URI’s German Summer School immerses students in German language, culture

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Participants call it best preparation for travel abroad

KINGSTON, R.I. – July 22, 2013 – For 33 years, the University of Rhode Island’s annual German Summer School has provided students, travelers and the merely curious with six-weeks of complete immersion in the German language and culture. And every year the participants call it the best possible preparation for studying, working and traveling in Germany.

This year’s class runs through Aug. 2 and includes 41 students from around the country, mostly college students planning to study abroad in Germany. About a third of the participants are URI students.

According to the program’s director, Norbert Hedderich, participants are taught by native-speaking instructors from Germany and earn up to 9 undergraduate or 6 graduate credits for completion of the program. The academic instruction is supplemented by a wide variety of language- and culture-related activities, such as workshops, films, lectures, games and outings.

Katie Topp, a URI senior majoring in anthropology and German, enrolled in the program to get caught up on her German language skills in preparation for studying abroad this fall.

“There is something wonderful about living with your classmates, socializing, having meals and doing homework together all ‘auf Deutsch,’” she said. “I’ve learned more German in three weeks here than I did in a semester at school. And since we do everything in German, it’s easier to learn and a better environment for practice.”

Topp hopes to eventually live and work in Germany or Austria, and the German Summer School is giving her the confidence she will need to make that dream a reality.

“The one thing I’ve learned is that learning a language isn’t about flash cards, tests and repetitive homework assignments,” Topp said. “It’s more about practicing speaking, writing and reading. The more you do, the easier the language will come to you.”

Lukas Baumgartner agrees. A resident of Sparta, N.J., who will enroll as a freshman at URI in September, he is in his second year of attending the German Summer School. His father speaks German and encouraged his son to enroll so they can converse in German.

“I cannot put into words how much I enjoy this program, because it has helped improve my German by leaps and bounds,” Baumgartner said. “The program is so much better than any other regular German class because you’re surrounded by the language. You can take language classes for years but will never fully comprehend the finer nuances of the language without being put right in the middle of it like we are here and learn how to fight through the barriers.”

Baumgartner plans to major in German and chemical engineering at URI and spend a year studying in Germany.

“Speaking a second language is absolutely priceless, in my opinion,” he said. “It will help me infinitely in whatever I do.”

Topp and Baumgartner say that one of the best parts of the program is the people – both the teachers and their fellow students.

“Everyone here is so nice and accepting,” Baumgartner said. “You really get close to people living together like this. Everyone basically becomes a small extension of your family.”

To learn more about the program or apply for next year’s German Summer School, visit www.uri.edu/artsci/ml/german/sommerschule.html or contact Norbert Hedderich at 401-874-4710 or hedderich@uri.edu.

Pictured above:

The participants in the 2013 German Summer School at the University of Rhode Island. (Photo by Jana Backes)