For a group of University of Nebraska at Omaha students this past May, the language of choice for two weeks, from morning until evening, was German. As part of the UNO Intensive German Language and Culture faculty-led program, run by Dr Gwyneth Cliver, intermediate and advanced level German language students focused on language acquisition through active engagement in Germany. From Berlin to Munich, students practiced their language in real-life settings and situations, from navigating public transit to ordering in restaurants to striking up friendly conversations.
In the midst of immersive language acquisition and development, students were able to travel in and around Berlin and Munich to visit cultural and historical sites. In Berlin, destinations and activities included a walking tour to introduce students to the city and a day at ‘Museum Island,’ a UNESCO World Heritage site and collection of museums along the River Spree. A walking tour also introduced students’ second home base of Munich, a beautiful city that was particularly popular with the students.
Day trips took students out of these two major cities, to destinations such as the medieval city of Würzburg in northern Bavaria, where students visited the medieval Fortress Marienberg, and to the 19th century Neuschwanstein Castle in southern Bavaria, one of the castles that inspired Cinderella Castle. Students also had the opportunity to visit Dachau, to the site of Nazi Germany’s first concentration camp, and were given time to reflect upon the event, a moving experience for many. During their free time, participants were able to visit various locations of their choice, with some making a trip across the border to Salzburg, Austria.
The program was unique in its mixed levels. While everyone was expected to speak German throughout the program, not everyone had the same level of acquired vocabulary and grammar skills. The result was students working together to communicate, with more advanced students helping less advanced students. This benefitted all levels and fostered a sense of community among the students, helping to ensure that everyone was engaging with the language and culture regardless of language proficiency.
Student Mallory Boyle reflects positively on the experience. “I can't even begin to explain how amazing it was to be in Germany this past summer. I had such an amazing and memorable time! And through this program it was affordable and extremely worth it to experience something that will stay with me for the rest of my life.”
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