Megan Anderson is a senior at Northwestern University with a major in German and a minor in Chemistry. She studied and lived abroad in Munich, Germany for 11 months with the support of a DAAD Undergraduate Scholarship (2016-2017 scholarship holder). There, she conducted independent research and surpassed her German language goals. Now back at Northwestern, she works as a DAAD Young Ambassador to spread the word to fellow students about studying abroad in Germany and help them to find relevant DAAD funding opportunities to help them do so.
- What sparked your interest in German Studies, history, and politics?
I first visited Germany when I was 17, and it was there that it really struck me that while German used to be simply another language, it now opened up a whole new world to me. Learning more about Germany’s approaches to sustainability, education, and healthcare led me in many directions including more intense study of both German politics and history, especially contemporary history.
- What are you currently working on?
Right now, I’ve been doing a lot of post-grad planning and preparation. I’m really excited to share that I’ll be interning in the Bundestag this fall (as part of DAAD’s EMGIP program), and to prepare for that, I’ve been reading articles and watching a lot of German news to keep up with what’s happening over there. I also discovered a while back that I love teaching German, and I’m looking into getting my DaF-Qualifikation (qualification to teach German as a foreign language). Good things are in the works!
- What was the most challenging experience in studying and living abroad in Germany?
While in Germany, I undertook a research project focusing on the experiences of German citizens who lived in the GDR, including doctors, activists, and people who fled to western Germany, both during separation and after reunification. It involved a month of traveling alone to parts of Germany I’d never been to before and conducting long interviews in German with a lot of complicated content, both of which were pretty challenging for me.
- What was the most ‘German’ experience you have had while there?
I’m torn between two experiences – swimming in the Isar river on summer days, and celebrating the last day of class at the LMU with my German friends and professor in the Biergarten and endless pretzels and obatzda.
- What advice would you give to students who are thinking of choosing your field of study?
I think German is such a rich field of study – my interests within it vary from the “DDR-Zeiten,” to Goethe’s Faust, “Flüchtlingspolitik,” and German environmentalism. Especially today, I think that a thorough understanding of German politics, culture, and history is so relevant. If you have other interests as well, German is great because it pairs well with almost anything else (think economics, music, engineering) and makes you a competitive candidate for employment on an international level.
- What advice would you give to North American students who are thinking of studying abroad in Germany?
Your time abroad is exactly what you choose to make of it. I’d say to be fearless – this is a time of personal growth and an opportunity for you to meet wonderful new people and improve your German. Don’t be afraid to go somewhere where you don’t know anyone, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes with your German! I was nervous when I arrived in Germany, but I came away with a Goethe C1 Language Certificate and friends all over Europe, and I am so grateful for my experience.
- Which pictures, plants or unusual objects are there at your desk?
A copy of one of my favorite books, Bleak House by Charles Dickens, countless pictures of me and my dog, and my wristband from StuStaCulum, a music festival in Munich. On the top shelf, I also have a Steinkrug I brought back from Augustiner Bräu München and a cider mug from Christkindlmarket Chicago, kind of symbolizing my two homes.
- Can you cook a German dish without a recipe? If so, which one?
I can make some great Käsespaetzle without a recipe, but right now I’m working on perfecting my potato salad – I just can’t get it to taste like the potato salad back in Germany.
- Who has inspired you the most in your studies to date and why?My amazing German literature professor, Christel Rischer, who taught me during my study abroad program in Munich, has been a big driving force and inspiration for my studies, especially in conjunction with my research on the effects of German reunification. That research project was a huge undertaking, and Christel’s support and guidance throughout made it possible. She is so smart, has so much positive, contagious energy, and has been one of the most affirming and supportive mentors I have ever had. A lot of the work that she inspired me to pursue has been the work I’ve been most proud of.
GDR: former German Democratic Republic
DDR-Zeiten: The time of the GDR (DDR in German)
Käsespaetzle: A German pasta and cheese dish
Flüchtlingspolitik: Policy regarding refugees
Obatzda: A Bavarian cheese dip served with pretzels
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