By Badger Insider Readers
I studied Electrical Engineering at the Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule in Aachen, Germany, my junior year (1979–80). Aachen is now the most sought-after engineering school in Germany and one of the highest ranked in the world. At that time, there was a UW engineering faculty member, Bonnie Kienitz ’37, who organized international study for engineering students. Not through the German department and not with a group, she helped get you accepted, found housing, made sure classes would transfer, worked through insurance issues, and was a reference for all the questions and issues you might have. She worked one on one with you to make sure the entire experience was the best it could be. The program was amazing, so much better than any other exchange I have heard about. To my knowledge, I was the only American student in Aachen (from any U.S. university), so I did everything in German; all classes, discussion, social activities, studying, school events, meetings with professors, tests. I received an excellent year of education keeping me in line with most of the classes I would have been required to take at the UW. Plus, I spent my school breaks traveling in Europe including an exciting Easter trip skiing in Italy and losing my passport for a few days. That trip ended with me spending my birthday in a castle high in the Alps as the guest of the retired president of the German division of the World Bank (a story in itself). An amazing year, with so many stories that will never be forgotten. I could not have had a better experience. My only regret was missing a year of the UW Marching Band. As an interesting side note: junior year is when you do many of the first-level classes in the different areas of electrical engineering. Participating in those in Germany meant I learned all the new vocabulary associated with those classes in German, so when I returned and continued my studies, I had a hard time talking in class until I re-learned the English words for an entire year’s worth of studies.
Norm Tiedemann ’82, MS’84
In the summer following our sophomore year, my wife to be, Anita ’82, invited me to join her visiting her extended family in Bavaria. We extended the trip and got Eurail passes to travel around Germany, France, and Austria. As students, we were on a strict budget. Arriving into one German town a little later than normal, and in need of lodging in a heavily booked area where we found many of the budget options fully booked, we took a shot entering a local hotel that was clearly out of our price range. As we entered, the two women at the desk eyed us up and quickly assessed us as young Americans on a budget. Not realizing my wife had grown up speaking German in her Chicago home, they proceeded to discuss amongst themselves, auf Deutsch, what they thought we could afford to pay, as it was getting late and they still had a few vacant rooms. The result of the broken English negotiation that followed, was that we stayed in by far the nicest hotel of our trip at one of the lowest prices.
Returning to Paris for our 15th wedding anniversary, our first return since our college adventure, one of the things we were most excited about was returning to the Eiffel Tower. On our first visit, our daily budget did not allow us to pay for the elevator ticket to take us to the top. We got a good laugh when we got to the ticket booth upon our return, and quickly did the currency translation to realize the ticket price was now only $5, and presumably had been significantly less, but still not affordable to us, 17 years earlier.
Jeff Zagrodnik ’82
Hales Corners, Wisconsin
My junior year abroad at the University of São Paulo in Brazil and a summer intensive course at the University of Coimbra in Portugal — were foundational experiences personally and professionallym. I was only able to participate due to financial support from the Department of Spanish and Portuguese (Nave scholarship), for which I am eternally grateful.
I deepened my knowledge of Portuguese and Ibero-American civilization and history, and developed a host of cross-cultural competencies. But, perhaps as important, was the (1) humility that goes with being alone and abroad: Where do I live? How do I mail a letter? What are all these fruits at the market? and (2) compassion for those who up stakes and start over in a new land. Also the daughter of an immigrant, I believe my study-abroad experiences made me more sympathetic, in particular to the plight of immigrants and refugees — and my life and career have been so much richer as a result. Obrigada UW!
PS Fellow alum, please donate in support of travel for research/language study/professional meetings/internships for students and faculty! It makes a big difference in people’s careers and lives.
BA ‘90, MA ‘92
I was among 11 other students in the UW College Year in Nepal program in 1997-1998. It was a life changing experience, and it dramatically shaped who I am and what I believe in today. The program staff, including the legendary Joe Elder, was amazing! Both in Madison and in Kathmandu. I turned 21 in Kathmandu, and although I missed what would’ve been a crazy Madtown birthday back home, my adventure abroad inspired my love for the mountains, solitude and fresh air. I came back, graduated and moved to Alaska, where I now live off-the-grid, in the cabin we built 20 years ago with my husband and two teenagers. Raising kids with no running water or electricity has kept me grounded in the realities I experienced in the Himalayas. I try never to take any of our American advantages for granted.
Studying abroad in college helped me experience things in a different way than I had as a traveler. It was an extremely special year in my life and just another one of the reasons why I’m proud to be a Badger.
Emma James Kramer ’00
My favorite college travel memories were with the UW Marching Band going to away games and bowl games. My favorite away game was the 2005 Minnesota game at the Metrodome with Wisconsin’s come-from-behind win for the axe, and I always loved playing for bowl pep rallies in Florida in December because you could always tell the UW fans from the SEC fans just by the attire: Badgers in their shorts and T-shirts, and SEC fans in their jeans and winter coats.
Ian Batterman ’09