“There is only so much you can learn about a language in the classroom, even with the best teachers,” says Erin Cunningham ’10, who adds immersion is key to successfully learning a language. Since March, she has been a fully-matriculated student at Eberhard-Karls-Universitat of Tuebingen, Germany and will finish the spring academic semester with German students in mid-August.
A German major and already strong German speaker, Cunningham solidified her language skills with a month-long intensive language course in Germany before classes started. Since classes began at the university, she has been able to fully participate as a student. She is taking a course in creative writing in German and is also continuing her course work as a women’s studies major by taking two gender studies courses, Gender Performativity and Gender and Utopia/Dystopia.
Cunningham has immersed herself culturally during her time in Tuebingen. “There are two things I love about the city,” she says. “One is the Altstadt or Old city. This is the heart of Tuebingen, with all of its old beautiful buildings and cobblestone streets. There is always something going on there and you are guaranteed to see someone you know. The other thing I love about Tuebingen is my living situation. I live in an apartment by myself, but I share a kitchen with seven other people and our only common language is German. I have become great friends with my Mitbewohner (floormates).”
In addition to the incredible linguistic and cultural experiences she has had since being in Germany, Cunningham had the opportunity to travel to Frankfurt am Main to connect with relatives.
“My grandmother was born in Frankfurt, and married my grandfather, an American soldier, after the War and they moved back. Although I had never met my family there, they greeted me with such warmth and kindness. They took me all around the city and showed me my family’s history firsthand. I got to visit my grandmother’s childhood home, the church she was married in, and even saw an exhibition of my great uncle’s sculptures that was being shown in the city. I have always wanted to visit the place where my grandmother grew up, and I think that has been the most special part of my trip so far.”
Cunningham is a native of Rockaway, N.J. She is a member of the William Smith basketball team, has been house manager of the German theme house and is a teacher’s assistant for the women’s studies department.