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German Military Officers Immerse Themselves in American Culture


Courses, Cultural Trips Deepen Understanding of the American Experience

INTERNATIONAL EDUCATION is valuable for all students, and perhaps for none more so than students planning a career in the military. To expand their cross-cultural understanding, sixteen students from a German military university recently participated in a special cultural exchange program at The University of Texas at Austin. The annual five-week program, originally launched in 1979, provides visiting students experience in an U.S. college classroom and with local Texas cultures, as well as specialized intercultural awareness training.

“In this unique program, students attend summer courses in subjects such as economics, government, history and American Studies,” shared Annette Whatley, Program Coordinator for UT International Student & Scholar Services. The International Office has provided intercultural activities and support for this program for over 30 years.

“My colleagues in Germany recommended the UT program to me based on their experiences here,” said visiting German military student Stephan Wieg. “I have found my American Culture Since 1865 course very informative for learning about the variations in U.S. culture and how those variations developed over time.”

Dr. Alexandra Bettag, program representative from the Universität at Bundeswehr International Office, shared that the UT program is well regarded by her students, “They appreciate the wide variety of courses they can experience, as well as the level of support provided by UT faculty and staff.”

Ralph Goetzke spoke highly of the cultural learning opportunities he experienced both within and outside the classroom during his time in Texas. “Our American culture class really helped me as an European understand the American perspective and experience. For example, it was great to visit the U.S.S. Texas battleship in Houston. In Germany, we don’t always acknowledge the military in this way, so it was nice to see.”

Since they were visiting Texas during the recent Senate campaign, Ralph and Stephan received an unexpected cultural lesson about a uniquely American process – election politics. Both men expressed surprise at the personal nature of the political campaign ads they saw on TV. “In Germany, the political debate is more focused on criticizing an opponent’s stance on a particular issue or policy, not on attacking the individual person,” Ralph said. “In Germany, there seems to be more awareness of the fact that regardless of who wins the election, they still have to work with the other party when it’s over.”

Politics aside, both men enjoyed their time in Texas – from running on the hike and bike trail to visiting Fredericksburg and spending time with new friends. Stephan also expressed their gratitude for all the support they received from the UT International Office during their five weeks in Austin. “The IO has taken really good care of us. It doesn’t feel like they are just doing their job, it feels like they really want to take care of us as people. It’s been a really great experience.”

Written by Angie Pastorek

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