by Maria Bergstrom
A summer, online German language course and an interest in study abroad have paved the way for ME student and German minor, Alden Groen, to participate in a unique and prestigious opportunity to study and work abroad in Germany as one of only 75 American students selected for the Congress Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals. Alden will travel to Germany this coming July for two months of intensive language study, a four-month study abroad experience at a German University, and a five-month internship with a German engineering company.
It all began for Alden when he enrolled in a summer online introductory German language course at Michigan Tech with Professor Karin Schlenker. He was interested in learning a second language and drawn to German because of Germany’s strong reputation in engineering and technology. Alden enjoyed the course so much he followed up with another semester on campus and began looking for an opportunity to study abroad in Germany. With help from International Programs and Services, Alden found a six-week program in Stuttgart for the following summer. As part of the home stay program, Alden lived with a German family in Stuttgart for the full six weeks, which, he says, was one of the highlights of his time there. He was able to experience everyday German family life in the evenings, while during the days he was studying with other students from all over the world. In addition to the U.S., students in the program came from Mexico, Canada, Singapore and other nations. “I learned as much about the world from my fellow students as I did from being in Germany,” Alden says.
Six weeks was not enough time in Germany to satisfy Alden, and he found himself looking for a way to return. After doing a summer-fall engineering co-op at Kohler Company, Alden learned about the Congress Bundestag exchange program. Professor Schlenker, who supported his application, says, “Alden’s previous study abroad experiences really helped make him a good candidate for this program. He was able to show that he is adaptable and ready for the challenges of a cross-cultural experience.”
While engineering majors sometimes think they don’t have time for language study or a study abroad experience, Alden is a strong advocate for both. He found language study to be “a really interesting way to fulfill HASS credits in a connected way. Even with only a couple of classes, you can get some use from the language.” As for study abroad, “Everyone should definitely try to do it. If it’s a money thing, look for scholarships and financial aid. If it’s a time thing, consider a six week program in the summer. You can learn so much in just six weeks.”