International Relations and Modern Languages Double Major
by Anna Novikova ‘13
Anna Meier loves to take on a challenge. Case in point? Her study abroad experience, a total language immersion program, at Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany. Meier wasn't satisfied with just taking language classes; she also took courses in political science and sociology -- all taught in German by Humboldt University faculty.
Meier was dealing not only with a different language of instruction, but different styles of teaching than she was used to at Knox.
"In German universities, it's common for the professor to stand up and just talk, and not take any questions until the end," Meier said. "To have someone talk at you for two hours -- it's a lot."
In addition, while the academic term was the same length as at Knox -- 10 weeks -- she took five courses instead of three.
"At first, it was very difficult," Meier said. She was frustrated by how long it took her to complete assignments she would find trivial in English. However, she immediately recognized how it would benefit her German skills. As she adjusted to her professors, she found she could really enjoy her classes and their style of instruction.
"I learned a lot in my classes," Meier said. Learning the material from a new perspective "allowed me to develop a more holistic approach," she added.
With the help of her "Sprachpartnerin," a native speaker with whom she practiced, Meier improved her accent and picked up many of the small details that distinguish native speech.
"It was a great way to learn very quickly, to pick up how native speakers spoke, and to hear yourself speak," Meier said, adding that their activities together helped her "get out of the bubble of American students."
During her time in Berlin, Meier stayed with a German host family and learned about their lifestyle. For example, many Germans choose to forgo dishwashers and microwaves.
"Germans don't like waste, and they especially don't like ‘fast food' in any sense; rather, complex home-cooked meals every night are very common," Meier said.
She also learned about the concept of "frische Luft." German homes are not ventilated, so a window must be opened in order to air a room out. "This is fine when it's warm, but when it's cold..." Meier said.
Meier's time in Berlin also included an internship teaching English at an elementary school. The experience illustrated the difficulties of learning English as a second language.
"There are verb tenses in English that just don't exist in German, and that makes it very difficult," she said. "It was very illuminating to compare the two languages that way."
Living in a European capital gave Meier the opportunity to hear many foreign leaders speak, including the prime ministers of Ireland and Turkey. "In a big city, with all sorts of dignitaries coming through, [you get] to hear them yourself, with no translation difficulties or media bias," Meier said.
Meier has challenged herself with rigorous academic work at home on the Knox campus, as well. As a sophomore, she pursued independent research on connections between the notion of American exceptionalism and perceptions of violent actions perpetrated by and against America. As a junior, Meier undertook independent research again as a Ford Fellow. She studied the sociopsychological roots of terrorism.
Outside the classroom, Meier is an editor for The Knox Student, serves on the Honor Board, participates in Model United Nations, and is vice president of the Knox Democrats. She is also vice president of Pi Sigma Alpha, the political science honor society, and has been elected to Mortar Board.
Don't look for Meier to slow down after graduation. She is planning for graduate school and a career doing research related to public policy -- whether it's for an intelligence agency, the Department of Defense, a non-governmental organization, or the field of political risk consulting.