Award Recipients 2011

Three students earn scholarship to study in Germany

Gwyneth Van Son pictured amongst the beautiful German landscape.

by Michelle Simmons
October 12, 2011

Gwyneth Van Son ’13, one of three Dickinsonians to earn a DAAD scholarship to study in Germany this academic year, spent her first month in Freiburg. She and fellow award recipient Faith Andrews ’13 are at the University of Bremen; Hillary Rosen ’13 will join them in the spring.

Conventional wisdom has it that a person doesn’t really know a new language or culture until she begins dreaming in that language. For Faith Andrews ’13, who is studying in Germany this academic year, it appears she’s well on her way.

“I’m shocked at how hard it is to think and write in English after just two and half weeks of only hearing, speaking and thinking in German,” she notes. “I’m often at a loss for the English meaning when translating German texts or just writing simple e-mails home.”

Last May, Andrews, along with Gwyneth Van Son ’13 and Hillary Rosen ’13, garnered a scholarship from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) to study at the University of Bremen this year. The three students also earned Dickinson the top spot in 2011 among colleges and universities in the U.S. and Canada to receive the award.

Dickinson’s advantage

Similar to the U.S. Fulbright program, the DAAD is a German national agency that offers fellowships to undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and researchers to study or conduct research in Germany.

“Over the years we have often had applicants from Dickinson College that did quite well in the undergraduate competition,” says Brid Schenkl, program officer at DAAD New York. In 2010, two Dickinson students garnered the scholarship, which includes a generous monthly stipend, and three graduating German majors earned a Fulbright award to teach in Germany.

“Dickinson is known for its emphasis on languages,” says Assistant Professor of German Kamaal Haque, explaining the college’s advantage. “We’re also more competitive because we have an established program at the University of Bremen, and we encourage interdisciplinarity.”

In addition to her double major in German and economics, Andrews believes that “my long-standing interest in and connection with the German language and culture and my plans to work in Germany” gave her an edge in the application process. “Germany is an ideal country for me to realize not only my academic interests, but also my personal interest in environmental issues.”
At the Dickinson program in Bremen, she’ll be able to tap into some exceptional learning opportunities, which recently included a group excursion led by program coordinators through Weimar and Dresden and a visit to the German Environmental Ministry, where students gained insights into the country’s renewable-energy strategy.

Gaining fluency

Andrews and Van Son spent the first month of their yearlong program in intensive language courses—Andrews in Heidelberg and Van Son in Freiburg. 

“I am living with a host family and meeting students from all over the world who are also studying German,” explains Andrews. “It’s been amazing to connect with these people, speak in a language foreign to all of us and learn about our cultural differences on everything from health insurance to poverty to gender roles. I’m being exposed to more than just German language and culture; I’m gaining multicultural insight that I had not anticipated.”

Van Son is living with Verena Mertz, who was a German teaching assistant at Dickinson last year. “I can speak German at home and truly live like a German university student,” says Van Son, who spent part of her childhood in Vienna, Austria.

The double major in German and theatre also plans to blend her two academic interests. “German history is littered with great playwrights, actors, musicians, singers and film directors,” she says. “Last spring at Dickinson, we put on Caucasian Chalk Circle, by Bertolt Brecht. I would love to read such works in their original language and maybe be in a German-speaking production.”

Firsthand experience

In late October, they’ll attend the DAAD’s annual conference in Bonn, which brings together scholarship recipients from across the globe. Rosen, a German and economics double major, will join Van Son and Andrews at Bremen in the spring. Meanwhile, she’s translating a paper by Austrian economist F.A. Hayek for an independent study with Andrew Farrant, assistant professor of economics.

“This document has never been translated into English before, and I’m getting firsthand experience in translating documents while learning about the Austrian school of thought,” she says. “I’m thoroughly enjoying the overlap of German and economics, and it makes me very excited to have the opportunity to experience this even more in Germany.”