stephen Danilovich '14
Knox College senior Erin McKinstry had an eye-opening experience last summer working as an intern in Berlin, Germany. Immersed in another language and way of life, she learned about working with people from different backgrounds.
A modern languages (Spanish and German) major from DeSoto, Missouri, McKinstry has two minors at Knox, one in dance and the other in international relations. She also is president of the Terpsichore Dance Collective, Knox's student-run dance troupe.
Her passion for languages and dance, as well as her enthusiasm for big cities, first attracted her to Berlin.
McKinstry (shown in the photo above at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin) worked as an intern for an organization called TanzScout, which offers workshops for people who are interested in the dance community and who want to gain a better understanding of the dance pieces they see.
"It was the first time I'd been out of the safe college world and the safe study abroad program," McKinstry said about her internship. "I had to find an apartment in a foreign city, find my internship, and find ways to get involved."
Using her understanding of the German language, a proficiency she picked up while at Knox and while studying abroad, McKinstry helped translate TanzScout's publicity material from German to English.
"I came to Knox never thinking I would take German," said McKinstry, who nevertheless enrolled in a course with Sonja Klocke, assistant professor in modern languages (German).
"Now, I find myself able to speak this concisely beautiful tongue with fluency. I owe most of this credit to Sonja Klocke, my first German professor. She made the learning process exciting and engaging and catalyzed my love for the German language and learning languages in general."
McKinstry's internship wasn't her first visit to Germany's capital. In the fall semester of her junior year, she went to Berlin as part of her study abroad program. She also studied in Barcelona, Spain, for a term (photo shows her at Mount Tibidabo) and visited Morocco during spring break.
Traveling to other countries has always been a part of McKinstry's Knox experience. As a first-year student, she took a trip to Mexico with a class taught by Tim Foster, associate professor of modern languages and literatures (Spanish).
"I got really excited about the culture there and (about) the language," she said.
Along with her knack for foreign languages, one of the most important things McKinstry picked up while studying and working abroad has been how to adapt to cultural differences. She plans to keep on traveling, exploring the world, and developing her language skills after she graduates from Knox.
"Traveling really teaches you something about working with people who are different," she said, "just because you realize that people think in such a different way and come from such a different perspective."