Kaitlin Young is a rising senior at the University of North Texas, majoring in German with minors in Linguistics and English. She is thrilled to interact with the DAAD this upcoming year and promote study abroad to other students as a DAAD Young Ambassador. Kaitlin plans to apply to teach English abroad, pursue graduate studies, and eventually teach German at the university level. In her free time, Kaitlin likes to bake, read, and fold paper airplanes that don’t go very far.
Our DAAD network is a vast and global net of connections between DAAD award winners, ambassadors, alumni, grant holders, future applicants – all united by their love for study and research abroad and all things German.
We asked Kaitlin a few questions about her work and experience:
1. What sparked your interest in the German language or Germany in general?
Some of my family had been stationed in Germany before, and I heard from them about the birthplace of fairy tales. This initial interest in Germany was the gateway to the language itself. I started taking German courses and heard a complexity of sounds in the language that I hadn’t encountered anywhere else. Learning about German’s relationship with English and other languages made me fall in love with the idea of language and, more specifically, German.
2. You entered the 2019 DAAD Photo Contest. How did you hear about the photo contest? Describe the background behind your submitted picture and why you chose it.
I heard about the DAAD photo contest from one of my professors, who suggested that I could use something from my abroad experience—turned out to be a good idea! The picture I submitted highlights the Berlin skyline at sunset. That night, I took part in a Jewish friend’s Shabbat dinner. For me, the photo reminds me of the beauty of learning to see things from a different perspective, which ties wonderfully to the theme of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
3. You won the first prize – a round-trip airfare to Germany – in the 2019 DAAD Photo Contest. Where did you decide to travel in Germany and why?
Ultimately, I decided to travel to Munich in December to visit the city’s world-famous Weihnachtsmärkte. Since then, I’ve gotten some great suggestions on palaces, museums, and food stops to visit, so I cannot wait!
4. You have been selected as a DAAD Young Ambassador for the academic year 2019/2020. Why do you want to be a Young Ambassador and what are some of your plans to promote Germany as a destination abroad to your fellow students?
Being a Young Ambassador is a fantastic opportunity to work with the study abroad office on campus and have a platform to encourage experiences abroad. I’m so ecstatic to launch ideas for it! I’d like to use this as an avenue to somehow highlight both differences and similarities between Germany and the US. I want students to see that there’s a learning curve, but also comfort in having Germany as their home away from home. In that way, I think I can appeal to people’s adventurous sides and homebody tendencies.
5. What was the most challenging experience you have ever had in pursuing opportunities abroad?
Other than the issue of financing a trip abroad, the biggest problem I’ve faced is an overactive mind that insists that something could go wrong. But carefully planning and then trusting that things will work out is a big (and possible!) step.
6. What advice would you give to students who are thinking of choosing your field of study?
Mentorship is everything. Find a teacher/advisor/human who has knowledge in academia and don’t ever be afraid to ask questions you might think are silly. Connect with a teacher who will not only encourage you but push you to apply for things you might not get and to research something you might not otherwise think twice about. You’ll realize that you can land that scholarship and you might end up loving that research area.
7. What advice would you give to North American students and researchers who are thinking of pursuing an academic opportunity in Germany?
Make sure that you can both financially and mentally afford it. There are all kinds of organizations willing to fund those kinds of opportunities (some of which also offer those opportunities) and I promise you won’t regret putting yourself out there to apply and have a change of pace in Germany.
8. Which pictures, plants, or unusual objects are there on your desk?
I’m actually in the process of moving apartments, so nothing is there currently. But normally I have a photo of my cohort from my internship program in Berlin, and some silly photo booth pictures with my best friend. I’m also planning on getting a moss ball soon, which requires no care at all—this way, I can have a plant/pet without worrying about feeding it when I get busy!
9. Can you cook a German dish without a recipe? If so, which one?
I am devastated to say that I cannot cook a German dish without a recipe. If anyone has some pointers, let me know! But I recently got hold of a very old German cookbook from 1866 which I’m excited to peruse, so maybe I’ll learn some of those by heart!
10. Who has inspired you the most in your career and studies and why?
I know I have to mention two women here. The first to inspire me would be my friend Hannah. She is a phenomenal person and fellow German major who puts her heart and soul into everything she does (and she does a lot). When something comes at her, she doesn’t get back up—that’s because she doesn’t let things push her down in the first place. If Hannah does all that she does with a smile, I can surely do a fraction of it.
The other is our professor, Dr. Carol Anne Costabile-Heming. I have never been pushed to reach further toward the sky than by her. She constantly reminds me and urges me to use a voice I tend to forget I have. She is an advocate for all who need one, and we need a lot more teachers like her, especially in today’s world.
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