by Dr. Jacquelyn D. Elliott, Chief Enrollment Specialist, Marion Military Institute
Shortly after Thanksgiving 2016, a group of 14 educators met in Freiburg, Germany for a week-long international experience that was described by those on the trip as an “experience of a lifetime.” Participants represented study abroad, registration, international student advisors, and admission professionals, and came from all parts of the country, spanning from Hawaii to New York. Those joining the tour had not met one another, but by the end of the trip, considered their travel companions to be among some of their best and most cherished colleagues.
“My favorite thing about the trip was the group of people with whom we traveled,” said Yana Cornish with the University of Georgia. It was during the last evening of the tour that the group discussed all the countries to which they had traveled, and realized that they had collectively been to over half of the world’s destinations.
The annual Baden-Württemberg (B-W) seminar is sponsored by AACRAO and NAFSA in an effort to promote German-American educational exchange. In particular, the seminar focuses on the German education system to include secondary and tertiary schools. The week is comprised of lectures, site visits to schools and universities, and panel discussions. In addition to the tours in Freiburg, the group had the pleasure of a day trip to Stuttgart to engage with the Ministry of Science, Research and Arts, followed by a fabulous lunch and tour at the TV Tower.
Other day trips included a trip to B-W Cooperative State University L'rrach and Basel University, and to Strasbourg and the Alsace where a visit to the University of Strasbourg was among the highlights of the tour. Here, participants learned about the history of the University and interfaced with maps and books of antiquity from the archives.
Two of the most unique aspects about which the group learned were the cooperative state university Baden-Württemberg Cooperative State University (DHBW), which is the first higher education institution in Germany to integrate academic studies with workplace training. It was founded in March 2009 and has over 34,000 students and about 9,000 corporate partners. The second distinctive was the concept of the European Campus. This foray into a cross border cooperation in research and teaching was designed as a key advantage to gain the best minds and ideas in the midst of strong international competition. The campus is a confederation of five universities in the Upper Rhine.
Many of the participants on the tour said that they strongly encourage anyone with an interest in international education to apply next year. Said James “Jim” Gieser with the Western Carolina University: “The application process is reasonable, straight-forward, and easy.” Jennifer Briggs with the University of Evansville encourages everyone to “apply until you are accepted. It’s the chance of a lifetime.” Often mentioned was the fact that the tour is subsidized and the only out-of-pocket expense is the travel to and from the destination.
So, why take the trip? Here are just a few of the comments from participants:
- You gain a much better understanding of the German higher education system to include the K-12 and higher education components (Cornish).
- Networking with other colleagues was a significant outcome that I did not expect, but was a major takeaway (Briggs; Cornish; Gieser).
- The information regarding what incoming international students will expect, how the transcripts will be evaluated, how the partnerships work, and the ability to connect with existing partners on the ground is unparalleled (Briggs; Cornish).
- There are many opportunities to meet with new potential exchange partners (Briggs; Gieser).
And, the absolute highlight of the trip that every single participant lauded was the food and the opportunity to participate in the Christmas markets.
So, consider joining in next year’s Baden-Württemberg seminar. For more information, contact LesLee Clauson Eicher with the national AACRAO office.
See you in Germany!