Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Rainer Maria Rilke, the Future and the Past

Maxwell Peterson (student at Austin College):
"Verteilung, auch am Vertrautesten nicht ist uns gegeben."

The first line of the Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke's poem "To Hölderin" has always been profoundly significant to me. Loosely translated, it means that we are not permitted to linger, even with that which is most familiar, a concept that I have struggled to internalize for many years - the painful regret of the thoughtless and hurtful words I said that ended a friendship and the thought of what a beautiful relationship we could have had, the longing for a return to the togetherness of my family before my parents' divorce and the visible pain and anguish of my parents that came along with one of the most difficult decisions of their lives, the desire for a class load as easy as Freshman year, when I could party every single night and still round out a solid B+ average with not much work. Yes, dwelling on the past is something that is almost second nature to me, but it hasn't improved my life in the slightest.

This past Summer after my dad, brother, and I moved into our new house, leaving ten years of memories in our old home, I found myself yet again reminiscing for a time that would never return. For a few days, it felt as though an emptiness was constantly bearing down on me until I came across Rilke's poem again. This rereading of his poem that I had already known for years came at just the right time, allowing me to begin to leave the past in the past. So that very night, I drove downtown to get those eight words tattooed on the inside of my left arm.

On the drive back home, I went over those words like a mantra, repeating them over and over again in my head, all the while feeling the more difficult periods of my life settle down where they belonged - in the past. When I arrive back at my dad's apartment, I had to read the poem again before I went to bed, but was absolutely shocked when I read the first line.

"Verweilung, auch am Vertrautesten nicht ist uns gegeben."

The first "t" of my tattoo was supposed to be a "w."

I thought to myself, how could I be so foolish as to misquote one of my favorite poems? Anyone who can read German or knows Rilke is going to immediately think less of me. I'm going to have to cover this up when I study abroad next year. I need to get this fixed immediately.

After a few hours of thoroughly freaking out, it dawned on me that this mistake was one of the most beautiful that I had ever made. If there is a better way to internalize the quote, "We are not permitted to linger, even with that which is most familiar," than to mess it up in a tattoo, the most familiar of objects, I certainly can't think of it. Certainly, the past is important and we should respect and learn from it, but denying new breath, new love, new life, while focusing solely on lost breath, lost love, lost life is not a way that I want to spend my time.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Survival of the Heritage

Tanner Bierstedt (student at Austin College): "My main reason for learning the German language is to keep my rich heritage alive. I am tired of sitting on the sidelines of my elders conversations. I want to hear all the stories of the old country, of my ancestors, and the family secrets. Learning German is the only way i can obtain this knowledge and pass it on to my children and theirs in the language of their ancestors. When I raise my children I intend to make sure that they are fluent in both English and German. This will help them keep their horizons broad and the family heritage alive and well. Taking a German course will mean a lot more to me than just getting a credit, it will mean the survival of the Bierstedt heritage."

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Environmental Science and German

Cameron Kubacki (student at Austin College): 
Why I wanted to learn German and what I hope to do with it

"I have wanted to learn German ever since I was about thirteen years old. My mother lived in Germany when she was young and she would always tell me stories about her time there. Growing up my father would watch German foreign films (with subtitles of course!)  and that cemented my interest in German. I am fond of the way German words are spelled and spoken.  I took three levels of German in high school and that made me decide that I wanted to at least minor in German in college. My interest in the German language and German culture makes my struggle with learning the language extremely exciting and rewarding. In fact one of the reasons I wanted to come to Austin College was the study abroad program. I have never been to Germany but it is the first place I want to go to when I finally leave the country. After graduating college I would like to find someway to use both Environmental Science and German together, so that I can put two of my interests to good use."

German Free School

Cassandra Broeker (student at Austin College): "One of the most rewarding school experiences I had was Oktoberfest at the German Free School in Austin Texas, otherwise known as the German Texas Heritage Society. The German Free School is a place to hunt down antiques, eat German food, take language classes, or to just go and hang out and have conversations in German. I discovered it through my high school. Every year for Oktoberfest, the German students would get together, get in costume, and go perform traditional folk dances. It was a great time, and the School remains one of my favorite places in Austin."

Monday, October 1, 2012


Jessica Smith-Salzinger (Austin College Class of '07, Double Major in German & Political Science:
"I studied abroad my Junior Year in Munich and immediately fell in love. Sure, I met my husband that year, but the absolute first thing I fell in love with was the city. It didn’t take long to know that I had found the place I wanted to call home. And now, five years after officially moving here after getting my BA from AC, I still can’t help but fall back in love with the place I live. It doesn’t take much to take the city for granted. We all get stuck in the grind of work, but one of the reasons I love it here so much is the work – life balance that Munich offers. It is practically unheard of for most people to work more than 45 hours a week, giving everyone here time to enjoy the city and the people they love the most. Every day going to work, I ride my bike through the English Gardens, through the beautiful Schwabing area and over to Nymphenburg-Neuhausen. I still can’t believe how beautiful the buildings are that I pass regularly.

Englischer Gasten in Munich
But more than the beauty of the city, it is the Bayerische Gemütlichkeit that keeps me here. Everyone living in Bavaria has a kind of Southern charm, not unlike the States, but here is it really being comfortable. We all have our favorite local pubs, restaurants and cafes. Sometimes I feel like I’m in one of those 90s sitcoms, because my friends and I really do meet nearly every day at the same street walk pub after work, where we are friends with the owner and all of the other regulars. No matter where you go here, it feels like home. Munich is incredibly inviting, and its people are very warm. On the weekends we enjoy the Gemütlichkeit of the English Gardens, relaxing on a blanket and soaking up the atmosphere, or jump on the S-Bahn and go into the mountains for a hike.

I am incredibly grateful for my study abroad experience, and encourage everyone who has the opportunity to take advantage of it – not just a Jan-Term, but at least a semester! Getting to really know the lay of the land and the way of the people has completely changed my life, and truly feel more gemütlich in my own skin. I would never have become the person I am today, and don’t think I could ever found the kind of happiness I feel from living in a place where I feel like I honestly truly belong."

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Finding a Language

Christopher Stein (student at Austin College): "Ever since I can remember, everyone I've ever met until I attended college has asked whether or not I was German. Unfortunately I was not born in Germany. After talking with multiple relatives I found I do have some German ancestors.  After my freshman year of college, a friend from soccer, who speaks German pretty well, told me I should look into it. I had just finished up my language credits by taking Spanish. With a last name like Stein I felt the need to poke my head into the German language and take a look around. Despite having already finished my language credits, I took German just for fun. After the first semester I loved it and by my sophomore year I declared German as my minor. After two years of studying German I've come a long way. Unfortunately I haven't had a chance to travel to Germany but hopefully in the future I will be able to."

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Friends and Traditions

Brittney Son (student at Austin College): "Germany began to interest me after meeting several German foreign exchange students in high school.  They were all very open towards the different cultures in the United States , especially towards Mexican culture. I was able to explain to them in detail the various traditions Mexicans follow. In return they taught me about German culture, I instantly fell in love with it and wanted to experience some traditions first hand. I have gone to authentic German restaurants that are set up as large meat halls, and they offer a great atmosphere for families. It surprised me how people enjoy teaching and strengthening their German heritage. I mentioned to my German friends Merle and Lana that I wish to study in Germany for some time. They both became overjoyed with my comment. Merle gave me a long list on why I should visit her country. She also explained to me the amazing experience I would have. I am determined to learn German in order to visit Germany and maybe one day speak to my friends in their native tongue."