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Over the spring semester, chemical engineering major Amy Hinkel ’12 (Doylestown, Pa.) studied engineering and German language and culture in Lafayette’s faculty-led program at Jacobs University Bremen in Germany. This year’s group was led by Anne Raich, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, and consisted mostly of second-semester engineering sophomores.

Having studied German in high school and having strong German roots, the decision to study abroad in Germany was natural for me. The process of applying and getting settled in at Jacobs was methodical and well structured, with no surprises involved. That being said, the semester as a whole was anything but predictable. The experience changed my life, and I even have plans to go back in June of next year to visit the place that has truly become a second home to me.

I went into my spring semester with expectations of being inundated with German culture, and while I was happy to befriend many German students and experience their way of life, I received much more than a purely German experience. Jacobs University is an international institution where over 99 nations are not only represented, but celebrated. With a student body only about half the size of Lafayette, it was a very intimate atmosphere. I took courses in differential equations, German politics and cultures, biotechnology, and a VAST (Values and Science/Technology) course, Sustainability of Built Systems, taught by Professor Raich.

Jacobs is a place where people come to learn in an academic sense, but I became a learner in places other than the classroom as well. No one knew much about where I was from, who my family is, or the values I hold. The experience of offering who I am to people who were eager to learn and rejoiced in our differences has had a significant didactic effect on me. A friend told me that he is “not a product; [he is] not trying to sell himself to anyone.” At Jacobs, emphasis is placed on personal identity. Because of this, I was able to become more familiar with who I am even though I was in a completely unfamiliar place.

Bremen is also an ideal home base, not only because of its quaint charm and beautiful architecture, but because the least expensive European airline, Ryan Air, offers a large variety of flights out of Bremen Airport. This led to convenient travel to almost anywhere in Europe for incredibly small fares. European public transportation also made for seamless travel. Having traveled to a variety of countries including Russia, Portugal, Belgium, and the Netherlands, I was able to get a rich and exciting taste of many cultures that has changed the way I view the world. It was a freeing experience, and I found myself wanting to stay in each place longer.

Learning how to integrate into different cultures was one of the most challenging, yet rewarding, activities I have ever taken part in, and has led to many of my fondest memories. Most importantly, I have learned how to feel at home wherever I am in the world, and due to the lasting, genuine friendships that I made in Bremen, I am confident that I truly do have an open door waiting for me in every corner of the world.

Amy is a member of Cadence, Lafayette’s female a cappella group, and Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority. This summer, she is interning at Lehigh Valley Hospital in process engineering for preoperative services, and interned at Accupac, a pharmaceutical manufacturing company, last summer.

Categorized in: Academic News, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, German, News and Features, Student Profiles, Students, Study Abroad
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