Sonoma State University welcomed eight German foreign exchange students this fall, and since becoming active German Club members, done their part to share their culture around the campus community.
These German students are either working as a Fulbright Language Teaching Assistant, Peer Language facilitator or tutor.
German Club president, Vici Steiner sees having German Exchange students as a great opportunity for students to experience cross-culture and gain insight on German lifestyle.
“Connecting with people around the world expands one’s insights about other countries and also their own country; when you hang out with the inter- national community, you can hear about how they experience your country. I am happy to have students here from around the world, I find it so cool,” said Steiner.
Sonoma State University is the only one in California to have a German Fulbright Language Teaching Assistant program. One of the teaching assistants for the German Club is a foreign exchange student named Johannes Weber.
Weber is one of the 14 German teaching assistant members in the United States. The program is competitive, choosing not only the most motivated, but also the most qualified students who are willing to increase their personal education and serve as educators for universities.
Similar to Sonoma County, Weber is from a region in Germany notorious for producing wine. Pfalz is located in Southern Germany, found very close to the French-German border.
For schooling, Weber later worked his way east to Mainz, Germany. In Mainz, Weber learned English and better familiarized himself with sports, all in hopes of becoming a teacher. Now with his bachelor’s in sports and English, Weber has decided to spread his knowledge and become a German teaching assistant at Sonoma State.
Weber sees the significance in students reflecting upon their own culture and critiquing students’ own way of living.
“You start to question the way you have handled things so far and might consider transferring some parts of the other culture you like better into your own personal life, which eventually will make you a better and happier person,” said Weber.
Isabell Schuler is another German foreign exchange student who has been involved in the club. Schuler is a peer language facilitator who offers once a week German tutoring to students.
She attends facilitator group meetings, and does her part to spread the word of the German Club and the events offered. She enjoys attending German movie night every other Monday and discussing her culture in the sessions.
“I’ve really [enjoyed] my stay at SSU. It is an amazing campus and I met a lot of new people,” said Schuler. “Teaching German made my experience even more exciting as I keep comparing my life here to my life in Germany.”
Since his arrival, Weber has been doing his part of the Fulbright program title. Weber teaches language labs and serves as a teacher’s assistant in the German courses. He has been involved in setting up and hosting German club events on campus. The goal is to bring the German culture to Sonoma State campus.
Weber will be hosting events on campus such as German movie night, where club members and those interested come together and watch famous German movies.
Being the sports fan he is, Weber plans on hosting German sports week, where Sonoma State students can not only learn but also play the popular sports of Germany.
“The experience I get over here studying abroad and immersing myself into a completely different culture is invaluable,” said Weber. “You get to know many things about the foreign culture you are suddenly a part of. Such as saying ‘how are you doing’ when greeting someone, or figuring out how to use the American keyboard in my office and searching for letters all the time in the first few weeks.”
Weber has also hosted a workshop called “How Germany Has Gone Green,” focusing on Germany’s green energy use. The event involved around 100 members and was associated with Sonoma State’s Sustainability Day events last month.