What a Crazy Year!

For the first time in my life I made it to the US only this March not knowing that I wouldl return to the country I have chosen to study twice within the same year. My first trip brought me to the East Coast; to Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Chicago to be exact. My sister was doing a voluntary service at the Holocaust Center of Greater Pittsburgh and got provided with her own apartment there. Incited by the great stories she told me and with the opportunity at hand to enjoy free housing, I decided that it is time to challenge my fear of flying, get on a plane, and travel abroad. Ok, flying still isn’t one of my favorite activities but the trip was definitely worth doing it.

For the first time in my life I got first-hand experiences of what life in the US could be like. I saw the blood-stained streets of Southern Philadelphia, was amazed by the rust and decay of a post-industrial city and the beauty of it, and got nearly killed by the portions served in American restaurants. Most importantly, however, I came to understand the phenomenon that Walter Benjamin describes in an essay depicting his reflections on traveling to Soviet Russia in 1926/27: Traveling abroad and encountering the “Other” can be an eye-opener helping to rediscover some elements of one’s own cultural framework that have been submerged by the monotony of everyday life.

Therefore, I was more than happy when I got the opportunity to go to the States again in September as part of an interdisciplinary project group of University of Leipzig students. This time, however, the trip brought me to the absolute opposite side of the country: the West Coast. To cut this short a little bit: Whole different story! Seeing Los Angeles and San Francisco and contrast them with what I had experienced on the East Coast made me aware that there is not one America but many of them.

During the preparation phase of the LA project American Studies Leipzig (ASL) announced that the DAAD had provided the institute with some extra money to establish the BA Plus American Studies with Transatlantic Capstone Program Scholarship in cooperation with Ohio University. While listening to Prof. Garrett’s introduction to the program, it took me only seconds to understand that this would be a great opportunity to get a scholarship that perfectly suits me. Representing a combination of studying at one of America’s major research universities while equally working on a real project there, the BA Plus Program thereby would help me to satisfy my needs of academic challenge and practical fruition. Thus, I just had to give it a try! In the days that followed I dug out the old résumé I had prepared for ASL’s iTASK module, with the help of some friends gave it some adjustments, and awaited further developments. The first semi heart attack of my life happened when I read that I had been invited to the interview; the second round of the application process. Weak-kneed I found myself facing the application committee that was asking questions I could all too often only stammeringly answer. To be frank, after the interview I thought it is all over. Therefore, I suffered yet another semi heart attack when I got the news that I was awarded one of the two scholarships for the academic year 2010/11. It is still somehow mysterious to me that my screams of joy did not alert the neighbors to call the police.

Thus, after traveling the East and West Coast in 2010, I am now setting off to explore parts of the Heartland of the US while studying at Ohio University and working on an interesting project hosted by the university’s Global Leadership Center. I am really looking forward to meet people of various backgrounds, have fertile discussion on and off campus, and further conduct field studies of American culture. This blog thereby serves as a place where I would like to share some of my reflections and experiences of this period of my life with my friends and fellow students who will someday maybe also be able to enjoy being part of the BA Plus Program.