Brooklyn currently studies German at Austin Peay State University (Clarksville, TN) in hopes of becoming a teacher. From her very first trip abroad, her life has been transformed. Especially after her experience in Germany, she now serves both as an advocate for international friendships and for disabled people who may want to go abroad, as a wheelchair user herself. Her biggest hope for the future is that she can continue to spread her appreciation for the German culture and inspire others while doing so. She recently won our photo contest and with it, a round trip flight to Germany.
Our DAAD network is a vast and global net of connections between DAAD and its award winners, ambassadors, alumni, grant holders, future applicants - all united by their love for study and research abroad and all things German.
We asked Brooklyn a few questions about her experiences:
- What sparked your interest in the German?
I’ve been interested in German for as long as I can remember, really. From a young age I’d always wanted to be bilingual and German was the most interesting to me, but it wasn’t until I was sixteen and got involved with exchange students at my high school that I really took learning German seriously and started thinking of it as a career path.
- You won the first prize - a round trip airfare to Germany - in this year's DAAD contest. Where did you decide to travel in Germany and why?
This year I’ve gone to both Nuremberg and Paderborn. One of the exchange students with whom I went to school and who taught me German in the very beginning of my journey became my best friend throughout her year. I am now [editor's note: at the time of the interview] in Nuremberg, visiting her and trying my best to improve my language skills. I also had my own short exchange in Germany at seventeen and have traveled to Paderborn to see one of my host families.
- What was the most challenging experience you have ever had in pursuing research abroad?
I am a disabled student, and I use a wheelchair to get around most places. The hardest thing for me was trying to adjust not just physically to other countries, but also to the attitudes of people around me.
- What was the most 'German' experience you have had back in the United States?
Every year, people in my town get together and host a small Christmas market with local vendors and traditional German treats. Even before going to Germany, I've appreciated and looked forward to this small part of the culture each year.
- What advice would you give to students who are thinking of choosing your field of study?
I'm in my first year of studying German as a second language and professional education in hopes of becoming a teacher. If I had to give anyone in the same field a piece of advice, I'd say to never lose their compassion and excitement they have for their subject. If you told me a few years ago that I would be studying to become a teacher, I would have said you were crazy. Sometimes I do doubt myself, but in those moments, I think back to the reason I decided to choose this path - so that I'm able to share my love for the language and culture to future generations, and I feel reassured in my efforts.
- What advice would you give to North American students and researchers who are thinking of studying abroad in Germany?
Honestly, just go for it. Before I studied abroad in Germany, I was worried about almost everything - the language, adapting to the culture, thinking I would be too far away for too long... after my experiences I've realized that I would have never been completely ready or reassured, but the fact that I jumped for it anyway has changed my life in nearly every aspect.
- Which pictures, plants or unusual objects are there on your desk?
As of right now, there is an abundance of boarding passes, baggage tags, and some unused meal vouchers in my desk, along with some receipts from a few too many trips to the bakery while I was in Germany, and a stash of photos and scrapbooking supplies that I've accumulated through the past year, but have procrastinated on doing anything with.
- Can you cook a German dish without a recipe? If so, which one?
I recently learned how to make Maultaschen, which was really fun since it's one of, if not my favorite German dish. I could make it without a recipe, but I definitely need to work on improving my homemade dough techniques!
- Who has inspired you the most in your career and studies and why?
The person who inspires me most in my career path would definitely have to be my 8th grade reading teacher. She taught me the curriculum, but she also taught me some of the most important life lessons I'll ever need to know, and with it, she showed me that teachers really do have the ability to touch lives of their students, and how important that can be in their lives. I don't think I would have even considered the education field without having that influence from her.
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